Archive for the 'OHCHR' Category

Final step: Burundi closes down UN office

December 7, 2018

FILE - In this Tuesday, April 28, 2015, file photo, Burundi riot police detain a man suspected of throwing stones during clashes in the Musaga district of Bujumbura, Burundi. The United Nations human rights office on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, said Burundi's government has asked it to leave, months after the outgoing U.N. rights chief called the country one of the "most prolific slaughterhouses of humans in recent times." (AP Photo/Jerome Delay/File)

Having reported on 4 December about Burundi in the 3rd Committee of the General Assembly (“Burundi made several attempts to stop the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi from presenting its report to the Third Committee. When these were foiled, in a repeat of what happened last year, the Burundian Ambassador took the floor to abuse Commission members.  ….” and in the light of its history with UN investigations – see inter alia: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/26/burundi-outrageously-attacks-united-nations-team/), it hardly comes as a surprise that Burundi’s government has asked the UN to leave completely. (Associated Press reporting on 6 December 2018).

Spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani in Geneva confirmed they received a letter on Wednesday “requesting us to close the office. We of course regret this decision and we would like to continue our cooperation with Burundi.” Anonymous sources within the U.N. office in Burundi told Associated Press they were given two months to leave.

The East African nation’s government has long been angered by U.N. reports describing alleged abuses amid the political turmoil since President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to run for another term in 2015. More than 1,200 people have been killed since then, the U.N. says, and ICC judges authorized an investigation into allegations of state-sponsored crimes including murder, rape and torture — a decision unaffected by Burundi’s withdrawal from the court. Outgoing U.N. High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein early 2018 said Burundi was among “some of the most prolific slaughterhouses of humans in recent times.”

Burundi suspended its cooperation with the U.N. rights office in October 2016, accusing it of “complicity with coup plotters and Burundi’s enemies” after a report alleged the “involvement of the regime in systematic abuses and a risk of genocide.” In December 2017, the government shut four regional offices of the U.N. rights office in the country. And a team of experts mandated by the U.N. Human Rights Council to look into possible abuses was expelled in May despite Burundi’s agreement to cooperate.

Burundi’s foreign minister, Ezechiel Nibigira, on Thursday called a press conference on the issue but then postponed it, telling reporters that “We will communicate you when we are well prepared.” Rachel Nicholson, the Burundi researcher for Amnesty International, called the news “deeply disappointing” and called on the government to reverse its decision. Having refused to cooperate with a U.N. commission of inquiry or sign a memorandum of understanding with African Union monitors, the government is again trying to block independent monitoring, Nicholson said. “But the truth will still get out.”

https://www.wral.com/un-rights-office-burundi-s-government-has-asked-us-to-leave/18043826/

10 December warning by Michelle Bachelet: Populist nationalism threatens UDHR

December 6, 2018

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet attends a news conference at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Dec. 5, 2018.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet 

Born out of the devastation of two world wars, the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the Holocaust, the seminal document is geared toward preventing similar disasters from happening. December 10 marks the 70th anniversary of the declaration, which U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said has withstood the test of time. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/18/michelle-bachelet-new-un-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-gives-major-interview/]

She said its fundamental principles can be applied to meet the challenges of today, such as ensuring equal rights for LGBTI people and protecting the right to life, food and health in the face of climate change. But, she warns, many of these rights are under threat from politicians pushing a nationalistic agenda. “When leaders… speak against migrants or a sort of hate speech or xenophobic speech, you are giving license to other people not to respect people’s rights,” Bachelet said. Leaders are responsible for what they say, and must lead by example, she added, dismissing the argument sometimes made by developing countries that human rights are a Western concept.

https://www.voanews.com/a/un-populist-nationalism-threatens-human-rights-declaration/4687896.html

UN Experts consider human rights defenders in Italy under threat

December 2, 2018

In Europe it is not just in Hungary where human rights defenders are under pressure [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/07/26/some-facts-about-refugee-flows-which-hungary-seems-not-to-know/]. On 21 November 2018 a group of UN experts  – including Michel Forst, the UN Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders – expressed concern that amidst Italy’s proposed tightening of immigration rules HRDs are the subject of smear campaigns.

Since coming into power in June 2018, the new Italian Government has implemented the anti-migrant and exclusionary measures it campaigned upon. “Removing protection measures from potentially thousands of migrants and limiting their ability to regularise their stay in Italy will increase their vulnerability to attacks and exploitation. They will be at greater risk from traffickers and other criminal groups, and many will have no means to meet their basic needs through lawful means”.

While acknowledging the challenges Italy faces due to the absence of an effective European-wide system of solidarity, the UN experts said this did not justify violations of human rights. “The government must adhere to the values enshrined in the Italian constitution, and the international commitments it signed up to,” they said in an appeal to the government to reconsider the legislative changes.

During the most recent electoral campaign, some politicians fuelled a public discourse unashamedly embracing racist and xenophobic anti-immigrant and anti-foreigner rhetoric. Such speech incites hatred and discrimination,” the experts said. ……“We are also concerned about the continuing smear campaigns against civil society organisations engaged in search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea, as well as the criminalisation of the work of migrant rights defenders, which have become more widespread in Italy,”.

The UN experts urge the Italian government to combat incitement to hatred and discrimination, racism and xenophobia. “Perpetrators of hate crimes must be held accountable and justice provided to the victims. Italian authorities should implement the national and relevant European legal framework and provide the needed responses to hate crime and the use of hate speech.”

The experts have contacted the government about their concerns and await a reply.

https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23908&LangID=E

More short films on each article of the UDHR

November 27, 2018

Further to my post on the series of short films – one for each article in the 70-year old Universal Declaration of human rights [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/11/15/each-article-in-the-universal-declaration-on-human-rights-has-its-human-story/], there now more out to watch: see e.ghttps://www.facebook.com/unitednationshumanrights/videos/380180556054710/.

70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: the UN plans

November 26, 2018

Series of events to shine a light on the UDHR across the world. I already referred to the series of short films – one for each article in the 70-year old Universal Declaration of human rights [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/11/15/each-article-in-the-universal-declaration-on-human-rights-has-its-human-story/].

But there is more going on: The UDHR, based on the powerful premise that we are all “born free and equal in dignity and rights,” has spread further and been translated into more languages than any other text ever. The aim of the celebratory events sponsored by the UN Human Rights Office is “to shine a light on the many ways in which universal human rights contribute to the daily lives of people everywhere.” Signature events will be held in 14 cities, spanning seven time zones, with each spotlighting a human rights theme relevant to that location:

Africa

  • Dakar (Nov 30) – Our right to accountability when rights are violated
  • Pretoria (Dec 7) – Young people standing up for rights
  • Marrakesh (Dec 10) – The human rights of migrants

Asia-Pacific

  • Suva (Nov 16) – Our right to live on a healthy planet
  • Bangkok (Nov 28) – The rights of people on the move

Europe

  • Manchester (Nov 12) – Our right to live in harmony
  • Paris (Dec 4) – The city where the UDHR was adopted in 1948
  • Geneva (Dec 13) – Upholding rights for a future we all want

Latin America

  • Mexico City (Dec 6) – Our right to defend human rights
  • Panama City (Dec 10) – Children as defenders of rights
  • Santiago (Dec 10) – Women’s rights are human rights

Middle East

  • Doha (Dec 9) – Our right to peace

North America

  • Los Angeles (Dec 10) – Human rights in the city
  • New York (Dec 18) – UN Human Rights Award ceremony

In addition to the 14 signature events, each of which will be accompanied by a social media campaign featuring prominent global and local public figures standing up for human rights, numerous other celebrations are being organized by Governments, NGOs, academic institutions, and many others all over the world.

I urge everyone to join in celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration.  Join us at the public events if you can, or organize one yourself.  Any way that you can take part actively – shining your light on rights – will make a difference, even if it is simply by participating on social media,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.By doing so, we can show just how precious the UDHR is to people all over the world, and the universal nature of the values it contains.  It was an inspiration, a sensation, in 1948, and it is still an astonishing and inspiring document today.

The preservation of the human rights set out in the Declaration is vital to each and every one us – woman, man and child. Human rights are essential for the protection and dignity of our loved ones, our families and friends, our neighbours and our communities – for all of us, whether living in the smallest village or in the greatest of cities.  Violations of anyone’s rights potentially undermine the rights of all of us. So I urge everyone to use the UDHR’s 70th anniversary to reflect on what rights mean, and think of ways we can actively stand up for the rights of not just ourselves, but of everyone else.”

In addition to the events taking place over the next month, on 9 November the UN Human Rights Office will start publishing a series of short articles on each of the 30 Articles of the Universal Declaration. These will be published – one article a day – on www.ohchr.org and issued to media across the world.

For more information on the events listed in this advisory, please contact Rajat Khosla at rkhosla@ohchr.org / +41 22 917 3311

Twitter: @UNHumanRights and Facebook: unitednationshumanrights

https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23832&LangID=E

Each article in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights has its human story

November 15, 2018

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights – celebrating its 70th anniversary – has 30 articles. True Heroes Films (THF) made for the UN 30 short video stories to show the impact of the Declaration around the world. Go to:  or YouTube. The series runs until 10 December, Human Rights Day. Everyday a new one!

“Reprehensible” says UN about Mexican killing of human rights defender

November 7, 2018

On 6 November 2018, four UN Special  Rapporteurs have strongly condemned the killing of Julián Carrillo, an indigenous rights defender from the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, who had worked tirelessly for over two decades to defend his community against the exploitation of Rarámuri ancestral lands.

On 23 October 23 2018, Julián Carrillo told a friend by phone that he believed he was being watched and said he would go into the forest in an attempt to hide. On the evening of 25 October, his body was found. He had multiple bullet wounds. “We urge the Mexican authorities to identify the perpetrators of this reprehensible crime and to bring them to justice in accordance with the law,” the experts said.

The experts also urged the Government to address the underlying causes of such violence. “The killing of Julián Carrillo highlights the serious situation in the Sierra Tarahumara where the lack of recognition of indigenous land rights is a root cause of the recurring violence against and displacements of indigenous communities.”… [The UN experts are: Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Ms. Victoria Tauli Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples;  Ms. Agnès Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; and Ms. Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons.]

Julián Carrillo’s murder is one of a spate of killings of human rights defenders in the country. According to official OHCHR figures, 21 human rights defenders have been killed so far this year, nine of them from indigenous communities. Four members of Julián Carrillo’s family – his son, son-in-law and two nephews – have been killed since February 2016.

This follows soon after the assassination on Wednesday 23 October of journalist Gabriel Soriano Kuri.  Soriano had been covering Governor Héctor Astudillo Flores’ third annual report for the Radio y Televisión de Guerrero (RTG) broadcaster that evening. After the event, held in Acapulco, he was driving a company vehicle when he was attacked and killed by armed civilians. Following the murder, Astudillo offered his condolences to Soriano’s family via Twitter. But it didn’t go down very well. Soriano’s daughter replied with a blunt message: “My dad was assassinated doing his job. Covering your report to the state! Do your job and fix the situation the state is in. It’s not right,” she wrote. Her discontent was echoed in at least three demonstrations where journalists demanded that authorities solve the assassination of their colleague. A state journalists’ association reported that three members of the profession have been slain during Astudillo’s three years in office.

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/es/profile/noel-castillo-aguilar

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/10/mexico-asesinato-de-lider-raramuri-demuestra-falta-de-proteccion-estatal/

https://mexiconewsdaily.com/news/demonstrations-follow-journalists-assassination/

14 major NGOs call for immediate release of Chinese human rights defender Huang Qi

November 6, 2018

Chinese authorities must immediately and unconditionally release citizen journalist and human rights defender Huang Qi, a group of 14 NGOs (and not the least, see below) said on November 5, 2018. Huang Qi (黄琦), the founder and director of 64 Tianwang Human Rights Center, is not receiving adequate medical care in detention and his health has seriously deteriorated, according to his lawyer who visited him on October 23. Huang’s condition is so serious that there is an immediate threat to his life. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/01/rsfs-press-freedom-prize-2016-goes-to-the-64-tianwang-website-in-china/]

The Chinese government must immediately and unconditionally release Huang, who has been detained solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression, and end its policy of denying prompt medical treatment to prisoners of conscience. Several human rights defenders and ethnic and religious minorities have died in detention in recent years due to a lack of prompt medical treatment, including Liu Xiaobo, Cao Shunli [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/03/27/china-or-the-un-must-ensure-independent-investigation-into-death-of-cao-shunli/], Yang Tongyan, and Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, intensifying fears that Huang Qi might suffer the same fate without urgent intervention.

Authorities have repeatedly rejected applications for release on medical bail despite Huang’s heath condition continuing to deteriorate. He faces charges of “illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities” and “leaking state secrets” due to his work with 64 Tianwang Human Rights Center, which documents and publishes reports on enforced disappearances, trafficking, human rights violations and complaints against government officials. Huang faces the possibility of life imprisonment. His 85-year-old mother has been campaigning for his release, fearing he may die in prison. Last month two of his associates received suspended prison sentences and were released, but authorities have continued to hold Huang. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued an opinion in April 2018 that declared Huang’s detention arbitrary, but the Chinese government continues to ignore the Working Group’s recommendation that Huang be released and compensated.

Lawyers representing Huang Qi have also faced retaliation. One of his lawyers, Sui Muqing, was disbarred in February 2018 for defending human rights defenders, such as Huang. [https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/human-rights-lawyer-sui-muqing-disbarred] Huang’s current lawyer, Liu Zhengqing, received a notice in October that he is under investigation for giving Huang cigarettes during a meeting in July. Liu faces suspension of his law license or a large fine.

http://rsdlmonitor.com/immediately-unconditionally-release-huang-qi/

In this context also relevant is: https://mailchi.mp/ishr/alert-to-the-human-rights-councils-35th-session-31901?e=d1945ebb90

Burundi outrageously attacks United Nations team

October 26, 2018

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. – UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferre

High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said on Thursday 25 October that comments made by Burundi’s UN ambassador the previous day, were “deeply regrettable in both tone and substance” and demanded that it “immediately retracts” its threat to try and prosecute members of a UN Commission of Inquiry into rights abuses in the central African nation.

She also raised concern over the Burundian Government’s “complete failure” to address the very serious findings of the Commission of Inquiry. On Wednesday, the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Burundi to the UN, Albert Shingiro, had attacked this independent international inquiry team, threatening to prosecute its members and compared Commission Chair, Doudou Diène, to a participant in the slave trade [SIC].

Amazingly Burundi is also a current member of the Geneva-based Human Rights Council [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/02/08/what-is-burundi-doing-in-the-un-human-rights-council/].

I urge the Government of Burundi to issue an immediate retraction of this inflammatory statement and to offer a full apology to Mr. Diène and the other Commissioners, as well as to the Human Rights Council, which created the Commission, and its President who selected and appointed the three Commissioners,” she said.

Michelle Bachelet, new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, gives major interview

October 18, 2018

In August 2018, Michelle Bachelet, twice-elected President of Chile was confirmed as the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, replacing Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. [see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/08/22/change-of-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-at-the-un-optimism-warranted/]. Minutes after she was approved, UN chief Antonio Guterres told reporters he was “delighted” by the news of her official appointment, describing Ms. Bachelet, a “pioneer”, has been “as formidable a figure in her native Chile, as she has at the United Nations”. Shortly after assuming office in early September, Ms. Bachelet was in New York for the General Assembly’s high-level general debate. She spoke then with UN News on the rights situation around the world, the priorities for her tenure, and how can rights be better protected. It was published on 17 October 2018.

Bearing in mind her own personal experience of being detained and tortured in Chile, the interview started with a question on how she overcame the hardships she suffered under the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet (file photo) ILO/M. Creuset

Michelle Bachelet: ….there was a period of my life that I really hated what was happening – I had so much rage. But afterwards, I started thinking, “you know what, I do not want this to happen anymore in Chile or in any other country of the world. So, what can I do to contribute, that Chile will be a peaceful, democratic society?” So, I sort of put all my energies on that, and that is why I started working on defence issues to be able to speak to the militaries, because I never thought I was going to be Minister of the Defence or President of the Republic.,,I would say it permitted me to understand that, first of all, lessons learned, and if you really want some objective, and in a possible, constructive way, it can be done.

As the High Commissioner, you have come in a time when human rights are under serious attack globally. What your priorities are going to be?

Michelle Bachelet: …. first of all, of course, my priorities are to do what my mandate tells me to do, to be the voice of the voiceless. But also to engage with governments so they respect human rights, protect people from rights violations, and promote human rights.

….But one of my particular priorities from the Secretary-General is prevention. I am not saying I will succeed on that, maybe not. But I will try to design a system where we can have early warning signs and try to think on early action. …..

Right now, some countries do not want to cooperate with OHCHR or question the worth of the Human Rights Council. How do you plan on bringing everyone together?

Michelle Bachelet: In my opening statement, I spoke about, that consensus could be possible, that we should not lose ourselves in sterile disputes. Of course human rights is a very political thing and you see that here in the General Assembly, in the Security Council, so it is not in the Human Rights Council, by itself.

I mean, countries have their visions, their interests, and sometimes, they are not interested in some issues. But what I have been doing is meeting, not only with the whole council, but with groups of countries in Geneva such as the Group of Latin American and Caribbean countries, the African countries, the Arab countries, the Asia-Pacific countries, the West European and Other countries, the Eastern European countries, speaking but also listening. Because, sometimes, you know what you have to do, but the way you do it can be more successful than others. Sometimes you need to speak out. Sometimes you need to strategize in terms of saying, look, it will work better if we do diplomatic prevention, if we start engaging the government. But today the world is complicated, and it is very polarized in some issues………

This year is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. What progress do you think has been done in the past 70 years?

Michelle Bachelet: …..Think of 1948: how many countries allowed women to vote, for example; how many respected of freedom of speech. If you think of the different aspects of the human rights, even in more complete things that usually people do not think of as human rights, but they are human rights: on health, on education, on sanitation, on housing. The world today is better than 70 years ago. But having said that, there are a lot of threats, there are a lot of threats for multilateralism, there is a lot of threat and pushback on human rights. …We see a pushback, we see that in some documents, human rights is not mentioned, and when you ask, they say, “it is mainstream.” And if it is mainstreamed, it is fantastic, because everybody’s doing their job. But if it is invisible, mainstream, that is not a good thing. On the other hand we see human rights defenders and civil society having their space shrink. They have been under attack. Journalists have been killed.

So there is a lot of challenges. The only thing I can say is that the struggle for human rights probably will never end, because it is a process where you advance, but there will be always people who want to push back, and that could be governments or that could be armed groups. The task of the UN is to ensure and promote the whole human rights system. And I will do what I have to do about it, but it cannot be only the task of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, it has to be the task of the whole UN system….

I would like to ask you about protecting those who protect: human rights defenders are often targets of abuse and violence. How can they be better protected?

Michelle Bachelet: Well, the curious thing is that, as we are celebrating the 70th year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we are celebrating 20 years of the Declaration on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. And in November 2017, a resolution on the protection of human rights defenders was approved unanimously by the General Assembly.  No country voted against it. So, the issue is: on paper things can look very good, but reality is another thing. I think we have the task of making people accountable for the things they have approved. Second, to monitor implementation of those agreements that everybody has made, and engage governments, and in the cases where things are happening, holding them accountable and responsible for the killings, the torture, the detentions of many human rights defenders.

You have been a very important defender of women’s rights. How is that going to continue, as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights?

Michelle Bachelet: The thing is that, people tend to see OHCHR as only concerned with civil and political rights, and that is not it. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly states the rights for migrants, for children, for women; right to health, to education. It is very comprehensive. Even though I am not intending to replace any other agency, I always speak about gender issues, gender empowerment. This morning I was speaking about women who are women’s human rights defenders, who have been attacked, threatened with rape.

I will be always raising the voice for women, trying to support their capacities, and building partnership with UN Women, as we have spoken with Henrietta Fore, the head of UNICEF to see how we can create synergies. …..

One of the most pressing issues for the entire world is climate change. How are human rights linked to the environment?

Michelle Bachelet: ..There are so many concrete consequences that will be effects in people’s lives and their rights. That is why we also believe that working strongly to combat climate change is a very essential task, including of the High Commissioner. I think also that we need to be more part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and how we support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). ..

And climate change is of huge importance, because I have seen places where there is no more water and people who depend agriculture, mainly women, and now have to think how they get their incomes. With climate change, we have seen, and scientists tell us … about worsening natural disasters and extreme weather, forest fires. And all of these will have a lot of consequences for the life of people. It is very important to work very closely on that, too. I completely agree with the Secretary-General when said that this is one of the major, major challenges that we have.

Full interview at: Human Rights