Archive for the 'Human Rights Council' Category

NGOs jointly address (again) the human rights crisis in Ethiopia

May 26, 2017

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They draw attention to persistent and grave violations of human rights in Ethiopia and the pressing need to support the establishment of an independent, impartial and international investigation into atrocities committed by security forces to suppress peaceful protests and independent dissent. And they ask countries to prioritise and address through joint statements the ongoing human rights crisis in Ethiopia at the upcoming UN Human Rights Council from 6 – 23 June 2017. [for last year’s call see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/09/un-human-rights-council-urged-to-address-situation-in-ethiopia/]

In the wake of unprecedented, mass protests that erupted in November 2015 in Oromia, Amhara, and the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples (SNNPR) regional states, Ethiopian authorities routinely responded to legitimate and largely peaceful expressions of dissent with excessive and unnecessary force. As a result, over 800 protesters have been killed, thousands of political activists, human rights defenders, journalists and protesters have been arrested, and in October 2016, the Ethiopian Government declared a six-month nationwide State of Emergency, that was extended for an additional four months on 30 March 2017 after some restrictions were lifted.

The State of Emergency directives give sweeping powers to a Command Post, which has been appointed by the House of People’s Representatives to enforce the decree, including the suspension of fundamental and non-derogable rights protected by the Ethiopian Constitution, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and other international human rights treaties to which Ethiopia is party. More information on the human rights violations occurring under the current State of Emergency is included in the Annex at the end of this letter.

Lack of independent investigations

Few effective avenues to pursue accountability for abuses exist in Ethiopia, given the lack of independence of the judiciary – the ruling EPRDF coalition and allied parties control all 547 seats in Parliament.

Ethiopia’s National Human Rights Commission, which has a mandate to investigate rights violations, concluded in its June 2016 oral report to Parliament that the lethal force used by security forces in Oromia was proportionate to the risk they faced from the protesters. The written Amharic version of the report was only recently made public, and there are long-standing concerns about the impartiality and research methodology of the Commission. On 18 April 2017, the Commission submitted its second oral report to Parliament on the protests, which found that 669 people were killed, including 63 members of the security forces, and concluded that security forces had taken “proportionate measures in most areas.” Both reports are in stark contrast with the findings of other national and international organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions has rated the Commission as B, meaning the latter has failed to meet fully the Paris Principles.

Refusal to cooperate with regional and international mechanisms

In response to the recent crackdown, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has called for “access for independent observers to the country to assess the human rights situation”, and recently renewed his call for access to the country during a visit to the capital, Addis Ababa. Ethiopia’s government, however, has rejected the call, citing its own investigation conducted by its Commission. UN Special Procedures have also made similar calls.

In November 2016, the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights adopted a resolution calling for an international, independent, and impartial investigation into allegations of the use of excessive and unnecessary lethal force by security forces to disperse and suppress peaceful protests. Recent European parliament and US Congressional resolutions have also called for independent investigations. The Ethiopian embassy in Belgium dismissed the European Parliament’s resolution citing its own Commission’s investigations into the protests.

As a member of the UN HRC, Ethiopia has an obligation to “uphold the highest standards” of human rights, and “fully cooperate” with the Council and its mechanisms (GA Resolution 60/251, OP 9), yet there are outstanding requests for access from Special Procedures, including from the special rapporteurs on torture, freedom of opinion and expression, and peaceful assembly, among others.

The letter urges Ethiopia to:

  1. urgently allow access to an international, thorough, independent, impartial and transparent investigation into all of the deaths resulting from alleged excessive use of force by the security forces, and other violations of human rights in the context of the protests;
  2. respond favourably to country visit requests by UN Special Procedures,
  3. immediately and unconditionally release journalists, human rights defenders, political opposition leaders and members as well as protesters arbitrarily detained during and in the aftermath of the protests;
  4. ensure that those responsible for human rights violations are prosecuted in proceedings which comply with international law and standards on fair trials; and
  5. fully comply with its international legal obligations and commitments including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and its own Constitution.

Download PDF (401.12 KB)

The Ethiopian Zone 9 bloggers were finalists for the 2016 MEA, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/15/martin-ennals-award-2016-relive-the-ceremony-in-13-minutes-or-in-full/ 

Source: Joint NGO Letter Addressing the Pervasive Human Rights Crisis in Ethiopia – Ethiopia | ReliefWeb

Nine Things Everyone Needs To Know About International LGBTI Rights

May 21, 2017

17 May 2017 was the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT). It was created in 2004 to raise awareness about the violence and discrimination experienced by LGBTI people internationally. The date of May 17 was chosen specifically to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. The Advocates Post lists 9 things that are useful to remember such as:

  1. Internationally, the acronyms LGBT and LGBTI (standing for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex”) are the most commonly used terms.
  2. SOGI stands for “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.”
  3. Private, consensual same-sex conduct is a crime in at least 76 countries. Because of these discriminatory laws, millions of LGBTI persons around the world face the risk of arrest, prosecution and imprisonment every day. And in as many as 10 countries, same-sex acts can be punished with the death penalty.
  4. LGBTI people and rights are not a Western export. LGBTI people exist everywhere — in all countries, among all ethnic groups, at all socioeconomic levels, and in all communities. Further, global archeological and anthropological evidence — from prehistoric rock paintings in South Africa and Egypt to ancient Indian medical texts and early Ottoman literature — show that LGBTI people have always been a part of our communities. In fact in many parts of the world, it was Western colonial powers that imposed the criminal laws that punish same-sex conduct. You can click on an interactive map…
  5. Some countries are passing “gay propaganda” laws and other discriminatory laws that limit the rights to free speech, freedom of association, and assembly. E.g. in 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law Federal Law 135, banning propaganda to minors about “non-traditional sexual relations.” Article 3(2)(b) of Federal Law 135 imposes administrative fines and, in the case of non-citizens, deportation….
  6. LGBTI persons around the world experience widespread violence.
  7. LGBTI persons around the world experience discriminatory treatment every day, in workplaces, schools, family homes, and health care settings.
  8. International law protects LGBTI rights. The right to equality and non-discrimination are core human rights principles included in the United Nations Charter, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and all multilateral human rights treaties. The equality and non-discrimination guarantee provided by international human rights law applies to ALL people, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity or “other status.” According to the United Nations, governments have core legal obligations to protect the human rights of LGBT people………
  9. Everyone can take action to support LGBTI rights. 17 May turns out to be the single most important annual date for global LGBTI mobilization and awareness raising. Research has shown that 17% of all annual discussions on Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia are generated around this day. A few day late this post wants to add to that.

Source: Nine Things Everyone Needs To Know About International LGBTI Rights – The Advocates Post

Bahrain shows again how important it is to contribute to the Secretary-General’s reprisals report

April 28, 2017

NGOs and human rights defenders have until the end of May to submit cases of reprisals to the UN Secretary-General’s report, covering the period June 2016 to May 2017. The Call for submissions to the Secretary General’s annual report on cooperation with the United Nations, its mechanisms and representatives in the field of human rights – more frequently referred to as the ‘reprisals report’ – will be made public soon. Please send your submission to reprisals@ohchr.org.  For some of my earlier posts on reprisals see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/

The report consists of a compilation of cases of intimidation and reprisals due to cooperation with the United Nations organisations and its specialised agencies in the field of human rights, including cases in relation to the Human Rights Council, its Universal Periodic Review and Special Procedures; Human Rights Treaty Bodies; the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, its field presences and Human Rights Advisers; United Nations Country Teams; human rights components of peacekeeping missions and other parts of the Secretariat or specialized agencies working in the field of human rights.

When submitting cases please ensure consent has been obtained from the alleged victim or his/her family and this is clearly indicated in your email; meaning 1) the victim or his/her family has been informed and has understood the possible security risks, and 2) the victim or his/her family has agreed to have his/her case included in the reprisals report;   Mention is made of whether or not the alleged act of reprisal has been referred to in any official UN publication (UN report, press release, public statement, video of UN conference etc.) and, if so, the reference to this publication, including document symbol number where relevant, is provided.  The report also contains a section on follow-up. Hence information in follow-up to cases included in the 2014 (A/HRC/27/38), 2015 (A/HRC/30/29) and 2016 (A/HRC/33/19) reports is also welcome. This information could for instance concern continued acts of reprisal or indicate measures that have been taken by the relevant State to investigate or prevent future reprisals from occurring. Please note that also for follow-up information the three requirements mentioned above must be adhered to.

Bahrain shows again how important this exercise is: According to Front Line Defenders there is a clear pattern of preventing HRDs to attend to the human rights sessions: From 24 to 25 April 2017, twenty-two human rights defenders in Bahrain were interrogated by the Bahraini authorities. All defenders received police summonses on 21 April 2017 to appear before the office of the General Prosecutor. Most of the human rights defenders who were summoned for interrogation received confirmation that the Public Prosecutor has issued travel bans against them. The interrogations, which lasted on average 3 to 7 minutes, were in relation to allegations that the human rights defenders had attended an illegal gathering in Diraz village sometime between 2016 and 2017. Ebtisam Al-Saegh and Hussain Radhi were among the twenty-two human rights defenders who were summoned, interrogated and later received confirmation that they were subject to a travel ban. In a separate case on 20 April 2017, Sharaf Al-Mousawi was prevented from traveling to attend a meeting on development in Lebanon. The  interrogations precede the upcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session which will take place in Geneva, Switzerland, on 1 May 2017. 

 Ebtisam Al-Saegh   is a Bahraini human rights defender who works for the organisation Salam for Human Rights and Democracy. Hussain Radhi   is a human rights defender who works for the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and Sharaf Al-Mousawi   is President of the Bahrain Transparency Society, a non-governmental organisation  promoting transparency and the elimination of corruption in Bahrain. The organisation is also a partner organisation of Transparency International.

 On 25 April 2017, the Public Prosecution interrogated Hussain Radhi after he received a summons on 21 April 2017 by the Bahraini security forces. He was interrogated for three or four minutes and accused of participating in an illegal gathering; allegations which he denies. While returning from a trip on 20 April 2017, Hussain Radhi  was informed upon his arrival at the airport in Bahrain that on 14 April 2017, a travel ban had been issued against him by the Public Prosecution. 

 Twenty-one other human rights defenders faced the same situation between 21 and 25 April 2017. On 24 April, Ebtisam Al-Saegh was also interrogated for three minutes after waiting for a couple of hours at the office of the Public Prosecutor. A Police force made up of six vehicles came to her home on 21 April and delivered a summons for interrogation at the Public Prosecutor’s office. The human rights defender then inquired with  the Bahraini Immigration and Visas Office about her ability to travel and was informed that she faced a travel ban by order of the Public Prosecutor. Among the other human rights defenders who were  interrogated, and informed that they are banned from travel, are Abdulnabi Al-Ekri , Mohammad Al-Tajer , Enas Oun , Rula Al-Safar , Jalila Al-Salman , Zainab Al-Khamis , and Ahmed Al-Saffar . All 22 human rights defenders were accused of participating in illegal gatherings between October 2016 and January 2017 in the village of Diraz. All denied the charges and several noted that it would be impossible for them to even enter Diraz as it is blocked by checkpoints manned by security forces. The human rights defenders seem to believe that the summonses and interrogations were used to justify the travel bans  ahead of the upcoming UPR session in Geneva, Switzerland, in an attempt to deter their legitimate and peaceful work to protect and promote human rights in Bahrain and participate in international human rights mechanisms as is their right. 

In November 2016 <https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/ebtisam-al-saegh-summoned-interrogation&gt; , several human rights defenders, including Ebtisam Al-Saegh and Hussain Al-Radhi, were interrogated and prevented from traveling ahead of that month’s Human Rights Council session.

See also: http://www.omct.org/human-rights-defenders/urgent-interventions/bahrain/2017/04/d24314/ which contains a Joint appeal (of 25 April 2017) signed by 60 organisations around the world to release human rights defenders Nabeel Rajab and Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja who both require adequate medical care.

Source: Call for contributions to Secretary-General’s reprisals report | ISHR

US pushes for ‘historic’ human rights debate at Security Council but achieves little

April 20, 2017

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, with Liu Jieyi, China’s ambassador, before the April 18 Security Council meeting. Rick Bajornas/UN Photo

The United States led on Tuesday 18 April what it (and not many others) dubbed a ‘historicU.N. Security Council meeting on the link between rights abuses and conflict, but it had to drop a push for the broad issue of human rights to become a fixed item of the Security Council’s agenda when it appeared that at least six members would oppose it [Russia, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan and Bolivia were against the move and Senegal’s support was uncertain]. The United States, council president for April, did not risk the measure being put to a rare procedural vote, which requires nine in favour, and vetoes cannot be used. The opposing council members say rights discussion should be confined to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council – which Washington accuses of being anti-Israel and has threatened to quit – and the 193-member U.N. General Assembly third committee. Here is some of the analysis:

Read the rest of this entry »

HRCnet seeks Geneva based coordinator

April 11, 2017

The Human Rights Council Network (HRCnet) is seeking a Coordinator based at the International Service of Human Rights in Geneva. For details on the post see below:
HRCnet is a 10-year old coalition of national, regional and international NGOs engaging with the UN Human Rights Council. Its current members are:
in Africa: African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (The Gambia), DefendDefenders (East and Horn of African Human Rights Defenders Network) (Uganda), Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network (Zimbabwe), West African Human Rights Defenders Network (Togo),
in Asia: Asian Legal Resource Centre (Hong Kong, China), Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM ASIA) (Thailand), Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (India),
in Latin America: Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) (Argentina), Conectas Direitos Humanos (Brazil),
in the Middle East and North Africa: Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (Egypt), Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (Egypt),
and the following  International NGOs: Human Rights Watch (USA), International Service for Human Rights (Switzerland), Open Society Foundations (USA).

Read the rest of this entry »

UN archive on North Korean human rights violations to be established in Geneva

April 8, 2017

The 34th regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, 2017

An archive of information and evidence on human rights abuses by the North Korean regime is to be established in Geneva. Quoting a report by the UN Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts (OPPBA), VOA explained that the independent archive, to be created in accordance with a North Korean human resolution adopted by the 34th UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), will be established in physically distant Geneva for the security and total confidentiality of sensitive information.The OPPBA was also quoted as saying a legal officer with at least seven years of experience would be needed to integrate and preserve information and evidence in connection with the archive’s establishment at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva, along with another information management officer with at least five years of experience to conduct practical affairs. It also said its UN human rights office in Seoul would require three staffers: one international criminal system expert, one expert in South Korean criminal law, and one expert in interpreting for South Korean law. On 24 March 2017, the UNHRC adopted a North Korean resolution by non-voting agreement that recommends the international community’s cooperation in investigating responsibility in connection with the findings of a Commission of Inquiry (COI) report on crimes against humanity by the North Korean regime.The resolution suggested specific procedures and methods over the next two years for assigning responsibility for North Korea’s human rights abuses, including boosting the capabilities of the North Korean human rights office and OHCHR, establishing the archive, and appointing legal experts to collect and preserve information and evidence needed for procedures in investigating responsibility.

see also https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/02/20/north-korea-the-un-report-in-images/

Source: UN archive on N. Korean human rights abuses to be established in Geneva : North Korea : News : The Hankyoreh

34th Session of UN Human Rights Council ended: the summing up by civil society

March 28, 2017

On 24 March 2017 a group of important NGOs that are active at the UN Human Rights Council made a joint statement at the end of the 34th session. These are: International Service for Human Rights, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM ASIA), Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, Human Rights House Foundation, CIVICUS, International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch. They:

….. welcome the renewal of key Special Procedures mandates, and in particular that of the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders. At a time when defenders are under an unprecedented attack and killings of defenders are on the rise, the united stance of the Human Rights Council is key. While we welcome the restoring of consensus to this key resolution, we deeply regret the fracturing of the same on the right to food resolution, particularly given the increasing interrelationship of food insecurity, conflict and human rights violations.

At the outset of this session, High Commissioner Zeid has described 2017 as a pivotal year for the Council, and has diagnosed an attack on the entire rights-based system. To be a credible part of this system, and rise to the world’s challenges, the Council must – while appropriately engaging the concerned States – respond firmly to human rights violations and victims’ demands for accountability Some actions at this session have struck this balance in part; others – such as the decision hastily ending the mandate on Haiti – have not. The Council still fails to bring needed attention to a range of violations in countries such as Azerbaijan, Bahrain, China, Egypt, Philippines, Turkey and others.

The urgent dispatch of a Fact-Finding Mission [FFM] on Myanmar is a welcome step. We now look to you, President, to consult, including with civil society, on the appointment of the FFM’s members. But we regret the dissociation of Myanmar from the resolution, and call on Myanmar to fully cooperate with the FFM. We look to all States, including in particular those with investment, trade and business relationships with Myanmar, to fully facilitate the work of the FFM. We commend the Council for recognising the fundamental relationship between violations of human rights and the commission of mass atrocities, including by advancing accountability for such crimes in the DPRK, South Sudan, Sri Lanka and Syria.

Finally, Mr President, we are again concerned about allegations of intimidation and reprisals against defenders from Myanmar, Bahrain and Sri Lanka, including during the current session. In line with your legal obligation, we urge you to take these cases seriously, follow-up thoroughly on the allegations, and ensure that all those who engage with the body you preside over can do so safely.

Human Rights Council extends mandate on human rights defenders – after considerable wrangling

March 24, 2017

On Thursday 23 March 2017 the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution in which it extended, for a period of three years, the mandate of the Special Rapporteurs on human rights defenders. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/22/un-special-rapporteur-on-human-rights-defenders-wraps-up-his-first-mandate/]

The press statement by the UN (see below) explains that there was quite a bit of wrangling on wording, but in the end the draft resolution (A/HRC/34/L.5) on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michael Forst, was adopted without a vote as orally revised, in the same terms as provided for by the Human Rights Council in its resolution 16/5. It urges again all States to cooperate with and assist the Special Rapporteur in the performance of his tasks, to provide all information and to respond to the communications transmitted to them by the Special Rapporteur without undue delay; and calls upon States to give serious consideration to responding favourably to the requests of the Special Rapporteur to visit their countries.

(here the detailed report on the failed efforts – mainly by Russia and China – to weaken the text:) Read the rest of this entry »

Independence of the Legal Profession subject of side event on 16 March 2017

March 9, 2017

Lawyers for Lawyers and The Law Society of England & Wales organize a UN side event on the “The Independence of the Legal Profession” on Thursday 16 March 2017, 3 – 5 pm in Room XXIII of the Palais des Nations, Geneva.

Keynote speaker: Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers

 

Panelists:

·        Khalid Baghirov, lawyer (Azerbaijan)

·        Ayse Bingol Demir, lawyer (Turkey) [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/01/23/persecution-of-lawyers-and-journalists-in-turkey-side-event-in-geneva-on-27-january/]

·         Michel Togué, lawyer (Cameroon) [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/02/13/death-threats-against-human-rights-defenders-alice-nkom-and-michel-togue-in-cameroon/]

The panelists will share their experiences, obstacles faced by members of  the legal profession in their respective countries, and possible ways to improve the safety of lawyers who work in challenging contexts.

The event is co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Australia and Paraguay as well as the following NGOs: – Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC),- Union Internationale des Avocats (UIA), – Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC), – International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), – Avocats Sans Frontières Suisse (ASF Switzerland), – International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), – Judges for Judges (J4J), – Human Rights House Foundation and- Peace Brigades International (PBI, UK)

To register (for those without passes, until 12 March 2017): S.deGraaf@lawyersforlawyers.nl

For enquiriesRoberta.Taveri@lawsociety.org.uk

 

 

 

 

 

High-level endorsements of crucial role of human rights defenders in UN Human Rights Council

March 7, 2017

The 34th Session of the UN Human Rights Council started off last week (as usual) with the so-called “high-level segment” during which important officials addressed the Council [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/28/new-secretary-general-at-human-rights-council-tells-human-rights-defenders-and-i-am-on-your-side/].

On 6 March the ISHR reported on that first week during which several dignitaries emphasised the key role that a vibrant civil society plays in promoting and protecting human rights.

 The President of the General Assembly, Peter Thomson, highlighted the importance of civil society by calling States, the UN and civil society to work shoulder to shoulder and advance with common purpose. Other high-level speakers expressed concern regarding increasing restrictions to civil society space, particularly against HRDs and journalists.
  • Delegates from Botswana, the Czech Republic, Costa Rica, the European Union, France, Malta, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg, among others, reiterated their support to the work of HRDs and journalists and stressed the importance of guaranteeing their protection.
  • Delegates from Germany, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom, among others, condemned acts of reprisals against HRDs and emphasised that HRDs must be able to participate and engage with the Council without fear of intimidation or reprisals.

The pivotal role defenders play in promoting sustainable development was also recognised. Georgia underscored the importance of strengthening the role of NGOs and safeguarding civil society’s space to ensure they are heard. ‘Without close cooperation with all stakeholders, it is impossible to secure the sustainable development of the country.

So, there is no shortage of good statements in Geneva, but the what matters most is the upcoming renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and any real action on reprisals!

Source: #HRC34 | High-level officials kick off Council session, emphasise critical role of defenders | ISHR