Posts Tagged ‘Geneva’

Panel on Human Rights Education: 16 December in Geneva

December 7, 2019

Promoting human rights, tolerance and non-discrimination: role of education

Monday 16 December 2019, 18:30 – 20:00
Auditorium A2 | Maison de la paix, Geneva

Slurs and stereotypes are not only hurtful, but also symptomize ignorance and misunderstanding. Ideologies anchored in hate and prejudice threaten the realization of all peoples’ human rights and attack our common humanity. Technological changes are making it easier for extremists to disseminate their hate and discriminatory propaganda. This has a profound impact on society in a number of ways that are pertinent for education.

Panelists:
•    Kate Gilmore, Deputy High Commissioner for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
•    Ahmed Shaheed, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief
•    Herbert Winter, President of Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities and World Jewish Congress Vice PresidentModerator:

•    Davide Rodogno, Professor of International History and Faculty Affiliate of the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy, Graduate Institute, Geneva

The event will be followed by a reception.

REGISTER HERE

 

2019 Right Livelihood Awards programme

November 24, 2019

2019 Right Livelihood Award to be Presented in Stockholm 4 December

The Laureates of this year’s Right Livelihood Award, widely known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’, will be celebrated during a 10-day long programme in Germany, Switzerland and Sweden from 25 November – 4 December. The Award Presentation in Stockholm also marks the 40th Anniversary of the Right Livelihood Award, established in 1980. See: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/right-livelihood-award.

For the 2019 Laureates see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/26/right-livelihood-award-2019-lauds-practical-visionaries/

The 40th Right Livelihood Award Presentation will take place on 4 December, 19.30-21.15 (CET) at Cirkus in Stockholm and is open to the public. Everyone is invited to join an inspiring evening together with 2019 Laureates and world-renowned artists such as José González. Also, on stage, journalist Amy Goodman (2008 Laureate) will moderate a conversation with whistleblower Edward Snowden (2014 Laureate) who is joining via link from Moscow.

The Award Presentation will be livestreamed on rightlivelihood.org.

2019 Laureate Greta Thunberg is currently crossing the Atlantic Ocean to participate in the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP25, in Spain. Thunberg will not attend the Award Presentation in Stockholm and will instead be represented on stage by activists from Fridays For Future Sweden. Thunberg’s fellow Laureate Guo Jianmei will also not be able to attend the Award Presentation in person. Guo has stated: “The Right Livelihood Award recognises and acknowledges the efforts of my team and me to uphold women’s rights and the rule of law in China. This award serves as an encouragement and motivation.”

The 2019 Award programme covers 10 days of events and high-level meetings for Laureates in Berlin, Zurich, Geneva and Stockholm. For further details, please see below.

Berlin

Tuesday, 26 November, 18:00-19:45 CET
Conversation with Aminatou Haidar (Western Sahara) at the Nordic Embassies in Berlin. For press accreditation, please contact: presse@rightlivelihood.org.

Zurich

Wednesday, 27 November, 18:30-20:00 CET

The 12th Right Livelihood Award Lecture with Aminatou Haidar at the University of Zurich. Please register online via zurich.rightlivelihoodaward.org.

Geneva

Thursday, 28 November, 18:00-19:45 CET

Celebration of the 2019 Laureates at Maison de la Paix in Geneva. Please register online via The Graduate Institute Geneva.

Stockholm

Sunday, 1 December, 15:00-16:30 CET

Join a conversation with Aminatou Haidar about her nonviolent activism in pursuit of justice and self-determination for the people of Western Sahara. Pre-registration not needed. Medelhavsmuseet, Fredsgatan 2.

Tuesday, 3 December, 13:30-15:00 CET
Seminar at the Swedish Parliament with Aminatou Haidar and Davi Kopenawa. For press accreditation, please reach out to communications@rightlivelihood.org.

Wednesday, 4 December, 19:30-21:15 CET
The 40th Award Presentation at Cirkus in Stockholm with special guests, including Edward Snowden, and world-renowned artists. Buy tickets online or reach out to communications@rightlivelihood.org for press accreditation.

2019 Right Livelihood Award to be Presented in Stockholm 4 December

Geneva and the future of multilateralism

November 16, 2019

Cedric Amon in Digital Watch of 17 September 2019 reported on the event “Geneva and the future of multilateralism“. Although it did not deal directly with human rights, I refer to it anyway as Geneva plays such an important role as the world’s hub for human rights, featuring regularly in this blog. The event was organised by the University of Geneva in partnership with the Swiss Federation, the Republic and State of Geneva, the City of Geneva, the United Nations Office at Geneva, and the Fondation pour Genève. The event celebrated 100 years of multilateralism in Geneva in remembrance of the creation of the League of Nations in 1919, which marked the beginning of modern multilateralism and the rise of International Geneva:

Mr Yves Flückiger (Director of the University of Geneva) spoke about the three principles which have contributed to Geneva’s central role on the international level: universality, unanimity, and consensus. He also underlined the importance of scientific institutions for the cohesion of the international system.

Flückiger further called for a more inclusive form of multilateralism to face today’s challenges. Moreover, he said that despite the current focus on new technologies, the human aspect in multilateralism and international co-operation should not be underestimated.

Mr Ignazio Cassis (Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Switzerland) noted that the first general assembly of the League of Nations on 15 November 1919 put Geneva and Switzerland on the map of the international scene. This assembly also meant that Switzerland had to take on the responsibilities of a host state. He retraced Switzerland’s historical evolution and the official recognition of Switzerland’s neutrality at the end of the First World War (WWI). Cassis further explained that although the League of Nations had failed as an institution, it laid the groundwork for today’s multilateralism and served as the basis for a number of international organisations and scientific collaborations such as CERN.

Moreover, Cassis mentioned that the Swiss government had signed a joint declaration reaffirming their commitment to International Geneva and the multilateral system, introducing Switzerland as a host state during the 2020–2023 period. He also mentioned that projects such as the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator had already been created in line with the strategy.

Ms Tatiana Valovaya (Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva) underlined the importance of the League of Nations for today’s multilateral system and said that the League of Nations had created the foundation for the work of the UN, ranging from justice and minority production, to the improvement of work and the respect of international public law.

As Geneva is the birthplace of the League of Nations, Valovaya mentioned the importance of the Palais des Nations’ archives in Geneva.

Valoyava further noted that in a fragmented and polarised world, multilateralism is needed more than ever in order to address today’s challenges and to find global solutions to them. According to her, the multilateral system is not in crisis but transitioning. Therefore, it is important to shape this new system to make it more inclusive.

Mr Sacha Zala (Director of the Research Centre Dodis and Co-Editor of the publication ‘Switzerland and the Construction of Multilateralism’ (unreleased diplomatic documents)) explained that Switzerland has been very active in world politics over the past 100 years. Zala mentioned that the right to self-determination which was recognised at the dawn of WWI, created challenges for the unity of Switzerland and threatened to break apart the country. However, Switzerland has established itself as a vibrant centre for world politics, thanks to the many international institutions in Geneva and Bern. Multilateralism has since then become a cornerstone for Switzerland, the same way that Switzerland’s neutrality was essential to it becoming the host country of the League of Nations. Zala also mentioned the importance of hosting the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in maintaining Geneva’s status as a diplomatic capital.

Ms Heba Aly (Director of The New Humanitarian) moderated the debate. She mentioned that the most common symptom of the crisis of multilateralism is the incapacity of addressing the crises around the world, given that institutions seem blocked and the respect of International Humanitarian Law is fading.

Ms Laurence Boisson de Chazournes (Professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Geneva) observed that there is a disenchantment regarding international co-operation which stems from inside the countries. She explained that this sentiment stems from the problem of sharing the benefits of global co-operation, which means that certain populations feel abandoned and left out. She urged for a fundamental rethinking of the collaboration, and is hopeful that certain forms of private-public partnerships on specific areas will help strengthen multilateralism.

Boisson de Chazournes also mentioned the impetus given by the sustainable development goals (SDGs) which are also contributing to reshaping the current state of international co-operation. Moreover, she spoke about attributing responsibilities to the private sector by adopting global, rather than national, regulations in order to help support multilateralism. Regarding Geneva in particular, Boisson de Chazournes recognised the efforts being undertaken, but noted that the next challenge will be to digitise diplomatic practices to create a more inclusive system, and reduce travelling costs for face-to-face meetings with different actors.

Mr Francis Gurry (Director-General of The World Intellectual Property Organization) pointed out that the architecture of global institutions to address the current challenges is outdated. He identified this as being the greatest challenge of the UN system along with the attacks on the idea of multilateralism. Gurry emphasised that this is a political problem, given that he does not see a political will to reform international institutions. However, according to Gurry, there has been a transfer of power and capabilities, from the public to the private and non-governmental sectors, which must be reflected in the architecture of the international system.

Furthermore, he went on to recognise the mostly positive track record of UN institutions and indicated that abandoning multilateralism is not a choice, given that today’s problems are global and need global solutions. Moreover, short-term projections are a difficulty for the success of diplomacy. He explained that diplomacy means building relationships over time, to build trust. In an interconnected world this is more difficult, given the ease at which information travels and how used we have become to finding immediate solutions.

According to Gurry, technical co-operation, such as is practised at the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is a good way to ensure the sustainability of co-operation in an increasingly complex world.

Mr Jean-Yves Art (Senior Director, Strategic Partnerships at Microsoft) pointed out that we are witnessing an increase in human relations in all aspects of our lives, which relies on private infrastructure. Art indicated that because of this, private actors operating these infrastructures also have a responsibility to find solutions to problems generated by this increase in human connections.

Another important problem which he recognised was that 50% of the world’s population is not connected. Given the importance of new technologies, not being connected will prove to be a major handicap and important obstacle to development.

According to Art, multilateralism is often associated narrowly with the UN system. However, he believes that multilateralism goes well beyond UN institutions, as was proven by the numerous calls involving all relevant stakeholders (for example: the Paris Call for Peace, and the Christchurch Call). These dynamics from outside the UN system are now also finding their way into its institutions. He also mentioned the approach of the High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation which is spreading its recommendations through ‘champions’.

Ms Yusra Suedi (PhD student at The Global Studies Institute, University of Geneva) noted that one of the most pressing challenges of multilateralism is to find solutions on how to integrate different actors, such as youth, into the global system. In order to successfully do so, Suedi also stressed the importance of setting clear goals about the aim and extent of involving these new actors.

According to Suedi, the model of the Human Rights Council is a very important, and one of the most successful ones at the UN given that it managed to integrate the voices of civil society. However, she still sees room for improvement to include a more representative role for non-governmental organisations. For example, they could be allowed to introduce draft resolutions rather than simply expressing their point of views regarding the state of human rights in the various contexts.

Right Livelihood Award brings 2019 laureates to Geneva on 28 November

November 7, 2019

The 2019 Laureates of the Right Livelihood Award, widely known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’, [for more see:https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/26/right-livelihood-award-2019-lauds-practical-visionaries/]are:

  • Aminatou Haidar (Western Sahara): for her steadfast nonviolent action, despite imprisonment and torture, in pursuit of justice and self-determination for the people of Western Sahara.
  • Guo Jianmei (China): for her pioneering and persistent work in securing women’s rights in China.
  • Greta Thunberg (Sweden): for inspiring and amplifying political demands for urgent climate action reflecting scientific facts (in lieu of Greta Thunberg, remarks from climate activists).
  • Davi Kopenawa / Hutukara Yanomami Association (Brazil): for their courageous determination to protect the forests and biodiversity of the Amazon, and the lands and culture of its indigenous peoples.

The Graduate Institute, Geneva, and the Right Livelihood Award Foundation organise a celebratory event, which will include musical interludes, on Thursday 28 November 2019 from 18:00 – 19:45 in the Auditorium Ivan Pictet in the Maison de la Paix, Geneva.

To register:  HERE

 

Applications now open for ISHR’s 2020 training for human rights defenders

November 7, 2019

ISHR is calling for applications for its flagship Human Rights Defender Advocacy Programme in 2020 – the extensive training programme for human rights defenders. So if you are a human rights defender keen to use the UN to push for change at home, you can apply now.

The training will take place in Geneva between 8 and 19 June 2020 and provides defenders with opportunities to put their advocacy skills directly into action at the 44th session of the UN Human Rights Council. The draft programme is here, and how to apply here.

ISHR’s Human Rights Defender Advocacy Programme (HRDAP) equips defenders with the knowledge and skills to make strategic use of the international human rights system. It also provides an opportunity for participants to directly engage in lobbying and advocacy activities at the UN level to effect change on the ground back home. As well as receiving training modules on all the UN human rights mechanisms from a range of experts, participants will also have the opportunity to build networks in Geneva and around the world, carry out lobbying of UN member States and UN staff, and learn from peers from a range of regions working on a range of human rights issues.

The programme brings togethers 16 committed human rights defenders from extremely different contexts and working on a wide range of areas: migrant rights; women human rights defenders in conflict, post-conflict & occupation settings; business, environment and human rights; the human rights of LGBTI persons; reclaiming civil society space and increasing protection of human rights defenders.

At the end of the training, 100% of participants were either “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with the overall programme, and they all also felt that they would be able to apply what they learnt to their own day-to-day work. ISHR will look to build upon this success in 2020.

Participants will take part in:

  1. A short online learning component, prior to face-to-face training, to enable you to consolidate your existing knowledge and develop your advocacy objectives;
  2. Intensive training in Geneva during June, to coincide with the 44th session of the Human Rights Council. The training will focus on ways to effectively use international human rights mechanisms and to influence outcomes;
  3. Specific advocacy at Human Rights Council sessions and other relevant meetings, with regular feedback and peer education to learn from the experiences, including expert input from leading human rights advocates.

This programme is directed at experienced human rights defenders in non-governmental organisations, with existing advocacy experience at the national level and some prior knowledge of the international human rights system.

In 2020, ISHR is particularly seeking applications from women human rights defenders working in conflict, post conflict and occupation settings. In addition, our work with migrant rights defenders aims to support coalitions and strategies to push back on the criminalisation of solidarity, as well as to ensure that the UN human rights mechanisms do their part to meaningfully raise the issue of migrants’ rights violations.

As we support human rights defenders across all the thematic areas, ISHR is working with these advocates to identify ways to push for safer environments at home, so that they are able to continue their vital work.

If you are interested in applying for ISHR’s training programme, please read the call for applications to check that you comply with the requirements, and apply before midnight Geneva time on 1 December 2019. The link to the online application form can be found in the call for applications. For more information, write to hrdap2020@ishr.ch.

https://www.ishr.ch/news/hrdap-ishr-2020-training-human-rights-defenders-apply-now-hrdap20

Danny Ocean sings for Nansen award winner Azizbek Ashurov and refugees on 7 October in Geneva

October 2, 2019

Venezuelan singer Danny Ocean is one of the performers who will be honouring the winner of the 2019 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award at a ceremony in Geneva on 7 October. “I know how hard it is to leave behind family, friends and everything you know to build a life again somewhere new,” said Ocean, who rose to global fame with his hit Me Rehuso, in which he sings about the love he left behind when he moved from his native Venezuela to the United States of America. “Millions of people each year are forced into making this decision to protect themselves and their families. For those refugees who have lost everything, the humanity and support of others is their only lifeline. For many years the winners of the Nansen Refugee Award have been that lifeline. It is an honour for me to play a part in celebrating their extraordinary achievement.”

The ceremony will also feature a keynote address by Nadine Labaki, the Lebanese director of the Cannes Jury Prize winner, and Oscar-nominated film, Capernaum, and will be hosted by award-winning South African TV presenter Leanne Manas. Other performers joining them on the night will be Swiss musician Flèche Love and German poets and stage performers Babak Ghassim and Usama Elyas.

Last year’s winner: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/02/south-sudanese-doctor-wins-2018-nansen-medal/.

https://www.unhcr.org/news/press/2019/9/5d91b9434/danny-ocean-perform-global-humanitarian-award-ceremony.html

Flight from Manus: the inside story of an exceptional case

September 30, 2019

The journalist Michael Green produced for Earshot a fascinating story on the long trip of Abdul Aziz Muhamat from Manus Island to Geneva. Green followed Aziz closely for years and came to Geneva with him for the Martin Ennals Award ceremony where I met them both. Now the story is complete with beautiful pictures, insights and sound tracks. Flight from Manus cannot really be summarised and the best is to see the whole story for yourself (link below).

One day, he’s in a detention centre. The next he’s in Geneva, where his face is on billboards and he’s celebrated as a champion of human rights. Aziz was in an incongruous situation, burdened with a heavy choice….

…..With some delays and complications, he made it to Switzerland, but he was only given permission to stay for two weeks. Then, he’d have to return to Manus Island — back to the situation he was being celebrated for campaigning against.

After he accepted the award, a meeting frenzy ensued. Over the following days, Aziz met with a slew of diplomats, dignitaries, politicians and UN bodies. He made speeches at universities and at the United Nations Human Rights Council….[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/02/mea-laureate-abdul-aziz-addresses-un-human-rights-council-on-off-shore-refugee-policy/]

One day, when he arrived for an event at a university, I noticed he was sporting a brand new navy blue overcoat. That morning, someone who had attended the awards ceremony recognised Aziz at the train station. The man said he’d been following Aziz on Twitter and noticed that he was always wearing the same flimsy, zip-up top. He wanted to buy Aziz a proper winter coat — and took him into a nearby store to do just that. Aziz never even got his name.

And yet, despite the all interest and adulation, he still wasn’t free…

..Aziz started getting headaches every day. In his meetings, people were telling him he should not go back to Manus Island. His friends back there were saying it wasn’t safe to return. Despite his doubts, and a crushing sense of guilt and duty towards the people he left behind, Aziz decided he would be a more effective advocate if he could remain in Europe. On the day he was due to leave Switzerland, in early March, Aziz instead sought asylum. He submitted himself to a new detention centre — and to a new uncertain, indefinite future…

…The months went by. ……Finally, in June, Aziz received a phone call from his lawyer that changed everything. Switzerland granted him asylum and permanent residency. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/10/aziz-mea-laureate-2019-recognised-as-refugee-in-switzerland-from-where-he-promises-to-continue-the-sttuggle/]

———–

The sound bites were turned into a podcast, The Messenger, co-produced by Behind the Wire and The Wheeler Centre.

———————————–

For those in Geneva on Wednesday 2 October 2019 (18:15 – 19:30) in Auditorium A2 of the Maison de la paix, Geneva, Abdul Aziz Muhamat will be speaking about “Surviving Manus Island detention Centre:  A testimony” Moderator: Vincent Chetail  A staunch defender of human rights and dignity, Abdul Aziz Muhamat will share his experience and offer his insight into what lies ahead.

https://www.facebook.com/events/2720741894616336/

—-

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-09-30/refugee-abdul-aziz-muhamat-manus-to-geneva/11539314

see also: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-10-09/un-bachelet-criticises-australia-asylum-seeker-policies/11588084

‘Bertxit’: ..Bert Verstappen leaves HURIDOCS after 32 years

September 27, 2019

The SIM team in 1984, Bert Verstappen on the right

It is usually not a compliment when somebody is described as ‘furniture’. But Bert Verstappen, senior documentalist at HURIDOCS, is the exception. And the furniture in mind is an expensive, solid oak Dutch cupboard where all valuables are kept. Bert Verstappen – an historian by education – started working as a conscientious objector doing alternative service in the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights (SIM) in approximately 1983, soon after I became the founding director.

He proved his value immediately by working on themes such as documenting human rights violations and together we started a long term research project on the practice of fact finding by NGOs, which resulted in the first-of-its-kind publication of Human Rights Missions, a  Study of the Fact‑Finding Practice of Non‑governmental Organizations, published in 1986 by Martinus Nijhoff Publishers (ISBN: 90 247 3355 3). Morever, as SIM had become the initial ‘secretariat’ of the new HURIDOCS network created in 1982, Bert gave a lot of support to the fledgling unit. In 1987 HURIDOCS moved to Oslo and Bert moved with it, learned Norwegian very quickly and kept the flame burning for many years. He moved to Geneva with HURIDOCS after the big Crete conference in 1992.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bert (l.) 1993 in Geneva with Theo van Boven and Oldrich Andrysek

There he continued to coordinate the work of different task forces and co-authored essential HURIDOCS publications. He was involved in many capacity building projects, providing expertise mainly from the documentation angle.  As from 1 October 2019 he goes into retirement but will remain involved in some HURIDOCS projects on a part-time basis until the end of the year, ensuring a “soft bertxit”.

The development of new tools deeply changed HURIDOCS’ work throughout the years. We renew ourselves constantly. I have committed my career to this exciting challenge because I want to feel useful to human right defenders. Their courage is a source of inspiration for all of us” says Bert Verstappen on the HURIDOCS website

If you want to know more about the history of HURIDOCS in which Bert has played such an important role, see:

“We were breaking new ground”

and about the organnisation today: https://www.huridocs.org/who-we-are/

International Commission of Jurists tries fundraising Gala in Geneva

September 25, 2019

The ICJ is organizing its first fundraising Gala concert on Monday 14 October at 7:30pm in the Palais Eynard, 4 rue de la Croix Rouge, Geneva. The event will support the ICJ and its fight for the defense of the Rule of Law in the world and marks the end of the series of events we organized for our 60th anniversary in the city of human rights. The theme of our Gala will be: “Geneva, the Defense of the Rule of Law: What can I do?

After a welcome from the Mayor of Geneva and an introduction from Me Pierre de Preux, former Bâtonnier of the Geneva Bar, ICJ Commissioners including Sir Nicolas Bratza (former President of the European Court of Human Rights), Dame Silvia Cartwright (former Judge and Governor General of New Zealand), Professor Bob Goldman (ICJ President and former President of the Inter-american Commission on Human Rights) and Ms Roberta Clarke (ICJ Executive Chair, UN Women’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific) will give concrete answers to this question. The evening is also to enjoy a Concert of the ‘Soloists of the Menuhin Academy’ and the cocktail after that.

https://www.facebook.com/events/511460076090161/

Intimidation and Reprisals on UN premises – NGOs ask for more action

September 17, 2019

On 23 August 2019, 23 NGOs wrote to the United Nations to raise concerns over the alarming pattern of intimidation and reprisals faced by members of civil society during sessions of the Human Rights Council and Treaty Bodies. The letter calls on the ASG to raise this issue during his speech before the HRC on 19 September 2019, and urges the OHCHR to take measures to ensure that such acts of reprisals are not repeated in the future. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/05/human-rights-defenders-issues-at-the-42nd-session-of-the-un-human-rights-council/

Below is the original text of the letter, as sent to the UN representatives in question:

To: Mr Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights; H.E. Mr Coly Seck, Permanent Representative of Senegal and President of the Human Rights Council; Mr Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

Mr Gilmour, 

We, the undersigned organisations, write to raise deep concerns about a consistent pattern of intimidation and reprisals faced by members of civil society from around the world during sessions of the Human Rights Council (HRC) and the Treaty Bodies. We are particularly concerned by acts of intimidation perpetrated by representatives of and individuals affiliated with government parties. 

During the 41st session of the HRC, staff of Permanent Missions and individuals wearing non-diplomatic badges, who were later verified as working with UN Member and Observer States, attended our side-events, and blatantly eavesdropped on our conversations, recorded our comments, took photos and videos of the audience, and made threatening gestures and remarks. 

We are all the more concerned as this is not the first time that human rights defenders and other individuals engaging with the HRC have faced acts of harassment and intimidation. Rather, these tactics are part of a consistent and systematic pattern of behaviour that we have unfortunately come to anticipate and expect at every session of the HRC. 

Furthermore, HRDs engaging with the Treaty Bodies also face intimidation and reprisals perpetrated by representatives of and individuals affiliated with government parties. There have been multiple instances of so-called “GONGOs” – governmental non-governmental organisations – registering for confidential and closed briefings with Treaty Bodies’ members. This allows them to know exactly who among civil society is present during these briefings. There has also been cases of briefings that have been filmed without the permission of NGOs. 

What is more, governments’ support given to GONGOs means that they are often granted consultative status with the UN. On the contrary, independent NGOs continue to be denied the ECOSOC status, demonstrating that reprisals against HRDs also occur within the UN system. In addition, the proliferation of GONGOs both at the HRC and Treaty Bodies, allows them to influence the discourse about human rights in a particular state or region, thus minimising the real issues at stake. 

The aforementioned acts of harassment and intimidation are concerning not only because they create an atmosphere of fear and self-censorship, but also because numerous human rights defenders who have travelled to Geneva to participate in HRC or Treaty Body sessions have faced reprisals upon their return to their countries as a direct result of this. As such, we take these acts of intimidation very seriously and submit that they may result in further acts of retaliation.

We note with appreciation that the current president of the HRC, his Excellency Mr Coly Seck, Permanent Representative of Senegal, addressed some of the issues raised in this letter during the final meeting of the 41st session of the HRC. He expressed his concern that “civil society organisations continue to face intimidation and reprisals” and pointed out that a number of cases had been reported to him, including of verbal harassment and unauthorised photographs taken during side-events. He emphasised that “any acts of intimidation against any individual or group that attempts to cooperate with the Human Rights Council is unacceptable”, and reminded Member and Observer States of their responsibility to ensure that civil society operate in a safe space. 

In addition, in July 2019, Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation, working in conjunction with the University of Oxford, Tibet Justice Centre and the Economic and Social Research Council launched the report “Compromised Space for Unrepresented Peoples at the United Nations”. Based on interviews and testimonies from 77 HRDs working on behalf of minorities, indigenous communities and other unrepresented peoples, it identifies a systematic attack on the UN human rights system by certain governments. This is characterised by “blocking tactics […] including deferring ECOSOC status decisions, and intervening in plenary statements, to more overt instances of harassment, intimidation and outright violence, which constitute state reprisals”. Such challenges are compounded for HRDs from minority, indigenous and marginalised groups.

While we acknowledge that HRC presidents, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ (OHCHR) reprisals team, the Treaty Bodies’ focal points for reprisals and yourself have all previously raised awareness on this issue, we strongly believe that there is a need to draw further attention to such acts of intimidation and harassment. We further note that to date, the OHCHR has not developed a systematic and practical response to the practices outlined in this letter. 

It is our contention that failure to sanction reprisals on UN premises will only embolden such acts elsewhere. Therefore, we call on you to raise this grave pattern during the presentation of the UNSG annual report on reprisals during the 42nd session of the HRC. We also call on you to urge the OHCHR to take measures to ensure that such acts of intimidation do not happen in the future. 

Yours sincerely, 

  1. Access Now 
  2. ALQST 
  3. Association for Victims of Torture in the UAE 
  4. Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain 
  5. Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy
  6. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  7. CCPR Centre 
  8. Committee for Justice 
  9. European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights 
  10. Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights
  11. MENA Rights Group 
  12. The Omani Centre for Human Rights
  13. OMCT
  14. Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion 
  15. International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE 
  16. International Centre for Justice and Human Rights 
  17. International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism 
  18. Right Livelihood Foundation 
  19. Rights Realization Centre 
  20. Salam for Democracy and Human Rights
  21. Statelessness Network Asia Pacific 
  22. Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization
  23. World Uyghur Congress 

https://unpo.org/article/21663