Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights Defenders’

Kenya: human rights defenders active in outreach during October 2019

November 2, 2019

One year after the 2018 Human Rights Defenders World Summit

November 1, 2019

One year after the event, the Convening Group of the Summit are sharing the summary of the 2018 Human Rights Defenders World Summit and the Action Plan (https://protectdefenders.us13.list-manage.com/track/click?u=9aa81f2f4c2a51b302fe6d634&id=7ea733deea&e=7dd7df85bc). The Action Plan, in particular, is a key document that was adopted by hundreds of HRDs and organizations attending the Paris Summit, with a series of recommendations that need to be put into practice urgently. For more on this summit see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/human-rights-defenders-world-summit-2018/.

As we all know, HRDs continue to be discriminated, intimidated, harassed, criminalized and killed on an alarming scale and those suffering intersecting forms of discrimination are at an even higher risk. Action to tackle this scourge needs to be taken urgently and this is a powerful tool to address those with power: States, businesses, financial institutions, donors and intergovernmental organizations. Since the action plan was adopted, this document has already been presented to the United Nations General Assembly and has been regularly referred to in our advocacy work at the national level and in our work as international civil society organizations. We hope you agree that we need to keep this document alive and use it in our everyday activism and ensure that the right to defend human rights is upheld.

So, in this context, we urge you to for example:

  • Use it in your campaigns;
  • Refer to it in your interactions with State officials, companies, financial institutions, donors, INGOs;
  • Share it with other organizations, groups, and individuals who could not attend the Paris Summit;
  • Promote it in the media…

 

Follow up on HRD summit during RightsCon Tunis 2019

October 23, 2019

On 12 June 2019, ProtectDefenders.eu participated at the RightsCon Tunis 2019 panel on the Human Rights Defenders World Summit 2018. A delegation of human rights defenders presented their experience of taking action to defend human rights and the consequences they had to face because of these actions. They have also mentioned the significance of the Summit 2018 had for them and what states, businesses and donors must do to ensure their fundamental role is protected and recognised in the digital sphere and beyond.  In relation to this, they have called on the Tech community to join them in the struggle for human rights. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/18/premiere-powerful-video-summarizes-human-rights-defenders-world-summit-2018/

At the end of the HRD World Summit 2018 in Paris, all defenders agreed on a landmark Action Plan, which was presented to the UN General Assembly in December 2018. As participants to the Paris Summit continue to spread this message around the world, this panel was an opportunity to remind the world of the essential work they do and the need to create a safe and enabling environment for all those who actively defend human rights.

The Action Plan calls on Governments, corporations, international financial institutions, donors and others to take practical steps to ensure human rights defenders are recognised and protected, including by adopting national governmental action plans and legislation, and protecting defenders as a key priority in foreign policy, particularly women human rights defenders, LGBT+, indigenous rights defenders and other marginalized defenders who face the most risk and exclusion.

https://www.protectdefenders.eu/en/newsletter/october-2019_44#the-human-rights-defenders-world-summit-at-rightscon-tunis-2019-298

Carnegie paper: international community must redouble efforts to defend human rights defenders

October 22, 2019

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace pubished on 22 October 2019 a working paper by Saskia Brechenmacher and Thomas Carothers entitled “Democracy,Defending Civic Space: Is the International Community Stuck?”. It concludes that as space for civil society continues to close, the international community must redouble its efforts to defend the right of human rights defenders to hold governments around the world accountable. The Executive Summary:

Civic Space Continues to Close

Since the mid-2000s, civic space has come under attack in many countries around the world. To counter this trend, transnational actors that support civil society have responded in many ways—from exerting diplomatic pressure and building international norms to providing emergency funds for activists. Despite these efforts, governments continue to impose legal and extralegal restrictions amid a worsening larger political environment for civil society. Closing civic space now appears to be just one part of a much broader pattern of democratic recession and authoritarian resurgence. The international response seems stuck: some useful efforts have been undertaken, but they appear too limited, loosely focused, and reactive.

Areas of Progress in the International Response

  • Research and knowledge dissemination: Timely information about civil society restrictions and overall trends is now widely available. Funders, policymakers, and relevant multilateral organizations are generally more aware of the problem; some actors have carried out internal strategic reviews and trainings to strengthen their programmatic and policy responses.
  • Support for local resistance and adaptation: Major funders have established or expanded emergency funds for persecuted rights activists and organizations. Some have also initiated programs to help civic actors adapt to regulatory, political, and legal pressures, while some have examined ways to offer more flexible funding. Several new transnational coalitions and initiatives have been set up to share lessons and lead joint campaigns.
  • Diplomatic pressure and international policy changes: Western governments have sometimes applied pressure on countries that are closing civic space, and they have supported advocacy in international bodies such as the United Nations. Civil society advocates have successfully pushed for reforms to harmful counterterrorism regulations, and some have begun engaging private sector actors on the importance of protecting civic space.

Factors Limiting the International Response

  • Lack of conceptual and strategic clarity: Ongoing confusion over the root causes of closing civic space impedes efforts to develop a more unified strategy. Diverse actors disagree on whether tackling the challenge will require addressing the global political backlash against progressive causes or the overall global democratic recession, or whether a more focused approach would be more effective.
  • Countervailing interests: Most Western governments still do not strongly prioritize closing civic space in their foreign policy agendas. They often refrain from escalating diplomatic pressure on repressive governments for fear of damaging their geopolitical, security, or economic interests. The loss of U.S. leadership on the issue has been particularly damaging.
  • Closing space at home: Civic space is now under threat in many established democracies, and the international repercussions are profound. Western governments that lash out against domestic critics are less likely to speak out against civil society restrictions abroad, and they have less credibility when they do so. Their actions also set a negative example for leaders in other parts of the world.
  • Inadequate scale: The resources committed to fighting the problem have been insufficient. Funders have also generally failed to embed their responses into a broader strategic framework. Explanations include a weak appetite for political risk among funders, the cross-cutting nature of the problem, and a lack of clarity on what a large-scale response might look like.
  • Working in silos: Weak coordination and information sharing between different parts of the assistance community persist. Obstacles include the diverging policy and organizational interests within and between governments, as well as divisions in the wider funder community, including between human rights organizations and development and humanitarian actors.
  • Struggles to change aid practices: Implementing far-reaching changes in aid practices has proven difficult, due to bureaucratic inertia, risk aversion, and narrower methods of monitoring and evaluation.
  • Chasing a moving target: The problem of closing space continues to evolve quickly, which makes it difficult for the international community to anticipate new openings and threats. For example, international actors have been slow to react to the spread of new technological tools for restricting civic space online and offline.

Policy Recommendations

  • Develop a strategic framework that links closing civic space to other key foreign policy challenges, articulates a positive vision of civic space globally, and offers tailored tactical guidance. Such a strategy should differentiate short-, medium-, and long-term priorities and distinguish between different types of political contexts.
  • Improve foreign policy alignment by issuing specific guidance on defending civic space to embassies, systematically integrating the issue into diplomatic training and senior leadership briefings, designating a senior official to spearhead interagency coordination on civic space–related issues, and amplifying the voices of civil society actors, particularly in restrictive contexts.
  • Avoid setting negative precedents by ensuring that domestic legislation does not threaten civic space. Nongovernmental actors should build cross-border alliances to share knowledge and resources, engage lawmakers in established democracies who stigmatize civil society, and champion transparency and accountability in internal practices and external partnerships.
  • Bolster coordination among concerned transnational actors by evaluating existing mechanisms, investing in new platforms or tools for information sharing and institutional learning, expanding country-level networks, and forging new partnerships between governmental and private funders.
  • Adjust funding practices to ensure a balance between support for long-term institution- building and catalytic funding, and track how much funding goes directly to local organizations as core versus project support. Funders should continue to expand flexible funding strategies for hostile environments, work with intermediaries that can reach a wider range of partners, and reduce grantees’ administrative burdens.
  • Anticipate new opportunities and threats by, for example, monitoring and recognizing examples of positive reform, developing targeted roadmaps that identify opportunities and flashpoints in collaboration with embassies or local partners, and investing in technological know-how.

For the full text of this working paper, see: https://carnegieendowment.org/files/WP_Brechenmacker_Carothers_Civil_Space_FINAL.pdf

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/05/civil-society-and-human-rights-ngos-are-fighting-back-but-against-odds/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/21/amnesty-launches-report-on-laws-designed-to-silence-human-rights-defenders/

https://carnegieendowment.org/2019/10/22/defending-civic-space-is-international-community-stuck-pub-80110

Carter Centre wants to preserve the stories of human rights defenders

October 22, 2019

On 15 October 2019, Ernie Suggs, reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the 12th Human Rights Defenders Forum in Atlanta had wrapped up and that former President Jimmy Carter said he’d like to see such defenders honored in a more permanent way at his namesake facility. According to the United Nations, 431 human rights defenders were killed worldwide in 2017. The Carter Center should tell those 431 stories, the former president said. Carter has been calling for the center to increase its presence in the human rights arena. “We ought to have a common place where we can get that information,” he said. “We ought to have a way to communicate with others so that, when people are abused or killed, their stories will be told.” However, there are already some serious projects on this area; see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/13/stop-the-killings-you-can-help-front-line/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/04/progress-report-on-i-defend-rights-project-in-2018/

Karin Ryan, the Carter Center’s senior policy adviser for human rights, said the narratives often get muddled. “The Carter Center has the ability to amplify the stories of human rights defenders, and the Carter Center has a reputation of speaking out and speaking truth to power,” Ryan said. “President Carter believes that we should be doing more and has challenged us to have a more comprehensive plan to get it done. When defenders start dying, what happens to society?”

About 50 activists, peacemakers and community leaders from 28 countries participated in the forum, which focused on “Building Solidarity toward Equality for All.” The group talked about global protection for activists, challenges faced by women fighting for human rights, and the best ways to support civil, economic, political and social rights. “Events like this are special because it makes us appreciate other agents and agencies that are doing good work around the world,” said Bashir Y. Mundi, a native of Nigeria and the director of the Development Initiative of West Africa. “This work can be under-appreciated and challenging, as evident by the stories you hear about the people who paid the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives and freedom.

Carter Center Statement from the 2019 Human Rights Defenders Forum:

Forum participants call on local and national governments and international organizations to:

1) Increase efforts to protect activists who are threatened and attacked. Offer activists political, moral,band physical support in times of crisis. Create robust programs to support women activists. Stop impunity for violators—hold accountable those who attack human rights and peace activists.

2) Increase meaningful long-term support for their work. Activists report that the difficult work of movements and civil society organizations is hamperedbydrastic funding cuts by previously reliable sources. In addition to issuingstrong statements about human rights abuses,governmentsshould also provide needed resources and other support. Philanthropic foundations also should increase flexible, long-term support. The Carter Center’s Human Rights Program has created a web-based platform to facilitate ongoing discussions and community building for human rights defenders and peacebuilders at forum.cartercenter.org

https://www.ajc.com/news/carter-wants-center-preserve-the-stories-human-rights-defenders/F5pFmpgVArA9XOgAnVoc8L/

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.

View Original

How social media companies can identify and respond to threats against human rights defenders

October 15, 2019

global computer threats

Image from Shutterstock.

Ginna Anderson writes in the ABA Abroad of 3

..Unfortunately, social media platforms are now a primary tool for coordinated, state-aligned actors to harass, threaten and undermine advocates. Although public shaming, death threats, defamation and disinformation are not unique to the online sphere, the nature of the internet has given them unprecedented potency. Bad actors are able to rapidly deploy their poisoned content on a vast scale. Social media companies have only just begun to recognize, let alone respond, to the problem. Meanwhile, individuals targeted through such coordinated campaigns must painstakingly flag individual pieces of content, navigate opaque corporate structures and attempt to survive the fallout. To address this crisis, companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube must dramatically increase their capacity and will to engage in transparent, context-driven content moderation.

For human rights defenders, the need is urgent. .. Since 2011, the ABA Center for Human Rights (CHR) has ..noted with concern the coordination of “traditional” judicial harassment of defenders by governments, such as frivolous criminal charges or arbitrary detention, with online campaigns of intimidation. State-aligned online disinformation campaigns against individual defenders often precede or coincide with official investigations and criminal charges.

……

While social media companies generally prohibit incitement of violence and hate speech on their platforms, CHR has had to engage in additional advocacy with social media companies requesting the removal of specific pieces of content or accounts that target defenders. This extra advocacy has been required even where the content clearly violates a social media company’s terms of service and despite initial flagging by a defender. The situation is even more difficult where the threatening content is only recognizable with sufficient local and political context. The various platforms all rely on artificial intelligence, to varying degrees, to identify speech that violates their respective community standards. Yet current iterations of artificial intelligence are often unable to adequately evaluate context and intent.

Online intimidation and smear campaigns against defenders often rely on existing societal fault lines to demean and discredit advocates. In Guatemala, CHR recently documented a coordinated social media campaign to defame, harass, intimidate and incite violence against human rights defenders. Several were linked with so-called “net centers,” where users were reportedly paid to amplify hateful content across platforms. Often, the campaigns relied on “coded” language that hark back to Guatemala’s civil war and the genocide of Mayan communities by calling indigenous leaders communists, terrorists and guerrillas.

These terms appear to have largely escaped social media company scrutiny, perhaps because none is a racist slur per se. And yet, the proliferation of these online attacks, as well as the status of those putting out the content, is contributing to a worsening climate of violence and impunity for violence against defenders by specifically alluding to terms used to justify violence against indigenous communities. In 2018 alone, NPR reports that 26 indigenous defenders were murdered in Guatemala. In such a climate, the fear and intimidation felt by those targeted in such campaigns is not hyperbolic but based on their understanding of how violence can be sparked in Guatemala.

In order to address such attacks, social media companies must adopt policies that allow them to designate defenders as temporarily protected groups in countries that are characterized by state-coordinated or state-condoned persecution of activists. This is in line with international law that prohibits states from targeting individuals for serious harm based on their political opinion. To increase their ability to recognize and respond to persecution and online violence against human rights defenders, companies must continue to invest in their context-driven content moderation capacity, including complementing algorithmic monitoring with human content moderators well-versed in local dialects and historical and political context.

Context-driven content moderation should also take into account factors that increase the risk that online behavior will contribute to offline violence by identifying high-risk countries. These factors include a history of intergroup conflict and an overall increase in the number of instances of intergroup violence in the past 12 months; a major national political election in the next 12 months; and significant polarization of political parties along religious, ethnic or racial lines. Countries where these and other risk factors are present call for proactive approaches to identify problematic accounts and coded threats against defenders and marginalized communities, such as those shown in Equality Labs’ “Facebook India” report.

Companies should identify, monitor and be prepared to deplatform key accounts that are consistently putting out denigrating language and targeting human rights defenders. This must go hand in hand with the greater efforts that companies are finally beginning to take to identify coordinated, state-aligned misinformation campaigns. Focusing on the networks of users who abuse the platform, instead of looking solely at how the online abuse affects defenders’ rights online, will also enable companies to more quickly evaluate whether the status of the speaker increases the likelihood that others will take up any implicit call to violence or will be unduly influenced by disinformation.

This abuser-focused approach will also help to decrease the burden on defenders to find and flag individual pieces of content and accounts as problematic. Many of the human rights defenders with whom CHR works are giving up on flagging, a phenomenon we refer to as flagging fatigue. Many have become fatalistic about the level of online harassment they face. This is particularly alarming as advocates targeted online may develop skins so thick that they are no longer able to assess when their actual risk of physical violence has increased.

Finally, it is vital that social media companies pursue, and civil society demand, transparency in content moderation policy and decision-making, in line with the Santa Clara Principles. Put forward in 2018 by a group of academic experts, organizations and advocates committed to freedom of expression online, the principles are meant to guide companies engaged in content moderation and ensure that the enforcement of their policies is “fair, unbiased, proportional and respectful of users’ rights.” In particular, the principles call upon companies to publicly report on the number of posts and accounts taken down or suspended on a regular basis, as well as to provide adequate notice and meaningful appeal to affected users.

CHR routinely supports human rights defenders facing frivolous criminal charges related to their human rights advocacy online or whose accounts and documentation have been taken down absent any clear justification. This contributes to a growing distrust of the companies among the human rights community as apparently arbitrary decisions about content moderation are leaving advocates both over- and under-protected online.

As the U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of expression explained in his 2018 report, content moderation processes must include the ability to appeal the removal, or refusal to remove, content or accounts. Lack of transparency heightens the risk that calls to address the persecution of human rights defenders online will be subverted into justifications for censorship and restrictions on speech that is protected under international human rights law.

A common response when discussing the feasibility of context-driven content moderation is to compare it to reviewing all the grains of sand on a beach. But human rights defenders are not asking for the impossible. We are merely pointing out that some of that sand is radioactive—it glows in the dark, it is lethal, and there is a moral and legal obligation upon those that profit from the beach to deal with it.

Ginna Anderson, senior counsel, joined ABA CHR in 2012. She is responsible for supporting the center’s work to advance the rights of human rights defenders and marginalized dommunities, including lawyers and journalists at risk. She is an expert in health and human rights, media freedom, freedom of expression and fair trial rights. As deputy director of the Justice Defenders Program since 2013, she has managed strategic litigation, fact-finding missions and advocacy campaigns on behalf of human rights defenders facing retaliation for their work in every region of the world

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/how-can-social-media-companies-identify-and-respond-to-threats-against-human-rights-defenders

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

October 13, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Overview of Key Resolutions  

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

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

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

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

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

Overview of Reports and Dialogues with UN Experts: 

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

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

ISHR Events

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

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

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

Panel against impunity for abuses against human rights defenders. New York on 16 October

October 9, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, 16 October 2019
1:15 pm – 2:30 pm
UN Headquarters, New York
Room CR-11

This event is organised by Amnesty International and the International Service for Human Rights with the kind sponsorship of the Permanent Mission of Norway to the United Nations.

Event with panellists:

  • Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
  • Radya Al-Mutawakel, Mwatana Organization for Human Rights, Yemen
  • Khin Ohmar, Progressive Voice Myanmar, Myanmar

Moderated by:

  • Sherine Tadros, Amnesty International

Welcoming remarks by:

  • Ambassador Mona Juul, Permanent Representative of Norway

Please RSVP by 11 October.

Download the flyer here