Posts Tagged ‘General Assembly’

Third Committee of the GA also has a lot to do with human rights defenders

October 13, 2019

The UN General Assembly’s Third Committee will run for eight weeks from 1 October to 21 November this year. The International Service for Human Rights, which follows the UN human rights bodies diligently, put out an Alert for this 74th Session on 1 October 2019.

The Third Committee brings together a wide array of Special Procedures mandate holders, including Special Rapporteur, independent experts, and chairs of working groups that are mandated by the Human Rights Council to discuss some of the most pressing human rights concerns and present findings and recommendations to the Third Committee. These findings should in turn play a role in shaping the focus of resolutions negotiated at this session.

Third Committee is expected to consider approximately 60 resolutions on a range of topics, including:

  • the advancement of women
  • the rights and protection of children
  • the rights of refugees
  • the elimination of racism
  • self-determination
  • and social development, amongst others.

ISHR will be closely monitoring the work of the Third Committee as well as relevant developments in the plenary of the General Assembly and will report on key developments. Follow them on Twitter at @ISHRglobal using #UNGA74 for the latest updates.

Overview of Key Resolutions  

  • Human Rights Defenders (Lead Sponsor: Norway) – This year Norway will present the biennial resolution on human rights defenders. One year after the twentieth anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, implementation of the Declaration unfortunately remains far from adequate in a number of States. ISHR therefore welcomes the resolution’s continued focus on the Declaration’s implementation and urges States to ensure that the resolution includes calls for concrete activities and mechanisms to monitor and facilitate the implementation of the Declaration and previous resolutions on human rights defenders.
  • Terrorism and Human Rights (Lead Sponsors: Mexico and Egypt) – The Third Committee will consider a resolution relating to Terrorism and Human Rights. Previous resolutions on the topic have condemned terrorist acts as criminal and unjustifiable, and expressed concerns about their detrimental effects on the enjoyment of all human rights. The resolution is the result of the combination of two previously separate resolutions on the “Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism” and the “Effects of Terrorism on the Enjoyment of Human Rights” led by Mexico and Egypt, respectively. Civil society remains concerned that the combined resolution compromises language on State obligations to protect human rights by prioritising the impact of terrorism on human rights. ISHR hopes that language in the original resolution led by Mexico is not compromised and that this resolution upholds State responsibility and the rights of victims.
  • Safety of Journalists (Lead Sponsors: Greece, Argentina, Austria, Costa Rica and France) – A resolution on the safety of journalists is expected to be advanced at this session. ISHR will be watching this negotiation closely and hopes the resolution will be used to expand, rather than restrict, space for civil society and strengthen protections for human rights defenders.

Several country resolutions are expected again this session. For the 17th year, Canada will present a draft resolution on the Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran spotlighting the continued dismal human rights situation and lack of progress over the last year. The European Union will again lead on a resolution on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, similarly underlining the lack of human rights progress. Ukraine will again present a draft resolution condemning Russia’s activities in Crimea. Resolutions on the human rights situation in Myanmar and Syria are also expected to be led by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and Saudi Arabia respectively.

ISHR remains concerned that China will again attempt to insert the seemingly harmless language of ‘win/win’ language in resolutions, which in fact focuses only on intergovernmental dialogue and cooperation, rather than actual human rights violations or accountability. This language risks shrinking space for civil society and roll back human rights norms across a number of resolutions.

Several resolutions are expected to become battle grounds regarding references to gender, and sexual and reproductive health and rights, including resolutions on the Improvement of the situation of women and girls in rural areas, Violence against women migrant workers, Rights of the Child, The girl child, The human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation,

Elections for the Human Rights Council are set to take place in mid-October as part of the General Assembly. ISHR is once again disappointed that this year a number of regions have presented closed slates. ISHR has published ‘scorecards‘ for each of the States seeking membership. These provide a brief overview of their human rights records, cooperation with civil society, past roles in the Council, and past engagement with UN human rights mechanisms.

Overview of Reports and Dialogues with UN Experts: 

The UN Special Procedures – Special Rapporteurs, independent experts, and working groups – will report to the Third Committee and hold interactive ‘dialogues’ with member States. Several of this year’s reports reflect concerns about increased attacks on human rights defenders and emphasise the critical importance of creating and maintaining space for civil society. Click here for a list and schedule of dialogues.

  • Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders – Combatting the currently widespread impunity for human rights violations that target human rights defenders is, according to Special Rapporteur Michel Forst’s report (A/74/159), “an essential prerequisite to guarantee human rights and to advance towards equal societies that are free from fear and violence.” He outlines a regulatory framework on the right to access to justice, including due diligence in investigations and elaborates on the de facto and legal barriers to access to justice. He offers essential guidelines for ensuring due diligence in the investigation of such violations. Good practices implemented by States and civil society are also described. He will present his report and an interactive dialogue will be held on 15 October 2019 at 3pm.
  • Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran – At least 32 Iranians have been arrested as a result of viral social media campaigns against compulsory veiling laws, such as the #whitewednesdays and “Girls of Revolution Street.” Human rights lawyer and defender Nasrin Sotoudeh was sentenced to 148 lashes and 38 years in prison last March for defending some of these women. BBC Persian staff have suffered reprisals for engaging with UN human rights mechanisms. These are only some of the attacks on human rights defenders that Special Rapporteur Javaid Rehman flags in his report (A/74/188), which calls on Iran to stop violating the rights of human rights defenders through intimidation, harassment, arbitrary arrest, deprivation of liberty, among other arbitrary sanctions. The Special Rapporteur will present and discuss his report on 23 October 2019 at 10am.
  • Report of the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity – In his report (A/74/181), Independent Expert Victor Madrigal-Borloz exposes the ways in which socio-cultural norms and discriminatory laws continue to marginalise and exclude LGBTI persons. In order to become fully inclusive of LGBTI individuals, he stresses that States cannot overlook the “vital role” of partnerships with civil society. He cites a number of partnerships in the fight against HIV/AIDS as particularly strong examples of this. Independent Expert Madrigal-Borloz will present his report and hold an interactive dialogue on 24 October 2019 at 10am.
  • Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism – How can States truly integrate human rights into the global fight against terrorism that is increasingly shaped by elusive norms of ‘soft law’? According to Special Rapporteur Fionnuala Ní Aoláin’s report (A/74/335), one of the keys is for States to engage with and create space for civil society, non-governmental organisations, and human rights defenders to participate in the shaping of these counter-terrorism norms. Her report maps out how civil society access to these processes can be transformed from “ad hoc and inconsistent” to consistent and meaningful, ensuring that soft-law counter-terrorism norms are not at odds with human rights. The Special Rapporteur’s report will be presented and discussed on 16 October 2019 at 10am.
  • Report of the Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment – Special Rapporteur David R. Boyd clarifies the obligations of States and businesses under a human-rights based approach to climate change in his report (A/74/161). These obligations include providing strong protections for environmental and environmental defenders who work on issues relating to climate change. In addition, the report examines how UN human rights mechanisms can be empowered to better address climate change. The Special Rapporteur will present his report and an interactive dialogue will be held on 24 October 2019 at 3pm.
  • Report of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief – Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed expresses alarm in his report (A/74/358) about the rise of anti-Semitism around the world and the ways in which the underreporting of these hate crimes and lack of mechanisms to monitor them enable anti-Semitic hate crimes. The report finds that a lack of Jewish civil society engagement with UN human rights monitors only exacerbates this issue and calls on States to work more closely with Jewish communities and organisations to create mechanisms that fill this void. Special Rapporteur Shaheed ends his report with the recommendation that the Office of the UN Secretary-General appoint a senior-level focal point specifically responsible for monitoring and engaging with Jewish communities on this issue. He will present his report and hold an interactive dialogue on 17 October 2019 at 3pm.
  • Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences – In her report (A/74/137), Special Rapporteur Dubravka Šimonović stresses the need to address mistreatment and violence against women in reproductive health services from a human rights perspective. The report therefore calls for the creation of human rights-based accountability mechanisms and greater State collaboration with civil society organisations to address violence and mistreatment in reproductive and obstetric care. The Special Rapporteur will present her report and hold an interactive dialogue with the Third Committee on 4 October 2019 at 10am.

ISHR Events

Ending impunity for violations against Human Rights Defenders: see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/10/09/panel-against-impunity-for-abuses-against-human-rights-defenders-new-york-on-16-october/

  • Book Launch – ISHR will also be hosting a launch of Hurst Hannum’s new book ‘Rescuing Human Rights: A Radically Moderate Approach’ on 18 October at 1:15-2:30pm. Please contact Marina Wilbraham at m.wilbraham@ishr.ch if you are interested in attending. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/20/hurst-hannum-wants-a-radically-moderate-approach-to-human-rights/]
  • Venezuela on the Brink: The urgency of an appropriate international response to the crisis, where Eleanor Openshaw will be discussing the implications of Venezuela being re-elected to the Human Rights Council. 2 October at 10am in the Church Center, 777 UN Plaza.
  • Breakfast reception to mark the launch of URG’s new yourHRC.org Guide to the 2019 Human Rights Council Elections, where Madeleine Sinclair will be discussing ISHR’s ‘scorecards’ for each of the States seeking election to the UN Human Rights Council for 2020- 2022. October 10 at 8:30 am in Conference Room 6, UNHQ.

https://www.ishr.ch/news/alert-ga-74th-session-third-committee

Premiere: powerful video summarizes Human Rights Defenders World Summit 2018

December 18, 2018

Today, on the occasion of the presentation of the Action Plan at the plenary session of the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York, the NGOs who organized the World Summit 2018 (Paris October 2018) make public a powerful 8-mn video that summarizes The Human Rights Defenders World Summit 2018 and the highlights of this historic event in Paris. Click on play and meet the defenders, inspiring and courageous individuals and representatives of communities that advance and protect human rights, every day, in the most difficult places around the world. Film made by True Heroes Films (THF – www.trueheroesfilms.org).

Change the world. Protect human rights defenders! #WeAreAllDefenders

https://hrdworldsummit.org

Tuesday 18 December: first time a human rights defender addresses UN General Assembly

December 17, 2018

On Tuesday 18 December, on behalf of the delegates, will become the first civil-society representative ever to address the General Assembly. She will present the final action plan of the 2nd Human Rights Defenders World Summit which took place in Paris at the end of October 2018. [https://hrdworldsummit.org/action-plan/]. The film above – produced by True Heroes Films – gives an impression of the variety of HRDs and issues at that event, in just 2:30 minutes.

Forst in UN New York: ‘more concerned than ever for human rights defenders’

October 25, 2018

Michel Forst, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, expressed in New York “grave concern” on Tuesday 23 October 2018 regarding the treatment of human rights defenders, as more than 1,000 have been killed between 2015 and 2017. See also the latest report on the situation of human rights defenders issued earlier this year (http://undocs.org/en/A/73/215 – 23 July 2018).

2018 marks the twentieth anniversary of the UN mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders. In a speech made to the UN General Assembly, Forst explained how the program’s very existence is in jeopardy but the anniversary presents an “opportunity not only to review the situation of human rights defenders but also to set out a vision for the human rights movement for the coming years.

Forst praised the work that has been done but fears for the safety of human rights defenders. “The Declaration has become a milestone in the human rights project and resources have been provided for the promotion and protection of human rights defenders. However, I am more concerned than ever. … We are facing an alarming panorama for human rights defenders. Their situation is deteriorating all over the world despite States’ obligations to ensure the protection of human rights defenders.”

In honor of the anniversary, a number of events are scheduled in the upcoming months intended to draw attention to the issue of human rights defenders: From October 29-31, the second Human Rights Defenders World Summit will take place in Paris [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/07/24/announcement-of-the-human-rights-defenders-world-summit-in-paris-october-2018/ ]. A UN  “high-level plenary meeting” in New York will take place in mid-December tasked with addressing good practices and new opportunities in the Declaration’s implementation.

Euromed Rights announces its General Assembly for 23-24 June 2018

June 20, 2018

Euromed Rights [formerly known as the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN)] announced that on 23 and 24 June, 2018, more than a hundred representatives from 80 organisations working on Human Rights on the two shores of the Mediterranean are expected to head to Brussels to attend the 11th General Assembly of EuroMed Rights. As the Euro-Mediterranean region is consumed by the migrants’ impasse, a deep social-economic crisis, the deterioration of international conflicts and the restauration of authoritarian regimes, meetings like this one are more meaningful than ever. Being the only regional organisation that gathers human rights defenders and organisations from both sides of the Mediterranean, EuroMed Rights has a crucial role to play in order to tackle the deterioration of human rights in the region with a strong, common voice.

{The General Assembly is the supreme body of EuroMed Rights and gathers every three years to elect the new President and the new Executive Committee members. The President and the Executive Committee are elected for a period of three years which could be renewed for two further terms. The Executive Committee members are also appointed as political referents for different focus areas.}

https://euromedrights.org

 

Surprise: Russia loses seat on UN Human Rights Council by 2 votes

October 29, 2016

Russia was defeated in its bid to be re-elected as a member of the UN’s Human Rights Council. But only just: Russia lost to Croatia by just two votes with Hungary claiming the Eastern Europe region’s other remaining seat. Many human rights groups had campaigned against the membership of Russia, China and others such as Saudi Arabia, but the problem is that the UN General Assembly only has a choice when the regional allotment has more candidates than seats. Saudi Arabia was re-elected as one of the four Asia-Pacific region countries to run for that region’s four allocated slots. Human Rights Watch’s UN director, Louis Charbonneau said that the vote “also shows how important it is to have competitive slates in UN elections. Countries should have a chance to reject those whose candidacies are so severely compromised, as they did today.

Read the rest of this entry »

Michel Forst on protecting defenders who work on business and human rights

December 1, 2014

At the start of the 3rd UN Forum on Business and Human Rights, today 1 December, the ISHR publishes a series of articles by key human rights defenders and experts in this field. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/11/17/register-for-the-3rd-annual-forum-on-business-and-human-rights-1-to-3-december-2014/] The Special Rapporteur on HRDs, Michel Forst, goes first:

Read the rest of this entry »

Reprisals against Human Rights Defenders breach obligations as Human Rights Council member

April 29, 2014

In a post dated 13 March 2014, I suggested the possibility of suspending the membership of countries in the Human Rights Council in case of serious reprisals against human rights defenders who coöperate with the UN. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/zero-tolerance-for-states-that-take-reprisals-against-hrds-lets-up-the-ante/].  The backdrop to this admittedly far-reaching proposal Read the rest of this entry »

UN General Assembly indeed defers UN focal point on human rights defenders

January 8, 2014

On 4 December 2013 I reported on the setback in the establishment of a focal point against reprisals in the United Nations. The disappointing vote in the Third Committee could theoretically have been reversed by the General Assembly but that miracle did not happen. On 19 December the General Assembly also put on hold a Human Rights Council initiative to strengthen the protection of human rights defenders from attacks and reprisals. A group of African States, together with China, Cuba, and Russia, successfully put forward a resolution to defer the appointment of a senior UN official tasked with coordinating the protection of human rights defenders. This is despite the Human Rights Council overwhelmingly passing a resolution in September calling on the UN Secretary-General to appoint ‘a United Nations-wide senior focal point’ to combat reprisals and intimidation.‘  The vote had a narrow margin of only three votes: 83 – 80.

[In the face of an African Group position, only two African States had the courage to abstain from the vote: Chad and Morocco.]

via UN General Assembly turns its back on human rights defenders | ISHR.

Special Rapporteur’s next report focuses on HRDs and large-scale development projects: you can contribute!

June 14, 2013

The next thematic report of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, to the General Assembly in October 2013 will focus on the links between large-scale development projects and a safe and enabling

environment for human rights defenders, with a particular emphasis on the challenges of the human rights-based approach to development and the role of human rights defenders. This is indeed – as also shown in this blog – a growing area of concern with many HRDs working on e.g. land grabbing, forced evictions, environmental issues or the protection of indigenous minorities under constant threats and many having been killed .

To this end, the Special Rapporteur is requesting Member States, national human rights institutions, non-governmental organizations and regional human rights mechanisms to answer a questionnaire. If you would like to contribute to this exercise, kindly complete the questionnaire and send it to defenders@ohchr.org. Deadline: 24 June 2013!. Should you have any question, please send an e-mail to the same address.  Questionnaire to be found via Questionnaire on large-scale development.

United Nations Human Rights Council logo.