Posts Tagged ‘CIVICUS’

In spite of or because of the US’ absence, the 39th Human Rights Council considered a relative success

September 29, 2018

Civil society organisations welcomed significant outcomes of the Human Rights Council’s 39th session, including the creation of independent investigative mechanism on Myanmar, the renewal of the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen and the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, and a dedicated space on the Council’s agenda in 2019 to discuss the human rights situation in Venezuela. [see alsohttps://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/09/08/many-hrd-issues-at-the-39th-session-of-the-un-human-rights-council/]

In a joint statement, several NGOs (ISHR The African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS), Amnesty International, Article 19, Center for Reproductive Rights. CIVICUS, DefendDefenders, FIDH, Forum Asia, Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF), Human Rights Watch, International Commission of Jurists) welcomed the Council’s adoption of landmark resolutions on several country situations:

On Myanmar, the creation of the independent investigative mechanism is an important step towards accountability for the horrific crimes committed in Myanmar, as elaborated in the Fact Finding Mission’s report to this session. The overwhelming support for the resolution, notwithstanding China’s shameful blocking of consensus, was a clear message to victims and survivors that the international community stands with them in their fight for justice. 

On Yemen, the Council demonstrated that principled action is possible, and has sent a strong message to victims of human rights violations in Yemen that accountability is a priority for the international community, by voting in favor of renewing the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts to continue international investigations into violations committed by all parties to the conflict. 

Furthermore, the leadership by a group of States, including Latin American countries, on the landmark resolution on Venezuela, was as an important step for the Council applying objective criteria to address country situations that warrant its attention. The resolution, adopted with support from all regions, sends a strong message of support to the Venezuelan people. By opening up a space for dialogue at the Council, the resolution brings scrutiny to the tragic human rights and humanitarian crisis unfolding in the country.  

The renewal of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on Burundi will enable it to continue its critical investigation and work towards accountability. However, the Council failed to respond more strongly to Burundi’s record of non-cooperation and attacks against the UN human rights system. [see alsohttps://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/26/enough-is-enough-ngos-call-for-burundi-suspension-from-un-human-rights-council/]

The Council also adopted a resolution on Syria, which among other things condemns all violations and abuses of international human rights law and all violations of international humanitarian law committed by all parties to the conflict.

However, on other country situations including China, Sudan, Cambodia and the Philippines, the Council failed to take appropriate action. 

On Sudan, the Council adopted a weak resolution that envisions an end to the Independent Expert’s mandate once an OHCHR office is set up; a “deal” Sudan has already indicated it does not feel bound by, and which is an abdication of the Council’s responsibility to human rights victims in Sudan while grave violations are ongoing. At a minimum, States should ensure the planned country office monitors and publicly reports on the human rights situation across Sudan, and that the High Commissioner is mandated to report to the Council on the Office’s findings.  

The Council failed to take action on the Philippines, in spite of the need to establish independent international and national investigations into extrajudicial killings in the government’s ‘war on drugs’, and to monitor and respond to the government’s moves toward authoritarianism. 

In addition, the Council continued with its weak response to the deepening human rights and the rule of law crisis in Cambodia, failing to change its approach even when faced with clear findings by the Special Rapporteur demonstrating that the exclusive focus on technical assistance and capacity building in the country, is failing.

Many States, NGOs and the High Commissioner, raised concerns about China’s human rights record, specifically noting serious violations of the rights of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang province. It is regrettable that States did not make a concrete and collective call for action by China to cease the internment of estimates ranging up to 1 million individuals from these communities. 

On thematic resolutions, the Council adopted by consensus a resolution on equal participation in political and public affairs, as well as a resolution on the safety of journalists. The latter sets out a clear roadmap of practical actions to end impunity for attacks.  

The Council also adopted by consensus a resolution on preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and human rights in humanitarian settings. Women and girls affected by conflict have been denied accountability for too long. The implementation of this resolution will ensure that their rights, including their sexual and reproductive health and rights, are respected, protected and fulfilled. 

Finally, the Council’s first interactive dialogue on acts of reprisals and intimidation was an important step to ensure accountability for this shameful practice. More States need to have the courage and conviction to stand up for human rights defenders and call out countries that attack and intimidate them. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/]

Read the full statement here.

Bikes and digital power for human rights defenders in Africa

April 27, 2018

Africa remains a continent of contrasts, also with regard to human rights defenders. Just to illustrate:
(1) Bikes for human rights defenders: Girls Empowerment Network (GENET) in Malawi has donated 30 bicycles to child protection groups in Dowa district to assist in its ongoing girl child protection programs. Speaking in an interview with the Malawi News Agency Mana after giving out the support at Kayembe Primary school, GENET Programs Officer, Twambilile Kayuni said their organization thought of providing the support as one way of easing transportation challenges among girl child protection groups in the area. “As GENET, we thought it critical to ease the challenge of transport among our village child protection groups so that when any violence has happened to a child they should be able to rush to the scene and take action“. She added that the bicycles have been given to all schools in the area, human rights defenders, mother groups, Area Development Committees (ADCs) and chiefs in order to assist in their child protection duties in a more coordinated manner…Group Village Headwoman Siwinda said:”In my area many girls were being forced to marry but now with the coming of GENET through COMIC relief and OXFAM Malawi things have changed and as of now many girls have gone back to school,” said GVH Siwinda.

The ‘new normal’: rising attacks on human rights defenders

December 4, 2017

Mandeep Tiwana, Chief Programmes Officer for the global civil society alliance, CIVICUS published the following piece in the context of International Civil Society Week (4-5 December 2017 in Suva, Fiji): Are Rising Attacks On Human Rights Defenders The ‘New Normal’? In the piece the author makes some excellent points on how to try and counter this development, in short:

  1. civil society leaders and their supporters need to proactively challenge the misinformation.
  2. collecting comparable and accumulated data on violations of civil society rights is critical. 
  3. dedicated focus on demonstrable and impeccable internal accountability to counter unwarranted criticism of civil society 
  4. there is a pressing need to have more civil society champions in academia, the media and among business leaders
  5. standing together helps.

Read the rest of this entry »

United Nations’ Andrew Gilmour: HRDs are like “the canary in the coalmine, bravely singing until they are silenced..”

September 22, 2017

Andrew Gilmour, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights (file). UN Photo/Manuel Elias

On 20 September 2017 the UN reported that a  growing number of human rights defenders around the world are facing reprisals and intimidation for cooperating with the United Nations, ranging from travel bans and the freezing of assets to detention and torture, says a new report issued by the world body.

“It is frankly nothing short of abhorrent that, year after year, we are compelled to present cases of intimidation and reprisals carried out against people whose crime – in the eyes of their governments – was to cooperate with UN institutions and mechanisms,” said Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour“We should see these individuals as the canary in the coalmine, bravely singing until they are silenced by this toxic backlash against people, rights and dignity – as a dark warning to us all,” Mr. Gilmour told the Human Rights Council in Geneva, as he presented the Secretary-General’s report.

The report, the eighth of its kind, names 29 countries where cases of reprisal and intimidation have been documented; this is higher than the previous highest number of 20. Eleven of the States are current members of the Human Rights Council, a news release pointed out. Some have featured in the annual report on reprisals nearly every year since it was instituted in 2010. [see my earlier: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/23/reprisals-at-the-un-more-calls-for-action-no-action/]

Mr. Gilmour told the Council that the problem was much more widespread than presented in the report. “Since this report is limited to reprisals against people cooperating with the UN, the cases covered in it represent only a small portion of a far more generalized backlash against civil society and others challenging State authorities, especially human rights defenders”. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/21/assistant-secretary-general-for-human-rights-andrew-gilmour-speaks-very-freely-at-the-united-nations-association-of-the-usa/]

———

Amnesty International has launched a campaign to publicize what it says is a worsening situation for human rights activists throughout the world. The group hopes its “Brave” campaign will persuade governments to keep the promises they made in United Nations treaties to protect defenders of human rights. The organization Front Line Defenders says 281 people were killed in 2016 for defending human rights. In 2015, the number was 156.

Guadalupe Marengo, head of Amnesty’s Human Rights Defenders Program, told the VOA that “In the current context of us-versus-them, of demonization, of full frontal attack actually I would say on human rights, it is crucial that we take stock and that we call on the authorities to stop these attacks immediately.” …….Amnesty says human rights defenders are arrested, kidnapped and killed around the world. It says they are also attacked using online technology. Surveillance tools are used to study their activity. Marengo says campaigns launched on social media tell lies about the activists in an attempt to cause others to oppose them. “They are accused of being terrorists; they are accused of being criminals, they are accused of defending ‘immorality.’” Amnesty International hopes the “Brave” program will show the worsening situation for human rights activists worldwide.

——–

To underscore the point the NGO CIVICUS made a statement to the same (36th) UN Human Rights Council based on a panel discussion on the rights of indigenous people. 

“I read this statement on behalf of 39 human rights defenders and civil society organisations working on indigenous, land and environmental rights from 29 countries who met in Johannesburg, South Africa from 7-9 August 2017 to discuss strategies to advance the protection of indigenous, land and environmental rights activists. Mr. President, 2016 surpassed 2015 as the deadliest year on record for those stood up against land grabbing, natural resource exploitation and environmental destruction. Worryingly, the number of killed has risen to 200 from 185 in 2016 and spread to several countries across the world.

In the current global climate, where repression of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly is becoming the norm rather than the exception, environmental and land defenders are particularly vulnerable. When we express concerns over the collusion between States and corporate actors, we face opposition – dissent is stifled and criminalised, and our lives are threatened. Often our work is discredited and we are labelled ‘anti-national’ and ‘anti-development’.

When we protest peacefully against this attack on our resources and livelihoods, we face violence from state authorities, private security groups and state-sponsored vigilante groups. When we stand up to defend the rights of our communities, we face unfounded criminal charges, unlawful arrests, custodial torture, threats to life and liberty, surveillance, judicial harassment and administrative hurdles, among other actions.

Mr. President, our families are threatened into silence and many of us have had to make the difficult decision to flee our homes and go into exile, retreating from a fight that has become too dangerous. We need global action to counter the threats we face.

We ask the panellists to urge the Council to emphasise the need for all states to ensure that affected communities are adequately consulted, including securing their full consent prior to the development of infrastructure and extractive industries projects. “

Sources:

United Nations News Centre – Growing number of rights defenders facing reprisals for cooperating with UN

http://www.civicus.org/index.php/media-resources/news/united-nations/geneva/2953-joint-statement-on-the-rights-of-indigenous-peoples

https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/amnesty-human-rights-campaign/3861696.html

Europe also sees shrinking space for human rights defenders

April 4, 2017

On 4 April 2017 Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner, wrote about “The Shrinking Space for Human Rights Organisations“. The new EU ‘alert site I referred to yesterday [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/03/protectdefenders-eu-launches-new-alert-website-but-no-single-stop-yet/] showed in 2016 some 86 reported violations in the European (and Central Asian) region, mostly detention and judicial harassment. Also the recent CIVICUS findings of the narrowing space for civil society points in this direction. An example could be Hungary as illustrated by reports of Human Rights Watch (2016), Human Rights First (2017) and Amnesty International (2016/17); the issue of academic freedom is not directly related but part of the restrictive trend [see links below].

Read the rest of this entry »

Backsliding on civic space in democracies – important side event on 3 March in Geneva

March 2, 2017

One of the side events in Geneva during the UN Human Rights Council that is of special importance for human rights defenders is held tomorrow, 3 March 2017, from 13:00 – 14:00, in Room XXI, Palais Des Nations, Geneva.

Across the world, well-established principles and standards fundamental to maintaining a safe and enabling environment for civil society are being questioned and threatened in mature and consolidated democracies. In both the global North and global South, governments with vibrant civil societies and constitutional and historical commitments based on their struggles for democracy and freedom are adopting increasingly hostile and corrosive policies and practices to suppress independent civil society voices. The event will provide an opportunity for the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and civil society leaders to reflect on the global climate for civil society operating in mature democracies and articulate key measures these states must take to ensure an enabling environment for civil society and human rights defenders both at home and at the UN Human Rights Council. In advance of their examination under the Universal Periodic Review in May 2017, the event will also bring together civil society leaders from India, Brazil, Poland, and South Africa to examine state backsliding on civic space norms.[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/24/2017-10-need-to-reset-for-h…]

Panelists:

  • Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
  • Camila Asano, Conectas – Brazil
  • Henri Tiphagne, Human Rights Defenders Association – India
  • Maciej Kozłowski, Committee for the Defence of Democracy (KOD) – Poland
  • Corlett Letlojane, HURISA- South Africa

Moderator: Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Policy and Research, CIVICUS

The event is co-sponsored by key international NGOs: –Amnesty InternationalCIVICUS, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), International Society for Human Rights (ISHR), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Human Rights Defenders Alert India (HRDA), The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OBS)

https://www.forum-asia.org/?p=23168

Today CIVICUS launches its worldwide Monitor to track civil space

October 24, 2016

Today, 24 October 2016, the NGO CIVICS has launched its Monitor. The CIVICS Monitor, in cooperation with 20 global research partners, rates countries based on how well they uphold the three fundamental rights that enable people to act collectively and make change: freedom of association, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of expression. The CIVICUS Monitor is not the first to try and provide an overview of the human rights situation the world (see links below) but to my knowledge the first to do so online, in real-time on a global scale, making use of new digital possibilities. Read the rest of this entry »

Panel discussion on empowering environmental defenders 24 October in New York

October 12, 2016

The Permanent Mission of Norway to the UN, Amnesty International, the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Global Witness, the International Platform against Impunity, and the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) cordially invite you to a panel discussion. “Empower environmental defenders, safeguard our future”

Monday 24 October 2016  1:00-2:30 in Conference Room 7 at the United Nations HQ in New York

In his latest report to the General Assembly, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders warns of “a truly global crisis” of killings of environmental human rights defenders and that the vision espoused in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is “doomed to fail” if more is not done to protect those on the frontlines. The Special Rapporteur calls for urgent action and outlines a range of recommendations to empower and protect environmental defenders.

see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/09/01/violence-against-environmental-human-rights-defenders-one-of-the-worst-trends-in-recent-years/

This side event will foster a discussion of these recommendations: why they are important, what is required to implement them effectively, and what the main challenges are to their effective implementation.

Speakers will include the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Michel Forst, as well as State, NGO, and business representatives.

For more information, please contact: e.openshaw@ishr.ch

 

Laurent Munyandilikirwa paints a bleak picture of Rwanda’s human rights situation

March 18, 2016

During the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) report of Rwanda at the UN Human Eights Council, Laurent Munyandilikirwa, former President of the Ligue Rwandaise pour la Promotion et la Défense des Droits de l’homme, delivered on 16 March 2016 a statement (on behalf of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project):.
Mr President, for the vast majority of my professional and personal life, I have proudly dedicated myself to protecting and promoting fundamental human rights in Rwanda.  As the former President of LIPRODHOR, one of Rwanda’s only independent human rights monitoring organisations, I had the great privilege of supporting my fellow citizens to secure and claim their rights.  However, despite the severe human rights deficits which continue to undermine Rwanda’s democratic consolidation, the important work LIPRODHOR and other human rights groups undertook in Rwanda is now largely untenable and fraught with danger.
Since Rwanda’s last UPR examination in 2011, the government has strengthened its long-term and systematic campaign to completely stifle freedom of association, by replacing the leadership of human rights organisations with those sympathetic to the government. As a result, there are now very few freely functioning and entirely independent human rights organisations left that can meaningfully challenge government policies and advocate for reforms, without well-founded fear of reprisals. In addition, since Rwanda’s last examination, independent civil society organisations, NGOs, and individual human rights defenders have continued to face escalating intimidation and reprisals in the course of their work. A number of defenders, including myself, have either been imprisoned or forced into exile. Increasingly, human rights defenders and the NGOs for which they work have been subjected to administrative harassment smear campaigns and public denouncement in pro-government media.
We therefore strongly urge the Government of Rwanda to take effective and meaningful steps to operationalize the important recommendations put forward during this examination in support of the creation of a safe and enabling environment for civil society and human rights defenders.

This is line with e.g. Front Line Defenders’ report of 10 September 2015 about the Rwandan police disrupting the general assembly organised by LIPRODHOR  . [On 5 September 2015, Rwandan police officers disrupted a general assembly that had gathered several dozen members of the League for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights in Rwanda. The purpose of the general assembly was to elect a new independent board of directors.[LIPRODHOR is one of the few human rights organisations in Rwanda, which has continuously endeavoured to hold the government accountable for a wide range of human rights abuses. After numerous human rights groups based in Rwanda were either co-opted or forced into silence, LIPRODHOR stood out as the sole Rwandan organisation committed to being independent. In 2004, the government targeted its leaders and accused them on fabricated charges of “propagating genocide ideology.” The outgoing members of the board of directors of LIPRODHOR have allegedly been acting on behalf of the government.  The general assembly which took place on 5 September 2015 had been convened by the outgoing board, whose term ended in July 2015, in order for a new board to be elected. During the assembly, participants elected three board members, namely the chair, the vice-chair and the secretary general. Following this, a number of participants, led by the chair of the outgoing board, reportedly stood up and caused a commotion as they claimed that the vote had been rigged. Soon after the incident, these participants reportedly called the police, who intervened and disrupted the assembly. A senior police officer informed the participants who had remained inside that he had to put an end to the meeting as it was “causing insecurity”. Members of the organisation have contacted the authorities about the incident, but, to date, no measures have been taken to assure the organisation’s rights to conduct its activities. It remains unclear whether LIPRODHOR’s members will be allowed to convene again and complete the election of the new board which will allow them to carry out their legitimate human rights work without restriction.  

In November 2014, several members of LIPRODHOR attempted to convene a similar assembly in order to address the ongoing problem. However, local authorities thwarted the initiative, informing them that the gathering would be deemed illegal. Thereafter, Messrs Evariste Nsabayezu and Daniel Uwimana, respectively LIPRODHOR’s vice chair and provincial representative at the time, were arrested and detained over allegations that they were involved in organising the assembly using what the police claimed were “falsified documents.” They were later released without trial. Several other members of LIPRODHOR were also reportedly threatened with arrest.]

 

Human Rights Day 2015: human rights defenders are main topic

December 10, 2015

International Human Rights Day is an occasion for many organizations to publish statements on human rights. For those who have not enough time to go through all of them, here a selection of four main statements that focus on human rights defenders:  Read the rest of this entry »