Posts Tagged ‘Ban Ki-moon’

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

NGO Committee of the UN shows its bizarre bias against (human rights) NGOs

June 1, 2016

I have written several times about the worrying trends in the ‘obscure’ “ECOSOC Committee on NGOs”  (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/ecosoc/) which is supposed to consider applications by NGOs for ECOSOC accreditation and, as such, is a key gateway for NGOs to gain access to the UN. The International Service of Human Rights (ISHR) recently came out with a statement that the “practice of the Committee is wholly unacceptable and must change” (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/05/04/ishr-starts-campaign-to-monitor-committee-that-throttles-ngo-access-to-the-un/). As if it was necessary to illustrate the bias of this UN NGO Committee against NGOs here are two recent cases decided on 26 May 2016: Read the rest of this entry »

Monday 25 April: what will happen in Egypt?

April 25, 2016

Brian Dooley, Director of Human Rights First’s Human Rights Defenders Program, wrote in the Huffington Post that today, Monday 25 April 2016, could be a watershed day for Egypt‘s military leader. This day is a national holiday Egypt which marks the 1982 withdrawal of Israeli troops from Sinai. President Sisi‘s agreement to hand over the two uninhabited islands of Tiran and Sanafir in the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia may put a spark into the constantly simmering discontent in the human rights movement.

Read the rest of this entry »

Human rights defender Farmonov’s jail sentence extended; time for Rapporteur on Uzbekistan

May 29, 2015

Human Rights Defender Azam Farmonov, imprisoned since 2006. © Tolib Yakubov
Uzbek authorities should immediately and unconditionally release the imprisoned human rights defender Azam Farmonov, whose sentence has been arbitrarily extended for five years by an Uzbek court, Human Rights Watch said on 28 May. In a related press statement NGOs call on the UN Human Rights Council to mark the 10th anniversary of the Andijan massacre to establish a special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Uzbekistan to hold the government accountable for ongoing, egregious abuses and the ensure sustained scrutiny and public reporting on human rights developments in the country. The Uzbek government’s serious, systematic violations and persistent refusal to cooperate with the UN’s human rights mechanisms-including by denying access to special procedures, and failing to implement key recommendations made by treaty bodies and UN member states under the Universal Periodic Review-warrant resolute Human Rights Council action.

[The arbitrary extension of Farmonov’s prison term shortly before his scheduled release date for allegedly “violating prison rules,” came to light on May 21, 2015. The EU and the UN Committee against Torture have previously called for Farmonov’s release. “Azam Farmonov has already lost nine years simply for being a human rights activist in Uzbekistan,” said Steve Swerdlow, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The cruel addition of five more years to his sentence is yet another sign that the Uzbek government should be made to pay a price for its abysmal human rights record.”]

Human Rights Watch has documented the practice of arbitrarily extending the sentences of people imprisoned on political charges. The action is often taken just days before the person is to be released, on bogus grounds such as possessing “unauthorized” nail clippers, saying prayers, or wearing a white shirt and may result in years of additional imprisonment.

Farmonov’s family also revealed that they had received a note Farmonov had written on toilet paper in which he appeals to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to raise the issue of his unjust treatment directly with President Islam Karimov and senior officials in the Uzbek government.  Ban is scheduled to visit Uzbekistan from June 9 to 11 and should urge President Karimov to uphold Uzbekistan’s international human rights commitments and release all those held on politically motivated charges.

The EU, the UN Committee against Torture, and other bodies have earlier called for Farmonov’s release. In an official statement by then-European Commission president José Manuel Barroso, at a January 2011 meeting in Brussels with Karimov, Barroso raised specific human rights concerns, including Farmonov’s unjust imprisonment and ill-treatment. In its 2014 human rights dialogue with Uzbekistan, the EU noted its concern with the authorities’ practice arbitrarily extending sentences. But an EU statement on May 18 following a meeting of the EU-Uzbekistan Cooperation Council reads: “the EU welcomed Uzbekistan’s readiness to discuss about human rights with the EU in an increasingly open fashion within the Human Rights Dialogue.” “The extension of an unjust sentence for a human rights defender, not Uzbek officials’ hollow rhetoric, is the real test of whether the government is ‘ready’ to improve human rights,” Swerdlow reacted

Uzbekistan: 5 More Years for Jailed Activist | Human Rights Watch.

Prince Zeid Raad Zeid al-Hussein of Jordan the new U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights

June 7, 2014

Yesterday, 6 June 2014, the UN and media reported that the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has proposed that Jordans U.N. ambassador, Prince Zeid Raad Zeid al-Hussein, as the new United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (to replace Navi Pillay who leaves in August after serving a second term). The General Assembly still has to approve, but usually no announcement is made unless there is already agreement.

Prince Zeid is generally well-liked as a diplomat and has established a solid reputation. He is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and Cambridge University, has previously served as Jordans ambassador to the United States and Mexico. He was also a political affairs officer in UNPROFOR, the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the former Yugoslavia during the Balkan conflict.

Still, after a two women High Commissioners with broad experience in human rights and proven independence as judges before their appointments, it is fair to ask what human rights defenders can expect from this shift back towards a High Commissioner chosen for more diplomatic skills (as was the first one José Ayala-Lasso in 1994). Anyway, the only thing is to wait and see how he works out in practice. After all, another Prince, Sadruddin Aga Khan served as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from 1966 to 1978, and was excellent.

Ban Ki-Moon calls civil society “an indispensable part of the United Nations”

March 27, 2014

Civil society actors must be able to do their work freely, independently, safe from fear, retaliation or intimidation. This requires collective action to denounce reprisals and defend free voices and protect those targeted,” said the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, referring to civil society as “an indispensable part of the United Nations”. “We must expand the space for civil society to meaningfully participate and contribute,” he added in a video statement screened at a discussion on the promotion and protection of civil society space, in the context of the Human Rights Council’s 25th session.humanrightslogo_Goodies_14_LogoVorlagen

Civil society actors around the world face risks ranging from threats and intimidation to horrible reprisals, even killings”, said UN Human Rights Deputy, Flavia Pansieri at a discussion on the promotion and protection of civil society space. “From the NGO who is prohibited from receiving funding to the whistle-blower who is imprisoned for revealing corruption… we must work to protect civil society from such practices,” she said.

Hina Jilani, Read the rest of this entry »

25th UN Human Rights Council opens with calls to protect Human Rights Defenders

March 4, 2014


(High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay at the 25th session of the Human Rights Council. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré)

 

 

Yesterday, 3 March 2014, the top UN functionaries opened the 25th session of the UN Human Rights Council with calls for the protection of members of civil society who pursue justice in their countries (a long euphemism for Human Rights Defenders).

 

Streets, airwaves, entire countries are buzzing with demands for economic, social and political justice,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said. Setting out this agenda and acknowledging the hard work that lay ahead in ensuring that all people enjoyed equal rights, Ms. Pillay emphasized the important role of civil society in those efforts. “We need to work together to ensure that the space, voice and knowledge of civil society is nurtured in all our countries,” she stressed. Recalling reports of what she labelled “intolerable” reprisals against people who coöperate with the UN’s human rights activities, she called for more action to protect them. “The UN itself is required to protect and support those who contribute to its work, often at great personal risk,” she said.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon added on this point that, “No one should have to risk their life for standing up and speaking out on violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.” Civil society was the representative of “We the Peoples,” as cited in the opening of the UN Charter, and that it must be able to carry out its vital work, “free of reprisals and intimidation.” In that context, the Secretary-General highlighted the “Rights Up Front” action plan that he launched last year to ensure that human rights considerations were the top priority in all UN activities. “This initiative seeks to ensure that the United Nations system leverages the full breadth of its mandates to protect people at risk,” he said. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/12/26/rights-up-front-presented-by-jan-eliason-it-is-irrefutable-that-serious-human-rights-violations-are-the-best-early-warning-of-atrocities/]

Interesting to note that while in Geneva, the Secretary-General met 4 NGOs: the International Service for Human Rights, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists. Their discussion certainly stressed human rights defenders and the importance of protecting them from attacks.

via United Nations News Centre – UN Human Rights Council opens with calls to protect, support civil society activism.

‘Rights up Front’ presented by Jan Eliason: “It is irrefutable that serious human rights violations are the best early warning of atrocities”

December 26, 2013

(Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson. UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras)

Still haunted by its failure to forestall genocide in Rwanda and Srebrenica nearly 20 years ago and confronted by ongoing bloodshed in Syria and the Central African Republic (CAR), the United Nations is revamping its preventive strategies under a new initiative called ‘Rights up Front.’ “The need for early action, and the crucial role of responding early to human rights violations, is at the heart of theRights up Front’ initiative,” Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told an informal session of the General Assembly on 17 December 2013 – as he presented a six-point action plan.

It includes training UN staff on the world body’s core purpose of promoting respect for human rights; providing Member States with the information needed to respond to human rights violations; and ensuring that UN personnel around the world are more attuned to situations where there is a risk of serious human rights abuses and are equipped for the responsibilities that such potential crises entail.

The strategy, initiated by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, also includes achieving a more coherence by strengthening engagement with the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council and providing earlier and more coherent support to teams on the ground before a crisis emerges; and better organization of human rights staff so that they can identify risks of serious violations of human rights that could lead to atrocities.

Finally, underpinning all these activities will be better information management on threats and risks to populations for planning operational activities and for sharing with Member States.

“. ..It is irrefutable, and needs repeating, that serious human rights violations are the best early warning of impending atrocities.” Eliasson said. “If we fail to act early, the human, political and economic costs can be devastating as we know far too well. This calls for a more alert, flexible and coordinated UN System, both on the ground and at headquarters.”

Horrendous events led us all to say ‘never again’, Mr. Eliasson said. “We said we would have to do more to prevent serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Despite much effort, since 1995 hundreds of thousands of people have died as a result of mass atrocities and tens of millions have been displaced.” But steps forward have been taken. “World leaders endorsed the ‘responsibility to protect in 2005. And Member States have over the years articulated an increasingly detailed agenda for the protection of civilians,” he said. Yet, the crises in Syria, where over 100,000 people have now been killed and 8 million driven from their homes in the nearly three-year civil war, and in CAR, where thousands have been killed and over 600,000 displaced in a conflict increasingly marked by inter-communal clashes between Christians and Muslims, are reminders that serious human rights abuses are often the clearest early warning of emerging conflict, he added.

“When people in today’s world are at risk or subject to serious violations, they expect and request the United Nations to act – and we do,” Mr. Eliasson declared. “However, in practice, our response to crisis often comes when a situation has deteriorated to the point where only a substantial political or peacekeeping mission can deal with the problems.”

via United Nations News Centre – New UN ‘Rights up Front’ strategy seeks to prevent genocide, human rights abuses.

 

UN Human Rights Council 2013 condemns crackdown on Human Rights Defenders

September 28, 2013

Michael Ineichen of the International  Service for Human Rights [ISHR] in its Monitor of 27 September 2013 welcomes the adoption of a Resolution by the UN Human Rights Council which condemns the global crackdown on civil society and calls on all ISHR-logo-colour-highgovernments to protect and support the work of non-governmental organisations and human rights defenders. In a resolution adopted that day, entitled ‘Civil society space’, Read the rest of this entry »

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moons Statements

August 29, 2013

English: Ban Ki-moon 日本語: 潘基文

The UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon gave the Annual Leiden Freedom Lecture, in the Netherlands, on 28 August 2013 and made a number of strong points relevant to human rights defenders: Read the rest of this entry »