Posts Tagged ‘41st Human Rights Council’

Why Iceland led the UN resolution on the Philippines

July 22, 2019

Despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s threat to sever diplomatic ties, Iceland expressed hope the Philippines will cooperate with the United Nations Human Rights Council’s investigation into the human rights situation in the country, including the drug war. “Icelandic authorities sincerely hope that the Philippine authorities will engage the UN on this and the resolution,” Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs said in a press statement. The resolution was backed by 18 out of 47 member-countries. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/11/un-council-agrees-action-on-philippines-in-spite-of-vehement-objection/]

President Rodrigo Duterte blasted Iceland for failing to “understand” the Philippines. “Iceland, ano ang problema ng Iceland? Ice lang. (What’s the problem of Iceland? It has only ice.) That’s your problem you have too much ice and there is no clear day or night there,” Duterte said rather unsuitably but then added that – as a country that enjoyed low crime rates – Iceland was unable to comprehend the need for a bloody drug war in the Philippines.

But why did tiny Iceland, of all countries, file the resolution in the first place?’ Sofia Tomacruz in Rappler of 19 July 2019 tried to answer this:

When Iceland led the resolution at the UN Human Rights Council, it did so as a country that puts a high priority on human rights. As one of the most peaceful countries in the world, Iceland also leads by example when it comes to observing human rights. Iceland carried that responsibility when it became a member of the UN rights council last year, taking the place of the United States which left the rights body it called a “cesspool of political bias.” “For a small and peaceful country like Iceland, international law and the multilateral system is our sword, shield and shelter,” Iceland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs said in statement to Rappler.

ICELAND'S FOREIGN MINISTER. Iceland's Foreign Minister Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson at the United Nations. Photo from the Government of Iceland website

ICELAND’S FOREIGN MINISTER. Iceland’s Foreign Minister Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson at the United Nations. Photo from the Government of Iceland website

In an interview with the Iceland Monitor, Iceland Foreign Minister Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson said, “We are fortunate enough to enjoy human rights in Iceland, which we take for granted….It is our duty to contribute to the fight for improving the state of human rights affairs in the world.

According to the Fund for Peace’s 2019 Fragile States Index, Iceland was considered among the most stable countries in the world, enjoying stable observance of human rights and the rule of law among other factors. The Philippines, meanwhile, was described as a state with “high warning” over eroding human rights and higher levels of crime and violence. Aside from this, the 2019 Global Peace Index ranked Iceland as the most peaceful country in the world, while the Philippines was 134th out of a total of 163 countries.

GLOBAL PEACE INDEX. Iceland is ranked as the most peaceful country in the world according to the 2019 Global Peace Index. Screenshot from Visions of Humanity.org

Iceland is ranked as the most peaceful country in the world according to the 2019 Global Peace Index. Screenshot from Visions of Humanity.org

For Human Rights Watch deputy director of Geneva Laila Matar, Iceland’s actions as a new member of the powerful rights body live up to its reputation as a country that champions human rights. “Iceland is a country that takes the Human Rights Council seriously and that takes their membership in the Human Rights Council seriously. The Human Rights Council is meant to ensure that gross violations of human rights are addressed,” Matar said in an interview with Rappler.

https://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/iq/235775-why-iceland-led-un-resolution-drug-war-killings-philippines

https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/701688/iceland-hopes-phl-will-cooperate-with-un-probe-on-ejks-drug-war/story/

41st UN Human Rights Council: what the NGOs see as its result

July 16, 2019

On 12 july 2019, ISHR published what key civil society organisations thought of the just finished 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council.

Civil society organisations welcomed significant outcomes of the Human Rights Council’s 41st session, including the extension of the SOGI mandate, adopting the first resolution on the Philippines and extending its scrutiny over Eritrea, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Belarus and Ukraine. This session witnessed heightened scrutiny of Council members by shedding light on the situations in Saudi Arabia and China. It missed an opportunity, however, to ensure that human rights are not sidelined in Sudan.

16 leading human rights organisations (see below) expressed regrets that Council members seek to use their seats to shield themselves and others from scrutiny. They called on States to stand with victims of human rights violations. They welcomed the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly association, that the Council stood up to the global backlash against the rights of women and girls, and that it continued to address the threat posed by climate change to human rights. They also welcomed the reports on Venezuela, called on the High Commissioner to immediately release the UN database of businesses engaged with Israeli settlements, and on all States to pursue accountability for victims of intimidation and reprisals.

Full statement below:

By renewing the mandate of the Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), the Council has sent a clear message that violence and discrimination against people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities cannot be tolerated. It reaffirmed that specific, sustained and systematic attention is needed to address these human rights violations and ensure that LGBT people can live a life of dignity. We welcome the Core Group’s commitment to engage in dialogue with all States, resulting in over 50 original co-sponsors across all regions. However, we regret that some States have again attempted to prevent the Council from addressing discrimination and violence on the basis of SOGI.

This Council session also sent a clear message that Council membership comes with scrutiny by addressing the situations of Eritrea, the Philippines, China, Saudi Arabia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This shows the potential the Council has to leverage its membership to become more effective and responsive to rights holders and victims.

The Council did the right thing by extending its monitoring of the situation in Eritrea. The onus is on the Eritrean Government to cooperate with Council mechanisms, including the Special Rapporteur, in line with its membership obligations.

We welcome the first Council resolution on the Philippines as an important first step towards justice and accountability. We urge the Council to closely follow this situation and be ready to follow up with additional action, if the situation does not improve or deteriorates further. We deeply regret that such a resolution was necessary, due to the continuation of serious violations and repeated refusal of the Philippines – despite its membership of the Council– to cooperate with existing mechanisms.

We deplore that the Philippines and Eritrea sought to use their seats in this Council to seek to shield themselves from scrutiny, and those States [1] who stood with the authorities and perpetrators who continue to commit grave violations with impunity, rather than with the victims.

We welcome the written statement by 22 States on China expressing collective concern over widespread surveillance, restrictions to freedoms of religion and movement, and large-scale arbitrary detention of Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang. We consider it as a first step towards sustained Council attention and in the absence of progress look to those governments that have signed this letter to follow up at the September session with 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.

We welcome the progress made in resolutions on the rights of women and girls: violence against women and girls in the world of work, on discrimination against women and girls and on the consequences of child, early and forced marriage. We particularly welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Working Group on Discrimination Against Women and Girls under its new name and mandate to focus on the intersections of gender and age and their impact on girls. The Council showed that it was willing to stand up to the global backlash against the rights of women and girls by ensuring that these resolutions reflect the current international legal framework and resisted cultural relativism, despite several amendments put forward to try and weaken the strong content of these resolutions.

However, in the text on the contribution of development to the enjoyment of all human rights, long standing consensus language from the Vienna Declaration for Programme of Action (VDPA) recognising that, at the same time, “the lack of development may not be invoked to justify the abridgment of internationally recognized human rights” has again been deliberately excluded, disturbing the careful balance established and maintained for several decades on this issue.

We welcome the continuous engagement of the Council in addressing the threat posed by climate change to human rights, through its annual resolution and the panel discussion on women’s rights and climate change at this session. We call on the Council to continue to strengthen its work on this issue, given its increasing urgency for the protection of all human rights.

The Council has missed an opportunity on Sudan where it could have supported regional efforts and ensured that human rights are not sidelined in the process. We now look to African leadership to ensure that human rights are upheld in the transition. The Council should stand ready to act, including through setting up a full-fledged inquiry into all instances of violence against peaceful protesters and civilians across the country.

During the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial and summary executions, States heard loud and clear that the time to hold Saudi Arabia accountable is now  for the extrajudicial killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. We recall that women human rights defenders continue to be arbitrarily detained despite the calls by 36 States at the March session. We urge States to adopt a resolution at the September session to establish a monitoring mechanism over the human rights situation in the country.

We welcome the landmark report of the High Commissioner on the situation for human rights in Venezuela; in response to the grave findings in the report and the absence of any fundamental improvement of the situation in the meantime, we urge the Council to adopt a Commission of Inquiry or similar mechanism in September, to reinforce the ongoing efforts of the High Commissioner and other actors to address the situation.

We welcome the renewal of the mandate on freedom of peaceful assembly and association. This mandate is at the core of our work as civil society and we trust that the mandate will continue to protect and promote these fundamental freedoms towards a more open civic space.

We welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus. We acknowledge some positive signs of re-engagement in dialogue by Belarus, and an attempted negotiation process with the EU on a potential Item 10 resolution. However, in the absence of systemic human rights reforms in Belarus, the mandate and resolution process remains an essential tool for Belarusian civil society. In addition, there are fears of a spike in violations around upcoming elections and we are pleased that the resolution highlights the need for Belarus to provide safeguards against such an increase.

We welcome the renewal of the quarterly reporting process on the human rights situation in Ukraine. However, we also urge States to think creatively about how best to use this regular mechanism on Ukraine to make better progress on the human rights situation.

The continued delay in the release of the UN database of businesses engaged with Israeli settlements established pursuant to Council resolution 31/36 in March 2016 is of deep concern.  We join others including Tunisia speaking on behalf of 65 states and Peru speaking on behalf of 26 States in calling on the High Commissioner to urgently and fully fulfill this mandate as a matter of urgency and on all States to  cooperate with all Council mandates, including this one, and without political interference.

Numerous States and stakeholders highlighted the importance of the OHCHR report on Kashmir; while its release only a few days ago meant it did not receive substantive consideration at the present session, we look forward to discussing it in depth at the September session.

Finally, we welcome the principled leadership shown by Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, in pursuing accountability for individual victims of acts of intimidation and reprisals under General Debate Item 5, contrasting with other States which tend to make only general statements of concern. We call on States to raise all individual cases at the interactive dialogue on reprisals and intimidation in the September session.

[1]States who voted against the resolution on the Eritrea: Bahrain, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Iraq, India, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, the Philippines and Pakistan.
States who voted against the resolution on the Philippines: Angola, Bahrain, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Hungary, Iraq, India, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and the Philippines.

*Statement delivered by the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) on behalf of: DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project); Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA); International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH); International Commission of Jurists (ICJ); Center for Reproductive Rights; ARTICLE 19; Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies; Human Rights House Foundation; CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation; Franciscans International; Association for Progressive Communications (APC); Amnesty International; Human Rights Watch; International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA).

For the preview of the the 41st session, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/14/guide-to-human-rights-defenders-issues-at-the-41st-human-rights-council-starting-on-24-june/

http://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc41-civil-society-presents-key-takeaways-human-rights-council

Human Rights Defender Ellecer Carlos’ take on Philippines – UN Human Rights Council

July 16, 2019

ABS-CBN News of 16 July 2019 carries an interview with Ellecer Carlos, spokesperson of iDefend or “In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement” under the title: UN rights probe meant to stop ‘would-be tyrants’

Carlos urged the government to exert all means to prevent extrajudicial killings. He said the United Nations Human Rights Council decision to adopt the resolution calling for a report on Manila’s human rights situation, including extrajudicial killings under President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, is “to stop the mini-Dutertes that are here, the mini mayors that are doing the very same thing, and the Duterte likenesses elsewhere in the world–Sri Lanka, Bangladesh–who have praised Duterte, who have praised the war on drugs here in the Philippines and that is put a stop to would be tyrants employing this violent approach for populist means,“. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/11/un-council-agrees-action-on-philippines-in-spite-of-vehement-objection/]

Carlos, meanwhile, welcomed Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jnr’s statement that the Philippines will stay in the United Nations Human Rights Council despite the vote. “This is a good development that they were able to rethink their slip-ups,” Carlos said.

But I find the statement very funny to teach Europeans and other countries manners. After the unbecoming statements, after the derogatory statements, after the behavior of the Philippine delegation led by Undersecretary [Severo] Catura…. Carlos said the Philippine delegation, led by Undersecretary Catura, walked out during the informal session on June 25 to discuss the Iceland resolution on the Philippines at the 41st session of the UNHRC in Geneva, Switzerland. (Duterte hits Iceland after UNHRC Resolution: ‘You have too much ice’). But the Times of Oman reports that President Rodrigo Duterte is “seriously considering” cutting ties with Iceland (https://timesofoman.com/article/1615850)

https://news.abs-cbn.com/news/07/16/19/un-rights-probe-meant-to-stop-would-be-tyrants-rights-group

UN Human Rights Council renews mandate on sexual orientation and gender identity!

July 14, 2019

On 12 July the ISHR reports with gusto the renewal of the crucial mandate for protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

It calls it “another historic victory, not only for communities of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, but for humanity as a whole: In a defining vote, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution to renew the mandate of the Independent Expert focusing on the protection against violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The resolution was adopted by a vote of 27 in favour, with 12 voting against and 7 abstentions.

The campaign calling on the Council to renew the mandate of the UN Independent Expert on SOGI was supported by 1,312 non-governmental organisations from 174 States and territories.

Created in 2016, the UN Independent Expert on SOGI has been supported by an ever-growing number of States from all regions of the world. The resolution to create and renew the mandate was presented by a Core Group of seven Latin American countries – Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Uruguay. “The renewal of this mandate demonstrates how United Nations States’ support for tackling violence and discrimination against people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities has grown tremendously,” said UN Trans Advocacy Week campaigners. “The Independent Expert is crucial in bringing international attention to specific violations and challenges faced by trans and gender-diverse persons in all regions.”

Although the renewal process had to overcome 10 hostile amendments, the core of the resolution in affirming the universal nature of international human rights law stands firm.

”A record number of organisations from every region imaginable has been calling for the renewal of the mandate of the Independent Expert,” said Tess McEvoy, Programme manager at ISHR. “His vital work will now continue and help make our societies more fair, equal and inclusive. We at ISHR are very proud to have been part of this process, along with several of our alumni,” continued Helen Nolan, Programme Manager at ISHR.

For more information, please contact Tess McEvoy at t.mcevoy@ishr.ch or Helen Nolan at h.nolan@ishr.ch

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/14/guide-to-human-rights-defenders-issues-at-the-41st-human-rights-council-starting-on-24-june/

Joint letter by 22 States to Human Rights Council re China’s Uighurs

July 12, 2019

A Chinese flag behind razor wire at a housing compound in Yangisar, south of Kashgar, in China’s western Xinjiang region
China is reportedly holding one million people, mostly ethnic Uighurs, in internment camps in Xinjiang Photograph: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

UN ambassadors  – including Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany and Japan – co-signed the letter released Wednesday and sent to the Human Rights Council president, Coly Seck, and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet.

Rights groups and former inmates describe them as “concentration camps” where mainly Muslim Uighurs and other minorities are being forcefully assimilated into China’s majority ethnic Han society. The letter expresses concern “about credible reports of arbitrary detention… as well as widespread surveillance and restrictions, particularly targeting Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang.” It calls on China to stop arbitrary detention and allow “freedom of movement of Uighurs and other Muslim and minority communities in Xinjiang.” The authors, who include ambassadors from across the EU as well as Switzerland, requested that the letter become an official document of the Human Rights Council, which ends its 41st session in Geneva on Friday. Chinese officials describe the camps as voluntary “vocational education centres” where Turkic-speaking Uighurs receive job training.

The letter may have been the only available option with China having enough support in the UN Council to vote down a formal resolution. See also: ttps://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-xinjiang-rights-idUSKCN1U721X?utm_campaign=trueAnthem:+Trending+Content&utm_content=5d28c3e00ca7240001cb2eef&utm_medium=trueAnthem&utm_source=twitter

On the same day Human Rights Watch commented: Most importantly, the joint letter sends a strong message that we are moving beyond the era of selectivity, and that no country, large or small, is exempt from the scrutiny of this Council. We understand that the joint letter remains open for additional signatures, and we encourage those delegations that have not yet signed to do so. We are particularly disappointed that OIC member states have not yet engaged meaningfully or credibly with the human rights situation affecting Muslims in Xinjiang, while they have spoken out on other situations. This risks fueling perceptions of double standards and politicization; supporting the constructive joint statement would be a useful step towards addressing such perceptions.

We also welcome China’s acceptance of a UPR recommendation to respond positively to a country visit request by the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.

We would suggest that China could benefit from technical assistance by drawing on the expertise of other UN Special Rapporteurs, such as the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of human rights while countering terrorism. Given that China has advanced the need to counter terrorism as its rationale for mass programs directed at Uyghurs and others in Xinjiang, the Special Rapporteur could offer useful guidance on whether there are more rights-respecting ways to counter terrorism than mass surveillance, detaining over a million Muslims, and stripping an entire population of its rights to freedom of religion, privacy, culture and expression.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/11/hot-news-ilham-tohti-chinas-mandela-wins-2016-martin-ennals-awad/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/11/more-than-20-ambassadors-condemn-chinas-treatment-of-uighurs-in-xinjiang

https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/07/11/independent-reporting-xinjiang-abuses-requires-unfettered-access-not-stage-managed

UN Council agrees action on Philippines in spite of vehement objection

July 11, 2019

On 11 July 2019 the United Nations Human Rights Council’s approved the resolution initiated by Iceland by a vote of 18 to 14, that requests the UN human rights office to present a comprehensive report on human rights in the Philippines to the council next June. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/07/philippines-labour-rights-defender-dennis-sequena-shot-dead-while-meeting-with-workers/]. The resolution also expresses concern about the range of rights violations in the country and calls on the government to cooperate with UN human rights mechanisms and experts. The Philippine government earlier denounced the resolution as a “divisive motion” and sought to block it. The Philippines rejected the resolution, with Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. calling it a “travesty” in a statement a representative read on his behalf.

(A total of 14 countries, meanwhile, voted no, including China; fifteen countries abstained, including Japan, Pakistan, and Brazil.

https://news.abs-cbn.com/news/07/11/19/un-rights-body-oks-investigation-on-ph-drug-killings-rights-situation

https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/07/11/philippines-un-takes-critical-step-toward-accountability-0

Lawyers key to the rule of law – even China agrees but only lip service

June 26, 2019

Lawyers have an essential role in upholding the Constitution and realising the rule of law – at the Human Rights Council 41st session this week, even China agreed. So why does the Chinese government continue to harass, intimidate and persecute lawyers who defend human rights ask 4 NGOs on 25 June 2019: Lawyers for Lawyers, International Bar Association, International Service for Human Rights and Lawyer’s Rights Watch Canada. In a joint statement the NGOs call on the UN expert on independence of judges and lawyers, and the Council and its members, to press for accountability.

‘The Chinese delegation recognised the need for balance in regulation between lawyers’ and judges’ rights, on the one hand, and their professional responsibilities, on the other hand’, says Sarah M Brooks, Asia Advocate at ISHR. ‘But it is hard to take this claim seriously, as Chinese authorities continue to adopt  abusive laws and measures, using them as a “sledgehammer” to restrict fundamental freedoms’.

This includes in particular lawyer Jiang Tianyong, who – since his nominal release from prison on 28 February 2019 – has been subject to invasive surveillance, restrictions on his freedom of movement, and refusal of independent medical exams. Worse, he is unnecessarily and inhumanely kept from joining his family in the U.S. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/21/jiang-tianyong-chinese-defender-of-defenders-sentenced-to-2-years-jail/]

The statement draws on research conducted by Chinese Human Rights Defenders and other partners into two ‘administrative measures’ that have had far-reaching consequences for lawyers on the ground.  The Measures on the Administration of Law Firms and Administrative Measures for the Practice of Law by Lawyers of Law Firms call on lawyers, law firms and regional bar associations not only to take measures to ensure that lawyers’ freedom of speech, both online and off, in professional and personal capacities, is not critical of the government. Furthermore, language added to one of the measures in 2018 specifically states that  ‘Law firms shall adhere to guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, adhere to and strengthen the comprehensive leadership of the Party over the work of lawyers, persist in preserving the authority and uniform leadership of the Party with Comrade Xi Jinping as its core, make support for the Party’s leadership and support for socialist rule of law basic requirements for the profession, and increase the conscientiousness and resoluteness with which lawyers as a group walk the path of socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics’.

As a result of making comments that were deemed critical of the Chinese Communist Party, from January 2017 to January 2019, groups have documented cases of at least 26 lawyers and three law firms that have been punished for their opinion or expression, or by association with lawyers. This includes well-known rights lawyers such as Yu Wensheng, Wang Yu, Xie Yanyi and, just last week, Liu Xiaoyuan. 

[for the massive crackdown in 2015, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/07/29/the-remarkable-crackdown-on-lawyers-in-china-in-july-2015/]

 

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Full statement

Joint statement under Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers and the Independent Expert on SOGI

24 June 2019

Mr. Vice President,

We thank the Special Rapporteur for his report. We wish to highlight that many of the trends of restriction he notes also apply to lawyers. For example, across China, repression of human rights lawyers and legal activists continues. They are disappeared, detained, and denied basic rule of law guarantees.

Lawyer Jiang Tianyong is one example. Although he served his sentence for ‘inciting subversion of the State’, he now lives under constant police surveillance and with a serious medical condition.

What was his so-called ‘crime’? Representing fellow lawyers in court, investigating black jails, speaking out for victims of human rights violations and meeting with UN officials.

Mr Special Rapporteur, we are concerned about Chinese government actions to imprison and disbar lawyers who do not adhere to official ideology. The Chinese delegation raised earlier the need to uphold the Constitution – we couldn’t agree more. But problematic regulations passed in 2016 allow authorities to, inter alia, shut down law firms if they refuse to dismiss lawyers who express critical views, or who advocate for clients or causes unpopular with the Communist Party of China.

China’s claims to ‘faithfully uphold the rule of law’ are true only in relation to national laws created to authorize such government action. Chairman Xi has stressed the Communist Party’s control over the legal system, and has used the law to repress and punish those mandated to uphold and protect rights.

Yu Wensheng, Sui Muqing, Zhou Shifeng, Xie Yanyi, Li Heping, Wang Yu, Liu Zhengqing and Liu Xiaoyuan are only 8 out of at least 27 documented cases of human rights lawyers whose licenses have been invalidated or revoked since 2016, simply for fulfilling their professional duties.

In her UPR follow-up letter to the government, the High Commissioner identified key areas for improvement, including ‘guaranteeing an independent judiciary, fair trials, and access to legal counsel, releasing all human rights defenders, including lawyers’.

We call on you, Mr Special Rapporteur, and on this Council, to insist that China immediately stop all forms of harassment and persecution of human rights lawyers, including through administrative means, and unconditionally release those arbitrarily deprived of their liberty.

Thank you.

41st session Human Rights Council: Opening statement by High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet

June 25, 2019

On 24 June, 2019, the 41st session of the Human Rights Council started with an opening statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. I refer to the guide to human rights defenders issues published earlier: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/14/guide-to-human-rights-defenders-issues-at-the-41st-human-rights-council-starting-on-24-june/

The High Commissioner’s speech contained many topics including these:

……
I regret Saudi Arabia‘s dismissal of last week’s report by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. I also reiterate my strong condemnation of the mass execution of 37 men in April. Some were children when the alleged crimes occurred.

Iran continues to sentence children to death. I was appalled that the authorities sentenced and executed two boys under the age of 18 in April. I remain particularly concerned about the high number of child offenders on death row – possibly more than 85 individuals – with some at risk of imminent execution.

I take this opportunity to note and commend global progress with respect to the death penalty in this year, which marks the 30th anniversary of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty. The advances include recent ratifications by Gambia and State of Palestine; removal of the death penalty from the penal codes of Benin and Burkina Faso; and declarations of moratoria in Malaysia and the State of California.

..The inspiring and peaceful popular uprising in Sudan, with its call for democratic governance and justice, has been met with a brutal crackdown by the security forces this month. I regret that the Government has not responded to our request for access to investigate allegations of serious human rights violations by the joint security forces during the crackdown. They include reports that more than 100 protestors were killed, and many more injured, during and following the assault by security forces on a peaceful sit-in on 3 June. In addition, hospitals and clinics were reportedly raided, and medical staff assaulted. We have received allegations of rape and sexual abuse of both women and men during the crackdown, as well as information alleging that hundreds of protestors may be missing. I urge Sudan to grant access to my Office; to put an end to the repression of the people’s human rights; and to immediately end the Internet shutdown. The Sudanese people are entitled to express their opinions, and – like people everywhere – they have a right to live in freedom and at peace, enjoying the rule of law and the conditions necessary to dignity.

In Myanmar, evidence indicates continuing persecution of the remaining Rohingya people in northern Rakhine State, with little or no effort by the authorities to create conditions for the voluntary, safe and sustainable return of refugees. Although restrictions on humanitarian and media access in both Rakhine and in Chin State limit our access to information, the ongoing conflict there has included use of heavy weaponry, airstrikes and helicopter gunships by the military, with significant loss of life on all sides and severe impact on civilians. Based on allegations received, we fear that the conflict is being used as a pretext to carry out attacks against Rohingya civilians, and to cause further displacement. Some 35,000 ethnic Rakhine, Rohingya, Mro, Daignet and Khamee civilians have been internally displaced by fighting. The suspension of humanitarian aid by the government means at least 95,000 people have been cut off from life-saving assistance.

….
My Office is following the situation of human rights in the Philippines very closely. The extraordinarily high number of deaths – and persistent reports of extrajudicial killings – in the context of campaigns against drug use continue. Even the officially confirmed number of 5425 deaths would be a matter of most serious concern for any country. I welcome the recent statement by Special Rapporteurs calling for action by the Council. There should also be comprehensive and transparent information from the authorities on the circumstances around the deaths, and investigations related to allegations of violations. These could dispel any false allegations and help regain trust for the authorities.Human rights defenders, including activists for land rights and the rights of indigenous peoples; journalists; lawyers; members of the Catholic clergy; and others who have spoken out – notably the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples – have received threats, sometimes publicly, from senior Government officials. This creates a very real risk of violence against them, and undermines rule of law, as well as the right to freedom of expression.

In Portugal, where I attended an encouraging conference on drug policies and harm reduction, I also benefited from informative discussions on migration. Portugal’s open and forward-looking migrant policy aims to offer migrants easy access to social and legal assistance and encourages migrants to access the labour market. I visited a centre in Lisbon which offered free pre-school classes, alongside training courses and other support to migrant women aiming to set up their own companies. Ensuring that migrants are included and integrated brings many benefits for host communities, including net financial contributions: Portugal’s High Commissioner for Migration informed me that in 2017, migrants contributed 510 million euros more to the social security system than they took out. I invite all countries to consider learning from this example. Despite extensive disinformation campaigns regarding the supposedly damaging impact of migration on destination countries, close attention to the facts indicates that when their dignity and rights are respected, migrants can be strong drivers of successful economies and societies. We should recognize and cherish these contributions.

Instead, I observe a deeply unfortunate trend towards the criminalisation of basic human compassion for migrants, including those in situations of great vulnerability. The NGO Open Democracy reported last month that over 100 ordinary people in Europe have been arrested or prosecuted this year for acts such as feeding hungry migrants; helping them find shelter; or even assisting a pregnant woman to get to hospital to give birth. Similar prosecutions of ordinary people seeking to help individuals in distress have also taken place in the United States and elsewhere. Moreover, in several countries, new legal measures aim to penalise NGOs which rescue people drowning at sea.

Measures such as these clearly put the lives of children, women and men at risk. But they also put our societies at risk. They violate ancient and precious values that are common to us all, by penalizing compassion. Those who seek to help people in need should be honoured, not prosecuted. Caring should not be considered a crime, and this criminalisation of acts of basic human decency must be resisted. We have, all of us, a right – and even a duty – to help each other.

https://ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?LangID=E&NewsID=24724

Rich palette of side events at 41st Session of the UN Human Rights Council

June 21, 2019

The 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council is to start soon. In addition to items of the agenda [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/14/guide-to-human-rights-defenders-issues-at-the-41st-human-rights-council-starting-on-24-june/] there are – as usual – many side events in Geneva, both by States and NGOs, that relate to human rights defenders. You can download the list of NGO events here.

Here a selection:

  • Launch of ISHR joint report on strengthening HRC membership on 1 July at 13:00 at the UN Delegates restaurant. Speakers will introduce the report and highlight some of the key challenges, opportunities and practical recommendations, including with regard to good practice relating to candidacy and membership of the HRC.
  • Promoting and Protecting Civic Space for Migrants and Refugees is organised by CIVICUS and Solidarity Center and will take place on 24 June at 12:00. This event will examine findings on civic space barriers for migrant/refugees in Germany, Jordan, Kenya, Malaysia and Mexico from a new report by Solidarity Center and CIVICUS; provide an analysis of some of the civic space trends for migrants/refugees across the five countries; and hear from civil society activists on the ground.
  • Health impacts for US Asylum is organised by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and will be held on 26 June at 10:00 in Room VIII. PHR will present findings from two reports about the asylum crisis in the United States with research based on forensic evaluations of more than 180 child asylum seekers regarding their trauma exposure in country of origin and reasons for fleeing, and documentation of cases where US immigration enforcement has impeded migrants access to emergency health care.
  • Defending rights online: Challenges facing human rights defenders and a free and open Internet is organised by Article 19 and will be held on 26 June at 15:30 in Room VIII. It will discuss what more States at the Human Rights Council can do to bolster safeguards for the protection of human rights online, while also holding States accountable for violations of those rights. The panelists include the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression and human rights defenders from Russia, Mexico, Tanzania and Tajikistan. https://www.article19.org/resources/event-defending-online-civic-space-challenges-facing-human-rights-defenders/
  • Freedoms of expression, assembly, and association in Asia organised by Forum-Asia and will be held on 26 June 2019 at 15:00. This side event aims to discuss issues related to freedoms of expression, assembly, and association in Asian states.
  • Ending Impunity for Murdered Journalists: Enhancing the role and impact of the UN is organised by Article 19 and will be held on 27 June at 11:30 in Room VIII. The panelists include the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, and Hatice Cengiz, Fiancée of Jamal Khashoggi. It will examine how the UN’s response to cases of murdered journalists might be enhanced.
  • Criminalisation of solidarity in migration organised by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and OHCHR, and will be held on 27 June in  Kazakh Room – Cinema XIV. The event will feature the screening of the movie “The Valley” by Nuno Escudeiro, documenting the situation of human rights defenders and migrants in South of France, with an introductory panel and a discussion session after the movie (THE VALLEY is a coproduction Point du Jour (France), Miramonte Film (Italy) and was awarded the Emerging international filmmaker at the HOT DOCS film festival, Toronto).
  • Women’s rights under attack: the case of Poland, organised by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Human Rights Watch, will take place on 27 June, at 13:00 in Room XV. This side event will expose attempts to erode sexual and reproductive health and rights, campaigns against women’s rights organisations, and targeting of women’s rights activists – against the backdrop of a decline in the rule of law in the country. It will explore how international and regional organisations should address this concern in Poland and in the rest of the continent.
  • Needs, best practices and risks of research and data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity, organised by COC Nederland and sponsored by ISHR will be held on June 27 at 15:30 in Room V.
  • Human Rights in Kashmir is organised by the International Commission of Jurists and will be held on 28 June at 13:00 in Room XXI.
  • The human rights problem of political marginalisation is organised by Salam for Democracy and Human Rights (Bahrain) and CIVICUS, and will take place on 2 July at 12:00. Despite steadily rising levels of social and political marginalization in Bahrain, the government has sought to convey the appearance of political stability. In a context where freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association are severely restricted, what strategies can civil society – in Bahrain and in other countries around the world – bring into play to reduce political marginalisation?
  • The situation of migrants and refugees rights in Brazil is organised by Conectas and will be held on 2 July at 14h in Room VIII. The event will discuss the rights of migrants and refugees in Brazil focusing on the situation of Venezuelans refugees coming to the country, the reasons why they are leaving Venezuela and how Brazil is responding to this situation.
  • Human rights in Myanmar is organised by Physicians for Human Rights, and will be held on 1 July at 12:00 in Room VIII. PHR will provide an in-depth briefing on new research findings that reveal a painful, long-term legacy of the Rohingya Crisis and underscore the urgent need for accountability.
  • Human rights in Myanmar is organised by Forum Asia and will be held on 1 July 2019 at 14:30 in Room VIII. Human rights defenders and the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar will provide updates on the situation in the country since the last Council session.
  • Upholding the rule of law: The UN database on businesses operating in the OPT is organised by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and will be held on 5 July at 14:00 in Room VIII. More than three years following the establishment of the Database mandate pursuant to Human Rights Council Resolution 31/36– the results of this process are not being transmitted with the necessary transparency. The side event will focus on the importance of releasing the database as a public online platform of business enterprises engaged in business activities related to Israeli settlements.
  • Human rights in Sudan is organised by DefendDefenders and Physicians for Human Rights. It will be held on 8 July at 13:00 in Room XXIV. This event will bring Sudanese voices to the Council to speak about the situation in Sudan and the ongoing crackdown.
  • Human Rights in Venezuela is organised by the International Commission of Jurists and will be held on 8 July at 14:30 in Room IX.

Any others that come to my attebtion will be reported later.

 

NGO joint letter to UN Human Rights Council about Belarus

June 16, 2019

Five international human rights organisations (see below), urge the UN Human Rights Council to maintain scrutiny on the human rights situation in Belarus, including by ensuring the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and seeking preventive measures to ensure against an increase in human rights violations ahead of upcoming Parliamentary and Presidential elections in Belarus.