Archive for the 'Human Rights Council' Category

Guide to Human Rights Defenders issues at the 41st Human Rights Council starting on 24 June

June 14, 2019

Thanks to the – as always very complete and timely – “Alert to the Human Rights Council’s 41st session” (from 24 June to 12 July 2019) issued by the International Service for Human Rights. I am able to give a short guide to the main items that relate to human rights defenders. To Read the full Alert to the session online click here and stay up-to-date with @ISHRglobal and #HRC41 on Twitter.

Thematic areas of interest:

Sexual orientation and gender identity: The interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) will be held on Monday 24 June at 11:00. The Council will consider the new thematic report of the mandate holder as well as the report of the country visits he made to Georgia and Mozambique. The Council will also consider the renewal of the mandate.

Business and human rights: The Council will hold an interactive dialogue with and consider several reports of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises on 26 June. The Working Group will present a report on the gender dimensions of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the reports of country visits to Thailand and Kenya. The Working Group’s report on the gender dimensions of the Guiding Principles integrates clear recognition that women human rights defenders play a vital role in challenging business-related human rights abuses as well as in promoting and protecting human rights in relation to business activity, including the right to an effective remedy. As a result of this work, women human rights defenders often face gender-specific risks including sexual violence, misogynist public shaming and online harassment. Among its recommendations, the Working Group calls on business enterprises to ensure the meaningful participation of women’s organisations, women human rights defenders and gender experts in all stages of human rights due diligence.

Women human rights defenders and women’s rights: The annual full day discussion on the human rights of women will take place on 27 and  28 June. The discussions will focus this year on violence against women in the world of work, the rights of older women and their economic empowerment. A panel focused on women’s rights and climate change will also be organised, focusing on climate action, best practices and lessons learned. States should place due consideration on the role of women human rights defenders and social movements in this regard, in line with the Human Rights Council resolution focused on environmental human rights defenders adopted in March 2019…
The Council will also hold an interactive dialogue with the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice which focuses on women deprived of liberty (including women human rights defenders in detention, facing travel bans, among other situations), and will consider their reports including a report on the country visits to Honduras and Poland. The Council will hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences on 27 June and will consider her report including the report of her visits to Canada and Nepal.

Reprisals:  In spite of a number of measures, reprisals 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, including specific cases, and for relevant governments to provide updates on cases to the Council on any investigation or action taken toward accountability. During the organisational meeting held on 7 June, the President of the Council stressed the importance of ensuring the safety of those participating in the Council’s work, and the obligation of States to prevent intimidation or reprisals. In line with previous calls, ISHR expects the President of the Human Rights Council to publicly identify and denounce specific instances of reprisals by issuing formal statements, conducting press-briefings, corresponding directly with the State concerned, publicly releasing such correspondence, and insisting on undertakings from the State concerned to investigate, hold the perpetrators accountable and report back to the Council on action taken. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/13/ishr-on-reprisals-un-and-states-must-do-more-to-address-reprisals/]

Other key thematic reports: The Council will hold dedicated debates and consider reports of several mandates relating to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, and the role of human rights defenders in that work area, in some instances involving the renewal of the mandate:

  • The Special Rapporteur on independence of judges and lawyers and on the right to health (including country visits report to Canada and Kyrgyzstan) on 24 June
  • The Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association (mandate renewal, reports include country visits to Tunisia and Armenia) on 25 June
  • The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and right to education on 26 June
  • The Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression (including thematic report on surveillance companies and country visit report to Ecuador) on 25 June
  • The Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights (including country visits reports to the UK and Laos) on 28 June

In addition, the Council will hold dedicated debates on rights of specific groups including with:

  • The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants (and country visit report to Niger) on 24 June
  • The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons on 28 June (mandate renewal)
  • The Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons (and country visit to Nigeria) on 27 June
  • The Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members on 24 June

Country-specific developments:

China: For more than a year, the international community has had access to credible reports and first-hand testimony of the harassment, surveillance, and mass detention of more than one million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang. Despite the consistent work of the UN human rights mechanisms to review China, ask questions, and make recommendations, there has been no serious or effective response. The Council should take urgent action to seek access, monitoring and reporting of the situation to inform future actions. ..ISHR urges States to act collectively to advance a resolution calling for China to allow access to the region to independent human rights experts and to end country-wide the arbitrary detention of individuals based on their religious beliefs or political opinions.

Sudan: In response to the gross and systematic human rights violations occurring in Sudan, ISHR andother NGOs have urged Council Member States to urgently hold a Special Session on the human rights situation in Sudan. The Council should urgently establish an international fact-finding mission to document violations, identify perpetrators and push for accountability, in line with calls made by a group of Special Procedures including the Independent Expert on Sudan. Since 3 June, Rapid Security Forces, riot police and national security officers violently dispersed peaceful protesters in Khartoum as well as in different cities across Sudan. The MENA Women Human Rights Defenders’ Coalition reported that at least 113 people have died including women human rights defenders. Civil society documented cases of rape, attacks on hospitals, with hundreds injured and missing.  The Transitional Military Council is enforcing a ban on communication causing an internet black out. The High Commissioner has deplored the killings and proposed ‘the rapid deployment of a UN human rights monitoring team’ to Sudan.

Saudi Arabia: The June session provides an important opportunity for the Council to follow up on the joint statement delivered on behalf of 36 States [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/08/saudi-arabia-for-first-time-openly-criticized-in-un-human-rights-council/] .. Seven women’s rights activists have been provisionally released, but they are still facing trial, and other women human rights defenders are still in detention, with the human rights situation on the ground deteriorating markedly on other fronts, including through increased use of the death penalty and the authorities’ continuing crackdown on freedom of expression.  [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/28/3-saudi-women-human-rights-defenders-released-but-for-how-long-and-what-about-the-others/]
The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions will present her findings of the investigation into the killing of Khashoggi. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/26/other-members-of-the-uns-khashoggi-investigation-team-named/%5D…..ISHR calls on States to advance a Human Rights Council resolution establishing a monitoring mechanism over the human rights violations in the country and calling explicitly for the immediate and unconditional release of all human rights defenders including the detained women human rights defenders and to drop all charges against them, including those provisionally released. ISHR considers the March joint statement as a first step towards more sustained and dedicated review by the Council in its efforts to hold its members accountable.

The Philippines: The Philippines is one of the most dangerous countries for human rights defenders. Several NGOs callied on the Council to advance accountability for human rights violations by adopting a resolution establishing an independent international investigation into extrajudicial killings and this call was strongly endorsed by a group of independent UN experts who condemned a ‘sharp deterioration in the situation of human rights across the country, including sustained attacks on people and institutions defending human rights.’ [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/07/philippines-labour-rights-defender-dennis-sequena-shot-dead-while-meeting-with-workers/]

Egypt: Despite the Egyptian government’s assurances to the African Commission civil society faced restrictions, reprisals and intimidation for engaging or seeking to engage with the Commission. These restrictions and reprisals happened in a context where the Government of Egypt crushes dissent, discourages public participation in public affairs and punishes people who dare to claim basic human rights. Individuals and communities who engaged with the Special Rapporteur on the right to housing during her visit in September 2018 faced systematic reprisals. All other scheduled visits by the Special Procedures have been postponed as a result. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/07/egypt-denounced-for-reprisals-against-human-rights-defenders-who-talked-to-visiting-un-delegation/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/12/reprisal-against-egyptian-human-rights-defender-mohamed-soltan/]. ISHR calls on States to condemn the acts of intimidation and reprisals for civil society engaging with the African Commission and with the Special Procedures, and recall Egypt’s obligations to prevent acts of intimidation and reprisals, investigate the allegations and provide victims with effective remedy.

Burundi: The Commission of Inquiry on Burundi will present its oral briefing on 2 July. The closing of the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is regrettable and worrying. In addition, ISHR remains seriously concerned over the breaches to due process observed in all of human rights defender Germain Rukuki’s legal proceedings since his arrest without warrant on 13 July 2017. [See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/29/ngo-statement-condemns-new-irregularities-in-the-case-of-germain-rukuki-burundi/]. For more information on the situation of human rights defenders in Burundi, check ISHR Briefing Paper for the UPR here.

Other country situations: The High Commissioner will present her oral update to the Council on 24 June. The Council will hear reports on and is expected to consider resolutions addressing a range of country situations, in some instances involving the renewal of the relevant expert mandates. These include:

  • Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus (mandate renewal) on 1 July
  • Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea (mandate renewal) on 2 July
  • Interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi and the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar on 2 July
  • Enhanced interactive dialogue with the government of Sudan and OHCHR on 9 July
  • Enhanced interactive dialogue on the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo and interactive dialogue with the team of experts on the situation in the Kasai region on 9 July
  • Interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner on the situation in Ukraine on 10 July
  • Interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the Central African Republic on 10 July
  • Enhanced interactive dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner on Venezuela on 10 July
  • Interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner on the situation of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar on 10 July
  • First oral update and enhanced interactive dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner on Nicaragua on 11 July
  • Oral update by the High Commissioner on cooperation with Georgia on 11 July

Adoption of Universal Periodic Review (UPR) reports: During this session, the Council will adopt the UPR working group reports on New Zealand, Afghanistan, Chile, Viet Nam, Uruguay, Yemen, Vanuatu, North Macedonia, Comoros, Slovakia, Eritrea, Cyprus, Dominican Republic and Cambodia.

Resolutions to be presented to the Council’s 41st session: At the organisational meeting resolutions were announced (States sponsoring the resolution in brackets); it is possible that more resolutions could be presented at this session. These include:

  • The human rights situation in Belarus (European Union)
  • Human rights of internally displaced persons (Austria, Honduras, Uganda)
  • Human rights and climate change (Bangladesh, Philippines, Viet Nam)
  • Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Uruguay).
  • Elimination of discrimination against women and girls (Colombia, Mexico)
  • Rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association (Czech Republic, Indonesia, Lithuania, Maldives, Mexico)
  • New and emerging and digital technologies and human rights (Republic of Korea, Austria, Brazil, Denmark, Morocco, Singapore)
  • Accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women(Canada)
  • The human rights situation in Syria (France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Netherlands, Qatar, Turkey, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland)

There wil be again many side events at the Council, on which I will report separately.

Read here the three year programme of work of the Council with supplementary information.
Read here ISHR’s recommendations on the the key issues that are or should be on the agenda of the UN Human Rights Council in 2019.

One-day dialogue on Human Rights Council membership on 1 july 2019

June 12, 2019

ISHR, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch organise a meeting on STRENGTHENING AND LEVERAGING HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL MEMBERSHIP on Monday 1 July 2019, 13h00-14h30 Restaurant des Délégués, 8th Floor, Palais des Nations, Geneva.The composition of the HRC has captured significant public attention over the past year – with people around the world rightly asking: how can States accused of gross and systematic human rights violations become members of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council? And what does that mean for the credibility and effectiveness of this body? Clearly, for the HRC to be effective, and to be credible and relevant to the wider human rights community, and the wider public, it needs members committed to the promotion and protection of human rights at home and abroad in its 47 seats, as foreseen by UNGA resolution 60/251. Of course, no State has a perfect human rights record, and a wide and diverse range of States should be encouraged to address their shortcomings and enhance their commitment to human rights through HRC participation and engagement. While the argument does not apply to candidates that are in clear breach of the membership criteria, HRC membership may be an important incentive for national-level change, particularly where States, as candidates, make voluntary pledges and commitments, and are willing and able to implement them. The framing and implementation of those pledges and commitments is, however, rarely discussed at national or international level. Against this backdrop, in February 2019, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) and HRC-net convened a one-day dialogue bringing together national and regional actors – including human rights defenders and NHRIs – with a cross-regional group of State representatives, OHCHR officials and international civil society, to address two important and interlinked questions regarding HRC membership: 1) how can we encourage greater respect and application of the membership criteria clearly set out in GA resolution 60/251; and 2) how can a State’s membership of the HRC be leveraged for positive change on human rights at national level? Drawing on good practices and lessons learned, participants identified a range of challenges, opportunities and practical recommendations. A report of the one-day dialogue will be presented during a lunch time reception at the Restaurant des Délégués on 1 July, in the side-lines of the 41st session of the Human Rights Council. The reception will provide an opportunity for the presentation of some of the key challenges, opportunities and practical recommendations identified in the report, including with regards to good practice relating to candidacy and membership of the HRC.

Speakers:

  • Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan, Permanent Representative of Fiji to the UN
  • Salma El Hosseiny, ISHR’s Human Rights Council Advocate
  • Hilary Power, Amnesty International’s Senior UN Advocate

Please RSVP by clicking here <https://crm.ishr.ch/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=884&qid=111418> by 19 June 2019 to confirm your participation at this event.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/09/02/hrc-elections-how-do-the-candidates-for-2018-rate-11-september-events/

Human rights in the response to HIV: a UN consultation

June 6, 2019

HIV and AIDS used to be a major and controversial topic. It has now moved a bit to the background but is still most relevant. This also shows some of the good work the UN is doing that many people dont know about:

In accordance with Human Rights Council resolution 38/8, a consultation on human rights in the response to HIV was held in Geneva on 12 and 13 February 2019. It was attended by a wide range of stakeholders, including representatives of Member States and of United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, special procedure mandate holders, experts and members of civil society, including persons living with, presumed to be living with, at risk of or affected by HIV. During the consultation, participants examined best practices, evidence, lessons learned and the challenges faced when removing human rights barriers and the promotion of human rights in the response to HIV in regional and subregional strategies. Participants discussed issues and challenges pertaining to the respect for and the promotion of human rights in the response to HIV, with a focus on regional and subregional strategies and best practices. The full report published on 1 May 2019 can be found in the link below. These are the recommendations made at the consultation.

Recommendations

Participants made a number of recommendations during the consultation, particularly with regard to regional and subregional strategies and best practices:

(a)States should remove structural barriers, including discriminatory laws and policies, and apply human rights-based approaches to the response to HIV, putting people living with HIV at the centre of their policies, programmes and practices. In order not to leave anyone behind, States should increase their efforts to reach the most marginalized women and adolescents, key populations vulnerable to HIV, including gay men and other men who have sex with men, sexworkers, people who use drugs, transgender people, and persons in prisons and other closed settings. Communities should be involved in the design, implementation and delivery of policies, programmes and practices.

(b)States should review their laws in accordance with international human rights law. In order to improve the human rights aspect in the response to HIV, States and their parliaments could collaborate at the regional and subregional levels to develop human rights-based normative content to inspire the domestication of laws at the national level. In order to reach Sustainable Development Goal target 3.3 and to leave no one behind, States should adopt legislation, policies and practices that decriminalize sex work, drug use, same-sex relations, and gender identity and expression, and provide access to gender recognition.

(c)In order to improve the effectiveness of the response to HIV, States should strengthen cooperation at the regional, subregional and global levels to support and invest in programmes and services that promote the right to health and the rights of people living with HIV.

(d)Strengthened accountability is vital to ensure that the rights of people living with HIV, including the right to health, are promoted and respected. States should collaborate with regional human rights mechanisms and engage with them in good faith, and follow up on decisions and sentences made by such bodies with a view to effectively implementing them.

(e)National human rights institutions and civil society have an important role to play in strengthening human rights accountability. The shrinking space for civil society is a key driver in leaving behind people living with HIV, particularly key populations. States should respect, protect and promote civil society space, provide an enabling regulatory and funding environment that allows civil society to work at the national, regional and subregional levels, and repeal laws that create barriers to the activities of civil society bodies. Civil society should be empowered to collect data, address human rights violations, participate in policymaking and decision-making, implementation and monitoring, including on issues relating to HIV and the rights of people living with HIV. In order to improve its effectiveness,civil society could cooperate at the regional level on joint advocacy efforts, including with regional mechanisms.

(f)In the current context of shrinking donor funding for HIV and health programmes, including in newly transitioned middle-income States, programmes aimed at removing barriers to human rights can be affected, particularly with regard to the rights of key populations. The retraction of global health funding in States transitioning to middle-income, without corresponding investment by domesticfunds, can lead to the loss of funding for services and rights programmes and advocacy for key populations, making them even more vulnerable. The Human Rights Council could develop guiding principles for health donors, which would be based on human rightsand should be formulated in coordination with UNAIDS and in consultation with States, key populations, communities and donors.

(g)States should review and adopt legislation, programmes and policies to combat stigma and discrimination, violence and abuseagainst people living with or at risk of HIV, with particular attention to key populations. States should work with United Nations agencies, civil society, communities and key populations to invest in programmes, education and other actions to eliminate HIV-related stigma and discrimination in all areas of life, including through the Global Partnership for Action to Eliminate All Forms of HIV-related Stigma and Discrimination. Regional and subregional networks have an important role to play in raising awareness and eliminating stigma and discrimination.

(h)States should ensure that universal health coverage promotes both the health and rights of all persons, including the most marginalized, such as people living with HIV and key populations, and addresseshuman rights barriers to health. States should ensure that human rights, including the right to health of persons living with HIV, are integrated into discussions on universal health coverage, including in the lead-up to the high-level meeting of the General Assembly on universal health coverage and in its outcome document

UN Human Rights Council

UN WEB TV: panel on human rights defenders and business

May 14, 2019

Panel on Safeguarding human rights defenders – Forum on Business and Human Rights 2018

On 27 November 2018 there was panel on “Safeguarding human rights defenders: new efforts and tackling growing threats” during the  Forum on Business and Human Rights. It is a bit old hat, but I wanted to show it as a good example of what is nowadays to be found on the internet as ‘on demand video’.

Brief description of the session :
The need for enhancing protection of human rights defenders who speak up against business-related human rights impacts is a standing item on the Forum’s agenda. This session led by the UN Working Group in collaboration with NGOs consists of two parts:
1. The first part of the session will be dedicated to showcasing new efforts to strengthen corporate respect and support for human rights defenders. Presentations will be brief, but meant to highlight encouraging initiatives and action.
2. The second part of the session will focus on the growing trend of criminalization and legal harassment of defenders who speak up against business-related impacts and identify concrete action to be taken by governments, business and others to address it. The panel aims to identify what “human rights due diligence” is needed and what are some of the practical considerations for preventing that companies become involved in criminalization and legal harassment of defenders who engage in legitimate efforts to address potential and actual adverse impacts. This will include identifying steps to be taken by:
•home States
•host States
•companies that cause negative impacts and who are the main targets of criticism
•companies that have business relationships to those causing the abuse (typically transnational corporations and their responsibility to address impacts in their supply chain)
•investors
•companies that invest in contexts where criminalization of human rights defenders is a salient issue

Moderator/ Introductory Remark…
•Michael Ineichen, Programme Director, International services for Human Rights
•Anita Ramasastry, Member, UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights

Speakers
•Brittany Benowitz, Chief Counsel, ABA Center for Human Rights
•Vaewrin Buangern, Community member from Lampang Province, Northern Thailand, Community member from Lampang Province, Northern Thailand
•Bennett Freeman, author of “Shared Space Under Pressure: Business Support for Civic Freedoms and Human Rights Defenders”, author of “Shared Space Under Pressure: Business Support for Civic Freedoms and Human Rights Defenders”
•Andreas Graf, Human Rights Manager, Sustainability & Diversity Department, FIFA
•Johanna Molina Miranda, Researcher on Human Rights and Business, CREER Lawyer, Specialist in International Law of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law with studies in Politics and International Security and currently studying for a Masters in Public International Law.
•Mohammad Nayyeri, Legal Advisor and Program Manager, Justice for Iran
•Ana Sandoval, Peaceful Resistance “La Puya”, Guatemala, Peaceful Resistance “La Puya”, Guatemala
•Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, UN Special Rapporteur on Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association

(Forum on Business and Human Rights)

ISHR on Reprisals: UN and States must do more to address reprisals

May 13, 2019

On 6 May 2019 the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) submitted two reports to the UN Secretary General on the topic of reprisals against human rights defenders. The conclusion is that many defenders still face unacceptable risks and are unable to cooperate safely with the UN and regional human rights bodies and mechanisms. The reports were prepared in response to the call made by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights inviting representatives of civil society to provide information on preventing and addressing acts of intimidation and reprisals related to cooperation with the United Nations. This blog has devoted many posts to this nefarious issue, see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/

Read the rest of this entry »

Right-wing Nationalism Undermines Human Rights work by UN

May 12, 2019

Under the title “Rise of Right-wing Nationalism Undermines Human Rights Worldwide”

The rise of right-wing nationalism and the proliferation of authoritarian governments have undermined human rights in several countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. As a result, some of the international human rights experts – designated as UN Rapporteurs – have either been politically ostracized, denied permission to visit countries on “fact-finding missions” or threatened with expulsion, along with the suspension of work permits.

The Philippines government, a vociferously authoritarian regime, has renewed allegations against Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the UN Special Rapporteurs on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/02/duterte-there-is-no-war-on-human-rights-defenders-only-on-criminals/]

…Anna-Karin Holmlund, Senior UN Advocate at Amnesty International, told IPS “We have witnessed several deeply worrying personal attacks by UN Member States against the independent experts, including personal attacks, threats of prosecution, public agitation and physical violence in the past year”…

Meanwhile, the Government of Burundi has closed down the UN Human Rights Office triggering a protest from Michelle Bachelet, the UN Human Rights Commissioner in Geneva. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/07/final-step-burundi-closes-down-un-office/ ]

And under the Trump administration, the US has ceased to cooperate with some of the UN Rapporteurs, and specifically an investigation on the plight of migrants on the Mexican border where some of them have been sexually assaulted—abuses which have remained unreported and unprosecuted. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/16/us-ngos-react-furiously-to-visa-restrictions-imposed-on-icc-investigators-by-trump-administration/]

The government of Myanmar has barred a UN expert from visiting the country to probe the status of Rohingya refugees.

In March, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Diego García-Sayán, postponed an official visit to Morocco because the government “has not been able to ensure a programme of work in accordance with the needs of the mandate and the terms of reference for country visits by special procedures.” [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/21/special-rapporteur-diego-garcia-sayan-not-swayed-by-moroccan-assurances-for-his-visit/]

Referring to the situation in Colombia, Robert Colville, Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said May 10: “We are alarmed by the strikingly high number of human rights defenders being killed, harassed and threatened in Colombia, and by the fact that this terrible trend seems to be worsening”…

And last month, Israel revoked the work permit for Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine Director of Human Rights Watch, prompting a protest from the United Nations……According to a report in the New York Times March 10, Leilana Farha, the UN Special Envoy for Housing was “shocked” to discover that some of the Egyptians she interviewed in Cairo’s poor areas “had suffered reprisals for talking to her.” [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/18/israel-deportation-of-human-rights-watchs-staff-member-again-on-the-table/%5D

..

Urmila Bhoola of South Africa, Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, told IPS she has visited Niger, Belgium, Nigeria, El Salvador, Mauritania, Paraguay and, lastly Italy, in October 2018. She pointed out that “country visits are only conducted upon invitation from governments”. “I have issued requests for country-visits to many countries but due to the mandate’s name and focus, member states are often reluctant to invite the mandate on contemporary forms of slavery, to conduct a visit”. In this sense, she pointed out, member states may not openly refuse a visit but may not reply to country visit requests….

http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/05/rise-right-wing-nationalism-undermines-human-rights-worldwide/

 

Civil Society and human rights NGOs are fighting back but against odds

May 5, 2019

This article by  (IPS) was published on 10 April 2019 in the context of International Civil Society Week (ICSW), which took place  in Belgrade. Under the title “Civil Society, Once the “World’s New Superpower,” is Battling Against Heavy Odds” it describes how human rights NGOs have come under pressure in recent years

Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan once described civil society organizations (CSOs), as “the world’s new superpower” ..but that political glory has continued to diminish over the years against the backdrop of repressive regimes, hard right nationalist governments and far right extremist groups.

Perhaps the most virulent attacks on NGOs are on their attempts to provide protection and security to migrants and refugees in the “dangerous crossings,” from North Africa across the Mediterranean Sea and the Mexico/US border. “There are now serious restrictions in civic space on every continent,” says the annual State of Civil Society Report 2019, released last week by the Johannesburg-based CIVICUS. And it singles out the Italian government’s decision to impose a hefty fine on one of the world’s best-known humanitarian organisations, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), while also freezing their assets, impounding their rescue vessel and investigating their staff for human trafficking…in retaliation for their efforts to save refugees from drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. There were also instances of civil society activists being charged, tried and convicted in the United States for providing water supplies for migrants crossing the deadly Sonoran desert on the US/Mexico border. As these attacks continue, international institutions are “struggling” to help shore up these NGOs because these institutions, including the United Nations, are “hamstrung by the interests and alliances of powerful states.”

The report points out these institutions did little to respond to the great challenges of the day– failing to fight overwhelming inequality and also were largely silent on human rights abuses of states such as Saudi Arabia and Sudan while letting down the people of Syria and the Rohingyas of Myanmar, among many others.

Asked if there is a role either for the United Nations or its member states to protect CSOs under attack, Mandeep Tiwana, Chief Programmes Officer at CIVICUS, told IPS the UN is making some efforts to put the issues of attacks on CSOs and activists in the spotlight. In December last year, he said, the President of the UN General Assembly, in a symbolic event, awarded the UN human rights prize to three civil society activists and an organisation dedicated to the protection of human rights defenders. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/20/human-rights-defenders-receive-their-2018-un-prizes/]

Recently, on March 21, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted a first-of-its-kind resolution on the protection of environmental human rights defenders, said Tiwana. The UN Secretary General has a designated senior official to lead efforts within the UN system to address intimidation and reprisals against those cooperating with the UN system. And, he said, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN Women regularly champion the work of CSOs and women human rights defenders respectively. “However, in light of the growing restrictions on civic space, around the world, and even at the UN itself, these efforts are often not enough,” complained Tiwana. This is in part because the UN itself is also under pressure from (undemocratic) governments that restrict civil society at home, and wish to do so at the UN as well.

He said the CIVICUS Monitor, a participatory platform that measures civic freedoms finds that only 4% of the world’s population live in countries where the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly are adequately protected…

“Our 2019 State of Civil Society Report points out, that the UN is hamstrung by the actions of powerful states that refuse to play by the rules including the US, China and Russia”. Tiwana said a number of rights repressing states are joining international bodies. In 2018, for example, Bahrain, Bangladesh and Eritrea, joined the UN Human Rights Council….

Second, states are withdrawing from international institutions and agreements, with the US withdrawing from the Paris Agreement on Climate and undermining UN resolutions on Palestine and the Occupied Territories. Philippines has pulled out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in a bid to avoid international accountability for widespread human rights violations including attacks on civil society. In 2018, the new Global Compact for Migration also saw a string of states with hardline migration policies pull out between the agreement of the deal and its signing.

Third, rogue leaders are bringing their styles of personal rule into international affairs, ignoring existing institutions, agreements and norms, acting as unilateral strongmen or striking bilateral deals with other hardmen, undermining multilateralism and making it harder to scrutinise their actions, Tiwana noted. Potentially everything seems up for negotiation and nothing can be assured at the international level, even the 70-year-old international human rights norms that underpin civil society action, he warned.

The writer can be contacted at thalifeen@ips.org

http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/04/civil-society-worlds-new-superpower-battling-heavy-odds/

The NGOs summarize the results of the 40th session of the Human Rights Council

March 25, 2019

On 22 March 2019 a group of important international NGOs (Amnesty International, ARTICLE 19, FORUM-ASIA, DefendDefenders, Center for Reproductive Rights, Human Rights House Foundation, Human Rights Watch, International Commission of Jurists, and the FIDH) published a joint assessment of the main result of the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council including the adoption by consensus of the resolution on environmental human rights defenders, continued Council scrutiny over Sri Lanka, Myanmar, South Sudan, Syria and Iran, as well as initiation of Council action on Nicaragua and several joint statements on Saudi Arabia, Chechnya and Cameroon.

Ten leading human rights organisations* welcomed significant Council outcomes at the 40th session such as a strong consensus resolution recognising the critical role of environmental human rights defenders [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/23/human-rights-council-recognises-vital-role-of-environmental-human-rights-defenders/] and the continued and increased scrutiny by the Council over a range of situations of rights violations across the globe. The organisations also expressed their concerns over the Council’s failure to hold the Philippines, Egypt, Libya and China accountable and urged States to take action at upcoming Council sessions.

We welcome the positive step the Council has taken in the direction to effectively protect environmental human rights defenders (EHRDs). By adopting the resolution by consensus, the Council has collectively and explicitly recognized the vital role of EHRDs, including in attaining the SDGs sustainable development goals and ensuring that no-one is left behind, and called for their protection. ……..

We welcome South Africa’s leadership to put on the Council’s agenda emerging human rights issues, in bringing attention to the multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination that women and girls face in the field of sports, especially on the basis of race and gender…

While we welcome the extension of Council attention on Sri Lanka for another two years, a concrete, transparent, and time-bound action plan is urgently needed to implement its commitments under resolution 30/1 in collaboration with OHCHR. Given the lack of progress and political will to implement these commitments, in the absence of immediate progress, the Council should consider additional measures or mechanisms for ensuring victims’ rights to truth, justice and reparations. Individual States need not wait to exercise universal jurisdiction.

We welcome the resolution on Myanmar and its strong focus on ending impunity and ensuring accountability, and we call for the swift operationalisation of the Independent Investigative Mechanism (IIM). We welcome steps taken to review the UN’s involvement in Myanmar. We urge the UN Secretary-General to ensure that it is independent and transparent, and present the findings and recommendations at the Council’s 43rd session.

We welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, a vital mechanism for human rights reporting and evidence gathering. It sends the right message to the government and all parties to the conflict: There can be no lasting peace without justice…

By adopting a resolution on Nicaragua, the Council sent a signal to victims of the current crisis that the international community will not allow impunity for the serious ongoing violations to prevail. We look forward to robust reporting from the OHCHR and we urge the Nicaraguan government to fully engage with the Office to ensure the victims’ rights to truth, justice and reparation.

The Council sent a strong message of support to human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/08/saudi-arabia-for-first-time-openly-criticized-in-un-human-rights-council/]……

..We welcome the joint statement on Chechnya delivered by more than 30 States and join the call on the Russian authorities for the persecution to stop: for the immediate and unconditional release of all detained for their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, and for swift, thorough, and impartial investigations.

We welcome the Cameroon joint statement which advances both Council membership standards and its prevention mandate, and urge the Council to keep the matter under scrutiny.

While we have welcomed the Council’s attention to several situations of gross rights violations, we remain concerned about the lack of consistent and principled leadership by States, in particular by Council members.

We are disappointed that even though the demands of several EU and WEOG States to move the resolution on accountability for crimes committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territories from item 7 to item 2 was met, they still failed to support the resolution. This suggests that no matter the item number, some WEOG members continue in failing to protect the human rights of Palestinians, effectively shielding Israel from accountability.

We regret that States have yet again failed to initiate Council action on the Philippines amidst continued unlawful killings in the government’s so-called war on drugs, and increased targeting of independent media, civil society organisations, and human rights defenders. ……….

We are deeply disappointed that the resolution adopted on Libya again lacks any meaningful accountability mechanism or mandate, despite the impunity for the widespread and systematic violations of international humanitarian and human rights law that prevail there.

We deplore that despite credible reports of the detention of up to 1 million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in western China, the Council has yet again given a pass to China, permitting impunity for widespread and severe human rights violations. The efforts China has made to keep States silent, exemplified by intimidation and threats on the one hand and whitewashing the situation on the other, demonstrate the degree to which Council action could have had meaningful results if States had instead called clearly and collectively for an independent, unrestricted fact-finding mission.

…….We applaud Mexico and other States’ resolve to safeguard the independence of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism and to resist any attempts to dilute, distract or distort its essential focus, ensuring that the Rapporteur can continue to have positive impacts both in preventing and responding to human rights violations committed in the name of countering terrorism and in relation to the human rights of victims of terrorism. We urge States to remain vigilant to resist future attempts to undermine the Special Procedures system – the eyes and ears of the Council.

We welcome the Council’s renewal of the mandates of the Special Rapporteur on Iran and the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, so that both can continue to perform their vital work fulfilling their respective mandates and addressing the dire human rights situations in both countries.  We urge the Iranian and Syrian authorities to change their posture of noncooperation with the respective mandate .

Several of our organisations have urged the UN High Commissioner to publish the database on businesses in Israeli settlements and were alarmed at its further delay.  We urge the High Commissioner to release the database with all due haste.

We welcome the renewal of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief mandate, and the maintenance of consensus on the Council resolution 16/18 framework for addressing religious intolerance . Rising intolerance and hate is a global concern, and States must move beyond rhetoric to action in implementing these standards.

The High Commissioner’s update on Venezuela during this session reflected the dire human rights situation in Venezuela. We urge all States to consider what more the Council can do to address the worsening human rights crisis in the country and to support all victims.

We note the highly disturbing report by the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing concerning grave reprisals by the Egyptian government against those who cooperated with her during her recent visit to the country and urge this Council to take action to address these attacks.

We welcome the passage of the resolution on Georgia and the continued attention devoted to the importance of full and unimpeded access for the Office of the High Commissioner and international and regional human rights mechanisms.

The full statement can be found via the link below:

http://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc40-civil-society-presents-key-takeaways-human-rights-council

https://www.unog.ch/unog/website/news_media.nsf/(httpNewsByYear_en)/F8666286FD4F67E7C12583C5006579ED?OpenDocument

Human Rights Council recognises vital role of environmental human rights defenders

March 23, 2019

The ISHR reports that on 21 March 2019 the UN Human Rights Council has adopted a strong consensus resolution recognising the critical role of environmental human rights defenders in protecting vital ecosystems, addressing climate change, attaining the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and ensuring that no-one is left behind. [See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/09/front-line-defenders-says-record-number-of-activists-killed-in-2018/].

The resolution meets many of the civil society demands ISHR expressed in a joint letter along with more than 180 groups (see reference below). By formally acknowledging the important role of environmental human rights defenders, the Council highlights the legitimacy of their work, helps counter stigmatisation and can contribute to expanding their operating space. Though the resolution falls short in some key areas, its adoption by consensus is a positive step towards better protection of environmental human rights defenders. It must now be followed by implementation at the national level by all relevant stakeholders, including States, UN agencies, businesses and development finance institutions….

The resolution was led and presented by Norway, on behalf of 60 States from all regions. In particular, many Latin American States strongly supported the resolution, which is significant given the dangerous situation for defenders in many of those countries. The consensus on the protection of environmental human rights defenders is a welcome sign of unity by the international community in recognising their vital contribution to a biodiverse and healthy environment, to peace and security, and to human rights.

We now look to States, business enterprises and development finance institutions to take rapid and decisive steps to address the global crisis facing environmental human rights defenders’, said Michael Ineichen, Programme Director at the International Service for Human Rights. ‘This means States need to create protection mechanisms which guarantee the security of defenders. States must also ensure that businesses put in place specific policies and processes allowing for the inclusion of human rights defenders and their concerns in due diligence processes’, Ineichen said.   

Key points of the resolution:

  • Expresses alarm at increasing violations against environmental defenders, including killings, gender-based violence, threats, harassment, intimidation, smear campaigns, criminalisation, judicial harassment, forced eviction and displacement. It acknowledges that violations are also committed against defenders’ families, communities, associates and lawyers;
  • Recognises that the protection of human rights defenders can only be achieved through an approach which promotes and celebrates their work. It also calls for root causes of violations to be addressed by strengthening democratic institutions, combating impunity and reducing economic inequalities;
  • Pays particular attention to women human rights defenders, by stressing the intersectional nature of violations and abuses against them and against indigenous peoples, children, persons belonging to minorities, and rural and marginalised communities;
  • Urges States to adopt laws guaranteeing the protection of defenders, put in place holistic protection measures for and in consultation with defenders, and ensure investigation and accountability for threats and attacks against environmental human rights defenders; and
  • Calls on businesses to carry out human rights due diligence and to hold meaningful and inclusive consultations with defenders, potentially affected groups and other relevant stakeholders.

While the resolution was adopted by consensus, the unity came at the price of a lack of specificity in certain areas. For instance, the resolution does not clearly recognise all of the root causes of the insecurity facing environmental human rights defenders, as documented by UN experts, nor comprehensively name the perpetrators or the most dangerous industries. It also fails to clearly spell out the human rights obligations of development finance institutions, and to detail the corresponding necessary steps to consult, respect and protect the work of environmental human rights defenders. 

https://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc40-council-unanimously-recognises-vital-role-environmental-human-rights-defenders

https://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc40-states-should-defend-environmental-human-rights-defenders

Human Rights Council: Reprisals instead of responses is the answer by many States

March 21, 2019

Room XX of the Human Rights Council

In two statements delivered to the 40th Session of the Human Rights Council, ISHR and Amnesty International reacted to the latest Joint Communications Report of the UN Special Procedures – independent human rights experts, appointed to monitor and report on human rights violations and to advise and assist in promoting and protecting rights. The report cites nine cases of reprisals against human rights defenders cooperating with the UN, and reveals that 95 states have not responded to letters from the UN experts concerning human rights violations.

There are two, related issues at stake here: (1) non-response to letters from the UN, and even worse (2) reprisals against human rights defenders who cooperate with the UN.

When I started my blog in 2010 (and one of the motivations) a main concern was the lack of response and enforcement [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2011/03/20/taking-on-non-response-this-bloggers-lone-response/ and : https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140603192912-22083774–crime-should-not-pay-in-the-area-of-international-human-rights ].

As Helen Nolan of ISHR explains, 35 States have recently failed to respond to two or more of these letters. 13 of these nations are members of the Council. ‘Repeat offenders are a particular concern,’ says Nolan. India has failed to reply to a staggering 8 communications, Mexico 6, Italy 5, and Bangladesh and Nepal 4 each.’ Nolan emphasises that a failure to reply is a failure to cooperate, and welcomes the fact that the recently published report of the Annual Meeting of Special Procedures focuses on non-cooperation, including ‘more subtle forms’, such as selective cooperation with particular mandates. ‘To encourage cooperation, the Council must make non-cooperation more costly,’ says Nolan. ‘We urge the President of the Council to work closely with the Coordinating Committee of the Special Procedures to find ways to do this,‘ adds Nolan.

ISHR and Amnesty International’s second statement noted that under GA Resolution 60/251, Council members must ‘fully cooperate with the Council.’ Yet, the report cites nine cases of reprisals involving these members:

  • China sought to revoke the Society for Threatened Peoples’ ECOSOC status after vexatiously alleging that a person accredited by them, Dolkun Isa, participated in incitement and funding of separatism and terrorism, in retaliation for cooperation with the UN;
  • Egypt carried out forced evictions, and violations of the rights to physical integrity, liberty and security against individuals who cooperated with the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing during her recent visit;
  • Iraq carried out unlawful arrest, enforced disappearance and torture against Imad Al Tamimi and intimidated and threatened Israa Al Dujaili for cooperating with the UN;
  • Libya arrested an individual in retaliation for taking steps to clarify the fate and whereabouts of his father, including with UN mechanisms;
  • The Philippines labeled defenders “terrorists” in reprisal for their engagement with the UN;
  • Russia surveilled, intimidated and harassed Yana Tannagasheva and her husband, for speaking out about impacts of coal mining on indigenous people in Siberia and in possible reprisal for their communication with UN mechanisms;
  • Turkmenistan carried out reprisals against a defender and her husband for her cooperation with the UN; and
  • In Yemen, forces loyal to President Hadi and the Saudi-led coalition detained human rights defenders Radhya Al-Mutawakel and Abdulrasheed Al-Faqih for cooperating with the UN.

‘We call on the President of the Council to request updates on the cases from Iraq, Libya, Russia, Turkmenistan and Yemen, as there has been no response from the States concerned,’ said Nolan. For an older post on reprisals, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/03/13/zero-tolerance-for-states-that-take-reprisals-against-hrds-lets-up-the-ante/

Full text of the first statement (on failure to reply) available here.

Full text of the second statement (on cases of reprisals) available here.

You can also watch the videos of the statements via the link below: