Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights Council’

Last straw?: U.N. Human Rights Rapporteur Barred By Myanmar

December 21, 2017

 Yanghee Lee, U.N. human rights special rapporteur to Myanmar, talks to journalists during a news briefing in Yangon, Myanmar, in July 2017.

Yanghee Lee, the U.N. special rapporteur on Myanmar, says she has been told that the Myanmar government will neither cooperate with her nor grant her access to the country for the remainder of her tenure. Lee was scheduled to visit Myanmar in January to assess human rights in the country, particularly in western Rakhine state, where the Rohingya are concentrated.

I am puzzled and disappointed by this decision by the Myanmar Government,she said in a statement.This declaration of non-cooperation with my mandate can only be viewed as a strong indication that there must be something terribly awful happening in Rakhine, as well as in the rest of the country.” “Only two weeks ago, Myanmar’s Permanent Representative informed the Human Rights Council of its continuing cooperation with the UN, referencing the relationship with my role as Special Rapporteur,” Lee said. Amnesty International called Myanmar’s decision to bar Ms Lee “outrageous”. James Gomez, the group’s director for Asia and the Pacific, said: “It is a further indication that authorities will do anything they can to avoid international scrutiny of their human rights record.”  [see also:]

The U.N. says more than 630,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar since ongoing military attacks that began in August. Doctors Without Borders estimates that 6,700 Rohingya were killed in the first month of the crackdown. Refugees streaming into neighboring Bangladesh have brought with them tales of rape and murder at the hands of Myanmar’s soldiers.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussain told the BBC this week that Myanmar’s nominal leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and the head of the country’s armed forces could potentially face charges of genocide for their role in the crackdown. “Given the scale of the military operation, clearly these would have to be decisions taken at a high enough level,” he told the BBC. “And then there’s the crime of omission. That if it came to your knowledge that this was being committed, and you did nothing to stop it, then you could be culpable as well for that.” [see also:]

Myanmar’s refusal to cooperate with the U.N. comes as the country set up a joint working committee for the return of Rohingya refugees with Bangladesh — where hundreds of thousands are housed in squalid border camps. Under an agreement signed last month in Dhaka, a 30-member working group is to be set up for the voluntary repatriation of Rohingya.

The authorities last week arrested Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, Reuters journalists who have been covering the Rohingya crisis, and the men are being held incommunicado at an undisclosed location. They were arrested after being invited to dine with police officers on the outskirts of Yangon, the commercial capital.  After the arrests, the ministry of information released a picture of the men in handcuffs and alleged they had “illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media”.

Reprisals against Human Rights Defenders continue says UN report

September 17, 2015

Reprisals against human rights defenders continue and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (fortunately) continues to give it prominence. A newly released United Nations report names 20 nations that have taken action against rights defenders and activists over the past year. Here the version of the New York Times (Nick Cumming) of 15 September 2015:

Those who give evidence to United Nations human rights investigators are facing increasingly severe reprisals, the United Nations Human Rights Council said Tuesday in a report naming 20 countries that took action against rights defenders and activists in the past year. The instances included intimidation and reprisals against the council’s commissions of inquiry on Eritrea and the 2014 war in Gaza, as well as people cooperating with United Nations investigators and staff monitoring human rights developments, the council’s president, Joachim Rücker, reported. “The types of acts reported seem to have become more varied and severe over time, targeting not only the individuals or groups concerned, but also their families, legal representatives, nongovernmental organizations and anyone linked to them,” he said in the report, which covers events in the year up to the end of May. The penalties it cited ranged from threats and travel bans to imprisonment, torture, sexual violence and disappearance. The list was not exhaustive, leaving out cases where naming individuals might endanger them.

In a statement to the council, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the United Nations’ High Commissioner for human rights, expressed concern on Monday about China’s detention of more than 100 lawyers and Russia’s stigmatization of nongovernment organizations getting overseas funding, but the report includes only one example of intimidation in each country.

It describes the torture of Sadriddin Toshev, a prisoner in Tajikistan, beaten in front of other inmates by prison officials who cited his interaction with a United Nations investigator on torture. Mr. Toshev was later charged with fraud, accused of deliberately wounding himself to discredit prison officials and of distributing false information, the report said.

Among other cases, the report cites a five-year prison sentence which it says was imposed in Iran on Mohammad Ali Taheri for cooperating with the United Nations expert monitoring human rights there. It also describes the violent arrest of a human rights defender in Myanmar by 10 plainclothes security men as he was on his way to provide evidence to the council-appointed expert assessing developments there.

“Such acts not only show a complete disregard for the functioning of the United Nations as a whole but also highlight the fact that, despite repeated calls for action by states to end all such violations, impunity continues to surround them,” the report said.

Having written so often about this topic, a link to previous posts is all this is needed: 

Source: Retribution Increases Against Those Aiding Human Rights Inquiries – The New York Times

Human Rights Defenders in Azerbaijan: Human Rights Council last hope?

September 15, 2015


In Azerbaijan, space for independent civil society has disappeared, following a crackdown since the presidential election in October 2013. Ahead of the parliamentary elections in November 2015, all leading civil society actors are either in prison or have fled the country. On 8 September 2015, the UN High Commissioner condemned the ongoing crackdown on civil society and independent voices in Azerbaijan. On 20 August 2015, six UN Special Rapporteurs issued a joint statement condemning the conviction of human rights defenders as “manifestly politically motivated” in a trial that “fell short of international norms and standards.” On 11 September 2015, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) cancelled its election monitoring in the country due to restrictions imposed by the Azerbaijani authorities. See also:

Clearly time for the Human Rights Council to step in!

Several NGOs, led by the Human Rights House Foundation, are organizing a side event in Geneva on Wednesday 16 September, from 17:00 – 18:00. Palais des Nations Room XXIV. English / Russian translation is provided.HRHFlogo


DINARA YUNUS Institute for Peace and Democracy & Daughter of political prisoners Leyla Yunus and Arif Yunus

SERGHEI OSTAF Resource Centre for Human Rights Moldova; Observer of many of the hearings this summer of various human rights defenders imprisoned in Azerbaijan

EMIN HUSEYNOV Institute for Reporter’s Freedom and Safety



OHCHR gives preview of new report on Libya in 2014

February 10, 2015

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights [OHCHR] published today (10 February) a report, which will be formally presented to the Human Rights Council only in March, describing the situation of human rights in Libya during 2014. It paints a bleak picture of increasing turmoil and lawlessness, fanned by a multitude of heavily armed groups amid a broadening political crisis. Rampant violence and fighting, including in the country’s two biggest cities, Tripoli and Benghazi, as well as many other cities and towns across the country, is badly affecting civilians in general and particularly cases of harassment, intimidation, torture, numerous abductions, and summary executions of human rights defenders, civil society activists, journalists and other media professionals, as well as members of the judiciary, politicians and law enforcement officers.

The report, produced in conjunction with the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), also describes numerous incidents of violence against women over the past year, including reports of threats, attacks and killings of female human rights defenders, politicians and other women in public positions. Minority groups, including Egyptian Coptic Christians, have also been increasingly targeted. The report also highlights the extremely vulnerable situation of migrants.

Thousands of people remain in detention – mostly under the effective control of armed groups – with no means of challenging their situation as prosecutors and judges are unable or unwilling to confront the armed groups. UN human rights staff have received reports of torture or other ill-treatment in many places of detention. The deteriorating security environment has impacted heavily on the justice system, which is no longer functioning in parts of the country. Prosecutors and judges have frequently been subjected to intimidation and attacks, in the form of court bombings, physical assaults, abduction of individuals or family members and unlawful killings.

The report highlights the need to strengthen State institutions, ensure accountability for human rights violations and support the ongoing political dialogue.

The full report can be found here:

via: OHCHR PRESS BRIEFING NOTES – (1) Libya, (2) Malaysia, (3) Thailand, (4) Venezuela – Press releases – News –

Subedi’s last fact-finding mission to Cambodia

January 15, 2015

UN Rapporteur Surya P. Subedi will carry out an official visit to Cambodia from 17 to 25 January 2014. This is Mr. Subedi’s last mission in his capacity as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia as appointed by the UN Human Rights Council. He is expected to meet with the Prime Minister and other senior members of the Government as well as human rights defenders, representatives from civil society organisations and communities as well as the UN Country Team and the donor community.

Since his appointment as Special Rapporteur in March 2009, Mr. Subedi has made eleven visits to Cambodia and has presented seven reports to the UN Human Rights Council. He is completing his full term of six years in this position in March 2015 when a new mandate holder will be appointed.

Final fact-finding mission to Cambodia | Scoop News.

For earlier posts on Cambodia:

The Special Rapporteur’s latest report to the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/24/36):

Training Programme on how to work in the UN Human Rights Council: 2 – 6 February

January 14, 2015

The Graduate Institute and the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights organise jointly a training course specially designed for diplomates and NGO representatives in the UN Human Rights Council. The classes are on 2 – 6 February 2015 in the evenings from 15h30 to 19h15 in the Villa Barton, Geneva (final timings to be confirmed). The fee is  CHF 950. – (excludes housing).

Excerpts from the brochure:

Multilateral diplomacy in the advancement of Human Rights (primarily through the Human Rights Council) is one of the main activities of International Geneva.  Established in March 2006, the Council is now a well-established mechanism of the United Nations and is approaching its 10th year–yet the individuals who engage at the Council sessions often change, and they often juggle a larger portfolio of responsibilities.Human Rights Council

Everyone benefits when the Council functions better, and the council functions better when individuals arrive fully prepared to contribute at their best.

This reflects the non-partisan spirit in which this training has been designed.  Preparing for high-level professional engagements requires a deep understanding the rules of the council–as well as the personal acumen to advocate and negotiate with good judgment and strong communications skills–all of which comes from familiarity, practice and individual preparation for the Council sessions.

In order for delegates and representatives to better tackle the substantive and practical challenges ahead, we are offering this training program for individuals who aspire to perform more effectively in a multilateral context.  The programme is designed to enhance personal skills in multilateral diplomacy, with a particular focus on the human rights context.

Learning Themes

While taking examples on the work of the HRC and its special procedures, the training will highlight some of the prevailing substantive issues as well as the behaviors of the Council, in order to teach participants to better navigate in their aspirant work.  The training will be organised around the following themes:

Functioning of the Human Rights Council:

The phenomenon of working within and across “groupings”:

Leadership in the Human Rights Council:

Learning outcomes & skills-building

  • Functioning and rules of the Human Rights Council
  • Chairing formal and informal multilateral meetings
  • Drafting skills (in the Human Rights context)
  • Negotiation and mediation skills & techniques
  • Oral communications skills for public speaking “on the record” in the human rights context
  • Advocacy and lobbying techniques


The training will combine some theory, background and insights (about negotiations, the HRC and its functional history) with applied skills and techniques–including best practices and opportunities to enhance personal effectiveness.  Sessions will be designed to address cross-cutting issues and will build participant skills through simulation exercises, small group breakouts, and role-playing.

Instructors will include those from the Graduate Institute and Geneva Academy, as well as actors working with (or in the domain) of the Human Rights Council.

TASS reports without blushing on Putin’s support for human rights defenders

December 5, 2014

Vladimir Putin

(Vladimir Putin (c) Mikhail Metsel)

Russia‘s TASS agency reports on 5 December that today President Vladimir Putin will meet in the Kremlin members of the Russian Presidential Council for Civil Society Development and Human Rights (HRC) and federal and regional ombudsmen. “The meeting participants are planned to tell the head of state about their work in the current year, as well as touch upon most important issues of human rights observance and development of the civil society institutions in regions,” the press service said.

Putin regularly meets with human rights defenders, the piece continues and refers to one held on 14 October with members of the Human Rights Council. The main issues on the agenda were assistance to Ukrainian refugees, support of non-profit organizations, transparency of elections, problems of the law enforcement system and others.

The article continues (without blushing): “Speaking of supporting the civil society institutions, including human rights defenders, Putin promised that the state spending on this in 2015 would be increased to 4.7 billion rubles ($86.47 million), while in 2013 this figure stood at 2.7 billion rubles ($49.67 million).” The president thanked the Russian human rights activists for the attention they pay to numerous facts of violation of human rights in the neighbouring country — Ukraine. “Many international human rights organizations hypocritically turn a blind eye to the developments,” he said.

Many of the proposals voiced by the human rights activists turn into presidential instructions. Thus, on the October meeting results the president has already given a number of instructions on organizing assistance to children affected by the armed conflict in the south-east of Ukraine, on perpetuation of the memory of the victims of political repression, on migration problems, on improving law enforcement activity and a number of others.

TASS: Russia – Putin to discuss with ombudsmen human rights observance issues.

some items that were apparently not discussed:

High-level Legal Briefing and Debate on Reprisals on 20 November 2014 in Geneva

November 12, 2014

On Thursday, 20 November 2014, the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) celebrates its 30th anniversary with the launch and discussion of two important legal reports:ISHR-logo-colour-high

The first is a memorandum of advice on the legal obligations of the Human Rights Council, its President and Bureau to combat reprisals prepared by Sir Nicolas Bratza and Prof Egbert Myjer (both formerly of the European Court of Human Rights – Egbert Myjer portrayed here on the left), together with the leading international law firm Freshfields. This is indeed a crucial area for the future of the whole human rights system as argued consistently in this blog :]


The second study is a comparative research report on the recognition and protection of human rights defenders under national law.

The panelists are:

  • Sir Nicolas Bratza, report author and former President of the European Court of Human Rights

  • Maryam Al-Khawaja, Bahraini human rights defender

  • Reine Alapini-Gansou, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

The debate is moderated by Phil Lynch, Director, International Service for Human Rights

The event takes place in Room IX of the Palais des Nations, Geneva, from 15h00 to 16h15. The legal briefing is followed by ISHR’s 30th anniversary reception.

Invitation to a High-level Legal Briefing: 20 November 2014.

India and South Africa in UN Human Rights Council remain reluctant towards civil society

October 1, 2014

Under the title “India dissociates itself from UN Human Rights Council resolution favouring pluralistic civil society“, Counterview of 30 September 2014, expresses its disappointment with the position taken by India (and other States such as South Africa) who one would normally expect to come out in support of a vibrant civil society, including specifically human rights defenders. They did not call for a vote – so the resolution passed – but expressed strong opposition. This is in line with earlier behaviour in the Council [see:]. Here some extracts: Read the rest of this entry »

Human Rights Council in throwback to muzzling NGOs

September 24, 2014

Phil Lynch, Director of the International Service for Human Rights, wrote an insightful post on URG Insights that is a must. It describes with concrete examples how the current Human Rights Council – and especially its Bureau – is failing to uphold the acquired right of NGOs to speak freely in the UN and – when necessary – mention names of offending countries. It seems like a complete throwback to the early 80’s when in the then Commission on Human Rights NGOs were restricted in mentioning countries by name. This let to untenable and even comical situations where NGOs would describe in detail atrocities and then say that they were talking about a big country in the south of Latin America, only to be asked by the Chair to say which country they had in mind. When the obvious answer came: “Argentina”, the NGO was ruled out of order! That States now feel that the time is right to try again to muzzle NGO criticism became already clear last year with China’s elaborate efforts to silence the ‘one minute silence’ for Cao Shunli [] and the worryingly broad support it got for its procedural wrangling. Thus it would be crucial that the whole NGO movement and the States that support them take a clear stand. In meantime Lynch’s Human Rights Council President, Bureau and Member States must respect the role and rights of NGOs” is giving the right background and follows here in toto:

“The right, and indeed the responsibility, of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to critique governments, expose and pursue accountability for human rights violations, and advocate for changes in law, policy and practice should be uncontroversial and uncontested. This is particularly the case at the UN Human Rights Council, the world’s apex body for human rights debate and dialogue, the mandate of which includes promoting and protecting the right to freedom of expression.

Read the rest of this entry »