Posts Tagged ‘Egypt’

Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism issues at the UN

October 31, 2019

and in JustSecurity of 30 October 2019 publilshed a long article on the travails of the mandate “Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism” in the United Nations.

The authors then try to explain why other countires went along with Egypt’s intention to divert attention and resources from addressing human rights violations. [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/10/19/egypt-all-you-can-think-of-widespread-arrests-torture-allegations-cyber-attacks/]

..

For states to treat Egypt as a reliable partner by allowing it joint leadership on the UN resolutions on human rights and terrorism only helps to provide cover for and perpetuate this egregious pattern, with serious consequences for the lives and dignity of Egyptians seeking to exercise their fundamental rights. The 74th session of the UN General Assembly Third Committee is an important opportunity for states to not only end their misguided acquiescence in Egyptian efforts to undermine UN work on terrorism and human rights, but also to restore the long legacy of Mexican leadership on the resolutions. In addition to the reasons identified in Saul’s Lawfare piece (which we won’t repeat here), several factors make this particular General Assembly resolution potentially an even more impactful moment.

In this moment, member states should recognize that a continuation of a Mexico-Egypt merged resolution on “terrorism and human rights” holds no promise of positive results for human rights. Now is the time for UN members to turn the tables and take a principled and strategic position: if Egypt will not agree to restoring key normative provisions previously lost, vigorously reinforcing rather than eroding support for the existing focus of the Special Rapporteur mandate, and laying the appropriate groundwork for a strong GCTS review in 2020, then states should insist that the merger be brought to an end and go back to the consensus text of resolution A/72/180.

Keeping Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism in Focus at the UN

Egypt: all you can think of: widespread arrests, torture allegations, cyber attacks

October 19, 2019

On 18 October 2019 the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged Egypt to immediately release scores of citizens who have been arrested in connection with recent anti-government demonstrations in several cities. Civil society groups report more than 2,000 people were detained before, during and after the protests on 20 September, which prompted the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, to express concern about reports of lack of due process. On Friday her office reported that the arrests are continuing, with a number of well-known and respected civil society figures affected, some of whom have been accused of terrorism. “Once again, we remind the Egyptian Government that under international law people have a right to protest peacefully, and a right to express their opinions, including on social media. They should never be arrested, detained – let alone charged with serious offences such as terrorism – simply for exercising those rights”, spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani told journalists in Geneva.

The abduction, arbitrary detention and torture of human rights defender and journalist Esraa Abdelfattah is another indication that Egyptian authorities are stepping up brutality against human rights defenders in a bid to ‘terrorize’ critics and opponents, said Amnesty International today. Esraa Abdelfattah was assaulted and abducted by security forces in plainclothes on 12 October. The next day she described to the Supreme State Security Prosecution how she was tortured by officers who beat her, attempted to strangle her and forced her to stand for nearly eight hours. “Esraa Abdelfattah’s account of torture, coming just days after the prominent activist and blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah described a similar ordeal in custody, is an alarming indication that Egypt’s authorities are stepping up their use of brutal tactics to crack down on human rights defenders,” said Najia Bounaim, North Africa Campaigns Director at Amnesty International.

Prominent blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah as well as his lawyer, Mohammed El-Baqer are currently being held at the Tora Maximum Security Prison, south of Cairo. Both have been accused of belonging to a terrorist group, funding terrorism, spreading false news that undermines national security and “using social media to commit publishing offices”, the UN human rights office said. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/08/bloggers-and-technologists-who-were-forced-offline-in-2018/]

On 28 September the High Commissioner had already urged the “authorities to radically change their approach to any future protests’.

More than 2,000 people were detained, including lawyers, human rights defenders, political activists, university professors and journalists on 20-21 September, she said. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesperson stressed that there no citizen in Egypt is arrested or prosecuted for carrying out legitimate activities or criticizing the Egyptian government, but for violating the law. He added that the right to peaceful demonstration is guaranteed in accordance with the Constitution and the law. Hafez stressed that the OHCHR report was based on undocumented information, which only leads to falsehoods as the allegations contained in it are based on wrong ideas, and this hasty judgment reflects a lack of professionalism. He added that any actions taken against any person is done in accordance with the law and through sound legal procedures, all carried out with transparency and clarity.

In addition on 3 October 2019 it was reported in the New York Times that a series of sophisticated cyberattacks targeting Egyptian journalists, academics, lawyers, opposition politicians and human rights activists has been traced to Egyptian government offices, a cybersecurity firm has found. The attackers installed software on the targets’ phones that enabled them to read the victims’ files and emails, track their locations, identify who they contacted and when, according to a report to be published Thursday by Check Point Software Technologies, one of the biggest cybersecurity companies in the world, with headquarters just south of San Francisco and in Tel Aviv.

The cyberattack began in 2016, according to the Check Point report. The number of victims is unknown but Check Point identified 33 people, mostly well-known civil society and opposition figures, who had been targeted in one part of the operation. “We discovered a list of victims that included handpicked political and social activists, high-profile journalists and members of nonprofit organizations in Egypt,” said Aseel Kayal, a Check Point analyst.

CreditAgence France-Presse — Getty Images

Result of the 42nd session of the UN Human Rights Council

October 2, 2019

On 27 September 2019 a group of civil society organisations welcomed significant outcomes of the HRC’s 42nd session, including reaffirming its condemnation of reprisals and extending its scrutiny over Yemen, Venezuela, Cambodia, Burundi, Myanmar, and Sudan. This session witnessed heightened scrutiny of Council members by shedding light on the situation in Saudi Arabia, but it missed an opportunity to ensure scrutiny over situations in China, Kashmir and Egypt. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/05/human-rights-defenders-issues-at-the-42nd-session-of-the-un-human-rights-council/]

The 42nd session also advanced standards on several issues including the right to privacy, administration of justice and the death penalty, but failed to defend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism against attempts to dilute and distract its focus. The High Commissioner failed again to present the database on companies facilitating Israel’s illegal settlements.

The Council reaffirmed that reprisals can never be justified. Council members rejected attempts to weaken the text including deleting the references to the roles of the Assistant Secretary-General and the Human Rights Council Presidents. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/23/andrew-gilmours-2019-report-on-reprisals-it-gets-worse-but-response-remains-mostly-rhetoric/] The resolution listed key trends such as the patterns of reprisals, increasing self-censorship, the use of national security arguments and counter-terrorism strategies by States as justification for blocking access to the UN, acknowledged the specific risks to individuals in vulnerable situations or belonging to marginalized groups, and called on the UN to implement gender-responsive policies to end reprisals. The Council called on States to combat impunity and to report back to it on how they are preventing reprisals, both online and offline.

They welcome the creation of a Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on Venezuela as an important step towards accountability for the grave human rights violations documented by the High Commissioner.

They welcome the renewal and strengthening of the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen, sending a clear message to parties to the conflict – and to victims – that accountability is at the center of the mandate, and providing a crucial and much-needed deterrent to further violations and abuses. States should support the recommendations made by the GEE in their recent report, including prohibiting the authorization of transfers of, and refraining from providing, arms that could be used in the conflict to such parties; and clarifying the GEE’s role to collect and preserve evidence of abuses.

They welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia, but regret that calls to strengthen the mandate of the OHCHR to monitor and report on the situation have been ignored. We regret that the resolution fails to accurately depict the continuing crackdowns on civil society and the severity and scale of recent attacks on the political opposition.

They welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi. Its work is vital as the country heads towards elections in 2020. The Burundian Government should desist from denial and insults, and should cooperate with the Commission and other UN bodies and mechanisms.

They welcome that the EU and OIC have jointly presented a resolution on Myanmar requesting the High Commissioner to report on the implementation of the recommendations of the Fact-Finding Mission at HRC 45. However, the international community needs to take stronger action to ensure accountability for and cessation of grave international crimes, in particular by referring Myanmar to the ICC and imposing a global arms embargo – and by acting on the FFM’s reports, including those on economic interests of the military and on sexual and gender-based violence in Myanmar and the gendered impact of its ethnic conflicts.

On terrorism and human rights, they are deeply disappointed that Mexico and other States have partially acquiesced in attempts by Egypt to dilute or distract the work of the Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism away from its appropriate focus on human rights violations while countering terrorism and human rights of victims of terrorism. We regret that States have asked the Special Rapporteur to spend the limited time and resources of the mandate, to comment on the overbroad concept of the “effects” of terrorism, by which Egypt and some other States seem primarily to mean macroeconomic, industrial, and investment impacts, rather than the human rights of individual victims. The length to which States seem willing to put the existing Special Rapporteur’s mandate at risk, in the name of protecting it, while failing even to incorporate stronger consensus text on human rights issues included in the most recent merged parallel resolution at the General Assembly, suggests that the merger of the previous Mexican and Egyptian thematic resolutions no longer holds any real promise of positive results for human rights.

They welcome the Council’s renewed attention to the protection of the right to privacy in the digital age: fully integrating human rights into the design, development and deployment of Artificial Intelligence, machine learning technologies, automated decision-making, and biometric systems, is essential to safeguard not only the right to privacy, but also to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association, and economic social and cultural rights.

On human rights in the administration of justice, we welcome the focus in this year’s resolution on concrete measures to prevent and respond to violence, death and serious injury in situations of deprivation of liberty, which illustrates the potential of thematic resolutions to set out specific practical, legal and policy steps that can be drawn on by governments, civil society, and other stakeholders to have real positive impact at the national level.

They commend Australia for its leadership on Saudi Arabia, as well as the other States who stood up for women’s rights activists and accountability. They urge more States to live up to their commitment to defend civil society and sign the statement in the coming 2 weeks.

For five years since the last joint statement in March 2014, the Council has failed to hold Egypt accountable for continuing systematic and widespread gross human rights violations. In the latest crackdown on peaceful protests, reports indicate that more than 2000 people have been arrested in the past week. When will the Council break its silence and convene a Special Session to address the grave and deteriorating human rights situation in Egypt?

Signatories:

  • International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  • DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  • Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
  • CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  • Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
  • Asian Legal Resource Centre
  • Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  • International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
  • Amnesty International
  • Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
  • Human Rights Watch
  • International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  • Physicians for Human Rights (PHR)

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Below the fulll list of 38 texts adopted:

Resolutions

Action on Text under Agenda Item 1 on Organizational and Procedural Matters

In a Presidential Statement (A/HRC/42/L.32) on the reports of the Advisory Committee, adopted without a vote, the Human Rights Council takes note of the reports of the Advisory Committee on its twenty-second and twenty-third sessions.

Action on Texts under Agenda Item 2 on the Report of the High Commissioner and Reports of the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.6) on the composition of staff of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, adopted by a vote of 30 in favour, 13 against and four abstentions, the Council requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue her efforts with a view to redress the current imbalance in the geographical composition of the staff of her Office and requests her to submit a report at the Council’s forty-fifth session.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.16) on the human rights situation in Yemen, adopted by a vote of 22 in favour, 12 against and 11 abstentions, the Council decides to renew the mandate of the Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts for a further period of one year to, inter alia, monitor and report on the situation of human rights and carry out comprehensive investigations into all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law and all alleged violations of international humanitarian law committed by all parties to the conflict since September 2014. The Council requests the Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts to present a comprehensive written report to the Human Rights Council at its forty-fifth session.

In a resolution ( A/HRC/42/L.21/Rev.1 ) on the situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar, adopted by a vote of 37 in favour, two against and seven abstentions, the Council requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to follow up on the implementation of the recommendations made by the independent international fact-finding mission, including those on accountability, and to continue to track progress in the situation of human rights in Myanmar, including of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities, and to present a written report thereon to the Human Rights Council at its forty-fifth session.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.38/Rev.1) on strengthening cooperation and technical assistance in the field of human rights in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, adopted by a vote of 18 in favour, six against and 23 abstentions, the Council welcomes the permanent presence of the Office of the High Commissioner in Venezuela under the terms established in the memorandum of understanding signed on 20 September 2019, including unlimited access to all region and detention centres, and requests the High Commissioner to present to the Council, at its forty-third and forty-fifth sessions, as well as before the end of 2019, an oral update on the situation of human rights in Venezuela. The Council also requests the High Commissioner to submit a comprehensive written report on the situation of human rights in Venezuela at its forty-fourth session, including the outcome of the investigation on the ground into allegations of possible human rights violations to ensure the accountability of perpetrators and redress for victims.

Action on Texts under Agenda Item 3 on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, including the Right to Development

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.1) on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation for a period of three years and requests the Special Rapporteur to compile good practices at the local, national, regional and international levels in order to promote the progressive realization of the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, and to report thereon to the Human Rights Council at its forty-fifth session.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.2) on the role of prevention in the promotion and protection of human rights, adopted without a vote, the Council affirms the importance of effective preventive measures as a part of overall strategies for the promotion and protection of all human rights, and requests the Office of the High Commissioner to prepare a study, to be presented to the Human Rights Council at its forty-fifth session, on the contribution of the special procedures in assisting States and other stakeholders in the prevention of human rights violations and abuses.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.5) on the World Programme for Human Rights Education: adoption of the plan of action for the fourth phase, adopted without a vote, the Council adopts the plan of action for the fourth phase (2020–2024) of the World Programme for Human Rights Education and decides to convene at its forty-eighth session a high-level panel discussion to mark the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training, on the theme “The tenth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training: good practices, challenges and the way forward”.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.7) on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, adopted by a vote of 25 in favour, 14 against and eight abstentions, the Council invites the Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order to examine the impact of financial and economic policies pursued by international financial institutions on a democratic and equitable international order, in particular those of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and to submit the report to the Human Rights Council at its forty-fifth session.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.8) on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, adopted by a vote of 29 in favour, 14 against and four abstentions, the Council renews for a period of three years the mandate of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, and requests the Working Group to report its findings to the Human Rights Council at its forty-fifth session and to the General Assembly at its seventy-fifth session.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.9) on the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences, adopted without a vote, the Council renews the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences, for a period of three years, and requests the Special Rapporteur to submit reports on the implementation of the mandate to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly in accordance with their annual programmes of work.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.11) on human rights in the administration of justice, including juvenile justice, adopted without a vote, the Council invites States to take into consideration the issue of human rights in the administration of justice in the context of the Universal Periodic Review and requests the High Commissioner to submit to the Human Rights Council, at its forty-seventh session, an analytical report on human rights in the administration of justice, in particular on current and emerging challenges in the protection of persons deprived of their liberty, including judicial oversight.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.13) on the human rights of older persons, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to extend the mandate of the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons for a period of three years, and requests the Secretary-General to ensure that the reports of the Independent Expert are brought to the attention of the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.14) on the right to social security, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to convene, before its forty-fifth session, an intersessional full-day panel discussion on the right to social security in the changing world of work with a view of identifying challenges and best practices. It also requests the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a summary report on the panel discussion and to submit it to the Human Rights Council at its forty-sixth session.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.17) on marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to convene, during the high-level segment at its forty-third session, a high-level panel discussion to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women, with a particular focus on the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome documents of its review conferences, as well as on achievements, best practices and challenges in this regard.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.18) on the right to privacy in the digital age, adopted without a vote, the Council requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to organize, before its forty-fourth session, a one-day expert seminar to discuss how artificial intelligence, including profiling, automated decision-making and machine-learning technologies may, without proper safeguards, impact the enjoyment of the right to privacy, to prepare a thematic report on the issue, and to submit it to the Council at its forty-fifth session.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.19) on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, as established by the Human Rights Council in paragraph 1 of its resolution 6/29, for a further period of three years.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.20) on human rights and transitional justice, adopted without a vote, the Council requests the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to examine in a report how addressing a legacy of gross violations and abuses of human rights and serious violations of international humanitarian law through transitional justice measures can contribute to sustaining peace and the realization of Sustainable Development Goal 16, and to present the report to the Human Rights Council at its forty-sixth session.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.23) on terrorism and human rights, adopted without a vote, the Council strongly condemns terrorist acts and all acts of violence committed by terrorist groups and the continued systematic and widespread abuses of human rights perpetrated by such groups, and requests States to refrain from providing support to entities or persons involved in terrorist acts, including support in establishing propaganda platforms advocating hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, including through the Internet and other media.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.24) on human rights and indigenous peoples, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to hold an intersessional round table on possible steps to be taken to enhance the participation of indigenous peoples’ representatives and institutions in meetings of the Human Rights Council on issues affecting them, with the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples’ representatives and institutions from the seven indigenous sociocultural regions represented at the thirteenth session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.25) on human rights and indigenous peoples: mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples for a period of three years to, inter alia, examine ways and means of overcoming existing obstacles to the full and effective protection of the rights of indigenous peoples, to pay special attention to the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous children and women, and to take into account a gender perspective in the performance of the mandate.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.27) on the protection of the rights of workers exposed to hazardous substances and wastes, adopted without a vote, the Council encourages States, business enterprises and other actors to implement the 15 principles presented by the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes through their respective legal and policy frameworks, as well as through initiatives and programmes to strengthen the coherence between human rights and occupational health and safety standards with regard to the exposure of workers to toxic substances.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.34/Rev.1) on arbitrary detention, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to extend the mandate of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention for a further period of three years, and requests the Working Group to prepare a study on arbitrary detention related to drug policies to ensure that upholding the prohibition thereon is included as part of an effective criminal justice response to drug-related crimes, and that such a response also encompasses legal guarantees and due process safeguards, and to submit to the Council at its forty-seventh session a report thereon, and to bring the report to the attention of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs as the policymaking body of the United Nations with prime responsibility for drug-control matters.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.36) on the right to development, adopted by a vote of 27 in favour, 13 against and 7 abstentions as orally revised, the Council decides that, at its twenty-first session, the Working Group on the Right to Development will commence the elaboration of a draft legally binding instrument on the right to development on the basis of the draft prepared by the Chair-Rapporteur. The Council further decides to extend for a period of three years the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the right to development, and to organize a biennial panel discussion on the right to development, starting at its forty-fifth session. It also decides to establish a subsidiary expert mechanism to provide the Council with thematic expertise on the right to development that shall consist of five independent experts who shall serve for a three-year period. The expert mechanism shall report annually to the Human Rights Council on its work and shall meet once annually for three days in Geneva and once annually for three days in New York.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.37) on the question of the death penalty, adopted by a vote of 26 in favour, 14 against and 6 abstentions, the Council decides that the upcoming biennial high-level panel discussion to be held at the forty-sixth session of the Human Rights Council will address the human rights violations related to the use of the death penalty, in particular with respect to whether the use of the death penalty has a deterrent effect on crime rate, and requests the Office of the High Commissioner to prepare a summary report on the panel discussion and to submit it to the Human Rights Council at its forty-eighth session.

Action on Resolutions under Agenda Item 4 on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.4/Rev.1) on the situation of human rights in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, adopted by a vote of 19 in favour, seven against and 21 abstentions, the Council requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a comprehensive written report on the situation of human rights in Venezuela and to present the report to the Council at its forty-fourth session. The Council decides to establish, for a period of one year, an independent international fact-finding mission and to dispatch that mission urgently to Venezuela to investigate extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment since 2014, with a view to ensuring full accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims. The Council requests the mission to present a report on its findings during an interactive dialogue at its forty-fifth session.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.10/Rev.1) on the situation of human rights in Burundi, adopted by a vote of 23 in favour, 11 against and 13 abstentions, the Council decides to extend the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi in order for it to deepen its investigations, including into respect for and observance of political, civil, economic and social rights in the electoral context, until it presents a final report to the Human Rights Council during an interactive dialogue at its forty-fifth session and to the General Assembly at its seventy-fifth session. The Council requests the Commission to present an oral briefing to the Council at its forty-third and forty-fourth sessions during an interactive dialogue.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.22) on the human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, adopted by a vote of 27 in favour, six against and 13 abstentions, the Council deplores the fact that the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic continues in its ninth year with its devastating impact on the civilian population, and urges all parties to the conflict to abstain immediately from any actions that may contribute to the further deterioration of the human rights, security and humanitarian situations. The Council demands that the Syrian authorities cooperate fully with the Human Rights Council and the Commission of Inquiry by granting the Commission immediate, full and unfettered access throughout the Syrian Arab Republic, and expresses deep concern about the grave humanitarian situation in the country and at the plight of the 11.7 million people in need of full, timely, immediate, unhindered and safe humanitarian assistance.

The Council welcomes the work of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011 and its close cooperation with the Commission of Inquiry and Syrian civil society, and invites Member States to actively support the Mechanism and to provide adequate financial means for its functioning. The Council further welcomes the steps taken by Member States to prosecute the most serious crimes under international law committed in the Syrian Arab Republic in national courts under the principles of universal jurisdiction and extraterritorial jurisdiction as an important contribution to end impunity and ensure justice for victims.

Action on Resolution under Agenda Item 5 on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.33/Rev.1) on cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights, adopted by a vote of 36 in favour and 11 against, with no abstentions, as orally revised, the Council calls upon States to combat impunity by conducting prompt, impartial and independent investigations and pursuing accountability for all acts of intimidation or reprisal by State and non-State actors against any individual or group who seeks to cooperate, cooperates or has cooperated with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights, and by condemning publicly all such acts, underlining that these can never be justified.

Action on Resolution under Agenda Item 9 on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.28/Rev.1) From rhetoric to reality: a global call for concrete action against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, adopted without a vote as orally revised, the Council requests the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to organize, before the eleventh session of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, a two-day expert seminar to consider the elements of a draft additional protocol to the Convention. It further requests the Group of Independent Eminent Experts on the Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action to convene its seventh session for five working days during 2020 and to submit a report to the General Assembly at its seventy-fifth session.

Action on Resolutions under Agenda Item 10 on Technical Assistance and Capacity Building

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.3) on promoting international cooperation to support national mechanisms for implementation, reporting and follow-up, adopted without a vote, the Council requests the Office of the High Commissioner to organize five regional consultations to exchange experiences and good practices relating to the establishment and development of national mechanisms for implementation, reporting and follow-up, and their impact on effective implementation of human rights obligations and commitments.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.12) on technical assistance and capacity-building for Yemen in the field of human rights, adopted without a vote, the Council requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue to provide substantive capacity-building and technical assistance to the Government of Yemen and technical support to the National Commission of Inquiry to ensure that it continues to investigate allegations of violations and abuses committed by all parties to the conflict in Yemen, and requests the High Commissioner to present a written report on the implementation of technical assistance at the Council’s forty-fifth session.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.15) on the enhancement of technical cooperation and capacity-building in the field of human rights, adopted without a vote, the Council decides that the theme of the annual thematic panel discussion under agenda item 10, to be held during its forty-fourth session, will be “Upholding the human rights of prisoners, including women prisoners and offenders: enhancing technical cooperation and capacity-building in the implementation of the Nelson Mandela Rules and the Bangkok Rules”.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.26/Rev.1) on assistance to Somalia in the field of human rights, adopted without a vote as orally revised, the Council decides to renew the mandate of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia for a period of one year and requests the Independent Expert to report to the Human Rights Council at its forty-fifth session and to the General Assembly at its seventy-fifth session.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.29/Rev.1) on technical assistance and capacity-building in the field of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, adopted without a vote, the Council requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to present an oral update on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo at its forty-third session and a comprehensive report at its forty-fifth session.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.30) on technical assistance and capacity-building to further improve human rights in the Sudan, adopted without a vote as orally revised, the Council decides to renew the mandate of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan for period of one year recognising the intention to phase out the mandate and requests the Independent Expert to present a report on the implementation of his mandate to the Human Rights Council at its forty-fifth session. The Council requests the Government of the Sudan and the Office of the High Commissioner to present their oral reports on progress towards the opening of a country office during an enhanced interactive dialogue at the Council’s forty-forth session.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.31) on technical assistance and capacity-building in the field of human rights in the Central African Republic, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to renew, for one year, the mandate of the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in the Central African Republic and to organize, at its forty-third session, a high-level interactive dialogue to assess the evolution of the human rights situation on the ground, placing special emphasis on preventing the recruitment and use of children in the armed conflict and protecting their rights through their demobilization and reintegration.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.35/Rev.1) on the advisory services and technical assistance for Cambodia, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to extend for two years the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, and requests the Special Rapporteur to report on the implementation of her mandate to the Human Rights Council at its forty-fifth and forty-eighth sessions.

http://ishr.ch/news/hrc42-civil-society-presents-key-takeaways-human-rights-council

https://reliefweb.int/report/venezuela-bolivarian-republic/human-rights-council-closes-forty-second-regular-session-adopts

Human Rights Watch takes populist leaders in UN to task

September 25, 2019

World leaders gathering for the United Nations General Assembly should reject the abusive policies of autocratic populists and promote greater respect for human rights worldwide, Human Rights Watch said ton 23 September 2019. Four leaders who have spearheaded aggressive attacks on human rights at home and at times abroad – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, US President Donald Trump, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – will open the annual General Debate at UN headquarters on September 24, 2019.

Andrew Gilmour’s 2019 report on reprisals: it gets worse but response remains mostly rhetoric

September 23, 2019

UN Human Rights Office). The study documents incidents from nearly 50 countries, such as the detention and imprisonment of activists, and the filming of participants at meetings, including on UN premises, without their consent.  Andrew Gilmour, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, said there are also cases of authorities threatening and harassing relatives of activists. “Some governments seem prepared to go to almost any lengths to punish people who cooperate with us.  This may actually underscore the justice of the victims’ causes,” he said. The report covers the period from 1 June 2018 to 31 May of this year.  It also notes misuse of online spaces to promote hate speech, cyberbullying and smear campaigns, particularly against women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons. Mr. Gilmour expressed concern over the continued trend in the use of national security arguments and counter-terrorism strategies as justification for blocking access to the United Nations. “Reported cases include individuals or organizations being charged with terrorism, blamed for cooperation with foreign entities or accused of damaging the reputation or security of the State. These have also been used to justify restrictions on foreign funding,” he wrote in the report’s conclusions and recommendations. “A disproportionate number of cases of enforced disappearance or detention, many which have been deemed arbitrary by United Nations experts, relate to these national security arguments. This is a worrisome trend that I have addressed publicly, including in my previous report, and, regrettably, it continues.” He said the UN will continue to strengthen its response to these developments, including through improved reporting on allegations.  However, he added, the onus remains on countries as “Member States must be accountable for their own actions and practices, and provide remedy when reprisals occur. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/17/intimidation-and-reprisals-on-un-premises-ngos-ask-for-more-action/%5D

However, the ISHR – which has followed the phenomenon much more systematically, made a more detailed and sombre assessment on 19 September: “Beyond rhetoric – States should step up efforts to prevent reprisals”

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/42nd-session-of-the-un-human-rights-council/] and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/17/intimidation-and-reprisals-on-un-premises-ngos-ask-for-more-action/]

It notes that during the second interactive dialogue on reprisals with the Assistant Secretary-General, only Germany and Costa Rica raised specific cases of reprisals in Egypt and Nicaragua, respectively. The Bahamas and the Maldives shared good practices. Other States condemned reprisals rhetorically, expressing particular concern about reprisals and intimidation against women human rights defenders and LGBTIQ defenders, as well as by Council members.

During the dialogue Germany followed up again on the case of Egyptian lawyer Ebrahim Metwally who was arrested on his way to Geneva to attend a meeting with the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances. He was tortured and has been detained since September 2017. During the first interactive dialogue in September 2018, Germany was the only country to raise concern over an individual victim of reprisals. Costa Rica was the only other country to raise a specific situation of reprisals this year: it expressed particular concern about acts of intimidation and reprisals in Nicaragua.

The Bahamas responded to the allegations of intimidation and reprisals against woman human rights defender Alicia Wallace after she engaged with the Committee on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). She and her colleagues were subjected to hate speech by a well-known radio personality, the effect of which was to create an unsafe environment for Ms. Wallace and other women human rights defenders. The Bahamas affirmed its commitment to protect human rights defenders and ensure that they can engage freely with the UN. The delegation told the Council that authorities proactively provided assistance to Ms. Wallace to guarantee her safety.

The Maldives also told the Council that it is investigating the deaths of human rights defender Yameen Rashid and journalist Ahmed Rilwan to bring the perpetrators to justice; that the defamation law providing imprisonment sentences for journalists was repealed in November 2018; and that an amendment to the Human Rights Commission Act is currently considered in parliament, which would guarantee that the Commission can communicate with international organizations. The Maldives agreed with the Assistant Secretary-General that the powerful impact of prevention is through a zero tolerance policy for reprisals and committed to condemn all reprisals as a matter of urgency. The Maldives admitted that that they ‘have seen it first hand and do not want to bear witness to it again!’.

In its statement during the interactive dialogue, ISHR asked the Assistant Secretary-General what steps should be taken to ensure a more comprehensive report to the Council. This came in response to notably missing cases that ISHR submitted implicating Brazil, Russia and the United States.  The Assistant Secretary-General acknowledged ISHR’s leading role in efforts to end reprisals, expressed his concern regarding the situations mentioned, but disagreed with ISHR’s statement that Secretary-General Guterres is pandering to certain States, ignoring victims’ legitimate claims and undermining efforts to protect victims from reprisals. He explained that the particular case raised by ISHR concerning remarks made by the then U.S. National Security Adviser, Mr. John R. Bolton, and the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo did not fall under the reporting mandate of the Secretary-General as the intimidation related to the International Criminal Court. However, ISHR recalls that the Secretary General’s 2018 reprisals report stated that ‘while recognising the independent judicial character of the International Criminal Court, the Court is regarded as a related organisation in the United Nations’ and cases related to the ICC have been included several times previously, for example:

  • The 2018 reprisals report documented that two defenders in Iraq faced reprisals after attending a preparation meeting for a conference aimed at calling on Iraq to join the Court (para 29).
  • The 2017 reprisals report included Israel in the reprisals report regarding incidents of reprisals and intimidation of defenders engaging with or promoting engagement with the International Criminal Court (para 39).

Read ISHR’s full statement at the interactive dialogue here.

UN human rights report shows rise in reprisals against activists, victims

https://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc42-beyond-rhetoric-states-should-step-efforts-prevent-reprisals

 

 

Human Rights Defenders issues at the 42nd session of the UN Human Rights Council

September 5, 2019

As usual the International Service for Human Rights has come out with an excellent preview of  key issues on the agenda of the 42nd session of the UN Human Rights Council, starting on Monday 9 September 2019. And – also as usual – I provide here an extract of the key elements affecting human rights defenders more directly. The 42nd session will consider issues such as reprisals, indigenous peoples, death penalty, arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances. To stay up-to-date on the whole session: follow @ISHRglobal and #HRC42 on Twitter. Side events will the subject of a separate post.

Reprisals

On 18 September, the ASG for Human Rights will present his annual Reprisals Report  (report on the cooperation with the United Nations) in his capacity as UN senior official on reprisals. [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/05/assistant-secretary-general-andrew-gilmour-appointed-as-the-uns-focal-point-to-combat-reprisals-against-human-rights-defenders/]

It will be interesting to see the difference with the first such interactive dialogue in September 2018 [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/05/no-naming-and-shaming-on-reprisals-at-39th-human-right-council-session/]. Ghana, Fiji, Hungary, Ireland and Uruguay will present a draft resolution at this session which aims to strengthen the responses by the UN and States to end to acts of intimidation and reprisals.

The ISHR states that reports of cases of reprisals against those cooperating or seeking to cooperate with the UN not only continue, but grow. [see in this context one of my earliest posts, still sadly relevant: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/03/13/zero-tolerance-for-states-that-take-reprisals-against-hrds-lets-up-the-ante/]..

Other key thematic reports

The Council will consider on 13 September two reports on the death penalty: the report of the UN Secretary General on capital punishment and the implementation of the safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty, and the summary report of OHCHR on the biennial high-level panel discussion on human rights violations related to the use of the death penalty, in particular with respect to the rights to non-discrimination and equality. The Council will also consider a resolution on the issue.

The Council will hold dedicated debates and consider the reports of several mandates relating to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, such as:

  • The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery will present her report on current and emerging forms of slavery and country visit report to Italy on 9 September.
  • The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances will present a report on public policies for effective investigation of disappearances, as well as its annual report and country visit report to Ukraine, on 11 September.
  • The Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence will present his report and country visit report to Sri Lanka on 11 September.
  • The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention will present its annual report and country visit report to Bhutan on 13 September.
  • The Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples will present her annual report and country visit reports to Ecuador and Timor-Leste on 18 September. The Council will also consider during the same debate three reports of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Country-specific developments

China: The harassment, surveillance, and mass detention of more than one million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in the People’s Republic of China continues to be the most pressing issue with regards to China for the international community to address.

At the same time, China has continued its crackdown on human rights activists: Jiang Tianyong a victim of reprisals for his engagement with UN experts, has been ‘free’ for six months, but remains under heavy-handed surveillance. Citizen journalist Huang Qi was sentenced to 12 years, despite serious health concerns.[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/30/chinas-cyber-dissident-huang-qi-get-12-years-jail/]. Grassroots activist Ji Sizun died in custody [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/15/in-memoriam-chinese-human-rights-defender-ji-sizun/] while Chen Jianfang, recipient of the Cao Shunli award, is being held incommunicado in an unknown location. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/02/12/cao-shunli-a-profile-and-new-award-in-her-name/]

Saudi Arabia: The September session provides an invaluable opportunity for the Council and States to follow up on the joint statement delivered on behalf of 36 States by Iceland [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/22/why-iceland-led-the-un-resolution-on-the-philippines/] During the June session, a broad range of cross-regional States called for accountability and guarantees of non-recurrence during the discussion of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions’ report on the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi

ISHR calls on States to advancing a HRC resolution establishing a monitoring mechanism over the human rights violations in the country and calling explicitly for the immediate and unconditional release of the detained Saudi women human rights defenders and to drop all charges against them.

Egypt: ISHR remains deeply concerned about the situation of human rights defenders in Egypt ..ISHR recalls that defenders who engaged with Egypt’s UPR in 2014 have since then faced travel bans, closure of NGOs, assets freezing, and are facing up to 25 years imprisonment in the ‘NGO Foreign Funding case no. 173.’ ISHR also recalls that individuals and communities who engaged with the Special Rapporteur on the right to housing during her visit in September 2018 faced systematic reprisals. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/08/21/un-pulls-anti-torture-conference-from-egypt-to-seek-other-regional-venue/]

Venezuela: Several Venezuelan human rights organisations and international NGOs think  are calling on States to create an investigation. On 10 September, the High Commissioner is scheduled to provide an update to the Council, as a follow up to her report delivered in July. She is expected to outline further deterioration in the situation in the country.

Burundi: The Commission of Inquiry on Burundi will present its oral briefing on 17 September. Burundi continues to refuse to cooperate with the Council’s mechanisms. ISHR calls on States to renew the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry.

The Burundian Government suspended one of the last remaining independent civil society organisations (PARCEM), suspended the operating license of the Voice of America, revoked the license of the BBC, and forced at least 30 international non-governmental organisations to cease their activities. On 17 July 2019, the Ntahangwa Court of Appeal upheld the 32-year prison sentence against HRD Germain Rukuki. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/29/ngo-statement-condemns-new-irregularities-in-the-case-of-germain-rukuki-burundi/]

Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar and the international fact-finding mission on the situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar on 17 September as well as the presentation of the report of the Independent Investigative Mechanism on Myanmar on 10 September. Among other things, the FFM sheds light on the economic interests of Myanmar’s military and the strong connections between the Tatmadaw and businesses and investors.

Enhanced interactive dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner on the human rights situation in Nicaragua on 10 September

Interactive dialogue on the oral update by the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan on 16 September

Interactive dialogue on the updated written report of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria on 17 September

Interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights in Ukraine on 24 September

Interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights in Libya on 25 September

Adoption of Universal Periodic Review (UPR) reports: During this session, the Council will adopt the UPR working group reports on – inter alia – Albania, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, and Qatar.  ISHR supports human rights defenders in their interaction with the UPR. It publishes briefing papers regarding the situation facing human rights defenders in some States under review. This session of the Council will provide an opportunity for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Côte d’Ivoire to accept recommendations made in relation to human rights defenders, as proposed in ISHR’s briefing papers.

Council programme, appointments and resolutions

The President of the Human Rights Council has proposed a candidate for the mandate of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic.

At the organisational meeting the following resolutions were already announced (States sponsoring the resolution in brackets) which are especially relevant to HRDs :

  1. Arbitrary detention (mandate renewal, France)
  2. Technical assistance and capacity-building for Yemen in the field of human rights (Arab Group)
  3. Contemporary forms of slavery (mandate renewal, United Kingdom)
  4. Cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights – ‘the reprisals resolution’ (Fiji, Ghana, Hungary, Ireland, Uruguay).
  5. Human rights and indigenous peoples (mandate renewal of the SR, Guatemala, Mexico).
  6. Human rights and indigenous peoples (Guatemala, Mexico).
  7. Promoting international cooperation to support national human rights follow-up systems, processes and related mechanisms (Brazil, Paraguay).
  8. The question of the death penalty (Belgium, Benin, Costa Rica, France, Mexico, Mongolia, Republic of Moldova, Switzerland).
  9. World program on human rights education and training (Slovenia)
  10. Technical cooperation and capacity building in the field of human rights (Brazil, Honduras, Indonesia, Morocco, Norway, Qatar, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey).
  11. Human rights situation in Yemen (Belgium, Canada, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands)
  12. The human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic (France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Netherlands, Qatar, Turkey, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland)
  13. Situation of human rights in Burundi (European Union)
  14. Advisory services and technical assistance for Cambodia (Japan)
  15. The right to privacy in the digital age (Brazil, Austria, Germany, Lichtenstein, Mexico)
  16. Assistance to Somalia in the field of human rights (Somalia, United Kingdom)
  17. Technical assistance and capacity-building to improve human rights in the Sudan (African Group)
  18. The human rights situation in Venezuela (Argentina, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru)
  19. Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar (the Organization of Islamic Cooperation)

——

https://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc42-key-issues-agenda-september-2019-session

 

Controversial U.N.decision to hold conference on torture in Egypt

August 20, 2019

The U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights will co-host the regional conference with the government’s National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) on 4-5 September. Some 80 participants, both government and non-governmental, from 19 Arab countries are expected to attend. U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville, who in February had said torture was endemic in Egypt, told Reuters: “It is a fairly standard type of event.”…

Gamal Eid, director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, said the idea of Egypt hosting such an event was a joke. “More ironic is that this is through the National Council (for Human Rights), the role of which is to always polish the government’s image and complicity in the human rights situation,” he said. NHCR president Mohamed Fayek will give a welcome address at the conference’s opening ceremony, according to an agenda seen by Reuters….In 2017, Egypt raided and shut down the Nadeem Center, which documented alleged human rights abuses and treated torture victims.

In the meantime on 19 August 2019 the NGO EuroMed Rights announced that it has declined the invitation and in an open letter addressed to UN High Commissioner, Ms Michelle Bachelet, EuroMed Rights expresses its deep reservations about the decision to hold this conference in Egypt, a country where torture is systematically practised by the security forces, and in collaboration with the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights, which acts under the auspices of the government. The letter recalls that detainees and prisoners in Egypt are frequently subjected to abuses which amount to torture, including electric shocks, beatings, suspension by limbs and rape. Read full letter here

https://kfgo.com/news/articles/2019/aug/15/rights-groups-criticize-undecision-to-hold-conference-on-torture-in-egypt/927888/

Egypt: crackdown and new NGO law dont augur well

July 25, 2019

On 23 July 2019 FIDH, the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) denounce the new crackdown and call on the Egyptian authorities to immediately end any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against all peaceful activists, in particular political opponents and human rights defenders in Egypt, such as former member of Parliament and human rights lawyer Zyad al-Elaimy. At least 83 persons, including political opposition activists, journalists and human rights defenders, have been arrested in Egypt over terrorist charges since June 25 for their alleged implication in a plot against the State.Human Rights Watch published the next day an elaborate report on Egypt’s New NGO Law which renews draconian restrictions and imposes disproportionate fines and bans links with foreign groups. Here some key elements but the ful lreport should be read:

Guide to Human Rights Defenders issues at the 41st Human Rights Council starting on 24 June

June 14, 2019

Thanks to the – as always very complete and timely – “Alert to the Human Rights Council’s 41st session” (from 24 June to 12 July 2019) issued by the International Service for Human Rights. I am able to give a short guide to the main items that relate to human rights defenders. To Read the full Alert to the session online click here and stay up-to-date with @ISHRglobal and #HRC41 on Twitter.

Thematic areas of interest:

Sexual orientation and gender identity: The interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) will be held on Monday 24 June at 11:00. The Council will consider the new thematic report of the mandate holder as well as the report of the country visits he made to Georgia and Mozambique. The Council will also consider the renewal of the mandate.

Business and human rights: The Council will hold an interactive dialogue with and consider several reports of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises on 26 June. The Working Group will present a report on the gender dimensions of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the reports of country visits to Thailand and Kenya. The Working Group’s report on the gender dimensions of the Guiding Principles integrates clear recognition that women human rights defenders play a vital role in challenging business-related human rights abuses as well as in promoting and protecting human rights in relation to business activity, including the right to an effective remedy. As a result of this work, women human rights defenders often face gender-specific risks including sexual violence, misogynist public shaming and online harassment. Among its recommendations, the Working Group calls on business enterprises to ensure the meaningful participation of women’s organisations, women human rights defenders and gender experts in all stages of human rights due diligence.

Women human rights defenders and women’s rights: The annual full day discussion on the human rights of women will take place on 27 and  28 June. The discussions will focus this year on violence against women in the world of work, the rights of older women and their economic empowerment. A panel focused on women’s rights and climate change will also be organised, focusing on climate action, best practices and lessons learned. States should place due consideration on the role of women human rights defenders and social movements in this regard, in line with the Human Rights Council resolution focused on environmental human rights defenders adopted in March 2019…
The Council will also hold an interactive dialogue with the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice which focuses on women deprived of liberty (including women human rights defenders in detention, facing travel bans, among other situations), and will consider their reports including a report on the country visits to Honduras and Poland. The Council will hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences on 27 June and will consider her report including the report of her visits to Canada and Nepal.

Reprisals:  In spite of a number of measures, reprisals not only continue, but grow. Item 5 of the Human Rights Council’s agenda provides a key opportunity for States to raise concerns about reprisals, including specific cases, and for relevant governments to provide updates on cases to the Council on any investigation or action taken toward accountability. During the organisational meeting held on 7 June, the President of the Council stressed the importance of ensuring the safety of those participating in the Council’s work, and the obligation of States to prevent intimidation or reprisals. In line with previous calls, ISHR expects the President of the Human Rights Council to publicly identify and denounce specific instances of reprisals by issuing formal statements, conducting press-briefings, corresponding directly with the State concerned, publicly releasing such correspondence, and insisting on undertakings from the State concerned to investigate, hold the perpetrators accountable and report back to the Council on action taken. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/13/ishr-on-reprisals-un-and-states-must-do-more-to-address-reprisals/]

Other key thematic reports: The Council will hold dedicated debates and consider reports of several mandates relating to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, and the role of human rights defenders in that work area, in some instances involving the renewal of the mandate:

  • The Special Rapporteur on independence of judges and lawyers and on the right to health (including country visits report to Canada and Kyrgyzstan) on 24 June
  • The Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association (mandate renewal, reports include country visits to Tunisia and Armenia) on 25 June
  • The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and right to education on 26 June
  • The Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression (including thematic report on surveillance companies and country visit report to Ecuador) on 25 June
  • The Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights (including country visits reports to the UK and Laos) on 28 June

In addition, the Council will hold dedicated debates on rights of specific groups including with:

  • The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants (and country visit report to Niger) on 24 June
  • The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons on 28 June (mandate renewal)
  • The Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons (and country visit to Nigeria) on 27 June
  • The Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members on 24 June

Country-specific developments:

China: For more than a year, the international community has had access to credible reports and first-hand testimony of the harassment, surveillance, and mass detention of more than one million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang. Despite the consistent work of the UN human rights mechanisms to review China, ask questions, and make recommendations, there has been no serious or effective response. The Council should take urgent action to seek access, monitoring and reporting of the situation to inform future actions. ..ISHR urges States to act collectively to advance 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.

Sudan: In response to the gross and systematic human rights violations occurring in Sudan, ISHR andother NGOs have urged Council Member States to urgently hold a Special Session on the human rights situation in Sudan. The Council should urgently establish an international fact-finding mission to document violations, identify perpetrators and push for accountability, in line with calls made by a group of Special Procedures including the Independent Expert on Sudan. Since 3 June, Rapid Security Forces, riot police and national security officers violently dispersed peaceful protesters in Khartoum as well as in different cities across Sudan. The MENA Women Human Rights Defenders’ Coalition reported that at least 113 people have died including women human rights defenders. Civil society documented cases of rape, attacks on hospitals, with hundreds injured and missing.  The Transitional Military Council is enforcing a ban on communication causing an internet black out. The High Commissioner has deplored the killings and proposed ‘the rapid deployment of a UN human rights monitoring team’ to Sudan.

Saudi Arabia: The June session provides an important opportunity for the Council to follow up on the joint statement delivered on behalf of 36 States [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/08/saudi-arabia-for-first-time-openly-criticized-in-un-human-rights-council/] .. Seven women’s rights activists have been provisionally released, but they are still facing trial, and other women human rights defenders are still in detention, with the human rights situation on the ground deteriorating markedly on other fronts, including through increased use of the death penalty and the authorities’ continuing crackdown on freedom of expression.  [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/28/3-saudi-women-human-rights-defenders-released-but-for-how-long-and-what-about-the-others/]
The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions will present her findings of the investigation into the killing of Khashoggi. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/26/other-members-of-the-uns-khashoggi-investigation-team-named/%5D…..ISHR calls on States to advance a Human Rights Council resolution establishing a monitoring mechanism over the human rights violations in the country and calling explicitly for the immediate and unconditional release of all human rights defenders including the detained women human rights defenders and to drop all charges against them, including those provisionally released. ISHR considers the March joint statement as a first step towards more sustained and dedicated review by the Council in its efforts to hold its members accountable.

The Philippines: The Philippines is one of the most dangerous countries for human rights defenders. Several NGOs callied on the Council to advance accountability for human rights violations by adopting a resolution establishing an independent international investigation into extrajudicial killings and this call was strongly endorsed by a group of independent UN experts who condemned a ‘sharp deterioration in the situation of human rights across the country, including sustained attacks on people and institutions defending human rights.’ [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/07/philippines-labour-rights-defender-dennis-sequena-shot-dead-while-meeting-with-workers/]

Egypt: Despite the Egyptian government’s assurances to the African Commission civil society faced restrictions, reprisals and intimidation for engaging or seeking to engage with the Commission. These restrictions and reprisals happened in a context where the Government of Egypt crushes dissent, discourages public participation in public affairs and punishes people who dare to claim basic human rights. Individuals and communities who engaged with the Special Rapporteur on the right to housing during her visit in September 2018 faced systematic reprisals. All other scheduled visits by the Special Procedures have been postponed as a result. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/07/egypt-denounced-for-reprisals-against-human-rights-defenders-who-talked-to-visiting-un-delegation/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/12/reprisal-against-egyptian-human-rights-defender-mohamed-soltan/]. ISHR calls on States to condemn the acts of intimidation and reprisals for civil society engaging with the African Commission and with the Special Procedures, and recall Egypt’s obligations to prevent acts of intimidation and reprisals, investigate the allegations and provide victims with effective remedy.

Burundi: The Commission of Inquiry on Burundi will present its oral briefing on 2 July. The closing of the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is regrettable and worrying. In addition, ISHR remains seriously concerned over the breaches to due process observed in all of human rights defender Germain Rukuki’s legal proceedings since his arrest without warrant on 13 July 2017. [See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/29/ngo-statement-condemns-new-irregularities-in-the-case-of-germain-rukuki-burundi/]. For more information on the situation of human rights defenders in Burundi, check ISHR Briefing Paper for the UPR here.

Other country situations: The High Commissioner will present her oral update to the Council on 24 June. The Council will hear reports on and is expected to consider resolutions addressing a range of country situations, in some instances involving the renewal of the relevant expert mandates. These include:

  • Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus (mandate renewal) on 1 July
  • Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea (mandate renewal) on 2 July
  • Interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi and the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar on 2 July
  • Enhanced interactive dialogue with the government of Sudan and OHCHR on 9 July
  • Enhanced interactive dialogue on the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo and interactive dialogue with the team of experts on the situation in the Kasai region on 9 July
  • Interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner on the situation in Ukraine on 10 July
  • Interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the Central African Republic on 10 July
  • Enhanced interactive dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner on Venezuela on 10 July
  • Interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner on the situation of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar on 10 July
  • First oral update and enhanced interactive dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner on Nicaragua on 11 July
  • Oral update by the High Commissioner on cooperation with Georgia on 11 July

Adoption of Universal Periodic Review (UPR) reports: During this session, the Council will adopt the UPR working group reports on New Zealand, Afghanistan, Chile, Viet Nam, Uruguay, Yemen, Vanuatu, North Macedonia, Comoros, Slovakia, Eritrea, Cyprus, Dominican Republic and Cambodia.

Resolutions to be presented to the Council’s 41st session: At the organisational meeting resolutions were announced (States sponsoring the resolution in brackets); it is possible that more resolutions could be presented at this session. These include:

  • The human rights situation in Belarus (European Union)
  • Human rights of internally displaced persons (Austria, Honduras, Uganda)
  • Human rights and climate change (Bangladesh, Philippines, Viet Nam)
  • Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Uruguay).
  • Elimination of discrimination against women and girls (Colombia, Mexico)
  • Rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association (Czech Republic, Indonesia, Lithuania, Maldives, Mexico)
  • New and emerging and digital technologies and human rights (Republic of Korea, Austria, Brazil, Denmark, Morocco, Singapore)
  • Accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women(Canada)
  • The human rights situation in Syria (France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Netherlands, Qatar, Turkey, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland)

There wil be again many side events at the Council, on which I will report separately.

Read here the three year programme of work of the Council with supplementary information.
Read here ISHR’s recommendations on the the key issues that are or should be on the agenda of the UN Human Rights Council in 2019.

Five Laureates of the Right Livelihood Foundation speak about woman human rights defenders

May 22, 2019

On 6 March 2019, two days before international women’s day, the Right Livelihood Award Foundation brought together 5 women Laureates from around the world to discuss ‘local realities and shared global challenges’ facing Women Human Rights Defenders. The side event, organised in parallel to the Human Rights Council’s fortieth session, was co-sponsored by CIVICUS, Human Rights House Foundation, International Network for Human Rights, and supported by the International Platform against impunity and the International Dalit Solidarity Network.

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Fabiana Leibl, Sima Samar, Mozn Hassan, Helen Mack Chang, Ruth Manorama, and Charlotte Dos Santos Pruth. Photo by: Amy Au

Here are a few takeaways from the discussion:

Fabiana Leibl, Head of Protection and Advocacy at the Right Livelihood Award Foundation, opened the meeting by describing the worsening trend for women human rights defenders who are prevented from working, not only because they are advocating for human rights, but also because they are women. As the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders noted in his recent report, this trend is often fuelled by deeply rooted ideas about ‘who women are, and who they should be’. Nahla Haidar, a member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, remarked that women are frequently ‘targeted with charges of counter-terrorism’, which allows their oppressors to act with impunity.

Sima Samar, Chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and a leading women human rights defender in Afghanistan, emphasised that achieving parity in educating people of all genders was a key starting point. As we approach the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, she explained, “we need female human rights defenders in order to really change the environment on the ground, and to make the environment conducive for the women to exercise their basic human rights.” She called for an end to the misuse and misappropriation of culture, tradition, and religion as justifications for male dominance. Access to paid work, reproductive services, and justice mechanisms was also identified as crucial in the struggle for gender equality. Samar received the Right Livelihood Award in 2012 “for her longstanding and courageous dedication to human rights, especially the rights of women, in one of the most complex and dangerous regions in the world.” See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/08/31/major-piece-by-departing-high-commissioner-in-the-economist/ 

Mozn Hassan, founder of Nazra for Feminist studies, is one of the defendants in the well-known NGO Foreign Funding case targeting civil society organisations in Egypt. Her career’s focus on sexual and reproductive rights adds additional restrictions to her work. In July 2018, she was charged with, among other things, establishing an entity in violation of the law and receiving foreign funding with the intention of harming national security. The charges – which are clearly politically motivated – could lead to life imprisonment. Hassan could not attend the event due to a travel ban imposed by the Egyptian government since 2016. However, via video message, she conveyed the serious dangers for human rights defenders, ranging from asset freezing to arrests, arbitrary detention and forced disappearances. On top of this, women must confront gender-specific threats from state and non-state actors. As Mozn noted, “women are facing various gender-based violence in their custodies from harassment to threats of rape.” Mozn Hassan received the Right Livelihood Award together with Nazra in 2016 “for asserting the equality and rights of women in circumstances where they are subject to ongoing violence, abuse and discrimination.” See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/02/right-livelihood-has-to-go-to-egypt-to-hand-mozn-hassan-her-2016-award/

Helen Mack Chang, who has persistently sought justice and an end to impunity in Guatemala as head of the Myrna Mack Foundation, emphasised that women often suffer multiple dimensions of discrimination. Indigenous women, for instance, “suffer double discrimination (…) when defending their land or territory against the claims of international corporations.” She noted that recent years have seen a resurgence of conservatism and of global threats to the rule of law and democracy. Corruption and impunity, she stressed, go to the heart of this challenge, in Guatemala and elsewhere. Helen Mack Chang received the Right Livelihood Award in 1992 “for her personal courage and persistence in seeking justice and an end to the impunity of political murderers.

Ruth Manorama is India’s most effective organiser of, and advocate for, Dalit women, belonging to the “scheduled castes” sometimes also called “untouchables.” She is, among other things, President of the National Alliance of Women (NAWO) and National Convenor to the National Federation of Dalit Women. Ruth called for counter-narratives to combat the negative view of human rights defenders in the media. In India, for instance, activists are routinely called “enemies of the State,” “militants,” “anti-nationals,” “traitors,” and “terrorists.” She stated: “I am a patriot. I am an Indian citizen. I must enjoy my constitutional rights. (…) Protecting human rights defenders is a state obligation.” Dalit women are particularly vulnerable to systematic sexual abuse at work, forced sexual slavery such as the Devadasi system, and forced labour. Manorama received the Right Livelihood Award in 2006 “for her commitment over decades to achieving equality for Dalit women, building effective and committed women’s organisations and working for their rights at national and international levels.” See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/11/07/forum-asia-25th-anniversary-event-in-geneva-on-16-november-2016/

Charlotte Dos Santos Pruth is an Advocacy and Policy Advisor at Kvinna till Kvinna, a Swedish organisation working to strengthen and promote women’s organisations in several regions of the world. She presented the findings of their recent report, “Suffocating the movement – shrinking space for women’s rights”, which identifies the main effects of shrinking civic space for women. “A strong feminist movement is the single most important factor to advance women’s rights and gender equality”, she stated, adding that women often have limited access to formal decision-making processes. “This makes defending civil society space particularly crucial”, Dos Santos Pruth continued by saying. She suggested that addressing the lack of funding for women’s organisations would be an important first step.

The speakers brought together experiences from very different cultural contexts. Nevertheless, there were important parallels in their descriptions of defending human rights on the ground. The panellists all showed that the crackdown on women human rights defenders must be viewed within the context of other global trends including growing material inequality, counter-terrorism, corporate impunity, environmental degradation, and corruption. As Sima Samar pointed out, in this worrying global landscape, international solidarity must remain an important principle. In her words: “We don’t only need women in positions of power, we need feminist women; women who don’t support male domination in order to keep their own space and position”.

rewatch the event: