Archive for the 'OHCHR' Category

Even landmark UN decision does not change Cambodia’s treatment of human rights defenders

March 11, 2017

I was reading (belatedly) about the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, Rhona Smith, who in January 2017 intervened strongly in the case of the 5 Cambodian human rights defenders of ADHOC (#FreeThe5KH) who have been in detention since April last year. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/05/04/civil-society-condemns-charges-human-rights-defenders-cambodia/] Only then did I realize that the case had led a few months earlier to a landmark decision by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD): the first time that any UN body has referred to HRDs as a protected group.

 

 

On 21 November 21, 2016, the WGAD ruled that the ongoing detention of Mr. Ny ChakryaDeputy Secretary-General of the National Election Committee (NEC), and four staff members of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), Messrs. Ny SokhaYi SoksanNay Vanda, and Ms. Lim Mony, was “arbitrary.” Following a submission made by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OMCT-FIDH partnership), the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) in June 2016, the WGAD’s Opinion No. 45/2016 ruled that the five human rights defenders (HRDs) have been discriminated against based on their status as human rights defenders, and in violation of their right to equality before the law and equal protection of the law under article 26 of the ICCPR.” This is the first time ever that the WGAD – or any other UN mechanism receiving individual complaints – has referred to HRDs as a protected group that is entitled to equal legal protection under Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The ruling also recognised the violation of the five HRDs’ “rights to offer and provide professionally qualified legal assistance and other relevant advice and assistance in defending human rights.”

 In addition, the WGAD found that the targeting of ADHOC staff members for having provided “legitimate legal advice and other assistance” violated the five HRDs’ right to freedom of association. It ruled that violations of fair trial rights (including the fact that the five were denied legal counsel from the beginning of their questioning), unjustified pre-trial detention, and statements made by the Cambodian authorities which denied the five the presumption of innocence – all of which contravene Cambodia’s international human rights obligations in respect to the right to a fair trial – are also serious enough to consider their ongoing detention as arbitrary. The WGAD concluded that “the deprivation of liberty of Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Yi Soksan, Lim Monyand Ny Chakrya, being in contravention of articles 7, 9, 10, 11 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of articles 9, 10, 14, 22 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is arbitrary.”

That Cambodian authorities are not impressed is shown by the continued detention of the 5 ADHOC HRDs and by the press release of 7 February 2017 calling for the cessation of the politically motivated criminal investigation of human rights defenders Am Sam-at and Chan Puthisak. Amnesty International, Civil Rights Defenders, Human Rights Watch, and the International Commission of Jurists signed the statement.

Phnom Penh 20170207 PHTO
Cambodian police detain protesters during a protest to free jailed activists in Phnom Penh, Cambodia May 9, 2016.© Reuters/Samrang Pring

Cambodian officials have accused Sam-at, a respected human rights monitor at the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) for nearly 20 years, and Puthisak, a land rights activist from Boeung Kak Lake and former prisoner of conscience, of instigating violence at an October 10, 2016 demonstration. Para-police forces, who are regularly used to suppress demonstrations, violently dispersed what had been a peaceful protest in Phnom Penh. When Puthisak attempted to prevent para-police from confiscating a drum that was being used by a demonstrator, four or five para-police attacked him, repeatedly beating him on the head with their fists, according to a video of the incident. When Sam-at tried to stop the assault, the para-police attacked him, also beating him on the head. Both men sustained injuries that needed medical attention.

The investigation of Sam-at and Puthisak by the Cambodian authorities is a typically absurd and undisguised case of judicial harassment,” said Champa Patel, Southeast Asia and Pacific director at Amnesty International. “As usual, unnecessary and excessive use of force by the para-police goes unpunished, and those who work to promote and protect human rights find themselves subject to criminal proceedings.”

 

Sources:

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56036#.WMP0Dhhh2V4

Cambodia: In landmark decision, UN body declares the detention of five human rights defenders arbitrary #FreeThe5KH / December 18, 2016 / Urgent Interventions / Human rights defenders / OMCT

https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/02/07/cambodia-drop-farcical-investigation-human-rights-defenders

Side event 6 march 2017: Environmental Human Rights Defenders

March 3, 2017

The Permanent Mission of Spain, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Environment Program, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, the Universal Rights Group, ABColombia, CIDSE, Franciscans International, ISHR, Kolko, Oidhac, and PBI are organizing a side event during the UN Human Rights Council.

Environmental Human Rights Defenders: Responding to a Global Crisis

Monday 6 March 2017 12h30 – 14h30 Room XXVII, Palais des Nations (Simultaneous interpretation English-Spanish)

Panel discussion:

Professor John Knox, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, Member of the Board of Trustees, Universal Rights Group (URG)

Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders

Amanda Kron, Legal Officer, UN Environment (UNEP)

Johana Rocha, Environmental and Human Rights Lawyer, Research Centre for Social Justice ‘Tierra Digna’ (Colombia)

Isela González Díaz, Alianza Sierra Madre (Mexico)

Objectives

• Raise the profile of the situation of environmental human rights defenders

• Move the international human rights community, especially members of the Human Rights Council, towards a greater understanding of that situation, and towards a greater determination to improve support for the work of EHRDs and protection of their rights.

• Launch new URG Policy Report, authored by Professor John Knox, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, on the global situation of EHRDs.

• Present the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations to policymakers and policy-influencers.

• Launch new online resource portal for EHRDs. The portal has been created by the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, URG, Not One More (N1M) and Global Witness, following proposals made by EHRDs themselves during consultations in Europe and Asia. Its development was made possible thanks to the generous support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Spain.

fFor some of my earlier posts on environmental defenders, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/environmental-activists/

http://www.universal-rights.org/events-detail/interface-human-rights-protection-environmental-conservation-situation-environmental-human-rights-defenders/

UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders wraps up his first mandate

February 22, 2017

The UN Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst, has published his report (A/HRC/34/52) which covers the period of his first mandate:June 2014 and March 2017 [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/mmichel-forst-2015-hrd-rapporteurichel-forst/  ].

In his report Michel Forst, provides a detailed summary of the activities he carried out during his first mandate, including statistics and trends based on the communications that he sent to States, his visits to a number of countries, the dialogues established with the authorities of various States, and the close cooperation developed with key stakeholders in the protection of human rights worldwide. The Special Rapporteur also presents the work in progress and the challenges and issues on which he plans to focus during his next mandate. The report includes suggestions for diversifying working methods, broadening the scope of cooperation with other key actors, and enhancing the visibility and accessibility of his mandate. Human rights defenders and the promotion of their work and their protection will remain at the core of the Special Rapporteur’s work.

After spending the past three years travelling around the world and documenting the situation of human rights defenders, the Special Rapporteur is more appalled than ever to see attacks against them multiplying everywhere, assailing bloggers, indigenous peoples, journalists, community leaders, whistle-blowers and community volunteers. Furthermore, the Special Rapporteur has become convinced that the incidents in question are not isolated acts but concerted attacks against those who try to embody the ideal of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in a world free from fear and want. The Special Rapporteur is concerned by the lack of response to observations that have been made repeatedly since the establishment of the mandate.

We must be bolder and more creative in order to face up to threats that weigh heavily on civil society as a whole and on every individual fighting for fundamental rights and freedoms. The Special Rapporteur has also noted that intolerance thrives in part because people know little about their rights or the role of those who protect them. In that regard, it is more vital than ever to make the language of human rights accessible to all in order to ensure that civil society continues to enforce accountability.

As defenders face unprecedented attacks intended to undermine the legitimacy, credibility and sincerity of their commitment, it seems essential to quickly establish links between the specific actions undertaken by the Special Rapporteur and the pledges made at the United Nations when he was appointed in 2014. As populist, nationalist and fundamentalist movements of all kinds multiply, the Special Rapporteur remains convinced that more can be done under his mandate and that his office must continue to serve as a watchdog, a warning mechanism and a crucial resource for thousands of people. [Here he echoes sentiments expressed by others and referred to in this blog, see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/12/we-must-find-new-ways-to-protect-human-rights-defenders-and-to-counter-the-anti-human-rights-mood/ and the links to other such articles at the end of the post]

The report also identifies those areas in which, in view of the possible renewal of his mandate, the Special Rapporteur intends to become more involved so that his work remains relevant and responds as effectively as possible to defenders’ expectations.

I refer as source here not directly to the UN but draw attention to an excellent documentary service provided by RELIEFWEB:

Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders (A/HRC/34/52) – World | ReliefWeb

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights under pressure for providing names of human rights defenders

February 10, 2017

There has been a slew of accusations coming from the Government Accountability Project (GAP) – a US based whistleblower NGO – against the UN and in particular the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The latest piece by Bea Edwards is entitled “Trouble at UN OHCHR: Investigate the High Commissioner” (9 February 2017). While I am most supportive of the OHCHR and its successive high commissioners including the current incumbent who has been vocal and courageous in taking on powerful adversaries [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/zeid-raad-al-hussein/ and especially https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/14/un-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-states-may-shut-my-office-out-but-they-will-not-shut-us-up/], I have to admit that there are some worrying aspects, especially the latest accusation that a senior official “made a habit of providing the Chinese Government with the names of Chinese human rights activists who applied for accreditation to the sessions of the Human Rights Council before they traveled to Geneva“. UN Watch – known for its anti UN bias – took this issue and even linked it to the death of Cao Shunli [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/cao-shunli/]. The High Commissioner issued on 2 February 2017 a forceful statement entitled “UN rights office categorically rejects claims it endangered NGOs” (see http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21139&LangID=E). In this statement it says that “Chinese authorities, and others, regularly ask the UN Human Rights Office, several days or weeks prior to Human Rights Council meetings, whether particular NGO delegates are attending the forthcoming session. The Office never confirms this information until the accreditation process is formally under way, and until it is sure that there is no obvious security risk.” I give both document below but must say that the UN statement leaves open the possibility that Governments are given the names of those who intend to attend before they have left their country. Read the rest of this entry »

Murder of human rights defender Ko Ni in Myanmar

February 1, 2017

On 30 January 2017 the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, joined her voice to the many that have strongly condemned the brutal murder of Ko Ni, a prominent Muslim lawyer and constitutional law expert, who was also the legal adviser to the National League for Democracy (NLD). Mr. Ko Ni was shot and killed outside Yangon Airport on Sunday 29 January after returning from Indonesia where he had been part of a Government-led delegation attending an interfaith study tour. A suspect has been arrested.

“This appears to be another shocking example of a reprisal against those speaking out on behalf of the rights of others,” the expert said, recalling her recent end of visit statement, where she highlighted her concern at the increasing risks faced by human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists and others working on sensitive issues. [see below“I am shocked to the core by the senseless killing of a highly respected and knowledgeable individual, whom I have met during all of my visits to the country, including most recently just over a week ago,” Ms. Lee said. She expressed her sincerest condolences to his family, and the family of taxi driver Nay Win killed in the same incident after he bravely attempted to apprehend the gunman. The Special Rapporteur underlined that, “U Ko Ni’s passing is a tremendous loss to human rights defenders and for Myanmar.”

Also Front Line Defenders deplores in strong term the killing of human rights defender U Ko Ni. His profile [https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/u-ko-ni] describes him as human rights defender and human rights lawyer. He was the legal advisor for the National League for Democracy. He participated in the pro-democracy protests known as the 88 Uprising and was a former political prisoner. Upon release, he became actively involved in the interfaith peace movement and advocated for the rights of Muslim citizens in Myanmar. He strongly opposed the country’s race and religion protection bill which was introduced in August 2015 and which restricted interfaith marriage and caused a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment. In 2016, he helped found the Myanmar Muslim Lawyers Association. He also wrote six books on good governance and various human rights issues. U Ko Ni’s daughter reported that the human rights defender often received threats for speaking out against the continuing influence of the military on politics.

As recently as 25 January 2017 the Special Rapporteur had expressed her fears of government retaliation following her visit to Myanmar. She expressed concern that people may face reprisals for meeting with her. Lee recently concluded an official visit in the area during which individuals shared accounts of human rights abuses by the government. Some of the statements came from those in a hard labor camp as well as survivors of a village burning. Lee fears these individuals who met with her will face reprisals from those who believe the accounts given are contrary to the government. “I am deeply concerned about those with whom I met and spoke, those critical of the Government, those defending and advocating for the rights of others, and those who expressed their thoughts and opinions which did not conform to the narrative of those in the position of power.” (Lee will submit her report on Myanmar in March to the UN Human Rights Council).

(Ms. Yanghee Lee (Republic of Korea) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014 as the Special Rapporteur on situation of human rights in Myanmar.) See also:

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/03/19/myanmar-backsliding-by-prosecuting-human-rights-defenders-instead-of-perpetrators/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/01/21/u-n-rapporteur-on-myanmar-called-whore-by-radical-buddhist-monk/

Sources:

JURIST – UN rights expert fears government retaliation following visit to Myanmar

http://reliefweb.int/report/myanmar/myanmar-un-rights-expert-condemns-senseless-killing-respected-muslim-lawyer-ko-ni

2017 (6): predictions on Trump and the UN – prophets or Cassandras?

January 26, 2017

The U.N. Human Rights Chief Fixes for a Fight with Trump

Photo credit: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

Already on 22 November 2016 Colum Lynch posted in “Foreign Policy” an insightful piece entitled: “The U.N. Human Rights Chief Fixes for a Fight with Trump”.  It records the thinking of senior UN staff and NGO leaders who are going to confront a Donald Trump with a hard-line national security team. They fear that a Trump presidency could spur a global retreat from international human rights principles, marking the dawn of American leadership (see long extracts from the piece below) on green. Now – on 26 January 2017 – Daniel Warner in his weekly blog in the Tribune de Geneve wrote a post entitled: “The U.N., Trump and Cassandra” in which he reports that a bill was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives on January 3 calling for the total disengagement of the United States from the United Nations. The bill, H.R. 193 – known as American Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2017 – has been referred for deliberations to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The bill – tried before in 2015 – may not pass, but the writer fears it reflects the tenor of the current Trump administration. See his words below marked in blue.

—-

The U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, informed his staff in the weeks following the U.S. election that they will have to serve as the front line in an international effort to check any excesses on the human rights front. A chief concern, officials say, is that if the U.N. doesn’t call out its most powerful member for straying from universally accepted human rights norms, the rest of the world will be emboldened to ditch them. “We are going to speak up,” one U.N. official told Foreign Policy. “It’ll be rough, but if [Trump] puts any of those ghastly campaign pledges into action we will condemn.”

…..Still, Trump’s campaign pledged to restore waterboarding, deport millions of undocumented migrants, and ban Muslims from traveling to the United States. …

The U.N.’s approach to human rights is particularly tricky for the incoming U.N. secretary-general, António Guterres, a former Portuguese prime minister who headed the U.N. refugee agency for nearly 10 years. Guterres has been an outspoken champion of refugees, pressing European governments, as well as the United States, to resettle far larger numbers of refugees. Two weeks after Trump called for his ban on Muslims last December, Guterres admonished the Security Council, saying, “Those that reject Syrian refugees because they are Muslims are the best allies in the recruitment propaganda of extremist groups.” But Guterres may be constrained as the leader of the United Nations, a job that requires a close relationship with the United States and other big powers. ……

That makes it likely that Zeid will take the lead on human rights. Throughout the U.S. presidential campaign, Zeid, a Muslim prince from the Jordanian royal family, has repeatedly excoriated Trump, telling reporters in December that his threat to ban Muslim travel to the United States is “grossly irresponsible.” In September, Zeid included Trump, along with France’s Marine Le Pen and Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders, on a list of “populists, demagogues, and political fantasists” who promoted their arguments grounded in “half truths and oversimplification.” [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/14/un-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-states-may-shut-my-office-out-but-they-will-not-shut-us-up/]

Some U.N. officials say Zeid’s criticism of the U.N.’s most powerful country could strengthen his hand in disputes with other U.N. members, particularly those from the developing world who have long accused the United Nations of applying greater pressure on small powers for breaching human rights norms, while letting the United States and other big powers off the hook. Other U.N. officials fear that Zeid may be exposing the organization to a battle with the U.N.’s most powerful players that he can’t win. In September, Russia’s U.N. ambassador Vitaly Churkin formally protested Zeid’s public denunciations of Trump and other European nationalists. “Prince Zeid is overstepping his limits from time to time, and we’re unhappy about it,” Churkin told The Associated Press.

More recently, Zeid tangled with China over his attendance at a ceremony for the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, which honored a Uighur economist, Ilham Tohti, who is serving a life sentence on charges of fomenting separatism and violence. A senior Chinese official appealed to Zeid not to attend the event, according to a U.N. official. But Zeid refused, insisting that he had an independent mandate to shed light on human rights violations wherever they occur, including China.

Even before Trump’s election, U.N. officials believed that human rights were under threat from authoritarian governments, including China, Egypt, Russia, and Turkey, which have been engaged in major crackdowns on civil liberties at home. “They are backsliding on human rights, but from a position of weakness,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of the New York City-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch. “Both [Vladimir] Putin and Xi Jinping are engaging in the worst crackdowns in their countries in two decades, each driven by the terror as to how their countries will react to a weakening economy; they’re trying to snuff out in advance opposition they anticipate.”

Roth said there is a real danger that Trump and other populist leaders will accelerate the curtailment of human rights. “The entire human rights movement is weary about Trump,” he said. “It’s not clear what his values are. That is why his initial appointees are so important.” Dimitris Christopoulos, president of the International Federation for Human Rights, fears Trump’s controversial positions, including torture and deportation, would embolden smaller countries. When big powers, particularly the United States, tread on human rights the world tends to follow. If smaller countries, such as Burundi and Kenya, hear Trump threatening to cast out foreign refugees they may choose to act in kind, Christopoulos said. Saudi Arabia threatened this year to cut funding to U.N. relief programs and to lead a walkout by Muslim states from the United Nations if the U.N. didn’t lift its name from a list of countries that killed or maimed children in armed conflict, according to a senior U.N. official. In its defense, Saudi officials noted that the United States had shielded its closest Middle East ally, Israel, from being included on the same list in 2015. It was only fair, therefore, that Riyadh be spared the shame of being included on the list...

Rights advocates say the rising tide of nationalism and populism in Europe and the United States represents a potentially existential threat to the human rights movement, as governments that once championed the cause on the international stage head into retreat. Britain’s new prime minister, Theresa May, has railed against “left-wing human rights lawyers” who are seeking the prosecution of British soldiers alleged to have committed war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. She has proposed that London withdraw from key provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights that potentially expose British troops to prosecution. A generation of European nationalist leaders, including Le Pen and Wilders, who had been on the fringe of the European political spectrum, have seen their electoral prospects grow in the face of spreading anti-immigrant sentiment. That has left German Chancellor Angela Merkel as one of the “only outspoken leaders on human rights,” Roth said. In her first statement following Trump’s election, Merkel said she would work closely with Trump, but only on the basis of “democracy, freedom, respect for the rule of law, and the dignity of men regardless of origin, skin color, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.”

———-

Daniel Warner further wrote: Fervent supporter of H.R. 193 and prominent Republican Rand Paul (Rep-KY) said in 2015: “I dislike paying for something that two-bit Third World countries with no freedom attack us and complain about the United States… There’s a lot of reasons why I don’t like the U.N., and I think I’d be happy to dissolve it,” added the Kentucky senator. Or, as John Bolton, once U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and now being considered for the number two spot in the State Department famously said: “There’s no such thing as the United Nations. The Secretariat building in New York has 38 stories. If it lost ten stories it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.”
This time, following the election of Donald Trump and the U.S. abstention on a Security Council resolution to condemn the continued construction of illegal Israeli settlements, the bill has a better chance. The mood in Washington of “America First” will try to repeal all multilateral agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the North American Free Trade Agreement as well as weakening multilateral organizations like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Does the introduction of the bill matter? For International Geneva, it certainly does. While the United States might not withdraw from the U.N., the negative attitude of the current administration towards multilateralism and multilateral organizations will have obvious negative consequences for Geneva, sometimes called “The Rome of Multilateralism.” Even with U.S. participation, the international system will lack United States leadership during the Trump presidency. The visit of the Chinese President to the U.N. Office in Geneva and his speech at Davos were clear signs of shifting multilateral leadership.
I heard a comment from someone within the Washington bureaucracy that gives some hope.  Her feeling was that career civil servants will slow down if not block radical changes in U.S. foreign policy. The slow wheels of government will crush any unilateral attempts by the Trump leadership. The ship of state will carry on with deep divisions between the political appointments and career civil servants. This would be an indirect check on the incoming politicians.
On January 21, one day after Trump’s inauguration, millions marched against the Trump presidency throughout the United States. Millions more marched around the world for women’s dignity and many against Donald Trump as well. Will anyone march to save multilateralism and the U.N?

——

Sources:

The U.N. Human Rights Chief Fixes for a Fight with Trump | Foreign Policy

The U.N., Trump and Cassandra : Le blog de Daniel Warner

see also:

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/23/2017-4-canadas-year-of-real-human-rights-action/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/24/2017-5-with-trump-us-president-sweden-must-stand-up-for-human-rights/

Palestinian human rights defenders continue to be persecuted

December 21, 2016

Sources:

Amnesty slams Israel’s detention of Palestinian human rights defender – Middle East Monitor

https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/israel-threatens-expel-reporter-who-asked-apartheid-question

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-palumboliu/israel-puts-celebrated-_b_13590812.html

http://ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21041&LangID=E

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16906&LangID=E

Virgin Islands’ Genevieve Whitaker selected for United Nations Human Rights Fellowship

November 30, 2016

I am using this little known country (Virgin Islands) to highlight a little-known programme: the Virgin Islands Consortium reports that Deputy Elections System Supervisor Genevieve Whitaker has been selected as a fellow for the 2016 Fellowship Programme for the People of African Descent of the UN.

Ms. Whitaker has been involved with human rights from an early age. She received her law degree from Stetson University College of Law, serving as a public service fellow and received the Public Service Recognition Award from Stetson’s Advocacy Board for her exemplary service locally and worldwide. She was instrumental in the establishment of Stetson’s Amnesty International Student chapter. She obtained certificates in human rights and humanitarian law during her legal studies at the University of Oxford School of Law and Santa Clara University Law School, respectively. There she joined Amnesty International USA, and United Nations Association of the USA. Ms. Whitaker is also a former board member of the DC-based Partners for Freedom & Democracy, a nonprofit organization for which she organized a human rights-based youth leadership development summit that took place in Abuja, Nigeria in 2008.

In 2009 she co-founded the Virgin Islands Youth Advocacy Coalition, Inc., a nonprofit established to promote the political and civic engagement of the young people of the Virgin Islands. Ms. Whitaker’s human rights work also includes service on the Board of the Caribbean Institute for a New Humanity, which housed the Virgin Islands Reparations Movement (ACRRA). Ms. Whitaker served as an international election observer with the Organization of American States for the February 25, 2016 Jamaican Parliamentary elections.

Ms. Whitaker says she plans on bringing back to the territory the knowledge she gains during her training to promote the important work of decolonization, by obtaining support among the key stakeholders who will be dedicated to the cause for the human right to self-determination, she says. The goal is centered on achieving the political, social, economic and cultural right advancement for people of African descent and all those negatively affected/impacted by the resultant human rights abuses tied to our colonial status, according to Ms. Whitaker.

Source: Genevieve Whitaker Selected For United Nations Human Rights Fellowship –

Universal Declaration of Human Rights truly universal: milestone of 500 languages reached

November 4, 2016

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is now accessible in 501 languages and dialects, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights announced on 2 November 2016.

Our goal is to share the UDHR with the entire world, and it’s a great achievement for us to be able to make this important document available in more than 500 languages,” said OHCHR librarian Alfia Gilbert.

The collection constitutes the world’s most translated document according the The Guinness Records.

The growing number of translations underscores the universality of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the power of its words to resonate strongly across cultures and languages,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

 

 

 

Source: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights now available in more than 500 languages and dialects

Assistant Secretary General Andrew Gilmour appointed as the UN’s focal point to combat reprisals against human rights defenders

October 5, 2016

The problem of reprisals against human rights defenders has been the subject of quite a few posts in this blog [see my earlier posts: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/reprisals/]. On 3 October 2016 the SG of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, finally unveiled details about the long-awaited focal point against reprisals. This is a much-needed element to help combat the growing problem of governments preventing human rights defenders from engaging with the UN or punishing and even imprisoning them when they do so.

Assistant Secretary General, Andrew Gilmour, will be given a special mandate to receive, consider and respond to allegations of intimidation and reprisals against human rights defenders and other civil society actors engaging with the UN. In announcing the appointment Mr Ban said  ‘These courageous individuals are often our only eyes and ears in extremely tough environments – and we owe them our best possible support’. ‘I have decided, in consultation with the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to designate my new Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Mr. Andrew Gilmour, to lead our efforts within the UN system to put a stop to all intimidation and reprisals against those cooperating with the United Nations on human rights,’.

recent report by the SG shows that reprisals take many forms, including travel bans, the issuance of arrest warrants on terrorism charges, detention and torture, surveillance, death threats, attempts to frame activists for criminal acts, defamation, and intimidation.  In several cases defenders are tarnished as ‘terrorists’ or ‘traitors’, contributing to perceptions that engagement with the UN is an act of betrayal. In some cases reprisals have led to individuals fleeing their country, in others, to death.

This is an extremely welcome development. The ability of people or organisations to provide evidence or submit information or complaints to the UN is not a privilege – it is a fundamental right enshrined in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and it must be protected,’ said Ms Sinclair, ISHR’s legal counsel.

Source: Ban Ki-moon appoints high-ranking official to combat reprisals against human rights defenders | ISHR