Posts Tagged ‘guidelines’

Michel Forst about the security risks faced by Human Rights Defenders

July 7, 2020

Human rights defenders reconnect us to what makes the essence of humanity” says Michel Forst, the former UN Special Rapporteur in his foreword to the updated Guidelines on security and protection for grantees by the Norwegian Human Rights Fund (NHRF).

Jalila, Mohamadou, Paulo and Lita are all human rights defenders who work in difficult areas. In forgotten places, where the State does not operate anymore or where conflicts rage on. They provide support to women victims of sexual violence; they advocate for transitional justice; they visit peaceful protesters who have been arbitrarily detained. They bring human rights to the darkest, most isolated places. They are the voices for those whose voices have been stolen. Each and every day these ordinary women and men brave countless risks to be close to those they defend. Because they defend human rights they are targeted by those who benefit from human rights violations. Each day they must reinvent themselves and their most trivial routines. Jalila turns her phone off while having discussions with other defenders; Lita makes sure she travels back home while the sun is still high; and Paulo frequently changes the passwords to his social media accounts. When traveling outside his village, Mohamadou leaves instructions for his family as preparation for the possibility of being arrested and taken to jail.

Each day these four defenders feel in their own minds and bodies what it means to defend human rights in complex settings and thousands of other human rights defenders face the same situation on the ground. They cannot depend on protection from the State or constant protection from their own communities, so they bear the heavy responsibility of protecting themselves, staying safe alone. Some are fortunate to have the support of their organizations and movements but must still practice self-protection. Sometimes this individual responsibility feels like a burden and can have lasting and severe consequences on their psychological, physical and social well-being.

Former Special Rapporteur on the situation of HRDs, Michel Forst, with human rights defenders during a consultation on the situation in the MENA region (Photo: NHRF’s grantee partner, Gulf Centre for Human Rights).

In recent years, a number of initiatives across the globe have contributed to support defenders and to provide them with a set of concrete tools to mitigate risks. Defenders have been building solidarity networks and strategic alliances, they have developed risks analysis and digital security trainings. Women human rights defenders and indigenous communities have helped understand the necessity to develop collective and holistic approaches to security. Some States have developed laws and mechanisms to better protect defenders as a response to the current deterioration of the situation of HRDs. Over the past five years, I have heard and learnt about many good practices on protection, and I am pleased with the efforts of the NHRF to provide these guidelines as a resource to help identify and navigate these initiatives.

….Defenders often represent the last remaining hopes for those whose are left behind, who are excluded and despised by their societies. … it is imperative that we strengthen our support to these heroes. It is not only a matter of justice, it is for the sake of our common future, for our humanity. We must defend and stand and act in solidarity with these selfless, indomitable people.

Main photo: Mónica Orjuela/NHRF.

https://nhrf.no/article/2020/human-rights-defenders-reconnect-us-to-what-makes-the-essence-of-humanity-michel-forst

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/17/protection-internationals-next-e-learning-course-on-security-starts-19-february/

Coronavirus and human rights: New guidance highlights support for persons with disabilities

May 2, 2020

UNDP Bangladesh/Fahad Kaizer – In Bangladesh, the UN Development Programme and partners have rolled out emergency support to vulnerable communities.

New guidance issued on 30 April 2020 sets out key actions, to counter what the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called the “double risk” faced by persons with disabilities in the COVID-19 pandemic. As Michelle Bachelet explained, not only are people with disabilities at higher risk because of the crisis, they also are disproportionately affected by response measures such as lockdowns. “People with disabilities are in danger in their own homes, where access to day-to-day support and services may be limited due to lockdowns, and some may suffer greatly from being isolated or confined”, she said. “Persons with disabilities face even greater threats in institutions, as care facilities have recorded high fatality rates from COVID-19 and horrific reports have emerged of neglect during the pandemic.”

The UN rights chief added that making information about the virus available in accessible formats is vital. She also expressed concern over discrimination and stigma at this unprecedented time. “I have been deeply disturbed by reports that the lives of persons with disabilities may somehow be given different weight than others during this pandemic”, she said. “Medical decisions need to be based on individualized clinical assessments and medical need, and not on age or other characteristics such as disability.”

The guidance note published by the UN human rights office outlines steps governments and stakeholders can take during the pandemic. They range from discharging persons with disabilities from institutions, to increasing existing disability benefits, and removing barriers to COVID-19 treatment. Prioritizing testing and promoting preventive measures within institutions to reduce infection risk are other recommendations. Additionally, the guidance spotlights promising practices already in place in some countries. For example, in Switzerland and Spain, some persons with disabilities living in institutions were moved out to be at home with their families, while authorities in Canada have issued priority COVID-19 testing guidelines with specific measures for these settings.

https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/04/1062912

UN Guidelines for use of emergency powers in time of covid-19 pandemic

April 14, 2020

UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial Executions Agnes Callamard. Photo: Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Wikipedia.

a set of guidelines issued by the UN’s Human Rights’ Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESR), in whcih governments are urged to respect human rights across the spectrum, including economic and social rights, and civil and political rights as this would be fundamental to the success of the public health response.

The announcement shed light on the controversial decision by the Maltese government to close the country’s ports as migrant boats were stranded. The UN said it was aware that governments had to take difficult decisions in light of the coronavirus pandemic, but insisted measures should be proportionate. Emergency powers must be used for legitimate public health goals, not used as a basis to quash dissent or silence the work of human rights defenders or journalists.

This was also highlighted by Agnes Callamard, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial Executions, who said these emergency measures also had to be lifted when these were no longer necessary for protecting public health. People needed to be informed about the emergency measures, where these applied and for how long they were meant to be in effect. “As the crisis passes, it will be important for governments to return life to normal and not use emergency powers to indefinitely regulate day-to-day life, recognizing that the response must match the needs of different phases of this crisis,” the CESC said.

Unfortunately, several governments around the world – and in the EU – have taken advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to implement a series of measures that roll back human rights.

  • As people are being called upon to stay at home, governments must take urgent measures to help people without adequate housing. …The authorities should also take particular care to prevent more people from becoming homeless and implement good practices such as moratoriums on evictions, deferrals of mortgage or loan payments.
  • It was also important to keep in mind people who relied on community and home services to eat, dress and bathe – including people with a disability or the elderly.
  • The guidelines also refer to prisoners and those kept in detention, saying these were at a higher risk of infection in case of an outbreak. Social distancing was difficult to maintain in these places, which had a high risk of contamination. States should “urgently explore options for release and alternatives to detention to mitigate the risk of harm within places of detention,” it said.
  • The document also tackled the issue of migration, saying migrants and refugees also faced “particular risks” as these may be confined to camps and settlements, which might be overcrowded, overstretched and with poor sanitation. “It is also vital that any tightening of border controls, travel restrictions or limitations on freedom of movement do not prevent people who may be fleeing from war or persecution from accessing safety and protection,” the committee said.

This recommendation is the exact opposite of the decision taken by the Maltese government last week to close its ports, making it very clear that it would not be taking any more migrants as a measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This announcement came 24 hours after Italy closed all its ports, saying its harbours could not be considered safe. The decision was harshly criticised by more than 20 non-governmental organisations who called on the prime minister to ensure that all persons within Malta’s responsibility were rescued and their safety guaranteed. “The nation cannot quietly celebrate Easter while men, women and children are drowning on our doorstep. Saving lives and ensuring their disembarkation at a safe place is a fundamental legal obligation and also a moral imperative that can in no way be negotiated or renounced,” the NGOs said.

The guidelines called on governments to take “specific actions” to include migrants and refugees in national prevention and response campaigns by ensuring equal access to information, testing, and health care for all, regardless of their status. Earlier this month, the Maltese authorities put the Hal Far open centre under a two-week quarantine after eight migrants tested positive for coronavirus. The decision was slammed by local NGOs who said this would exacerbate the situation where the virus could potentially spread among the 1,000 residents.

On 14 April 2020 Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, called on States not to use state of emergency declarations during the COVID-19 crisis to impose wholesale restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and released detailed Guidelines governments and law enforcement agencies must follow to avoid human rights abuses.

No country or government can solve this health crisis alone and I am concerned about worrying trends and limitations emerging from civil society reports around the world, including on civil society’s ability to support an effective COVID-19 response,” said Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. “Civil society organisations are key in helping States to frame inclusive policies, disseminate information, and provide social support to vulnerable communities in need,” he said.

In his 10 Guidelines, the expert said that where new laws or regulations are adopted, any limitations on rights imposed must adhere to the principles of legality, necessity and proportionality. Free-flow of information is crucial in times of crisis and laws criminalising ‘false news’, including those targeting human rights defenders, must be avoided. “It is inadmissible to declare blanket restrictions on human rights and fundamental freedoms,” Voule said. “Exemptions should be foreseen for civil society actors, particularly those monitoring human rights, trade unions, social services providing humanitarian assistance, and journalists covering the management of the crisis. “State of emergency does not halt the freedoms of peaceful assembly and of association,” the human rights expert said.

Voule said his Guidelines could help States reassess measures already in place to ensure compliance with their human rights obligations and to take citizens’ demands fully into account.

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/covid-19-restrictions-should-not-stop-freedom-assembly-and-association-says-un-expert

Coronavirus emergency measures must be timely and proportionate

NGOs call Canada’s revised guidelines on human rights defenders a step in the right direction

September 1, 2019

With human rights defenders increasingly under attack around the world, civil society organizations in June 2019 welcomed the Government of Canada’s revised guidelines aimed at strengthening its approach to ensuring the safety and security of these courageous activists. In 2016 [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/13/canada-joins-select-group-of-governments-with-guidelines-on-human-rights-defenders/] they were first made public. After input from civil society, the government now has revised and updated the guidelines.

.. The groups welcome Canada’s acknowledgement that human rights defenders put themselves at great risk—along with their families, communities and the movements they represent—as they work to promote human rights and strengthen the rule of law. Women and LGBTI human rights defenders, for example, face high-levels of sexual and other forms of gender-based violence because of their gender and the rights they are advocating for. “In many parts of the world, human rights defenders are at risk as a result of their courageous work and their willingness to speak truth to power. Canada and the international community need to be strong supporters of these brave individuals. Human rights defenders must be able to act freely and without any interference, intimidation, abuse, threats, violence or reprisal. We are committed to speaking out against violations, standing up for human rights defenders and striving for a world where the rights and freedoms of all people are respected,” said Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland on 17 June in Ottawa at a human rights event where the guidelines were announced.

For Canada’s new guidelines to be effective in helping to protect and support human rights defenders, they will need to be accompanied by a comprehensive implementation plan and increased Canadian funding going directly to human rights defenders and the movements they represent.  Canada also needs to take a stronger approach to support human rights defenders advocating for corporate accountability, for instance, by enabling robust investigations when defenders face heightened risks linked to private sector investments.  It will also be critically important that Canada create an advisory body that includes the participation of human rights defenders with experience and first-hand knowledge of the threats facing human rights defenders….

Importantly, the new guidelines call for Canadian diplomats working abroad at overseas missions or at Global Affairs Canada headquarters in Ottawa to take a more feminist and intersectional approach to promoting the rights of defenders. The document notes that many human rights defenders have multiple and “overlapping” identities, and often work on multiple issues.  Human rights defenders may belong to one or more groups facing discrimination, including women, LGBTI people, Indigenous people, land and environment defenders, people with disabilities, journalists, and those seeking greater freedom of religion or beliefs.  Human rights defenders in conflict and post-conflict countries face unique risks posed by high levels of militarization.

Quotes from Canada’s Voices at Risk: Canada’s Guidelines on Supporting Human Rights Defenders

Canada recognizes the key role played by human right defenders in protecting and promoting human rights and strengthening the rule of law, often at great risk to themselves, their families and communities, and to the organizations and movements they often represent.

Canada’s guidelines on supporting human rights defenders is a clear statement of Canada’s commitment to supporting the vital work of HRDs.”

Endorsed by:
  • Amnesty International Canada
  • The MATCH International Women’s Fund
  • Nobel Women’s Initiative
  • Oxfam Canada
  • United Church of Canada

https://www.oxfam.ca/news/canadas-new-guidelines-to-support-human-rights-defenders-a-step-in-the-right-direction/

UK joins small group of countries with specific guidelines on human rights defenders

July 19, 2019

The United Kingdom has recently published guidelines for the protection and support of rights defenders around the world. It joins a small group of countries such as Norway, the Netherlands, Ireland, Switzerland, Austria and Canada (although they differ – see the websites of these countries). There are also some mulitlateral ones such as the EU Guidelines.[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2012/01/13/quick-reminder-of-the-eu-guidelines-on-human-rights-defenders/] and those of the OSCE.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/13/canada-joins-select-group-of-governments-with-guidelines-on-human-rights-defenders/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/11/02/swiss-guidelines-on-human-rights-defenders-analyzed-by-civil-society/.

In the foreword to the publication Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister for Human Rights, states: To demonstrate our commitment of continued support of human rights defenders globally, this document sets out why human rights defenders are important to us and acknowledges the risks they face in the pursuit of universal human rights. We hope it will give human rights defenders encouragement to know how we may be able to support them, including through our network of embassies and high commissions overseas. Whilst every situation may be different depending on local context, our values and commitments in providing support remain the same

Human Rights Watch was not impressed: While welcome, real support requires a willingness to speak out even when it carries political costs. The new guidelines praise the courageous work of human rights defenders in the face of risks including threats, intimidation, harassment, and detention. The guidelines rightly identify groups which are in greater danger, such as journalists, women, and LGBT activists, and express the UK’s commitment to support them “wherever they are in the world.” But when it comes to actually standing up for human rights defenders, the UK’s record is patchy. While it sometimes speaks out in private, it remains reluctant to do so publicly, even though doing so would raise the cost to states that seek to silence those who speak truth to power. The UK government has so far done very little about credible reports of the torture, sexual harassment, and assault of Saudi women activists currently on trial for defending human rights in their country. It has failed to hold Hungary to account for its efforts to clamp down on human rights groups and rule of law. And it has failed to criticize United Arab Emirates authorities for the unjust imprisonment of Emirati activist Ahmed Mansoor on his peaceful calls for reform. The UK hopes that by publishing these guidelines, defenders might be encouraged to understand that the British government might be able to support them. But if the UK is really serious about this, it should be willing to speak out publicly on their behalf when they are in trouble, including when their safety is at risk in countries that are UK allies. In short, the UK’s new Prime Minister should make it a priority to protect and support human rights defenders no matter where they are in the world.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/07/19/will-next-uk-government-stand-human-rights-defenders

Click to access UK-Support-for-Human-Rights-Defenders.pdf

How can companies take concrete actions to protect human rights defenders?

September 19, 2018

Published a few days ago by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre and the International Service for Human Rights, this new guidance was commissioned by the Business Network on Civic Freedoms and Human Rights Defenders, seeking to encourage companies to focus on an increasingly inescapable agenda.

‘Shared space’ under pressure

..Data from around the world shows there is a concerted attack in many countries on the essential freedoms and the rule of law on which business and civil society depend. And the defenders and organisations who expose the risk of abuse by companies in their operations and supply chains are under particular attack. Business and civil society operate in and benefit from a ‘shared space’ defined by common, fundamental elements. The rule of law and freedom of expression, association and assembly are essential to the realisation of all human rights, to good governance and accountable institutions. These elements are also critical to stable, profitable and sustainable business environments in which companies thrive and economies prosper. Yet this shared space is as much an ideal as it is a reality.

The strength of the shared space is tested by a history and legacy of mistrust between elements of civil society and business, especially between multinational corporations in certain industries and local communities in the Global South. This mistrust is reflected in actions, whether intentional or inadvertent, by individual companies and even entire industries to undermine civic freedoms and to undercut human rights defenders. It shows up in conflicts and confrontations in almost every region. Yet standards and practices have evolved over the last two decades to encourage or require companies to respect human rights – however incompletely and inconsistently. Moreover, engagement and consultation of companies with local communities and stakeholders are leading to solutions in conflicts in ways that encourage further progress. ‘The time is now for responsible business to act to defend civic freedoms and protect human rights defenders’, said Michael Ineichen, Programme Director at ISHR…

Guidance for companies

But why, when and how should business engage on this urgent agenda? This guidance represents a major step forward towards business action. It is a practical guide to realistic action by responsible companies, investors, industry associations and business leaders. It is informed by pragmatism and the principles of freedom and fair play. It is also the result of over 90 interviews with business leaders, investors, civil society advocates and other international experts who gladly offered their insights.

The document elaborates on why business should be compelled to join civil society and human rights defenders in resisting the crackdown on their work by:

  • Providing the complementary normative framework, business case and moral considerations which all encourage companies to support civic freedoms and defenders under threat;
  • Elaborating on the main elements of the business case to protect defenders, namely the business interest to secure the shared space, to manage operational and reputational risks, to build competitive advantage, and to secure a social license to operate;
  • Outlining a decision framework that is both analytical and operational to determine whether and how to act in various circumstances.

Authored by Bennett Freeman, a leader and innovator in the business and human rights  field for two decades, the guidance intends to further push the thinking and debate on how we can forge new alliances to counter the attacks on civic freedoms and human rights defenders and hold open these precious shared spaces. The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre and the International Service for Human Rights look forward to deeper and more powerful collaboration with business and stronger alliances with civil society partners through the publication of this guidance.

Download the full guidance – Shared space under pressure: business support for civic freedoms and human rights defenders

Download an executive summary – Shared space under pressure: Executive Summary

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/09/2017-9-business-can-be-better-allies-of-human-rights-defenders/

Canada joins select group of Governments with Guidelines on human rights defenders

December 13, 2016

On 7 December 2016 the Government of Canada published Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders. It joins a limited number of Governments with a specific policy on human rights defenders (not just human rights in general) such as Norway, the Netherlands, Ireland, Switzerland and Austria, although they differ a bit in the degree of detail. And there are of course the EU Guidelines.[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2012/01/13/quick-reminder-of-the-eu-guidelines-on-human-rights-defenders/] and those of the OSCE: Read the rest of this entry »

DatNav: New Guide to Navigate and Integrate Digital Data in Human Rights Research

August 25, 2016

DatNav, a guide designed to help human rights defenders navigate and integrate digital data into your human rights research, was launched today.

DatNav is the result of a collaboration between Amnesty InternationalBenetech, and The Engine Room which began in late 2015 culminating in an intense four-day writing sprint facilitated by Chris Michael and Collaborations for Change in May 2016. Based on interviews, community consultations, and surveys the researchers found that in the vast majority of cases, human rights defenders were not using the tools. Why? Mainly, human rights researchers appeared to be overwhelmed by the possibilities.

DatNav - Digital Data in Human Rights Research

Still, integrating and using digital data in a responsible way can make a huge and important difference to human rights research. Acquiring, disseminating and storing digital data is also more in reach. DatNav is about navigating these new possibilities.

In May 2016, the 3 NGOs gathered a group of experts to create a guide to help address this problem, and created the foundations of DatNav. Nearly 70 key members of the human rights tech and data community, representing nearly 40 different organisations from around the world, played key roles in the creation of DatNav.

This is just the beginning. If you’re interested in taking the guide forward, whether to inform strategy in your work, to train others, or through translations, or adaptations of the content, the organizers would like to hear from you. The content is all CC-BY-SA licensed and remixes of the content are more than welcome. We’re in initial talks to release an Arabic translation of DatNav, and we’d like to carry out others, too.

Download the DatNav pdf

You can sign up for The Engine Room’s newsletter to be notified of new updates and releases.

To find out more about the project or give feedback, you can send an email. You can also reach out on Twitter @zararah and The Engine Room @EngnRoom.

 

Source: DatNav: New Guide to Navigate and Integrate Digital Data in Human Rights Research | The Engine Room

Human Rights Defenders in National Action Plans on Business and Human Rights: Launch of Guide with public debate on 15 June

June 7, 2016

The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) and the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR) are planning a public discussion about how and why human rights defenders should be consulted in the development of National Action Plans on Business and Human Rights (NAPs) and protected by their provisions. This event will also launch ISHR and ICAR’s new guidance on this subject, situating NAPs in the broader contexts of extreme risks facing human rights defenders taking on business abuses. Wednesday 15 June 2016, 12h30 – 14h00, Palais des Nations, Geneva. (Room to be confirmed) Read the rest of this entry »

New travel guide “Cyber security policy for human rights defenders” issued by GPD

May 20, 2016

On 18 May 2016 Global Partners Digital (GPD) issued a new entry in its series of ‘Travel Guides to the Digital World‘: Cybersecurity Policy for Human Rights Defenders.

Just as a travel guide introduces tourists to the customs, language and geography of a foreign land, the series aims to equip human rights defenders with the information needed to navigate complex areas of internet-related policy from a human rights perspective. Previous guides in the series have focused on internet governance and digital surveillance. The latest entry,  shines the spotlight on an emerging, and increasingly crucial domain – and aims to fill a conspicuous gap. For while much valuable work has already been done on cybersecurity, there are currently few resources for human rights defenders on this issue.

A few years ago, cybersecurity was a word most likely to evoke dreary office trainings on password protection. Today, it is a top priority of states worldwide. 72 countries now have live national cybersecurity strategies, and 102 have National Computer Incident Response Teams (CIRTs). It remains however, a contested, elastic and shifting term which can cover a seemingly endless range of different issues, situations, and policy measures.

In spite of this, human rights defenders have so far been notable for their absence in cybersecurity policymaking spaces. Without the crucial scrutiny they provide, important decisions are being taken without any consideration for their broader implications on the enjoyment of basic human rights, including the right to freedom of expression, access to information, and privacy. The guide hopes in a small way to address this trend by helping human rights defenders to find their bearings and gain a solid grasp of the institutions, actors and issues at stake.

A few words on structure. In conceptualising the guide, an immediate challenge was the sheer range of definitions available within cybersecurity. We’ve tried to resolve this by grouping issues into three broad categories –  information security, cyber crime and cyber conflict – but we recognise that these overlap. Human rights defenders need to be active not only in challenging the impact of cybersecurity policies, but in reshaping its very meaning, which is why definition is a key focus of the guide.

The guide concludes with a list of recommendations, which are by no means prescriptive or comprehensive, but which hopefully offer some useful starting points for strategic engagement from a human rights perspective.

[GPD are a small team based in Shoreditch in London working with civil society groups, governments, international institutions and businesses to protect and promote human rights values online. Much of its work is carried out with partner organisations in the global South. Global Partners Digital started off in 2005 as Global Partners and Associates (GPA) which was set up to work in the areas of democracy, governance and human rights. As a team within GPA, it initially worked on human rights and traditional media issues. Since then, its work in this field has developed substantially. With the unprecedented growth of the internet and mobile phone technologies – and the challenges and opportunities that these bring – GPD have become increasingly focused on human rights and digital communications. Thus the rebranding as Global Partners Digital in 2013.]

see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/06/05/new-book-on-internet-policy-and-governance-for-human-rights-defenders/

Source: Introducing GPD’s new travel guide to cybersecurity policy for human rights defenders | Global Partners Digital