Posts Tagged ‘High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet’

Human Rights Day 10 December 2019: an anthology

December 11, 2019

International Human Rights Day, 10 December 2019, was celebrated or observed all around the world and there is no way to report on every event. Stil to add flavour here a selection of some 14 smaller and bigger events – for more details follow the links provided (and for last year’s anthology see references at the end):

There was of course the annual statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet Rightly, these young people are pointing out that it is their future which is at stake, and the future of all those who have not yet even been born. It is they who will have to bear the full consequences of the actions, or lack of action, by the older generations who currently run governments and businesses, the decision-makers on whom the future of individual countries, regions and the planet as whole depends…We have a duty to ensure young people’s voices are heard. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948, was a firm commitment by States to protect the rights of everyone – and that includes making it possible for future generations to uphold human dignity, equality and rights…..Climate harms will not be halted by national borders – and reactions based on hostile nationalism, or short-term financial considerations, will not only fail: they will tear our world apart. The struggles for climate justice and human rights are not a political quarrel. This is not about left or right: it is about rights – and wrongs… We need to mobilise across the world – peacefully and powerfully – to advance a world of rights, dignity and choice for everyone. The decision-makers understood that vision very clearly in 1948. Do they understand it now? I urge world leaders to show true leadership and long-term vision and set aside narrow national political interests for the sake of everyone, including themselves and all their descendants.

Pakistan: Human Rights Defenders asked the government to make serious efforts to provide fundamental rights. Human rights, labour rights and civil society activists called upon the government to make serious efforts for the provision of fundamental human rights and freedoms, especially the freedoms of association and expression, enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Addressing a joint press conference at the Karachi Press Club to mark International Human Rights Day, PILER joint director Zulfiqar Shah, human rights activists Naghma Shaikh and Saeed Baloch representing the Sindh Human Rights Defenders Network said the government should ensure the restoration of the freedom of expression and the freedom to association. They demanded that the government should bring in a law to protect the rights of human rights defenders as they stood up for the voiceless people…. They also demand fully restoring the freedom of expression, as it was a constitutional right of the people to express their thought. Access to the information right must be ensured, they said.

India: Activists say NHRC urgently needs to protect human rights defenders. The National Human Rights Commission should proactively protect the rights of ‘human rights defenders’, said activists at the national convention on rights of Dalit and Adivasi rights defenders in the capital on Tuesday. Human Rights Defenders appealed to the commission to proactively intervene in cases where the works of Dalit and Adivasi organisations were being obstructed. Activists said there were a growing attack on human rights defenders in India and said the need of the hour was collective action….On Human Rights Day, the convention highlighted the importance of the work of human rights defenders. Despite the country having national human rights institutions and over 160 state human rights institutions dealing with human rights, women, children, minorities, SCs, STs, right to information, persons with disabilities, and safai-karamcharis, these institutions have often failed to protect the human rights defenders, activists said. In addition to the usual challenges, women human rights defenders face gender-specific violations, such as rape and sexual violence which are used as tools for harassment, said activists. Caste discrimination has also presented a greater danger for women rights defenders belonging to the Dalit and Adivasi communities.

Cambodia: The Khmer Times reported that very differing opinions on the status of human rights in the Kingdom became apparent as various groups marked Human Rights Day at two venues in the capital. About 400 government officials and youth group members marked the day’s 71st anniversary at the Cambodia-Korea Cooperation Centre, while about 2,000 unionists and members of the public marked the day at Freedom Park.

Keo Remy, president of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee, at the CKCC said the government has always paid attention to the rights of citizens. “Our leaders prioritise peace and stability,” Mr Remy said. “Youths can make the country chaotic because of the words democracy and human rights. That is why we focus on youths and stability.” while..

Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, at Freedom Park said respecting the rights of workers has decreased over the years and it is a source of concern for many. “We see that respecting workers’ rights has decreased – investors do not pay attention to workers,” Mr Thorn said. “Investors need to consider the rights of workers.” He said garment factory workers are faced with decreasing salaries, overtime work, discrimination, short-term contracts, violence and imprisonment. The Cambodian Centre for Human Rights in a statement said the government has taken action to curb issues surrounding human rights, but it has not done enough. “We call on the government to encourage the celebration of Human Rights Day in Cambodia and acknowledge the benefit human rights have on society as a whole,” it said. “We implore the government to cease all arbitrary action and targetting of human rights defenders.” The CCHR also called for the charges against two former Radio Free Asia journalists and Kem Sokha to be dropped.

Palestine: the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association reported that Palestinians marked International Human Rights Day following a year of nonstop violence and widespread human rights violations by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), against the Palestinian population used, as a form of collective punishment and a method to control Palestinian society. These consistent and systematic policies by the occupation include, extrajudicial executions and issuance of discriminatory legislations, mass arrests campaigns, torture, administrative detention, and medical negligence against Palestinian political prisoners…..In 2019, the (IOF) continued its crackdown and repression of human rights defenders. Currently, Addameer faces gag orders against around 40 of the cases they represent, who are in interrogation. The gag order prohibits us from releasing any information to the public regarding their detention status, or face grave consequences.

Philippines: Groups under the Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (Ecuvoice) has submitted its first wave of reports on the human rights situation in the Philippines to United Nations Commissioner on Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Monday, Dec. 9. This is in line with Resolution 41/2 which was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in July this year. “With the intensifying transgressions on the Filipinos people’s political rights and civil liberties, we are participating in this report-making process of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to pursue justice and accountability,” the convenor of Ecuvoice, Edita Burgos, said.

while

the international trade union movement was using international human rights day to call attention to the alarming attacks on human and labour rights defenders in the Philippines. The government’s targeting of trade unionists has been ramped up recently with fresh waves of arrests and violence. The international trade union movement is united in calling on the government to stop the attacks. The government is targeting labour activists through a practice known as red-tagging. By falsely identifying people who speak out against the government as associated to armed militia groups, the government purposely targets them with harassment and arrests and exposes them to violence and even murder….The International Labour Organization (ILO) has resolved to send a High-Level Tripartite Mission to the Philippines to investigate the human rights situation, but despite the urgency, the government has yet to receive the Mission. The international labour movement is undertaking solidarity events across the world to demand an end to the human rights abuses and the targeting of trade unionists. The ITUC has requested to meet with the representative of the Philippines to the EU on Human Rights Day and has outlined three key demands.

Turkey. Amnesty International Turkey and MetroPOLL Strategic and Social Research Center have jointly conducted a Survey on Perception of Human Rights. The results of the survey have shown that when they hear the expression of “human rights”, 65.2 percent of the participants think of “right to life” first. While “freedom of expression” comes to the minds of 33.5 percent, the right to a fair trial ranks third with 22.1 percent. According to the survey participated by 2,651 people from 28 cities and conducted in a face-to-face manner, 82.1 percent of the society think that fundamental rights and freedoms are violated in Turkey. Of these people, 58 percent say that fundamental rights are occasionally violated and 42 percent say that they are frequently violated. 62.6 percent of the participants are of the opinion that fundamental rights and freedoms are restricted in Turkey. While 72 percent of the young participants think that fundamental rights and freedoms are restricted, this rate falls as the age of the participant gets older. For more detials see the full report.

China:  posted an interesting piece in China Digital Times on how the Chinese government defends if record on human rights and how others see this. Here one excerpt out of manY:

On Tuesday, International Human Rights Day, spokesperson Hua Chunying mounted a familiar defense of China’s rights record at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ regular press conference …and went on to note that the MoFA and State Council Information Office would host the “2019 South-South Human Rights Forum” this week “with a view to adding new dimensions and injecting impetus into exchange and cooperation in the field of human rights.” ….. At Hong Kong Free Press, the Uyghur Human Rights Project’s Omer Kanat commented on the ‘South-South Human Rights Forum’ hailed by Hua Chunying,…… Among the enablers of Xi Jinping’s repression are states with disreputable recor[ds attracted to a possible exemption from universal standards that ‘human rights with Chinese characteristics’ affords. And again, if we could freely ask the populations who reside in these states how they feel about such a concept, there would be few advocates. Therefore, on Human Rights Day, we have a responsibility to defend those who defend universal values and be clear ‘never again’ has meaning. There is injustice everywhere and we must fight it. Uyghurs are among them, for example, the imprisoned Ilham Tohti, and in exile , Nury Turkel, Rushan Abbas, and Gulchehra Hoja, whose families have been detained and disappeared in East Turkestan because of their advocacy. The second ‘South-South Human Rights Forum’ is opening in Shanghai for this year’s Human Rights Day. The dangerous fiction of the ‘Beijing Declaration’ that there are exceptions to the universality of rights should be firmly resisted.

Afghanistan ‘Human Rights’ should be more focused during peace talks. MENAFN (Afghanistan Times) reported that UN Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, Tadamichi Yamamoto, in a gathering has expressed concerns regarding the human rights achievements, saying that these gains should be saved in the ongoing negotiation with the Taliban. He called on the National Security Council to consider perseverance of human and civil rights in talks with the Taliban, adding ‘Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission’s role is very important in the peace process, every voice that raise should be heard and rights of the victims should be observed.‘.. Moreover, head of AIHRC, Shaharzad Akbar has called on the Taliban to legislatively recognize the values of human rights. …There are massive concerns about the violation of achievements of human rights and freedom of speech in the peace negotiation with the Taliban militants. The Taliban has back in 1990 ruled Afghanistan with the sever restriction on girls and school students. The cultural Taboos and less freedom of women are one of the other key issues that have brought sever concerns from Afghan and foreign officials.

The NGO WITNESS used the occasion to publish its ANNUAL REPORT which looks at key successes from July 2018-June 2019 (fiscal year 2019). See the video clip:

Malaysia. “What happened to Harapan’s vow to improve human rights?” asks Jasmine Cho in an open letter:…’When Pakatan Harapan won a dramatic victory in the GE14 elections, they vowed to steer the country forward with human rights as one of their top priorities. However, since their win, we have seen a heavy regression in the area. The kind of regression that has gotten us worried about our present and our future as a modern, fair, and humane nation. From the Suaram 2019 report, several areas of abuse were glaring. One was the treatment of prisoners. The government has yet to abolish the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012, the Prevention of Crime Act 2015 and the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act 1985……….The list of human rights abuse is getting longer and the frustration we feel with our government is reaching boiling point. Malaysia is considered a modern and democratic country, so why are we so far behind when it comes to human rights? The government should stop pandering to the religious majority and stop focusing on external matters. The rights of the rakyat are being abused.

Netherlands/Sri Lanka. The Dutch Ambassador Gonggrijp spoke at an event for Human Rights Day 2019 organized by Equal Grounds Sri Lanka saying inter alia:

Sri Lanka has recently known a long period of conflict, during which human rights were under pressure. The reconciliation process after the end of the war has been slow. And I hear people say: what is the point of looking back, let’s move forward. To my opinion it is about recognition and human dignity. To that respect we should also recognize the progress that has been made: the Office on Missing Persons has been mandated to restore the rights of every Sri Lankan of any background, language or religion, to know what happened to their loved ones. And the work of the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission, as an independent entity, mirrors the country’s commitment to uphold human rights and civil freedoms. The Netherlands supports this and stands ready to help Sri Lankan institutions like these with capacity building and technical expertise…..

The policy of Netherlands is aimed at 1) abolishing the criminalization of homosexuality, 2) opposing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and 3) achieving wider social acceptance of gay people. In the Netherlands we have taken the first step of decriminalization a long time ago, but we are also still working on stopping discrimination and promoting acceptance. As I hope Sri Lanka will also take this first step in the near future, I also recognize that this will not solve all issues the LGBTI community is facing. It is key to inform people about the rights they have, regardless of their sexual orientation. To empower them to take responsibility, stand up or seek justice. It is also key to educate and make people from outside the community aware of the harassment and discrimination that people from the LGBTI community face. In order to also empower them to show solidarity and to take action if necessary. Every form of emancipation has been and still is a struggle. It starts with a ‘fight for your rights’. This is why this initiative of Equal Ground is so important, because – and allow me to quote again:

Mongolia / EU: Montsame reported that on the occasion of International Human Rights Day the Delegation of the European Union to Mongolia together with the Embassies of France and Italy presented European Union Human Rights Defenders’ Award (a national award!) to nine people, who are making their efforts to human rights protection…..Unfortunately, we are still observing human rights violations in many countries, especially gender and racial discrimination and discrimination in sexual orientation. Therefore, the EU Delegation to Mongolia, the Embassies of France and Italy and the Embassies of other countries are showing respect to human rights activists in Mongolia. Protection of human rights is one of main principles of the European Union, which defines its internal, and foreign policies and it is belonged to everyone. We will ever protect and encourage the people who endeavor for human rights, “ Ambassador of the European Union to Mongolia Traian Laurentiu Hristea said at the opening of the award presenting ceremony. The Ambassador also highlighted that the event will be traditionally held in the future.

MEXICO An indigenous activist who documented and denounced abuse committed by the military in Guerrero is this year’s winner of the National Human Rights Prize. Obtilia Eugenio Manuel was awarded the prize at Tuesday’s presidential press conference by National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) president Rosario Piedra Ibarra. The human rights chief said that among the military abuses that have been documented by Eugenio are the forced sterilization, sexual assault and sexual torture of indigenous women. Piedra also said the activist has received numerous threats and noted that she was abducted for four days earlier this year. ..“We don’t want one more rapist in our way,” Eugenio said, making a reference to the Chilean feminist anthem that has been performed around the world in recent weeks. Also at Tuesday’s press conference, Piedra recognized the human rights work of Margarito Díaz González and presented an award to his widow, Modesta Chávez de la Rosa. A former member of the Wirikuta security council and an advocate for environmental and indigenous rights, Díaz was murdered in Nayarit last year. Piedra recalled that the activist opposed the construction of a dam and other projects in San Luis Potosí and the development of Canadian-owned mines on sacred sites of the Huichol people.

 


If you are interested to compare with last year, see:

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/10/human-rights-day-2018-just-an-anthology/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/11/human-rights-day-2018-anthology-part-ii/

—————

http://bianet.org/english/human-rights/216920-82-1-percent-of-society-think-that-fundamental-rights-and-freedoms-are-violated
https://chinadigitaltimes.net/2019/12/china-defends-record-on-international-human-rights-day/
https://menafn.com/1099401711/Afghanistan-Human-Rights-should-be-more-focused-during-peace-talks
https://ar2019.witness.org/
https://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/503280
https://www.netherlandsandyou.nl/latest-news/news/2019/12/11/human-rights-day-2019
https://akipress.com/news:630675:EU_Human_Rights_Award_presented_to_nine_people_in_Mongolia/
https://mexiconewsdaily.com/news/human-rights-prize-winner-documented-abuse-by-military/

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

Bachelet and UN Rapporteurs at GA’s Third Committee 2019

October 18, 2019

In the Third Committee of the General Assembly this week UN experts and HC Bachelet said that freedom of peaceful assembly, global refugee protection, women’s civil liberties and the well-being of human-rights defenders are values under siege. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/10/13/third-committee-of-the-ga-also-has-a-lot-to-do-with-human-rights-defenders/]

We are witnessing an increase in xenophobia, hate speech, push-backs on women’s equality and the rights of minorities,” warned Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, also highlighting the ever-widening gaps in global wealth and access to resources. Moreover, underfunding has hampered the growing workload of the entire treaty body system, she said. Committees do not have adequate resources to carry out inquiries into grave or systematic violations. This results in a “credibility crisis” for all treaty bodies — and a denial of justice for the victims of human-rights violations.

Among the day’s three other briefers was Obiora Chinedu Okafor, Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity, who focused on the issue of human-rights based solidarity in global refugee protection. The current refugee “crisis” was not caused by large numbers of refugees, but rather by States’ unwillingness to accept refugees into their countries — evading their responsibilities. Moreover, the rise of extremist political parties is complicating the issue, he said, as the “alternative right” and other racist civil society groups target any kind of solidarity with refugees. Echoing those words, the Russian Federation’s delegate noted that certain extremist political parties are impeding the entry of refugees into the European Union, and that the Independent Expert’s report lay the blame for this squarely at the feet of foreign interference in internal State affairs.

In his presentation, Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human-rights defenders, highlighted that 431 defenders were killed in 2017 and 2018. With that in mind, combating impunity is not only a legal obligation of States, but also a moral one. He further noted that “98 per cent of the killings of rights defenders remain unpunished” and that unless impunity is ended, the violence against them will continue. A zero-tolerance policy towards such attacks must be adopted, and the lack of political will — and of State recognition of rights defenders — addressed. Reacting to those comments, several delegates raised questions about digital attacks on human-rights defenders, with Germany’s representative underscoring that female defenders of human rights often face particular threats, such as the publication of private information. Mr. Forst responded that he has found research by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of association and the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression helpful in this context, with a particular focus on advocating for social network businesses to provide better protections. To concerns raised by an observer for the State of Palestine and the representative of Georgia, he noted that his subsequent report will make specific proposals to assist defenders living in fragile States, as well as those living in conflict or post-conflict situations. On defenders who live in isolated areas, he said they are often not given sufficient attention by the international community. Ambassadors should leave their capitals and go into these far-flung areas to see where these defenders work, he said. Those who work on sexual and reproductive health and rights often bear the brunt of attacks, while those working on gender identity are harassed and threatened

The Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Clément Nyaletsossi Voulé, also presented his report.

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2019 Dublin Platform opens with 120 HRDs but five not able to attend

October 2, 2019

The 3-day 2019 Dublin Platform for Human Rights Defenders at Risk was opened on 2 October by Irish Foreign Minister, Simon Coveney, and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet. Over 120 human rights defenders (HRDs) from more than 80 countries are attending. Front Line Defenders Executive Director, Andrew Anderson, said that five human rights defenders were prevented from traveling to Dublin – Khadija Ismayilova (Azerbaijan), Oyub Titiev (Russia), Said Boudour (Algeria), Michel Matos (Cuba) and Marivic Danyan (Philippines). See more below.

The opening ceremony featured a testimony by Bahraini woman human rights defender (WHRD) Ebtisam Alsaegh, who was finally able to leave Bahrain and attend Dublin Platform years after first being invited. Speaking in Dublin, she called for an immediate end to gendered and sexualized attacks against women human rights defenders around the world.

Over three days, human rights defenders will share tactics and strategies for their protection and security, while learning from each other about their struggles, protests, resistance movements and victories. On Thursday evening, the HRDs will march in a procession to Christchurch Cathedral as part of the “Set Them Free” campaign, calling for the release of HRDs facing multi-decade prison sentences around the world. The campaign includes former Front Line Defenders Protection Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, Bahraini HRD Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, now serving a life sentence for his role in the peaceful pro-democracy uprising of 2011.

Four human rights defenders were either prevented from leaving their countries – or decided not to risk it due to pending charges. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/18/repressive-governments-and-ophelia-compete-to-prevent-hrds-to-travel-to-dublin/]

On 26 September, Cuban cultural rights defender Michel Matos was banned from travelling from José Martí International Airport in Havana while en route to attend the event in Ireland. Michel is an activist for cultural rights in Cuba. He, along with other artists, musicians and performers, has taken a stand against the controversial Decree 349, signed by Cuba’s President Miguel Díaz-Canel in April 2018, which grants the Ministry of Culture disproportionate power to control, cancel and sanction artistic expression, while containing vague and overly broad restrictions. While being processed at passport control, officials informed him he was not permitted to board the plane as he is on an automatic travel ban list. He was not shown any documents or given any further details on the ban, other than being told that the officials “were following orders”.

Due to his work advocating for the rights of political prisoners in Algeria, Said Boudour has been informed that he is currently being sought by the Algerian authorities. As he prepared to travel to Ireland to attend the Platform, he received advice from his lawyer that should he attempt to leave the country he would almost certainly be arrested at the airport. Said is a member of the Algerian League for Human Rights. He works on a range of civil and political rights in Algeria, with a particular focus on the rights of prisoners in the context of the ongoing anti-government demonstrations, and on democracy in Algeria. The human rights defender has been frequently harassed by the Algerian authorities; he has been previously detained three times and has been under regular police surveillance.

Khadija Ismayilova, a woman human rights defender and journalist from Azerbaijan, was also unable to accept her invite to the Dublin Platform due to a travel ban imposed against her following her release from prison in 2016. In 2018 the Baku Court of Appeal refused for the third time to lift the ban. Khadija is well known for her investigative reports on corruption in Azerbaijan, including the President’s family’s involvement.

Oyub Titiev, a human rights defender from Chechnya, was similarly prevented from travelling due to a travel ban stemming from his conditional release from prison in June 2019. He was detained in January 2018 on fabricated drug charges in retaliation for his work with Human Rights Center Memorial in Chechnya. Both Oyub and Front Line Defenders had written without success to the Russian authorities seeking permission for him to allowed travel to attend the Dublin Platform.

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/2019-dublin-platform

41st session Human Rights Council: Opening statement by High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet

June 25, 2019

On 24 June, 2019, the 41st session of the Human Rights Council started with an opening statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. I refer to the guide to human rights defenders issues published earlier: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/14/guide-to-human-rights-defenders-issues-at-the-41st-human-rights-council-starting-on-24-june/

The High Commissioner’s speech contained many topics including these:

……
I regret Saudi Arabia‘s dismissal of last week’s report by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. I also reiterate my strong condemnation of the mass execution of 37 men in April. Some were children when the alleged crimes occurred.

Iran continues to sentence children to death. I was appalled that the authorities sentenced and executed two boys under the age of 18 in April. I remain particularly concerned about the high number of child offenders on death row – possibly more than 85 individuals – with some at risk of imminent execution.

I take this opportunity to note and commend global progress with respect to the death penalty in this year, which marks the 30th anniversary of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty. The advances include recent ratifications by Gambia and State of Palestine; removal of the death penalty from the penal codes of Benin and Burkina Faso; and declarations of moratoria in Malaysia and the State of California.

..The inspiring and peaceful popular uprising in Sudan, with its call for democratic governance and justice, has been met with a brutal crackdown by the security forces this month. I regret that the Government has not responded to our request for access to investigate allegations of serious human rights violations by the joint security forces during the crackdown. They include reports that more than 100 protestors were killed, and many more injured, during and following the assault by security forces on a peaceful sit-in on 3 June. In addition, hospitals and clinics were reportedly raided, and medical staff assaulted. We have received allegations of rape and sexual abuse of both women and men during the crackdown, as well as information alleging that hundreds of protestors may be missing. I urge Sudan to grant access to my Office; to put an end to the repression of the people’s human rights; and to immediately end the Internet shutdown. The Sudanese people are entitled to express their opinions, and – like people everywhere – they have a right to live in freedom and at peace, enjoying the rule of law and the conditions necessary to dignity.

In Myanmar, evidence indicates continuing persecution of the remaining Rohingya people in northern Rakhine State, with little or no effort by the authorities to create conditions for the voluntary, safe and sustainable return of refugees. Although restrictions on humanitarian and media access in both Rakhine and in Chin State limit our access to information, the ongoing conflict there has included use of heavy weaponry, airstrikes and helicopter gunships by the military, with significant loss of life on all sides and severe impact on civilians. Based on allegations received, we fear that the conflict is being used as a pretext to carry out attacks against Rohingya civilians, and to cause further displacement. Some 35,000 ethnic Rakhine, Rohingya, Mro, Daignet and Khamee civilians have been internally displaced by fighting. The suspension of humanitarian aid by the government means at least 95,000 people have been cut off from life-saving assistance.

….
My Office is following the situation of human rights in the Philippines very closely. The extraordinarily high number of deaths – and persistent reports of extrajudicial killings – in the context of campaigns against drug use continue. Even the officially confirmed number of 5425 deaths would be a matter of most serious concern for any country. I welcome the recent statement by Special Rapporteurs calling for action by the Council. There should also be comprehensive and transparent information from the authorities on the circumstances around the deaths, and investigations related to allegations of violations. These could dispel any false allegations and help regain trust for the authorities.Human rights defenders, including activists for land rights and the rights of indigenous peoples; journalists; lawyers; members of the Catholic clergy; and others who have spoken out – notably the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples – have received threats, sometimes publicly, from senior Government officials. This creates a very real risk of violence against them, and undermines rule of law, as well as the right to freedom of expression.

In Portugal, where I attended an encouraging conference on drug policies and harm reduction, I also benefited from informative discussions on migration. Portugal’s open and forward-looking migrant policy aims to offer migrants easy access to social and legal assistance and encourages migrants to access the labour market. I visited a centre in Lisbon which offered free pre-school classes, alongside training courses and other support to migrant women aiming to set up their own companies. Ensuring that migrants are included and integrated brings many benefits for host communities, including net financial contributions: Portugal’s High Commissioner for Migration informed me that in 2017, migrants contributed 510 million euros more to the social security system than they took out. I invite all countries to consider learning from this example. Despite extensive disinformation campaigns regarding the supposedly damaging impact of migration on destination countries, close attention to the facts indicates that when their dignity and rights are respected, migrants can be strong drivers of successful economies and societies. We should recognize and cherish these contributions.

Instead, I observe a deeply unfortunate trend towards the criminalisation of basic human compassion for migrants, including those in situations of great vulnerability. The NGO Open Democracy reported last month that over 100 ordinary people in Europe have been arrested or prosecuted this year for acts such as feeding hungry migrants; helping them find shelter; or even assisting a pregnant woman to get to hospital to give birth. Similar prosecutions of ordinary people seeking to help individuals in distress have also taken place in the United States and elsewhere. Moreover, in several countries, new legal measures aim to penalise NGOs which rescue people drowning at sea.

Measures such as these clearly put the lives of children, women and men at risk. But they also put our societies at risk. They violate ancient and precious values that are common to us all, by penalizing compassion. Those who seek to help people in need should be honoured, not prosecuted. Caring should not be considered a crime, and this criminalisation of acts of basic human decency must be resisted. We have, all of us, a right – and even a duty – to help each other.

https://ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?LangID=E&NewsID=24724

High Commissioner Bachelet presents her annual report: quite a list of problem areas

March 7, 2019

In the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council, in presenting her annual report and oral update, High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet focused on explaining how inequalities in income, wealth, access to resources, and access to justice constituted fundamental challenges to the principles of equality, dignity and human rights for every human being. Inequalities affected all countries. Even in prosperous States, people felt excluded from the benefits of development and deprived of economic and social rights, leading to alienation, unrest and sometimes violence. To achieve the 2030 Agenda, the world’s States needed to advance on tackling inequalities – inequalities of resources, income, power, access to justice and with respect to the basic conditions for human dignity.

Inequalities were a driver of several of the global trends which were of greatest concern to the Human Rights Council and other inter-governmental bodies, the High Commissioner stressed. Involuntary and precarious migration was a case in point. She underlined that inequalities and the failure to give equal weight and respect to all human rights had the power to erode all three pillars of the United Nations: peace and security, development, and human rights. However, human rights provided hope. They bound humanity together with shared principles and a better future, in sharp contrast to the divisive, destructive forces of repression, exploitation, scapegoating, discrimination and inequalities. She then listed many specific situations:

In Sudan, for the past several months, people protesting harsh economic conditions, and bad governance, have been violently dispersed by security forces, sometimes using live ammunition…

In Zimbabwe, protests against austerity measures have also been met with unacceptable violence by security forces. The Government’s effort to launch a dialogue process in recent days is encouraging, but I am worried by reports of door-to-door raids, as well as intimidation and harassment of activists, human rights defenders, and lawyers representing those arrested.

In Haiti, protests also broke out last month over rising food prices and corruption. At least 41 people were killed and 100 injured. The government has announced measures to curb high prices, raise wages and fight corruption. Ensuring accountability – including for alleged cases of excessive use of force by police – and a constructive dialogue will also be essential.

In France, the “Gilets Jaunes” have been protesting what they see as exclusion from economic rights and participation in public affairs. We encourage the Government to continue dialogue – including follow-up to the national discussions which are currently underway – and urge full investigation of all reported cases of excessive use of force.

She then turned to:

The situation in Venezuela clearly illustrates the way violations of civil and political rights – including failure to uphold fundamental freedoms, and the independence of key institutions – can accentuate a decline of economic and social rights. ..

In the context of Nicaragua‘s very serious social and political crisis, the resumption of national dialogue could constitute a significant step to address the grave problems facing the country. These include increasing restrictions to civic space; persecution of dissenting voices; and crackdowns on press freedom, as well as austerity measures, and unemployment. ..

In the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the devastating impact of the occupation on economic and social rights is closely interlinked with violations of civil and political rights. …

..

I am shocked by the number of killings of human rights defenders around the world – some, reportedly, by State agents, and others, insufficiently protected by the State from attack by economic or other interests. Attacks on journalists, and media freedoms, are becoming increasingly widespread. Sound, independent information is the foundation of public participation in democratic governance. Restrictions on the civic space are being enacted by numerous States, across several regions. I remain very concerned about reprisals against victims, human rights defenders and non-governmental organisations who cooperate with the UN.

Today, allow me to voice my concern at the apparently arbitrary arrest and detention, and alleged ill-treatment or torture, of several women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia. The persecution of peaceful activists would clearly contradict the spirit of the country’s proclaimed new reforms. We urge that these women be released.

In Turkey, I call on the authorities to view critical or dissenting voices – including human rights defenders, academics and journalists – as valuable contributors to social dialogue, rather than destabilizing forces. The recent prosecution of 16 civil society activists for “attempting to overthrow the government,” for their alleged roles during protests in 2013, is emblematic of many other trials lacking international due process standards.

In China, rapid development has lifted millions of people out of poverty – and yet in some areas, communities and individuals have been left behind. My Office seeks to engage on this issue with the Government for full access to carry out an independent assessment of the continuing reports pointing to wide patterns of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions, particularly in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region…

In India, where there has also been significant poverty reduction in overall terms, inequality remains a serious issue. In addition, we are receiving reports that indicate increasing harassment and targeting of minorities – in particular Muslims and people from historically disadvantaged and marginalised groups, such as Dalits and Adivasis. It appears that narrow political agendas are driving the further marginalisation of vulnerable people. I fear that these divisive policies will not only harm many individuals, but also undermine the success of India’s economic growth story.

….The continuing movement of people from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to the United States is a result of failure to ensure that development reaches everyone – with persistent violations of rights leading to profound inequalities. The comprehensive development plan being developed by Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and ECLAC is a welcome response to this challenge, very much in line with the Global Compact for Migration. In Mexico, too, the government is making efforts to move from an approach focused on detention and deportation of migrants to a new focus on protection of the rights of migrants, including opportunities for regularization, and alternatives to detention. In the United States of America, the new Migrant Protection Protocols which restrict access to asylum and other forms of human rights protection – and push migrants back across the border to wait for their proceedings without due process or safeguards– are a source of concern. A recent report by the Inspector General for the United States Department of Health and Human Services indicates that thousands more migrant children have been separated from their families than had been previously reported.

The Office has raised concerns with Australia about the imminent transfer of migrants from Manus Island and Nauru to new detention centres. Those people have been suffering for more than six years; more humane policies could, and should, be implemented….

I commend Germany‘s successful programmes to help migrants integrate into the economy and society, as well as legislation in several countries – including Finland, Portugal and Spain – which enable the entry and stay of migrants in vulnerable situations, based on human rights grounds. I am troubled about other aspects of European migration policies, particularly the number of fatalities in the Mediterranean. Another 226 deaths were recorded in the first two months of this year. With several NGO vessels forced to suspend operations by measures that essentially criminalise solidarity, the ancient responsibility of rescue at sea is increasingly falling on merchant vessels – which are often ill-suited to such a task. In addition, some governments have refused entry to ships.

..

In the Sahel, the Office has been implementing an innovative approach aimed at reducing the risk of harm to civilians during counter-terrorism operations. OHCHR is working with the G5 Sahel Joint Force operating in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger to establish a Compliance Framework to guide military operations. A training programme is underway; standard operating procedures are being developed which aim to reduce civilian harm and ensure sensitivity to gender issues; and a network of legal advisors is being established within the Joint Force to ensure the operational application of international human rights and humanitarian law…I encourage Cameroon to also consider the benefits of such an approach….

In Myanmar, economic interests and activities appear to be a key factor driving both violence and displacement by the Myanmar military, together with the dehumanisation of the Rohingya, and long-term discrimination. I am concerned by the failure to take any meaningful measures towards the safe, dignified, voluntary and sustainable return of the Rohingya and others – in compliance with their rights to citizenship and other rights. …..

……

In Yemen, I am deeply concerned by the suffering of civilians, despite the current ceasefire. This remains the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The conflict has not just killed and injured thousands of civilians.

Amid these negative trends, there are some hopeful areas, in which far-sighted leadership seeks to advance civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, to ensure a convergence of positive and constructive forces.

In Ethiopia, reforms have sought to address a wide spectrum of human rights issues, including benefit to sustainable development. The depth and pace of Prime Minister Abiy’s political and economic reforms, and the appointment of women to senior positions, could open the path to a more inclusive and effective development model, providing hope for Ethiopia’s young population. My Office will continue to assist the Government to devise sound laws, mend grievances, and set up measures to prevent violence in areas of the country.

………

At this session, the Council’s Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders presents a report on the rising attacks on, and repression of, women’s human rights defenders in the context of today’s backlash against women’s human rights. It makes clear that women defenders face the same risks as men, but with additional threats shaped by a view that women should be bound to the service of a male-dominated society. Physical and sexual violence, public shaming – including on the Internet – and attacks on their families and children are among the tactics increasingly used to silence women activists.

Recently a group of 30 women leaders issued an Open Letter emphasising the “urgency and peril” of the current roll-backs to hard-won rights and freedoms. I fully share their concerns, and will continue to work against gender inequalities with all the energy and principle that I can muster.

….. Before closing today, I would like to add a few additional situations of increasing concern.

In Libya, escalating violence since the beginning of the year – in particular, hostilities in the city of Derna and in the south of the country – could spark an even more chaotic situation, given the increasingly fragmented political context and continuing lawlessness. Armed groups which fall outside of effective State command and control structures, but which are integrated into State institutions, continue to commit grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights law throughout the country, in almost complete impunity. The number of civilians killed and injured in 2018, as documented by UNSMIL and OHCHR, was 40% higher than in 2017. Prevention measures should be considered a matter of urgency.

I remain concerned about the ongoing tensions in Kashmir, as shelling and firing on both sides of the Line of Control continue to contribute to loss of life and displacement. I encourage both India and Pakistan to invite my Office to monitor the situation on the ground, and to assist both States to address the human rights issues that must be part of any solution to the conflict.

In the Philippines, …..  I encourage the Philippines to adopt a public health approach, and harm reduction initiatives, that comply with human rights standards, as recommended to the 2016 General Assembly Special Session.  ……. The drug policies in place in the Philippines, and its lack of respect for rule of law and international standards, should not be considered a model by any country.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet takes her place to present her annual report before the UN Human right council members in Geneva. March 6, 2019.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet takes her place to present her annual report before the UN Human right council members in Geneva. March 6, 2019. (AFP)

Many media have picked on one more aspects of her speech. E.g. TRT World focused on:

Bachelet renewed her request to access China‘s Xinjiang region, where large numbers of the Uighur ethnic minority are reportedly being held in re-education camps. She also re-issued her requests for “full access to carry out an independent assessment of the continuing reports pointing to wide patterns of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions, particularly in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.” (A UN panel of independent experts has said there are credible reports that nearly one million Uighurs and other Turkic language-speaking minorities are being held in Xinjiang, known as ‘East Turkistan’ by Uighurs who want a homeland separate from China. Beijing at first denied the allegation, but later admitted putting people into “vocational education centres”) [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/29/three-ngos-urge-you-to-nominate-ilham-tohti-for-the-rafto-prize/]

Bachelet also called on Saudi Arabia to release women activists allegedly tortured in detention after authorities accused them of harming the country’s interests. Human rights defenders have named 10 Saudi women held for their campaigning, voicing fears that they could face harsh sentences. Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor is preparing the trials of detainees, identified by watchdog groups as women’s rights activists, after completing its investigations, state news agency SPA said last Friday. “Today, allow me to voice my concern at the apparently arbitrary arrest and detention, and alleged ill-treatment or torture, of several women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia,” Bachelet said.

(European countries will urge Saudi Arabia on Thursday to release activists and cooperate with a UN-led probe into the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in the first rebuke of the kingdom at the Human Rights Council, diplomats and campaigners told Reuters.) [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/jamal-khashoggi/]

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights also urged the Philippine government to comply with international human rights standard in its brutal drug war, which she said lacks respect for the rule of law. Bachelet encouraged the Duterte administration to “adopt a public health approach, and harm reduction initiatives, that comply with human rights standards.” “The drug policies in place in the Philippines, and its lack of respect for the rule of law and international standards should not be considered a model by any country,” she said.


https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24265&LangID=E

https://www.trtworld.com/europe/un-human-rights-chief-paints-bleak-picture-in-annual-report-24708

https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1092840/un-human-rights-chief-urges-govt-to-respect-rule-of-law-in-drug-war?utm_expid=.XqNwTug2W6nwDVUSgFJXed.1

10 December warning by Michelle Bachelet: Populist nationalism threatens UDHR

December 6, 2018

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet attends a news conference at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Dec. 5, 2018.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet 

Born out of the devastation of two world wars, the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the Holocaust, the seminal document is geared toward preventing similar disasters from happening. December 10 marks the 70th anniversary of the declaration, which U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said has withstood the test of time. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/18/michelle-bachelet-new-un-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-gives-major-interview/]

She said its fundamental principles can be applied to meet the challenges of today, such as ensuring equal rights for LGBTI people and protecting the right to life, food and health in the face of climate change. But, she warns, many of these rights are under threat from politicians pushing a nationalistic agenda. “When leaders… speak against migrants or a sort of hate speech or xenophobic speech, you are giving license to other people not to respect people’s rights,” Bachelet said. Leaders are responsible for what they say, and must lead by example, she added, dismissing the argument sometimes made by developing countries that human rights are a Western concept.

https://www.voanews.com/a/un-populist-nationalism-threatens-human-rights-declaration/4687896.html

Michelle Bachelet, new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, gives major interview

October 18, 2018

In August 2018, Michelle Bachelet, twice-elected President of Chile was confirmed as the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, replacing Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. [see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/08/22/change-of-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-at-the-un-optimism-warranted/]. Minutes after she was approved, UN chief Antonio Guterres told reporters he was “delighted” by the news of her official appointment, describing Ms. Bachelet, a “pioneer”, has been “as formidable a figure in her native Chile, as she has at the United Nations”. Shortly after assuming office in early September, Ms. Bachelet was in New York for the General Assembly’s high-level general debate. She spoke then with UN News on the rights situation around the world, the priorities for her tenure, and how can rights be better protected. It was published on 17 October 2018.

Bearing in mind her own personal experience of being detained and tortured in Chile, the interview started with a question on how she overcame the hardships she suffered under the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet (file photo) ILO/M. Creuset

Michelle Bachelet: ….there was a period of my life that I really hated what was happening – I had so much rage. But afterwards, I started thinking, “you know what, I do not want this to happen anymore in Chile or in any other country of the world. So, what can I do to contribute, that Chile will be a peaceful, democratic society?” So, I sort of put all my energies on that, and that is why I started working on defence issues to be able to speak to the militaries, because I never thought I was going to be Minister of the Defence or President of the Republic.,,I would say it permitted me to understand that, first of all, lessons learned, and if you really want some objective, and in a possible, constructive way, it can be done.

As the High Commissioner, you have come in a time when human rights are under serious attack globally. What your priorities are going to be?

Michelle Bachelet: …. first of all, of course, my priorities are to do what my mandate tells me to do, to be the voice of the voiceless. But also to engage with governments so they respect human rights, protect people from rights violations, and promote human rights.

….But one of my particular priorities from the Secretary-General is prevention. I am not saying I will succeed on that, maybe not. But I will try to design a system where we can have early warning signs and try to think on early action. …..

Right now, some countries do not want to cooperate with OHCHR or question the worth of the Human Rights Council. How do you plan on bringing everyone together?

Michelle Bachelet: In my opening statement, I spoke about, that consensus could be possible, that we should not lose ourselves in sterile disputes. Of course human rights is a very political thing and you see that here in the General Assembly, in the Security Council, so it is not in the Human Rights Council, by itself.

I mean, countries have their visions, their interests, and sometimes, they are not interested in some issues. But what I have been doing is meeting, not only with the whole council, but with groups of countries in Geneva such as the Group of Latin American and Caribbean countries, the African countries, the Arab countries, the Asia-Pacific countries, the West European and Other countries, the Eastern European countries, speaking but also listening. Because, sometimes, you know what you have to do, but the way you do it can be more successful than others. Sometimes you need to speak out. Sometimes you need to strategize in terms of saying, look, it will work better if we do diplomatic prevention, if we start engaging the government. But today the world is complicated, and it is very polarized in some issues………

This year is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. What progress do you think has been done in the past 70 years?

Michelle Bachelet: …..Think of 1948: how many countries allowed women to vote, for example; how many respected of freedom of speech. If you think of the different aspects of the human rights, even in more complete things that usually people do not think of as human rights, but they are human rights: on health, on education, on sanitation, on housing. The world today is better than 70 years ago. But having said that, there are a lot of threats, there are a lot of threats for multilateralism, there is a lot of threat and pushback on human rights. …We see a pushback, we see that in some documents, human rights is not mentioned, and when you ask, they say, “it is mainstream.” And if it is mainstreamed, it is fantastic, because everybody’s doing their job. But if it is invisible, mainstream, that is not a good thing. On the other hand we see human rights defenders and civil society having their space shrink. They have been under attack. Journalists have been killed.

So there is a lot of challenges. The only thing I can say is that the struggle for human rights probably will never end, because it is a process where you advance, but there will be always people who want to push back, and that could be governments or that could be armed groups. The task of the UN is to ensure and promote the whole human rights system. And I will do what I have to do about it, but it cannot be only the task of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, it has to be the task of the whole UN system….

I would like to ask you about protecting those who protect: human rights defenders are often targets of abuse and violence. How can they be better protected?

Michelle Bachelet: Well, the curious thing is that, as we are celebrating the 70th year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we are celebrating 20 years of the Declaration on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. And in November 2017, a resolution on the protection of human rights defenders was approved unanimously by the General Assembly.  No country voted against it. So, the issue is: on paper things can look very good, but reality is another thing. I think we have the task of making people accountable for the things they have approved. Second, to monitor implementation of those agreements that everybody has made, and engage governments, and in the cases where things are happening, holding them accountable and responsible for the killings, the torture, the detentions of many human rights defenders.

You have been a very important defender of women’s rights. How is that going to continue, as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights?

Michelle Bachelet: The thing is that, people tend to see OHCHR as only concerned with civil and political rights, and that is not it. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly states the rights for migrants, for children, for women; right to health, to education. It is very comprehensive. Even though I am not intending to replace any other agency, I always speak about gender issues, gender empowerment. This morning I was speaking about women who are women’s human rights defenders, who have been attacked, threatened with rape.

I will be always raising the voice for women, trying to support their capacities, and building partnership with UN Women, as we have spoken with Henrietta Fore, the head of UNICEF to see how we can create synergies. …..

One of the most pressing issues for the entire world is climate change. How are human rights linked to the environment?

Michelle Bachelet: ..There are so many concrete consequences that will be effects in people’s lives and their rights. That is why we also believe that working strongly to combat climate change is a very essential task, including of the High Commissioner. I think also that we need to be more part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and how we support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). ..

And climate change is of huge importance, because I have seen places where there is no more water and people who depend agriculture, mainly women, and now have to think how they get their incomes. With climate change, we have seen, and scientists tell us … about worsening natural disasters and extreme weather, forest fires. And all of these will have a lot of consequences for the life of people. It is very important to work very closely on that, too. I completely agree with the Secretary-General when said that this is one of the major, major challenges that we have.

Full interview at: Human Rights

Civil Society sends letter to new High Commissioner for human rights Bachelet

September 8, 2018

A large group of international and regional NGOs have agreed on the following letter to the new High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet; sent on 1 September 2018 [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/08/22/change-of-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-at-the-un-optimism-warranted/]. The tone is totally right for the difficult years ahead:

Dear High Commissioner Bachelet,

As local, national, regional, and international civil society organizations from every corner of the world, we offer warm congratulations on your appointment as United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights.
We are committed to a world in which every person enjoys human rights and dignity and in which our communities are fair, just and sustainable. We consider that a strong High Commissioner, working in strategic partnership with independent civil society, can contribute significantly to the realization of this vision.

You take up office at a time when human rights are under attack and when we risk the reversal of many of the achievements of the modern human rights movement. We look to you in these troubled times to be an unwavering voice in the defence of human rights, and of victims, rights-holders and human rights defenders around the world.

On every continent, the rights of individuals, communities and peoples are being violated and abused by governments and non-state actors, often with complete impunity. Civil society, peaceful dissidents, and the media are often brutally silenced. The role of your Office in ensuring robust monitoring of, and reporting on, such situations is essential for curbing violations and deterring further abuse, as well as for ensuring justice and accountability. Technical-assistance and capacity building by the OHCHR is also critical and, to be effective, should be approached holistically alongside a rigorous assessment of the rights challenges in the country, including through key indicators to measure progress and assess the degree of engagement and cooperation by the State.

As High Commissioner, you have a unique role to play in bringing country situations of concern to the attention of the UN Human Rights Council and other UN bodies, particularly situations that may not be on their agenda or which receive limited attention, often because of political pressure. This role should extend to providing briefings to the Security Council on situations either on its agenda or that, if left unattended, could represent a threat to international peace and security. Monitoring missions and inter-sessional briefings to the HRC can be initiated at the High Commissioner’s prerogative, on the basis of your Office’s universal mandate, bringing attention to neglected country situations and contributing towards the achievement of the Council’s mandate to prevent human rights violations.

We are aware that the position of High Commissioner comes with its own challenges. Many States will insist you avoid “naming and shaming” and push you to engage in “quiet diplomacy” and to respect national sovereignty. Often, those most intolerant of criticism and most forceful in suppressing dissent will speak the loudest in seeking to mute your voice. Survivors, victims and defenders on the front line in countries where their rights are being violated will rely on you as a human rights champion, to have the courage and conviction to call out violators clearly and publicly, even when it’s challenging or unpopular with governments.

Globally, the rights essential to civic space are being systematically undermined. Civil society and human rights defenders face severe daily risks in their struggle to defend human rights on the ground, including imprisonment, asset-freezes, defamatory campaigns, torture, enforced disappearance, and even death. Risks are also present in the UN context, where individuals frequently face intimidation, harassment or reprisals for their engagement with the UN. We urge you to be a staunch defender of the rights of defenders both on the ground and at the UN, to publicly call out violators, and to undertake or push for investigations into attacks and reprisals. We also encourage you to take full advantage of the distinct, often innovative complementary role of civil society to the work of the OHCHR, and ensure the Office works closely with civil society as a strategic partner at the national, regional, and international levels.

Currently, the human rights framework itself is under unparalleled attack. Authoritarian populists are attacking the universality of human rights, disproportionately and unlawfully restricting rights in the purported interests of “national security,” often tacitly or openly encouraging attacks by their followers or vigilantes on rights defenders as well as the vulnerable and poor, while selectively interpreting human rights and seeking to co-opt or subvert human rights mechanisms to suit their political agendas. Safeguarding and strengthening universal human rights norms and mechanisms should be a core responsibility of the High Commissioner.

The current climate highlights the need for a strong public advocacy role for your mandate in the defence of international human rights law and the international human rights system, as well as a strong role internally within the UN to mainstream respect for human rights throughout the work of UN organs and agencies, and within the Sustainable Development Agenda.

Once again, we congratulate you on your new role, and stand ready to support you and your Office in the fulfilment of your vital mandate.

With assurances of our highest consideration,

Change of High Commissioner for Human Rights at the UN: optimism warranted

August 22, 2018

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, following approval by the General Assembly, has appointed Michelle Bachelet of Chile the next United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.  [Ms. Bachelet ended her second four-year term as President of Chile in March 2018, having already held the position between 2006 and 2010.  The first woman elected to Chile’s highest office, after her first term, she joined the United Nations as the first Executive Director of the newly established United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women). A long-time human rights champion and ground-breaking leader, Ms. Bachelet is a paediatrician who began her Government career as an adviser in the Ministry of Health, rising quickly to become the first woman to lead Chile’s Health Ministry in 2000 and its Defence Ministry in 2002. Ms. Bachelet became involved in Chilean human rights activism in the early 1970s.  She and her parents were political prisoners, and her father, a general in the air force, died in prison.  After their release, Ms. Bachelet and her mother spent several years in exile.  She returned to Chile in 1979.] Her human rights background as well as her political cloud and experience give reason to hope that the Office of the High Commissioner will continue to be at the forefront in spite of the countervailing currents at the moment.  

 

 

 

 

 

Recognition of the fearless outgoing High Commissioner has continued to pour in:

The 2018 Human Rights Tulip has been awarded to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. Dutch Foreign minister Stef Blok will present him with the prize on 3 September in The Hague. For more information on the Human Rights Tulip see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/tulip-award. ‘The Netherlands greatly values the way in which he has fulfilled his mandate as High Commissioner,’ Mr Blok said. ‘He addressed human rights violations wherever they occurred. This critical and independent attitude is what is needed in a world where human rights are in jeopardy in many places.

On Monday 20 August the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said in a wide-ranging interview days before his four-year term ends that U.S. President Donald Trump bears “a heavy responsibility” for how the media is portrayed and that his remarks could have a knock-on effect that could hurt journalists in other countries.” [U.S. newspapers across the country ran editorials last Thursday defending freedom of the press in response to President Donald Trump calling some media organizations enemies of the American people.] “The President should be aware that a heavy responsibility lies on his shoulders when it comes to the way in which the media is being portrayed,” Zeid said.

In his last major interview with UN News on 15 August, the UN human rights chief says that the “real pressure on this job comes from the victims and those who suffer and expect a great deal from us.” “Governments are more than capable of defending themselves. It’s not my job to defend them. I have to defend civil society, vulnerable groups, the marginalized, the oppressed. Those are the people that we, in our office, need to represent,” he adds, noting that “oppression is making a comeback”.

When asked about whether his view of the UN and what it can achieve has diminished during his time spent speaking out loudly in defence of the abused and defenceless over the past four years, he says: “It’s very difficult to tolerate abuse of the UN when I keep thinking of the heroic things that people do in the field, whether the humanitarian actors or humanitarian personnel, my human rights people, the people who are monitoring or observing. And I take my hat off to them. I mean, they are the UN that I will cherish and remember.”

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https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2018-08-20/trump-has-responsibility-towards-media-un-rights-boss-says

https://news.un.org/en/story/2018/08/1017052

https://www.government.nl/latest/news/2018/08/14/high-commissioner-for-human-rights-zeid-raad-al-hussein-to-receive-2018-human-rights-tulip

https://www.un.org/press/en/2018/sga1824.doc.htm