Posts Tagged ‘consultation’

No more ‘business as usual’ when it comes to business and HRDs

November 11, 2015

On 19 October Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, wrote a piece for the Monitor of the ISHR under the title “No more ‘business as usual’ when it comes to business and human rights defenders”Read the rest of this entry »

Human Rights Defenders are too often forced to play ‘whack-a-mole’

September 22, 2015

On 18 June 2015, Rachel Ball, Director of Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre in Australia, reflects on a cross-regional consultation of human rights defenders facilitated by ISHR:

There’s a game that you sometimes find at amusement arcades called whack-a-mole. Toy moles rise out of their holes at random and the player uses a large mallet to whack the moles on the head and force them back into their holes. A successful player needs vigilance, composure and a quick eye. 

For human rights defenders, the protection of civil society space is a lot like a game of whack-a-mole. Threats arise without warning and valuable time, resources and energy are spent opposing them. 

Almost one year ago, the Human Rights Council passed a resolution urging States to ‘create and maintain, in law and in practice, a safe and enabling environment in which civil society can operate free from hindrance and insecurity’. In too many cases the Human Rights Council’s resolution has not translated into domestic action and last week in Geneva ISHR convened a group of expert whackers from around the world to share their experiences of threats to civil society space and strategies to counter those threats.

Participants discussed anti-protest laws, restrictions on the establishment and funding of civil society organisations, constraints on the work of journalists, and national security and counter-terrorism laws that unduly restrict freedom of association and assembly. Each of these restrictive practices constitutes a current threat to civil society space in my country, Australia, and it was both troubling to see the regularity with which these laws and policies arise around the world, and encouraging to be exposed to the skill and dedication of human rights defenders working to defeat them.

We discussed and debated strategies for protecting civil society space, including building and maintaining strong coalitions, engaging with UN human rights mechanisms and other international actors, working with Governments and legislatures, strategic litigation, monitoring and reporting and working with the media and social media. We shared stories of success as well as failure.  

What was abundantly clear during the ISHR convening was that human rights defenders should not be spending their time whacking moles. Beyond our work protecting civil society space, we are engaged in issues like persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, militarisation, sustainable development, climate change and refugee rights, to name a few.

The contribution of civil society actors to human rights challenges like these is vital. As the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, told the Human Rights Council at the opening of its 30th session last week, ‘When ordinary people can share ideas to overcome common problems, the result is better, more healthy, more secure and more sustainable States. It is not treachery to identify gaps, and spotlight ugly truths that hold a country back from being more just and more inclusive. When States limit public freedoms and the independent voices of civic activity, they deny themselves the benefits of public engagement, and undermine national security, national prosperity and our collective progress. Civil society – enabled by the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly – is a valuable partner, not a threat.’ 

In addition to enabling civil society through the proper protection of freedom of expression, assembly and association, States should make public commitments to support civil society and protect civil society space. Those commitments should be backed up by legal and institutional protection against intimidation and reprisals, support for the establishment and operation of non-government organisations and mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability.

Human rights defenders will return home from ISHR’s consultation, training and advocacy program with their mallets at the ready, but really it would better if we didn’t have to use them at all.

You can follow Rachel on Twitter at @RachelHRLC.

Source: Civil society space and whacking moles | ISHR

see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/civil-society-organisations/

UN consultation on space for civil society

May 19, 2015

The High Commissioner for Human Rights is putting together a report of practical recommendations on how to create and maintain the space for civil society to work freely and independently. The freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly etc are at the heart of civic activity and good laws and rules to guarantee public freedoms, as well as ways to monitor and protect them are of course a necessary condition. But also needed are:

  • a political and public environment that values civil society’s contributions
  • free flow of information
  • long-term support and resources
  • space for dialogue and collaboration

The OHCHR is interested to hear from you about your experience.  Please share:

  1. your examples and illustrations of these and other ways to maintain space to work
  2. if there are limitations, how do you continue to carry out your activities
  3. useful links, tools, resources, guides (whatever the language)

And forward this Note to others who should know about it!!

Please send information before 30 June 2015 by email to: civilsociety@ohchr.org, with in the subject heading “Civil Society Space Report – Input”.

For the full text of the resolution of the UN Human Rights Council, see: http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/RES/27/31

Consultation – updated 21 April 2015.doc – Google Docs.

2014 Annual Report Observatory: Land Rights defenders are the forgotten victims of unbridled development

December 2, 2014

logo FIDH_seul

OMCT-LOGO

 

 

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (joint programme of OMCT and FIDH) has, since 2013, launched more than 500 urgent interventions on more than 60 countries. Its 2014 Annual Report came out today in the context of the 3rd UN Forum on Business and Human Rights and focuses on “land rights defenders” who are increasingly the target of repressive measures. The pressure on land has become unbearable and mobilisation for the respect of the economic, social and cultural rights of affected communities has become a high risk activity.

Between 2011 and 2014, the Observatory documented 43 assassination cases targeting land rights defenders and the judicial harassment of 123 defenders, sometimes together with their arbitrary detention. These figures only reflect a small fraction of the real picture. All regions in the world are concerned, Asia and Latin America being the most affected. The Observatory found that authors of repression are often the police, the military, private security agents and “henchmen”. Their objective being to silence dissenting voices likely to slow down investment projects.
In addition to violence, numerous States also use judicial harassment and arbitrary detention to intimidate defenders. Thanks to laws that violate fundamental freedoms or in violation of their own laws, they jail any person deemed to be a nuisance. “Terrorism”, “misleading propaganda”, “infringement to State security”, “public unrest”, there are many abusive charges which can result in heavy prison terms.
Land rights defenders are often powerless when they face physical attacks and arbitrary arrests. According to the Observatory, 95% of violations against them remain unpunished today. Judicial bodies in countries where such violations occur are characterised by a lack of independence, resources and expertise. Regarding the possibility of prosecuting business corporations responsible for human rights violations, the legal battle – if any – is often lengthy, perilous, unequal and costly.
At the heart of the problem lies the issue of the participation of individuals and communities affected by the development policies and investment projects. The Observatory calls for meaningful consultations that ensure the direct participation of populations affected by the projects and the recognition of land rights defenders as the legitimate spokespersons in order to prevent conflicts and put an end to serious human rights violations. Furthermore, it is necessary to strengthen the capacity and independence of domestic judicial systems, including in States hosting the headquarters of business corporations, in order to allow defenders to access justice and seek redress in the event of human rights violations.
The Observatory also recommends to strengthen international law in order to trigger effectively the responsibility of business corporations when the latter commit human rights violations and to guarantee the adequate protection of land rights.
The full report under the title “We are not afraid”: https://wearenotafraid.org/en/

The 5th “Inter-mechanisms”: consultations between inter-govenmental and non-governmental entities on human rights defenders

November 17, 2014

On November 12 and 13, 2014, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst, met with representatives of regional human rights defenders’ mechanisms, in the framework of the first part of the fifth “inter-mechanisms” meeting. Enhancing coöperation between the UN mechanism and its regional counterparts was defined as a priority by the UN Special Rapporteur in his first report to the UN General Assembly in October 2014.

The “inter-mechanisms meeting 5.1” gathered representatives from the UN, the International Organisation of “La Francophonie” (OIF), the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, the OSCE/ODIHR, the European Union, as well as international NGOs. It was hosted by theOIF headquarters in Paris, and was facilitated by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT joint programme).Participants reflected on ways to enhance cooperation, if not articulation, in processing submissions and public statements about human rights defenders’ violations, and in enhancing the follow-up of individual communications and recommendations from country visits. They further discussed best practices and strategies to tackle the issue of arbitrary detention, particularly on emblematic cases.

The meeting also allowed for an exchange on the definition of reprisals and impunity, how they relate to each other, and how tackling impunity through accountability would ultimately mitigate the root-cause of reprisals.

Finally, participants had a discussion on the issue of NGO funding, including foreign funding, as well as on the protection of land rights defenders, echoing the topics of the 2013 and 2014 Annual Reports of the Observatory.

This meeting aimed to prepare an “inter-mechanisms meeting 5.2”, gathering mandate-holders themselves, which the Observatory will organise during the first quarter of 2015 at the OIF headquarters. Last but not least, FIDH and OMCT were invited by the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe to hold the sixth meeting in Strasbourg, and a future meeting in Warsaw, by ODIHR.

“Inter-mechanisms 5.1”: enhanced cooperation will lead to better protection of human rights defenders – FIDH.

Michel Forst, New Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, gives indication of his priorities

August 5, 2014

After a long holiday break there is probably no better way to start again covering developments relevant to human rights defenders than by referring to the views of the new Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst, who shared his vision with the International Service on Human Rights on 16 July 2014. Michel Forst – appointed in June 2014 – is an experienced human rights lawyer. He was Secretary-General of France’s national human rights commission, and was a Board member of several international human rights NGOs.  In an interview with ISHR, he sets out his vision and priorities in the post of Special Rapporteur on HRDs. Read the rest of this entry »

UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women concludes mission to India

April 29, 2013

Executive Director of HRA Babloo Loitongbam delivering the vote of thanks of the meeting

(Executive Director of HRA Babloo Loitongbam delivering the vote of thanks of the meeting)

The Indian agency E-Paonet reports in some detail on the visit by a UN Special Rapporteur to India. Let’s start by acknowledging India’s willingness to accept the Rapporteur (unlike other countries such as Eritrea I just reported on today)!

The Rapporteur in question is Rashida Manjoo the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, its Causes and Consequences who held a consultative meeting with representatives of civil society organizations, women human rights defenders, victims and other advocates working on violence against women at Classic Hotel, on 28 April. As many as forty separate depositions were made during the meeting, the largest one during her current 10-day long official mission to India from April 22 to May 1. After hearing all the depositions, Rashida observed that it was not her mandate to comment on the depositions made before her, but assured that her report and recommendations would be based on facts and they would be placed on the table of the forthcoming session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, which is scheduled to take place June this year at Geneva for necessary actions. Read the rest of this entry »