Archive for the 'OHCHR' Category

Nobel Laureate Denis Mukwege under threat in Congo

August 5, 2020

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Dr Denis Mukwege, says his family has been intimidated and threatened since he denounced the recent massacre in Kipupu in Mwenga territory in South Kivu of Congo. Mukwege, who is the founder and Medical Director of Panzi Hospital and Foundations, said in a statement on Monday 3 August 2020 that since 2012 and even after two assassination attempts, he had continued to receive death threats [see also; https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/05/breaking-news-see-which-other-awards-the-2018-nobel-peace-prize-laureates-won-already/].

Since my tweet on Sunday, July 26 denouncing the recent massacre in Kipupu in Mwenga territory in South Kivu, I have received various hate mails, and members of my family have been intimidated and threatened,” he said.

Since then[ 22 years ago], I have not ceased to campaign for the search for truth and the application of justice, without which we cannot hope for lasting peace,” he said.

While calling for peace, the Nobel Peace Prize Laurel made a case for the examination of the mapping report carried out by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, adding that the report contained a compilation of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocides detailed from 1993 to 2003. “Without analyzing these crimes-which mark the history of the Congo-and without justice being rendered for these crimes, no people involved in these conflicts will be able to recover or live in peace,” he said. He further said it seemed that advocating for the creation of a special jurisdiction to try crimes in the Congo scares some people who pour out their hatred on social media by pitting one against the other, often on the basis of lies. However, he said reconciliation between peoples and the establishment of reparations for the victims could not be achieved without our relentless search for the truth. “No intellectual malfeasance, no threat, no intimidation, will prevent me from expressing myself on the reality of the atrocities experienced by the populations of my country and the consequences of which I treat every day in my hospital in Bukavu,” he said.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/12/djimon-hounsou-set-to-play-congolese-nobel-prize-winner-denis-mukwege-in-new-film/

Read more: https://www.dailytrust.com.ng/my-family-under-threat-over-congo-massacre-tweet-peace-laureate-mukwege.html

India – back on Security Coiuncil – should clean up it human rights act

July 11, 2020

The admittedly Pakistan-based Geonet.tv gives a good summary of India’s disregard of concerns and objections in five letters by UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) about human rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir, India’s new terrorism law and the Citizenship law.

In the five letters, UNHRC experts raised pertinent questions and pointed out violations by Indian authorities of the resolutions by UN Security Council, General Assembly and UN Human Rights Council…

On July 4, 2020, United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) made public 14 cases of worst possible human rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir after the Indian government failed to respond to their concerns within the stipulated 60 days.

Four UNHRC Rapporteurs on torture, extrajudicial executions, minority issues and freedom of religion under HRC charter and mandate had written to Indian government on May 4th, 2020, to respond back on the 14 cases and countless other cases involving grave abuse of human rights in Kashmir after its annexation on Aug 5th, 2019. The UN Rapporteurs in the May 4th letter lamented that Indian government had not responded to their earlier letters on Aug 16, 2019, and February 27, 2020, on the atrocities in Kashmir. The two earlier letters questioned the restrictions in Kashmir on rights of expression and assembly and dissent following Indian annexation of Kashmir.

In another letter on May 6th, 2020, eight Rapporteurs of UNHRC and one Vice Chair of a Working Group raised serious concern on the new anti-Terrorism law passed by Indian parliament just before Indian annexation of Kashmir in July/Aug 2019. UNHRC questioned the detention of any accused for an extended period of six months under the new anti-terror law

In another letter on February 28th, 2020, eight Rapporteurs of UNHRC and one Vice Chair of a Working Group questioned the Indian Citizenship Act of December 2019 which discriminates against Muslims and bars them to get Indian citizenship whereas people from different religious beliefs who entered Indian before Dec 2014 are eligible for it. The letter also heavily criticise excessive use of force to quell protests against this Act which resulted in death of over 50 and injuries to hundreds.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/06/27/un-experts-address-3-big-ones-usa-china-and-india/

https://www.geo.tv/latest/297349-india-ignored-five-unhrc-letters-about-human-rights-violations

UN representative in South Korea sees balloon actions as freedom of expression

June 29, 2020

The World Tribune of 28 June 2020 reports on the fight sparked by North Korean defectors sending balloons with leaflets to their former homeland, which has brought both Koreas once again to the brink of war. Now Signe Poulsen, head of the Seoul office of the UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights, has stated that sending the leaflets is an exercise of the right to freedom of expression.

In this April 29, 2016 file photo, members of a South Korean civic group send leaflets denouncing the North Korean regime in Tanhyeon, Paju, near the North Korean border. / Korea Times photo by Choi Won-Suk

Both the North and South Korean governments have threatened the defectors in the South who have sought to counter communist “fake news” by sending real news North over the DMZ. The leaflets also often contain U.S. one-dollar bills and USB memory sticks meant to encourage North Koreans to pick up the leaflets.

Now the defectors have been targeted by hastily-passed legislation forbidding the practice. Poulsen made the remarks amid heightening tensions on the Korean Peninsula after the North threatened to retaliate against the South for what it called Seoul’s “connivance” at the floating of anti-Pyongyang materials in large balloons.

The government of South Korean President Moon Jae-In, sought to legislate a ban on leafleting and filed a criminal complaints against two defector groups who carry out such launches, the Korea Times reported on June 23. The provincial government of Gyeonggi, located near the border with the North and where a lot of leafleting takes places, issued an administrative order last week banning the entry into border areas to fly leaflets.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/04/21/the-interview-sequel-plays-at-the-korean-border/

and

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balloon_propaganda_campaigns_in_Korea

https://www.worldtribune.com/un-official-upholds-defectors-freedom-of-expression-under-attack-by-both-koreas/

Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid, speaks freely

June 28, 2020

Imogen Foulkes

Imogen Foulkes – who regularly reports from Geneva – wonders whether being UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is it the toughest job at the UN? On 27 June 2020 she published a lengthy interview with Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who was UN High Commissioner for Human Rights 2014-2018.

Zeid, as he likes to be known, is from a privileged background. He is a member of Jordan’s royal family, but never seems to have been comfortable with the term ‘prince’. His career with the UN began, he told me, almost by accident, when he accompanied his brother on a trip to the United States. He ended up in New York, where a friend at the United Nations told him the UN was recruiting for its work during the conflict in former Yugoslavia.….

Almost 20 years later, in 2014, Zeid was approached to become UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. His initial reaction, perhaps based on his experience in former Yugoslavia, and his knowledge that the UN could at times be frustratingly ineffective, was to refuse. But he took a walk around New York’s Central Park to think about it. “That was probably fatal,” he remembers with a laugh. “If I had just said no, that would have been the end of it, but once I had thought about it I couldn’t say no.”

.…His maiden speech to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council in September 2014 contained a withering attack on Islamic State, warning that any territory it controlled would be ‘a harsh, mean-spirited house of blood’. He also turned his attention to Europe’s rightwing populist leaders, calling the UK’s Nigel Farage and Geert Wilders of the Netherlands ‘demagogues’. And when Donald Trump was running for office, Zeid described him as a ‘bigot’, and suggested it would be dangerous for him to get elected.

Clearly this is not a strategy designed to win friends in governments, but Zeid is unapologetic. Trying to keep governments on side, whatever their actions, is, he believes, a mistake the UN makes far too often.’…[see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/06/15/not-so-diplomatic-diplomat-of-the-year-zeid/]..

Rather than worry what the reactions of government leaders might be to the words and deeds of UN officials, Zeid believes it is governments who should have a wary respect for the UN.

And while we may remember Zeid most for his outspoken comments about Donald Trump, in fact during his four years in office, he and the UN Human Rights Office were hard at work, often quietly behind the scenes, investigating human rights violations around the world. ,(Syria, investigations into the conflict in Ukraine, into the persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar, …..He described the violence as containing ‘elements of genocide’, and, in a final interview before leaving office, told me Aung San Suu Kyi should have resigned rather than preside over such atrocities.

Nowadays, Zeid is Professor of Law and Human Rights at the University of Pennsylvania, and a member of The Elders [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/25/two-human-rights-personalities-join-the-elders/]

But he remains a keen observer of the United Nations,and thinks to key to progress is persuading the permanent members of the UN Security Council to give up their veto when atrocity crimes are taking place. “That would unlock the possibility for collective action… and we can see the Security Council operating in the way it ought to be operating,” he said……

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/09/former-u-n-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-zeid-warns-about-the-moral-collapse-of-global-leadership/

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/is-it-the-toughest-job-at-the-un-/45863026

Good practice examples abound in new UN report on civil society

June 15, 2020

Participation, promotion and protection are the three watchwords that should guide the UN’s work on and with civil society, says a newly-released UN report.  Offering examples of good practice within the UN system -which provide a baseline for a new UN strategy on civil society- and a range of  recommendations, the report is timed to inform decision-making at the 44th session of the UN’s Human Rights Council. 

On 31 May 2020 the ISHR discussed the new report of the UN on civil society: with countless recent examples of restrictive and repressive measures taken to silence or discredit civil society actors, the UN’s new report drawing together examples of some good practices across the UN, is timely. Re-stating the vital contribution of civil society actors, the report goes on to cite examples of good practices of UN entities engaging with and protecting civil society. The report recommendations – aimed at encouraging improvement across the UN system as well as by States – echo several which ISHR has consistently voiced .

ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw said that good practice examples to inspire reform by the UN and States were valuable: ‘In days where we’ve seen journalists being arrested in Minneapolis and an increasing number of defenders murdered in Colombia – as just two such examples – we need States and UN bodies to revise and strengthen their practice to ensure the voice of civil society is heard and safeguarded.’…

The report contains examples where discussion between different stakeholders has been formalized and where their input is part of the process from policy inception to implementation,’ noted Openshaw.

One such example is the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), created by the UN General Assembly which styles itself as ‘a unique inter-agency forum for coordination, policy development and decision-making involving the key UN and non-UN humanitarian partners’. ‘This example of civil society having a seat at the table in recognition of the experience and expertise they bring to the issue makes more evident the lack of such opportunities in other spaces, particularly in human rights bodies,’ said Openshaw.

The report also highlights clear gaps. One of the key findings is the absence in 2/3 of UN mechanisms of means to contest restrictions on civil society participation or access to information. Whilst the report makes no explicit reference to Covid-19, having sought input prior to the onset of the pandemic, it does contain recommendations that speak to shifts in practice the pandemic has engendered.It notes how the impact of any modifications should be assessed to ensure civil society is not disadvantaged or disproportionately affected. This is one of several recommendations ISHR and other civil society have been making over time.

It’s great to see that the UN has reflected the recommendations of civil society groups such as ISHR, who have experience working with defenders and engaging with UN and regional organisations,’ noted Openshaw. ‘It’s but one example of civil society expertise adding value.’

The need for the UN to improve and make more consistent its work to promote, engage with and safeguard civil society has been a long-term call. The Secretary General made such a recommendation in his 2018 report on the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, and again in his recent Call to Action for Human Rights. This new UN report was as a result of the request made by the Human Rights Council in 2018

https://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc44-three-key-principles-should-guide-uns-work-civil-society-says-new-report

Along with the full report, the UN has produced a one-pager summarizing key report recommendations.

How a Philipines website does the reporting on the UN findings on human rights violations

June 5, 2020

There has been quite a bit of media interest in the UN investigation into impunity in the Philippines [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/22/why-iceland-led-the-un-resolution-on-the-philippines/]. Could be interesting to see how a Philippines site reported on the outcome on 5 June 2020, showing both the UN and Government reaction:

The Philippines government has dismissed a UN human rights report which had claimed that the country had acted with impunity during its war on drugs, as “unfounded”. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said the report found “deep-seated impunity for serious human rights violations, and victims have been deprived of justice for the killings of their loved ones. Their testimonies are heartbreaking“, reports Efe news.

The report said President Rodrigo Duterte’s tough anti-drugs campaign had led to human rights abuses including “credible accusations of extrajudicial killings”. In response, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said on Thursday that impunity had no place in the Philippines. “Law enforcers operate on strict protocols and transgressors of the law are made accountable,” he said in a statement.

The UN report also highlighted the issue of official language used by Duterte in the implementation of his war on drugs, noting the use of vocabulary such as “neutralization”.

Such ill-defined and ominous language, coupled with repeated verbal encouragement by the highest level of State officials to use lethal force, may have emboldened police to treat the circular as permission to kill,” the report said. Roque dismissed the accusations. “We remain a nation that takes pride in protecting our people’s rights and freedoms, among which is the freedom of expression,” he said.

According to the UN, at least 8,633 people have been killed since the Philippines government launched its anti-drug campaign, while rights groups claim the tolls is more than 12,000. It added that among those killed between 2014-19 were 248 human rights defenders, social leaders, journalists, lawyers and union members.

http://www.daijiworld.com/news/newsDisplay.aspx?newsID=716146

see also:

https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2020/06/05/2018893/intl-rights-watchdogs-call-un-launch-investigative-body-ejks-philippines

https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/741407/gov-t-should-address-un-findings-on-police-planting-evidence-drug-war-killings/story/

EU human rights committee condemns India’s arrest of human rights defenders

June 1, 2020

Maria Arena is the chairperson of the Subcommittee of Human Rights of the European Parliament member of Socialist and Democrats parliamentary group. Photo: Reporter

20 May 2020 the chairperson of the Subcommittee of Human Rights of the European Parliament sent a letter to Indian Home Minister Amit Shah, condemning the arrest of human rights defenders under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

In her letter, Maria Arena said the European body has been closely following the arrests of human rights defenders Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha by the National Investigative Agency in India.

Academic and Dalit author Teltumbde and human rights defender Navlakha had surrendered to the police last month after exhausting their possible legal remedies.

Nine other defenders have been in jail since 2018 in the Bhima Koregaon case, where the charges relate to caste violence around an Ambedkarite event and an alleged Maoist plot to foment armed revolution and possibly assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In 2018, the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had issued a statement against terror charges being invoked against the activists.

It is particularly alarming to note that human rights defenders cannot conduct advocacy activities, notably in favor of India’s poorest and most marginalised communities, without becoming subject to intimidation and harassment,” Arena said in her letter.

Equally worrying is the fact that terrorism charges, including under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) have been used to silence them,” she noted pointing out that by United Nations Special Procedures, this clearly represents a violation of international human rights standards.

The letter further stated that to date, the European Parliament had noted that various forms of legitimate peaceful protests against laws, policies and governmental actions, including the Citizenship Amendment Act, had been portrayed as terrorist activities under this legislation, resulting in a number of arrests. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/07/india-attacks-on-human-rights-defenders-abound-under-unlawful-activities-prevention-act/]

This is notably the case for human rights activists such as Safoora Zargar, Gulfisha Fatima, Khalid Saifi, Meeran Haider, Shifa-Ur-Rehman, Dr Kafeel Khan, Asif Iqbal and Sharjeel Imam, who were recently arrested by the police,” the letter noted.

Against this background, there are also increased fears that the legislation might confer discretionary powers upon state agencies. India, she said, should do much more to ensure a safe and conducive environment for civil society working in the country and consider enacting a law on the protection and promotion of human rights defenders.

In a similar vein, ProtectDefenders on May 26 2020 reports “Increasing attacks against human rights defenders in India and Guatemala”. …..

Over the past month, ProtectDefenders.eu has received a considerable and growing number of reports regarding attacks, threats, and alerts affecting human rights defenders in India. This information alerts to the numerous acts of police and judicial harassment in the repression of legitimate activities in favor of human rights. Among other incidents, police harassment and arbitrary detention of human rights defenders were reported in Manipur State, in relation to statements made to criticise the management of the current COVID-19 pandemic by local authorities.

Safoora Zargar, a 27-years old student and woman human rights defender unjustly detained since 10 April, is one of the OMCT’s campaign #FacesOfHope

For the OMCT campaign see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/05/25/faces-of-hope-campaign-human-rights-defenders-imprisoned-worldwide/

Moreover, the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah terming the detentions of several Indian human rights activists ‘arbitrary’. It says the activists have been arrested for “their participation in peaceful protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 (CAA)” in the last few months.

The letter highlights the cases of Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, student activists who have been associated with the anti-CAA protests in Delhi and were arrested recently by the Delhi police.

https://www.geo.tv/latest/290529-eu-human-rights-subcommittee-condemns-indias-arrest-of-human-rights-activists

https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/europe-flags-rights-concern/cid/1777254

https://thewire.in/rights/ifhr-anti-caa-activists-arrests-release

Virtual Human Rights Council adopts President’s statement on implications of COVID-19

May 30, 2020

On 29 May 2020 the UN Human Rights Council adopted a decision appealing to States to ensure human rights were at the front and centre of national responses to the pandemic and not side-lined while contending with the multiple ill effects of the virus on their societies.

Today’s decision is a profound reminder of the far-reaching effects of this deadly virus on all aspects of our livelihoods and our rights which we cannot take for granted”, stated Council President Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger. “We are all in this together, and we must act together with a sense of purpose if we are going to achieve our common agenda to promote and protect human rights around the globe”, she added.

The President’s Statement, presented by Ambassador Tichy-Fisslberger, and adopted by the 47 member States of the human rights body by silence procedure, “calls upon States to ensure that all human rights are respected, protected and fulfilled while combatting the pandemic and that their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic are in full compliance with their human rights obligations and commitments”.

The adopted statement also calls on High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to produce a report on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the enjoyment of human rights around the world, including highlighting good practices and areas of concern, to be presented at the 46th session of the Human Rights Council scheduled to take place in February/March 2021. [One is to hope that it will include a hard look at the fragmentation of Covid-19 relate policy statements, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/05/27/proliferation-of-human-rights-bodies-guidance-on-covid-19/]

States also invited the High Commissioner to present an oral update on the human rights impact of COVID-19 at the 44th session of the Council which is still scheduled to start on 22 June, which is expected to set the tone for similar statements addressing the multiple human rights angles of the virus during the planned three-week meeting. Since suspending its 43rd session on 13 March due to coronavirus restrictions, the Human Rights Council has been conducting its business in a virtual manner holding regular Bureau meetings, with States and NGOs, and three “virtual informal conversations”, including with the High Commissioner and Special Procedures who have issued more than 90 press releases and statements addressing COVID-19.

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/human-rights-council-adopts-president-s-statement-human-rights-implications-covid-19

4 June 2020 Webinar on business and human rights in the context of COVID-19

May 27, 2020

Having just posted a report on the prolifiration of intergovernmental responses to the Corona virus pandemic [https://wp.me/pQKto-4ob], it perhaps good to point to the webinar that Business & human rights is organising on 4 June 2020 on Risks and Protection of Human Rights Defenders.

This webinar will have a focus on the risks and protection of HRDs, particularly labour rights and land/environmental defenders and ensuring their participation in the post-pandemic recovery.

Date & Time: 4 June, 4.15 – 5.15 (ICT) / 10.15 – 11.15 (BST)

It will have two parts: a closed and an open session. The closed session – happening on Jitsi – will be a safe space for civil society organisations, human rights defenders, including labour rights and land and environmental defenders, labour unions, and journalists to jointly define practical recommendations on what governments and companies can do to address human rights situation, particularly of labour, land, environmental defenders and civic freedoms, in the context of COVID-19. This part of the webinar is invite-only.

The second part – happening on Zoom – will be an open session, will be an opportunity for civil society, defenders, and journalists to interact with government and business representatives and discuss how companies, governments and civil society can work together to ensure all stakeholders are able to shape recovery efforts, and make sure they are human rights compliant. Anyone is free to join us in the public session by RSVP-ing below.

Proliferation of Human Rights Bodies’ Guidance on COVID-19

May 27, 2020

On 22 May 2020 in “Just Security” [see: https://www.justsecurity.org/about-us/) published a post ” Mapping the Proliferation of Human Rights Bodies’ Guidance on COVID-19 Mitigation “. It is in some ways rather critical of the response by intergovernmental bodies in the human rights area when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic. It starts by pointing out that they have collectively put out more than 150 statements on respecting human rights during the pandemic since late February. ..To help those interested in keeping track of the many statements, the International Justice Resource Center (IJRC) has published a webpage – COVID-19 Guidance from Supranational Human Rights Bodies – listing and linking to all relevant press releases and other guidance. This article serves to provide an overview of – and initial response to – the nature, scope, and sources of human rights advice available to States in the context of the pandemic. Having myself contributed with my blog to the proliferation of policy repsonse by NGOs and IGOs, I feel that this piece deserves full citation:

Read the rest of this entry »