Archive for the 'Human Rights Council' Category

More about the Geneva Human Rights Platform (Geneva HRP)

June 22, 2018

Expert meeting at the Geneva Academy

The Geneva Human Rights Platform (Geneva HRP), hosted by the Geneva Academy and supported by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, provides a dynamic forum in Geneva for all stakeholders in the field of human rights – experts, practitioners, diplomats and civil society – to discuss and debate topical issues and challenges. Relying on academic research and findings, the Geneva HRP aims at enabling various actors to become better connected, break down silos and, hence, advance human rights.

The objective is to foster interactions and discussions on topical issues and challenges through regular events, conferences, expert roundtables and private meetings’ stresses Felix Kirchmeier, Director of Policy Studies at the Geneva Academy. ‘The Geneva HRP aims to increase sharing, exchange and collaboration among different actors by means of its independent, neutral and academic status’ adds Robert Roth, Director of the Geneva Academy.

Specifically, the Geneva HRP concentrates on the current challenges to human rights and the way the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (HRC) and other Geneva-based mechanisms address or should address them, as well as on the work of UN treaty bodies. ‘We currently focus on two human rights challenges: use of force and the specific use of less lethal weapons for law enforcement purposes, and human rights and freedoms in the digital age’ underlines Kamelia Kemileva, Executive Manager at the Geneva Academy. ‘We accompany the work of UN treaty bodies via two projects, or sub-platforms, our Academic Platform on Treaty Body Review 2020 which just released its final report, and the Treaty Body Members Platform which connects experts in UN treaty bodies with each other as well as with Geneva-based practitioners, academics and diplomats’ underlines Felix Kirchmeier. [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/05/09/academic-want-un-treaty-bodies-to-become-fit-for-purpose/]

The Geneva HRP is up and running since the beginning of the year, but now has a dedicated online presence, on the Geneva Academy website, which provides information about activities, events and related research.

https://www.geneva-academy.ch/news/detail/134-the-geneva-human-rights-platform-a-dynamic-forum-to-discuss-and-debate-topical-human-rights-issues-and-challenges

Guide to HRD issues at the 38th session of the UN Human Rights Council

June 15, 2018

The UN Human Rights Council will hold its 38th regular session at Palais des Nations in Geneva from 18 June to 6 July 2018. The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) has – as usual – published an excellent alert full of substantive issues (see link at the bottom of this post). Here I just highlight some of the session’s features that are of special interest to human rights defenders;

Sexual orientation and gender identity. The first interactive dialogue with the new Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity will be held between 9:00 and 12:00 on Monday 18 June. The Council will consider the new report of the mandate holder as well as the report of the country visit to Argentina.
In a joint written submission to the Independent Expert submitted in the lead-up to the presentation of his report to the Council, a group of 12 NGOs detail State obligations that if  implemented, would work towards ensuring that LGBTI defenders’ rights are protected (based in existing international human rights law and articulated in the Yogyakarta Principles (YP) and Yogyakarta Principles plus 10, (YP +10). ISHR and ILGA will organise a side-event that will build on this submission and discuss in more detail State obligations set out in the YP +10. The event will take place on 21 June 2018 from 15:00 to 16:30 in Room XXIII.

Reprisals. Reports of cases of intimidation and reprisal against those seeking to cooperate with the UN not only continue, but grow.  Item 5 of the Human Rights Council’s agenda provides a key opportunity for States to raise concerns about reprisals, and for governments involved in existing cases to provide an update to the Council on any investigation or action taken toward accountability to be carried out. [see recent: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/06/08/ishr-new-report-on-reprisals-and-restrictions-against-ngo-participation-in-the-un/]

Women human rights defenders and women’s rights. The Annual Full Day Discussion on the human rights of women will take place on Thursday 21 June from 16:00 to 18:00. It will focus on the specific impact of online violence on the work of women human rights defenders. It is crucial that the Council’s discussions and resolutions recognise the critical role of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) and organisations led by women and girls as rights holders and agents of change. The Council will hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences on 20 June between 09:00 and 12:00 and will consider her report including the report of her visit to Australia. The Council will also hold an interactive dialogue with the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice and will consider their reports including a report on the country visit to Samoa and Chad.

Business and human rights. The Council consider the report of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and business. It examines the duty of States to protect against human rights abuses by business enterprises to whom they provide support for trade and investment promotion. It will also consider the Working Group’s report on its mission to CanadaPeru, and on the sixth session of the Forum on Business and Human Rights. Both country reports contain specific sections analysing the situation of human rights defenders, with the report on Peru raising serious concerns about the high level of threats, attacks and violence against local leaders and human rights defenders. The interactive dialogue will be an opportunity for States to follow-up to recommendations made in the UPR in that regard. The core group on the resolution on business and human rights (Argentina, Norway, Ghana and Russia) have announced that they will present a resolution at this Council session to request the OHCHR to continue with the accountability and remedy report with a focus on non-State based remedy mechanisms. The first informal consultation on the draft resolution will be held on 18 June at 16:30 in Room XXIV.

Other thematic reports

The Council will also hold an interactive dialogue and consider the report of the new Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. Switzerland with Costa Rica also announced that they will be running the resolution on the protection and promotion of human rights in the context of peaceful protests. The first informal consultations will be held on 19 June from 11:30 to 12:30 in Room V.

The Council will also hold an interactive dialogue and consider the report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, which examines regulation of user-generated content online. The Council will consider the report of the High Commissioner on procedures and practices in respect of civil society engagement with international and regional organisations. The core group on the civil society space resolution (Chile, Ireland, Japan, Sierra Leone and Tunisia) announced that they will present a resolution this session.

The Council will also consider the reports of and hold interactive dialogues with the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, including the report of his mission to Poland, and with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, including reports of her missions to Iraq and El Salvador.

Country specific developments

Burundi During its 36th session, the Council passed two resolutions on Burundi. One resolution was led by the European Union and extended the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry. The second resolution was led by the African Group and requested OHCHR to urgently dispatch a team of three experts to engage with the Burundian authorities and all other stakeholders to “collect and preserve information, to determine the facts and circumstances in accordance with international standards and to forward to the judicial authorities of Burundi such information”. The aim was to establish the truth and ensure that the perpetrators are held accountable. Read here ISHR’s analysis of the two resolutions. At the 38th session, the Council will hear the oral briefing by the High Commissioner on the mission of OHCHR on 4 July between 15:00 and 18:00. The Council will also hear an oral briefing by the Commission of Inquiry on 27 June between 09:00 and 12:00. For more information on the situation of human rights defenders in Burundi, check ISHR Briefing Paper for the UPR here. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/26/enough-is-enough-ngos-call-for-burundi-suspension-from-un-human-rights-council/]

China. By any measure, the Chinese government is not living up to the commitments to protect and promote human rights inherent in its Human Rights Council membership. Since the twelve-country joint statement on the human rights situation in China in March 2016, there has been no concerted effort to use the Council space creatively to call for accountability and transparency related to violations in China. This, despite the fact that in July 2017, Chinese security authorities presided over the death in custody of Liu Xiaobo, the first Nobel Peace Prize winner to die in detention since Carl von Ossietzky died in Nazi Germany in 1938… In this context NGOs , incl. the iSHR, continue to call for the release of individuals arbitrarily detained and/or held incommunicado, including Wang Quanzhang, Gui Minhai, Tashi Wangchuk, Lee Ming-che, and Yu Wensheng. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/07/china-and-the-un-human-rights-council-really-win-win/]

Eritrea. The Council will hold an interactive dialogue with and consider the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea on 25 June. A cross-re­gional group of non-governmental organisations urged the Council to support and co-sponsor at the 38th session a streamlined resolution that accurately reflects the gravity of the situation on the ground, renews the mandate of the Special Rapporteur under the Council’s agenda item 4, and sets out a framework for needed reforms to improve the human rights situation in the country and advance accountability.

Other country situations include: 

  • An interactive dialogue on the oral update by the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights of the minority Rohingya Muslim population and other minorities in Rakhine State of Myanmar, and the oral report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar
  • An enhanced interactive dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner on the findings of the team of international experts on the situation in the Kasai regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and on the oral update by OHCHR on the situation of human rights in the DRC
  • An oral update by the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights in Ukraine
  • An oral update by the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic
  • An interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria (oral update) and consideration of the summary report of OHCHR on the high-level panel discussion on violations of the human rights of children in Syria
  • An interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus on his report
  • During this session, the Council will adopt the UPR working group reports as part of the 29th session of the UPR. These reports list recommendations the following States under review are expected to implement: France, Tonga, Romania, Mali, Botswana, the Bahamas, Burundi, Luxembourg, Barbados, Montenegro, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Liechtenstein, and Serbia.

This session of the Council will provide an opportunity for BurundiMali and the United Arab Emirates to to accept recommendations made in relation to human rights defenders, as proposed in ISHR’s briefing papers on those countries.

The Council appointed new Bureau members due to the departure of the Ambassadors of Chile and Germany. The members of the Bureau for 2018 now comprises of the following Ambassadors:

  • Vojislav ŠUC (Slovenia), President of the Human Rights Council
  • Evan P. GARCIA (Philippines), Vice President
  • Cristobal Gonzalez-Aller Jurado (Spain), Vice President
  • Juan Eduardo EGUIGUREN (Chile), Vice President and Rapporteur
  • François Xavier NGARAMBÉ (Rwanda), Vice President

Panel discussions

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

  • The Annual Full Day Discussion on the human rights of women will be held in two sessions. First, on 21 June from 16:00 to 18:00, the panel will focus on the impact of violence against women human rights defenders and women’s organisations in digital spaces. The concept note of the panel is available here.
  • The second panel will be held on 22 June from 10:00 to 12:00 and will focus on advancing women’s rights through access and participation in information and communication technologies (ICTs). The concept note of the panel is available here.
  • A panel discussion will be held on 26 June from 16:00 to 18:00 on the human rights of internally displaced persons in commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. The concept note of the panel is available here.
  • The Annual Thematic Panel Discussion on technical cooperation in the promotion and protection of human rights will be held on 4 July from 10:00 to 12:00. The topic will be “Human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals: enhancing human rights technical cooperation and capacity-building to contribute to the effective and inclusive implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. The concept note of the panel is available here.

The ISHR and other NGOs will again organize quite a few side events on which I will report separately.

https://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc38-key-issues-agenda-june-2018-session

Not so diplomatic Diplomat of the Year: Zeid

June 15, 2018

Hussein

Zeid Raad al-Hussein, who serves as the U.N. high commissioner for human rights but is leaving soon [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/22/bound-to-happen-but-still-high-commissioner-zeid-announces-he-will-not-seek-second-term/] was named “2018 Career Diplomat of the Year

Here is his speech to Foreign Policy on 14 June 2018:

Good evening to you all. I must confess I was astounded as well as delighted to receive an award for diplomacy. Over the past few years, I have been attacked and trolled in various ways, but never have I been described as being diplomatic. Still, diplomacy properly defined is the peaceful arrangement of relations between states. 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is based on two core premises. One: every human being has inherent dignity, and all of us have equal and inalienable rights. Recognition of those rights, and I quote the first line of the preamble, is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.

Four years as the U.N. high commissioner for human rights has brought me many luminous encounters with women and men of immense dignity and principle, a number of desperately important life-saving struggles, much shocking and painful information, and some lessons, profound lessons which may take many years to fully assimilate. I hope to share a few of them with you tonight.

But first I want to circle back, as I have constantly done and found myself doing throughout my mandate, to the Universal Declaration and to the context in which it was drafted.

Forgive me, but I am a historian by training. This is truly where the story begins. It was at time of slaughter and terrible suffering, with broken economies and nations emerging from the ashes of two world wars, an immense genocide, atomic destruction, and the Great Depression. Finding solutions that could ensure global and national peace was a matter of the starkest kind of survival; committing to the U.N. charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was desperately important. They were not philosophical goals. This was life and death.

There will be, to use the refrain, no peace without justice. There will be no durable development without the promotion of broad social progress and better standards of life for all, and larger freedom. The men and women who survived the two world wars understood this, utterly. It was in their bones.

Leaders of states understood it and knew they must draft and hold to international laws which would ensure collective action within and peaceful relationships within and between states.

Treaty after treaty, they built a body of laws and covenants and committed to implementing them. And there was, there is, great cynicism about the global order they constructed, never fully global, never fully orderly.

But although it may have been partial, the progress they ensured was immense. That generation is quickly disappearing and with them the memory of the lessons that were so painfully clear to them.

The world, instead of advancing towards greater freedom, justice, and peace, is going backwards, to a landscape of increasingly strident zero-sum nationalism, where the jealously guarded short-term interests of individual leaders supplant and destroy efforts to find common solutions.

Backwards to an era of contempt for the rights of people who have been forced to flee or leave their homes because the threats they face are more dangerous even than the perils of their voyage.

Backwards to a time of proxy wars at the knife edge of sparking regional and global conflicts.

A time when military operations could deliberately target civilians and civilian sites such as hospitals.

A time when chemicals were openly used for military purposes and against innocent families.

Backwards to an era where racists and xenophobes deliberately inflame hatred and discrimination among the public while carefully cloaking themselves in the guise of democracy and the rule of law.

Backwards to an era when women were not permitted to control their own choices and their own bodies.

Backwards to an era where criticism was criminalized and human rights activism brought jail or worse.

This is the way wars are made. With the smarm of belligerence and the smirk of dehumanization. With the incremental erosion of old and seemingly wearisome checks.

The path to violence is made up of the unreckoned consequences of banal, incidental brutality seeping into the political landscape.

It is shaped by leadership that is both thuggish and infantile, petulant, cultivating grievances to reap votes and sowing humiliation, oppression, and hatred, and disregard for the greater common good.

Here is one lesson: Intolerance is an insatiable machine. Its wheels, once they begin to function at a certain amplitude, become uncontrollable. Grinding deeper, more crudely, and more widely.

First, one group of people is singled out for hatred, then more and more, as the machine for exclusion accelerates into crimes, and civil and international warfare, feeding always on its own rage, a growing frenzy of grievance and blaming.

As that tension begins to peak, no obvious mechanism exists that is capable of decompressing and controlling its intensity, because the machine functions on an emotional level that has very little contact with reason.

Release may only come after tremendous violence. This, in the human rights community, is something we have witnessed time and again.

We are at a pivotal moment in history now as contempt for human rights spreads. Xenophobes and racists have emerged from the shadows. Backlash is growing against advances made in women’s rights, Ireland notwithstanding, and many others. The space for civic activism is shrinking. The legitimacy of human rights principles is attacked. And the practice of human rights norms is in retreat.

What we are destroying is quite simply the structures that ensure our safety. The destruction of Syria is a murderous parable written in blood, which brings home yet again the horrific spiraling of incremental human rights violations into absolute destruction. The organized campaigns of violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar, which was Southeast Asia’s fastest-growing economy in 2016 yet again reminds us that economic growth will never maintain peace and security in the face of biting discrimination. In 2017, only last year, we once again saw the specter of possible genocide, and once again we did very little to stop it from happening.

In a sentence, what is the one core lesson brought home to me by the extraordinary privilege, crushing mandate as High Commissioner, is that in every circumstance the safety of humanity will only be secured through vision, energy, and generosity of spirit. Through activism, through the struggle of greater freedom, equality, and through justice. I thank you so much for your attention.

2018 Career Diplomat of the Year Zeid Raad al-Hussein: Read the Transcript

UN rapporteurs ask India to protect journalist Rana Ayyub and refer to fate of Gauri Lankesh

May 27, 2018

Many newspapers reported (here India Today) that a group of UN human rights experts has expressed concern over continued threats to journalist Rana Ayyub, calling on the Indian government to urgently take steps to protect her and ensure the threats against her are promptly and thoroughly investigated. “We are highly concerned that the life of Rana Ayyub is at serious risk following these graphic and disturbing threats,” said the UN experts.

Ayyub is an independent journalist and writer whose work has included investigations into alleged crimes committed by public and government officials.

The experts recalled the murder of another Indian journalist, Gauri Lankesh, who had also received death threats for her work. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/06/gauri-lankesh-and-gulalai-ismail-win-2017-anna-politkovskaya-award/]

The UN experts are: Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief and Special Rapporteur on violence against women.

https://www.indiatoday.in/pti-feed/story/un-experts-asks-india-to-protect-journalist-rana-ayyub-from-online-hate-campaign-1242829-2018-05-27

UN Human Rights Council should strengthen impact on the ground, say NGOs

April 24, 2018

20th anniversary: UN work on human rights defenders assessed by ISHR

April 17, 2018

Since the adoption of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (1998), UN bodies have developed approaches to promoting the work of defenders and ensuring their protection.  However, this response has been insufficiently robust or coordinated, says the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), one of the world’s foremost observers of the UN human rights system, in a piece published on 16 April 2018. Twenty years on, the situation for defenders in many countries around the world remains grave. [For earlier posts re the 20th anniversary of the HRD Declaration see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/20th-anniversary-un-declaration-on-hrds/]

UN country missions and human rights mechanisms have developed some good practice in regard to the protection of human rights defenders (HRDs) but there is still much to be done to ensure a coherent, coordinated and courageous response. ISHR submitted findings on some aspects of the UN’s work on HRDs, to the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) following its call for input. At country level, ISHR – along with partners Colombian Commission of Jurists and Ligue Tunisienne for Human Rights – found positive practice by OHCHR in encouraging the State to implement the Declaration.

In Colombia OHCHR has contributed to a collective understanding of who defenders are and what institutional changes may be needed to counter attacks against them,’ said ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw. ‘While in Tunisia OHCHR has developed a database to systematise the process of follow up on UN recommendations.’  In other contexts, guidelines to steer bodies and representatives in country are often vague, with no mention of the Declaration as a key UN standard.

UN Resident Coordinators need to have an understanding of the Declaration on HRDs so they can ensure the protection of defenders is effectively integrated into their work,’ said Openshaw. ‘There is a gap between developments in key human rights mechanisms and country responses.’

Whilst there have been some positive developments connecting different parts of the UN system – for example the new UN Environment focus on environmental defenders, developed with the Special Rapporteur on HRDs – there is a lack of an informed or coordinated response in others. This points to the need for comprehensive UN-wide policies on the protection of defenders.

Ensuring coherence and effectiveness throughout the UN system in regard to the protection of defenders requires a strong steer from the very top –  the UN Secretary General,’ said ISHR’s Tess McEvoy. ‘We hope Mr Guterres will commit this year – the 20th anniversary of the Declaration–  to providing such leadership.’  The Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst has spoken of attacks against defenders ‘multiplying everywhere’.

Openshaw also stated: ‘The dangers for defenders are known. The UN system has good practice to build on – and it must – to fulfil its role in encouraging and demanding States realise their obligations to defenders.

Contacts:  Eleanor Openshaw e.openshawATishr.ch;  Theresa McEvoy t.mcevoyATishr.ch

http://www.ishr.ch/news/promising-patchy-un-work-human-rights-defenders

The assault on human rights in the UN is starting to hurt

April 1, 2018

Success in passing the “win-win resolution” in the UN Human Rights Council [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/26/chinas-win-win-resolution-gets-the-votes-in-the-un-council/], is just the visible part of a larger and more ominous assault on the human rights system as it has been built up (however incomplete and painstaking) over the last decades. Julian Borger in the Guardian of 27 March 2018 (“China and Russia accused of waging ‘war on human rights’ at UN”) describes how the two countries lobbied to cut funding for human rights monitors and for a senior post dedicated to human rights work. This all seems to fit very well with the trend started in 2016 and which I tried to describe in early 2017 in a series of posts, of which the last one was: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/24/2017-10-need-to-reset-for-human-rights-movement/.

The funding of the office of the high commissioner for human rights in Geneva has also been cut. The current high commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad Hussein, has announced that he will be stepping down this year and not seeking another term in the post, explaining to his staff that the lack of global support for protecting human rights made his job untenable. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/22/bound-to-happen-but-still-high-commissioner-zeid-announces-he-will-not-seek-second-term/]

Last week, Zeid was due to address the UN security council on plight of civilians in Syria but before he began, Russia called a procedural vote to stop him speaking on the grounds that the council was not the proper forum for discussing human rights. “The fifth committee has become a battleground for human rights,” Louis Charbonneau, the UN director for Human Rights Watch, was quoted in the Guardian. “Russia and China and others have launched a war on things that have human rights in their name.”

China has real political momentum at the UN now,” Richard Gowan, a UN expert at the European Council for Foreign Relations, said. “It is now the second biggest contributor the UN budget after the US, and is increasingly confident in its efforts to roll back UN human rights activities. It is also pushing its own agenda – with an emphasis on ‘harmony’ rather than individual rights in UN forums. And a lot of countries like what they hear.”

A western diplomat at the UN conceded that human rights were losing ground at the UN, in part because China had become a more assertive voice, prepared to lead lobbying campaigns, and because Beijing is increasingly leveraging its vast and growing investments in the developing world to win votes for its agenda at the UN.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/27/china-and-russia-accused-of-waging-war-on-human-rights-at-un

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/03/a-new-low-for-the-un-security-council-as-russia-takes-syrian-human-rights-off-the-table/

Freedom from religion: Vatican legally and morally wrong

March 29, 2018

In response IHEU’s Director of Advocacy, Elizabeth O’Casey, corrected the Holy See listing the established rights which constitute freedom from religion, and highlighted why freedom from religion is so necessary for those professing no religious beliefs around the world: “freedom from coercion to adopt a religion is protected by law; freedom to have no religion is protected by law; freedom to leave a religion is protected by law; and freedom to criticise a religion is protected by law.”

She also noted that in his own comments to the Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion of Belief, Dr Ahmed Shaheed, also corrected the Holy See. Shaheed stated categorically that freedom from religion is protected by the right to freedom of religion or belief. Dr Shaheed mentioned specifically how humanist, atheist and secular bloggers are under attack, and that the right to freedom of religion or belief protects the individual, not the religion or belief itself.

In her statement, O’Casey went on to highlight just why statements such as those made by the Holy See are so objectionable and dangerous; especially in the context of state-based hate and a culture of impunity allowing for violence against those who have no religious beliefs. O’casey reminded the Council that 85 countries severely discriminate against non-religious individuals whilst seven countries were found to actively persecute the non-religious during last year. She also reminded the Council of the situation of those jailed in states such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran for being atheist or humanist, and the brutal murder of so many secularists and rationalists with impunity in Bangladesh, India and the Maldives. O’Casey also mentioned Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Malaysia and Cyprus in their promoting state hatred against atheists and humanists.

In the light of this situation, O’Casey asked how many more humanists, atheists and secularists need to be killed, imprisoned, persecuted and disproportionately targeted for the international community to begin to understand the absolute importance of freedom of religion or belief for those with no religion? She concluded, “so long as the rest of the international community stay silent, the rights of the invisible minority of non-believers across the world will continue to be trampled upon, including by members of this Council.” The full text of O’Casey’s statement can be seen through the link below.

In this context it was interesting to see that in the UK a Burnley vicar, who has campaigned to expose sexual abuse and its cover-up in the Church of England, has been named Secularist of the Year! The Rev Graham Sawyer, who is the vicar of St James’ Church, was one of two joint winners presented with a £5,000 prize at a lunch hosted by the National Secular Society. Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who won the award in 2012, presented the prize at the event in central London.

China’s ‘win-win’ resolution gets the votes in the UN Council

March 26, 2018

Frédéric Burnand for Swissinfo reported on 26 March 2018 that the UN Human Rights Council in the end adopted the Chinese draft resolution that I referred to earlier: [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/07/china-and-the-un-human-rights-council-really-win-win/].

Conseil des droits de l'homme
Diplomats gathered on Friday to vote on resolutions presented at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva (swissinfo.ch)

The Chinese resolution calling for “mutually beneficial cooperation” on human rights issues was adopted at the United Nations Human Rights Council last week, but human rights defenders and several countries say it actually weakens human rights principles.

The Chinese resolution is the first stage of a major step backwards,” Geneva-based human rights specialist Adrien Claude Zoller told swissinfo.ch, calling it “THE major event” of the Human Rights Council’s 37th sessionexternal link.

At first glance, Beijing’s resolution at the Human Rights Council – only its second-ever in nearly a dozen years ! – seems relatively innocent. The text, full of diplomatic language such as “universality” and “international constructive dialogue”, was adopted on Friday evening by 28 votes to one, with 17 abstentions.

But it nonetheless upset many diplomats and human rights campaigners in Geneva. Australia, Britain, Japan, and Switzerland were among those abstaining, though many envoys spoke out against the text.  Ahead of Friday’s vote, Switzerland said the resolution contained “vague and ambiguous language that weakens fundamental human rights principles”. [see also in this context: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/22/unfortunately-europe-is-not-stepping-up-its-human-rights-policy-in-us-absence/]

While welcoming “constructive international cooperation as a means of promoting and protecting human rights”, Switzerland’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Valentin Zellweger, stressed that human rights-related mandates need to be able to act quickly and work efficiently to prevent crises. Civil society, he added, must be able to play a crucial role in protecting against and addressing violations.

Zoller said the resolution recalled certain language and concepts heard during the Cold War when the Soviet Union also invoked the idea of “mutually beneficial cooperation”. “The procedure put in place by the Chinese resolution involves putting an extra layer around the system of special procedures [such as independent investigations] and increasing pressure on them,” Zoller declared.  It amounts, he said, to an attempt to “kill the messenger” and complicate the work of the special rapporteurs who carry it.   “It attempts to do this by ignoring the monitoring bodies of human rights conventions [and returning] to the principle of non-interference.”

John Fisher, the Geneva-based director of Human Rights Watch, also criticised China’s strategy. His organisation last year issued a reportexternal link warning of Chinese interference in UN human rights mechanisms.

The United States cast the only “no” vote on the resolution, co-sponsored by states including Pakistan and Egypt. US diplomat Jason Mack said China was using its resolution to try to weaken the UN human rights system and norms.  “The ‘feel-good’ language about mutually beneficial cooperation is intended to benefit autocratic states at the expense of people whose human rights and fundamental freedoms we are all obligated as states to respect,” he said.

He added that Chinese spokespeople had clearly been trying to “glorify their head of state by inserting his thoughts into the international human rights lexicon”.

On Monday, China accused the Americans of arrogance for rejecting the Chinese resolution. “I think the comments by this US official in Geneva…were extremely unreasonable, and also reflect the consistent ignorance and haughtiness of the US side,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing.

Many countries expressed at the meeting that the Chinese resolution reflected the common wishes of the international community and helped raise the ability of developing nations to speak for themselves on human rights issues, Hua added.

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/un-human-rights-council-_china-s–win-win–rights-initiative-makes-waves-in-geneva/44000588?&ns_mchannel=rss&srg_evsource=gn

Human Rights Council 2018 on the annual report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

March 23, 2018

The Human Rights Council concluded on 22 March 2018  its general debate on the annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and reports of the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General. The Council started the general debate on Wednesday, 21 March after hearing the presentation of reports on Burundi, Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Cyprus and Iran, and a summary can be seen here.

In the general discussion, delegations noted that some progress was being made to improve the human rights situations in those countries, but much remained to be done. Speakers stressed the relevance of protecting civil society actors and human rights defenders, including in the context of implementing peace agreements and pursuing reconciliation plans. States were commended for cooperating with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other United Nations mechanisms, and were urged to prioritize efforts to combat impunity and to prosecute perpetrators of rights violations.

Speaking were the delegations of the United States; Australia; Georgia; Belgium; Israel; Norway; United Nations Children’s Fund; Canada; Denmark; Morocco; Greece; Algeria; Turkey; Ireland; and Netherlands as well as a large number of NGOs.

For those interested to know more of this General Debate on the Annual Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, I refer to Reliefweb which carries regularly summaries of what happens at the Council.

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/human-rights-council-concludes-general-debate-annual-report-high-commissioner-human