Posts Tagged ‘international community’

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:]. 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,

Video statement of ‘troublemaker’ Nabeel Rajab who is on trial today

January 20, 2015

Today, 20 January, a verdict is expected in the trial of Nabeel Rajab, an internationally recognized human rights defender in Bahrain. President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Deputy Secretary General of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and a member of Human Rights Watch’s Advisory Board, Rajab is charged with insulting public institutions via Twitter. A huge number of NGOs (see below) strongly condemn the politically motivated prosecution of Nabeel Rajab and call on the Government of Bahrain to drop all charges against the peaceful human rights defender. The video statement was prepared by True Heroes Films (THF).

On 1 October 2014, Rajab was arrested after hours of interrogation regarding one of his tweets. Rajab had just returned to Bahrain from a months-long advocacy tour, which included appearances at the 27th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and the European Parliament in Brussels, as well as meetings with foreign ministries throughout Europe. Charged with insulting public institutions under article 216 of Bahrain’s penal code, Rajab was granted bail on 2 November 2014, but was banned from leaving the country.

[Rajab is one of many Bahrainis who have been victimized by the government’s intensified campaign to silence dissent: On 28 December, Sheikh Ali Salman, General-Secretary of Bahrain’s largest opposition party Al-Wefaq, was arrested for his political and human rights activism. Earlier in December, human rights defender Zainab al-Khawaja was sentenced to four years in prison for insulting the king and ripping up his picture, while her sister Maryam al-Khawaja, Director of Advocacy of the Gulf Center for Human Rights, was sentenced to one year in prison for allegedly assaulting a police officer during her arrest in August 2014. –


Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
Association for Civil Rights
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Bytes for All
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Cartoonists Rights Network International
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility 
Centre for Independent Journalism – Malaysia
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Freedom Forum
Freedom House
Globe International Center
Independent Journalism Center – Moldova
International Press Institute 
Maharat Foundation
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
Media Watch
National Union of Somali Journalists
Pakistan Press Foundation
Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms – MADA
PEN American Center
PEN International
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters – AMARC
Activists Organisation For Development And Human Rights
American for Democracy and Human rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
Africa Freedom Of Information Centre
Albadeel Center For Studies And Research
Alliance For Tunisia’s Women
Aman Network For Rehabilitation & Defending Human Rights
Bahrain 19
Bahrain Press Association
Bahrain Salam For Human Rights
Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR)
Chokri Belaid Foundation To Combat Violence
European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights (EBOHR)
European Saudi Organisation For Human Rights
Gulf Center For Human Rights (GCHR)
Initiative For Freedom Of Expression – Turkey
International Centre For Supporting Rights And Freedom
Jordanian Commission For Culture And Democracy
Khiam Rehabilitation Center For Victims Of Torture
Kuwait Human Right Institute
Kuwait Human Right Society
Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC)
MENA Monitoring Group
Nidal Tagheer Organisation For Defending Rights (Yemen)
No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ – Italy)
Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational And Transparty (NRPTT – Italy)
Réseau Avocats Sans Frontières
Shia Right Watch
Sudanese Development Imitative
Syrian Nonviolence Movement
Tunisian Association For The Rehabilitation Of Prisoners
Tunisian Centre For Transitional Justice
Tunisian National Council For Liberties
UN Ponte Per (Italy) 

Mary Lawlor: Making attacks on human rights defenders a “red line”

December 1, 2013

(Nasrin Sotoudeh was recently released from prison in Iran – EPA)

On 1 December Mary Lawlor, Executive Director of Ireland-based Front Line Defenders, published an opinion piece in Al-Jazeera on the place of human rights defenders in the recent developments concerning Iran and Syria. In order not to lose the coherence of the argument I give it here in full: Read the rest of this entry »


October 8, 2013

 new MEA_logo with textThe Joint Mobile Group was selected by the International Human Rights Community (See Jury Below) as the Laureate 2013 of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.  Read the rest of this entry »

20th MEA ceremony broadcast live on 8 October 18h00

October 5, 2013

The 20th Ceremony of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders will take place  on Tuesday 8 October and can be followed live on as from 18h00 Central European (Geneva) time.  The moment of the announcement of the laureate will be approximately  18:30.


poster 2013 nominees MEA English

As a reminder, the 3 Final Nominees are: Read the rest of this entry »

Vacancy announcement for Coordinator of Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition

April 10, 2013

The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC) is a resource and advocacy network for the protection and support of women human rights defenders worldwide, which is looking to recruit a full-time Coordinator to liaise with members, represent the Coalition, carry out fundraising activities and facilitate and steer the WHRD IC in meeting its strategic objectives.  The position will be primarily based in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Salary and conditions will be commensurate with skills, experience and cost of living in the host country (with current funding until the end of 2013). Deadline for applications: 23rd April

To apply:
 send CV and a letter of interest to: (with the names and contact details of two referees who will not be contacted without permission).
For more information on the WHRD- IC and its work:

Concrete steps towards better protection of human rights defenders

March 15, 2012

On March 8 and 9, 2012, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), organised the fourth “inter-mechanisms” meeting, which was hosted by the Office of the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva, Switzerland. This is a unique informal platform where under Chatham House Rules key actors meet to fine tune standards and mechanisms for Human Rights Defenders.

On this occasion, international and regional mechanisms and programmes for the protection of human rights defenders – operating within the United Nations, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), the Council of Europe, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights(IACHR) and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights – joined by representatives of the European Union, the International Organisation of the Francophonie and various NGOs, discussed the drafting of a joint report on existing standards and recommendations related to the protection of human rights defenders at the international and regional levels. IACHR offered to take a coordinating role in drafting the report, with the back up of the Observatory. This report would be inspired by the 2011 Commentary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and the IACHR Second Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders. Such a document, the first of its kind, will not only be a useful tool to human rights defenders, States and other relevant stakeholders, but will also demonstrate a unity of approaches among mechanisms.

Participants also shared their experiences and lessons learnt in order to identify possible ways tostrengthen the coordination and cooperation among existing mandates on the protection of human rights defenders. In particular, action-oriented discussions focused on how to ensure accountability for human rights violations against human rights defenders, which is a central issue for all mechanisms and programmes in order to combat impunity.

Participants also discussed core policy challenges affecting the protection of human rights defenders in relation to freedom of association, as well as possibilities of cooperation with the newly appointed UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. A specific focus on the right to receive and access funding, including foreign funding was discussed, reflecting renewed preoccupations by mechanisms on restrictions by States in this regard. These issues should be further discussed during a future inter-mechanisms meeting, to be organised by the Observatory.

For more information, please contact :

• OMCT : Delphine Reculeau : + 41 22 809 49 39
• FIDH : Karine Appy / Arthur Manet : + 33 1 43 55 25 18

Concrete steps towards better protection of human rights defenders / March 15, 2012 / Urgent Interventions / Human rights defenders / OMCT.

Iran ‘continues’ its good cooperation with the UN………

August 8, 2011

According to the official iranian students news agency (ISNA) on 6 August, Iran continues to work with the UN Human Rights Council and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights as it used to do. “We have good relations with the UN Human Rights Council and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. We are sorry that some countries use the issue of human rights as an instrument and this time the US and some western states have employed human rights as an instrument to press Iran, but these pressures will go nowhere,” said Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi in a press conference referring to reports that a special United Nations human rights reporter has called for travel to Iran.

see: ISNA – 08-06-2011 – 90/5/15 – Service: / Foreign Policy / News ID: 1821676.

On 20 July I reported already in this blog that Mohammad Javad Larijani, Iran’s secretary general of the high council for human rights, had rejected the appointment of a rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran and that  Iran “will not accept the decision”; so the Minister of Foreign Affairs is not totally aware of the position taken by the SG of the High Council for Human Rights.

NGOs in China and Europe, just published, contains fascinating information

March 8, 2011

One should be careful praising books to which one has contributed oneself. But I make an exception for this volume which makes a comparison of the experiences of NGOs in China and Europe. The chapters on China contain the most comprehensive and up-to-date analysis of various types of NGOs currently active in the country. The contributions on foreign NGOs in China, non-governmental think tanks, public interest legal organizations, labour related NGOs and charity organizations, are the first in English to discuss successful experiences as well as the difficulties they face in the post-Mao era. They show that the Chinese government does not know on which foot to dance. It wants a flourishing civil society (without which social and economic growth cannot be sustained) but also wants to continue to exercise full control over developments less ‘harmony’ is threatened.  This applies specially to NGO work in the sensitive human rights sector.

The European studies draw examples from countries where the experiences of NGOs are at various stages of development. The section on NGOs in Central and Eastern Europe examines the rapid expansion of civil society and their pivotal role in promoting political change and building democracy in a transitional society, as well as the challenges they confront in advancing a strong civil society. Those chapters on NGOs’ experiences in Western European countries, especially in the Netherlands and the UK, provide insightful information and examination of the most contentious issues about NGOs’ accountability, fundraising, governance and relationship with their governments.

Contents: Introduction: challenges and opportunities for NGOs in different parts of the world, Yuwen Li; Part I NGOs in the Context of China: International NGOs in China: current situation, impacts and response of the Chinese Government, Han Junkui; The development and institutional environment of non-governmental think tanks in China, Jia Xijin; Development of charities in China since the reform and opening up, Liu Peifeng; The development of women’s NGOs in China, Shen Guoqin; Public interest legal organizations in China: current situation and prospect for future development, Xie Haiding; A review of the development of labour organizations in China in the 30 years since the reform and opening up, Zhou Shaoqing. Part II Civil Society Organizations in Europe: The voluntary sector and government: perspectives from the UK, Liz Atkins; Creating an enabling environment for NGOs in Central and Eastern Europe, Nilda Bullain; Socially responsible NGOs? A European perspective, Paul Dekker; The role and organization of voluntary action, Richard Fries; Oversight on fundraising by NPOs: Dutch experiences with a European perspective, Adri Kemps; Civil society in the Czech Republic, Petr Jan Pajas; Learning for a lifetime: NGOs, capacity building and nonprofit education in Eastern Europe, Balazs Sator.

My own contribution: ” The international human rights movement: not perfect, but a lot better than many governments think” traces the development of the international human rights movement of the last 60 years and zooms in on those aspects that are the most often misunderstood – or found objectionable – by authoritarian states.

The editor is Yuwen Li, Associate Professor of Chinese Law at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. The publisher is Ashgate, 340 pages, ISBN: 978-1-4094-1959-4 (ebook, ISBN 978-1-4094-1960-0)


The enforcement gap: what human rights NGOs should concentrate on in the next few years

April 28, 2010

In many ways human rights has been an enormous success story. In about half a century, it has gone from a relatively minor issue in diplomatic relations to a major and ongoing international concern, with elaborate treaties, mechanisms and codes. Specialized human rights organizations have among them millions of active members. The weakness remains enforcement, even in cases where the binding legal character of the rules is not in doubt.

This non-enforcement is of such a blatant character that there is a serious risk that many of the gains described above will be lost. Only half-jokingly the best advice one can give a tyrannical regime is to simply ignore all international condemnations, refuse to answer any queries, do not let any UN Rapporteurs or NGOs in, and after a while – usually quite quickly – the furor, if any, will dampen and the media will shine their light elsewhere, most likely where there is some degree of cooperation and access. This does not encourage States to follow human rights norms!

An example from the category of treaty obligations where a country has formally pledged to honor its obligations (Communication no 1150/2033 Uteeva vs Uzbekistan):. When the sister of a man condemned to death complained that the confession was obtained under torture, the Human Rights Committee requested Uzbekistan not to carry out the execution  while the case was under consideration. Six months later the Uzbek Government informed the Committee that the death sentence had been carried out.

Several countries have steadily refused to cooperate with the UN Human Rights Council and do not let Rapporteurs in (e,g, Iran, Cuba, Burma). Even more refuse to let NGOs in.

In the area of business and human rights in 2008 over 3.000 companies had signed up to the Global Compact (a voluntary code to uphold basic standards – no real teeth, but striking off the list is possible). In 2006, 335 companies were struck off the list, but who knows?

Rather than speculate about why most human rights bodies and persons seem to accept this state of affairs (fatigue, not interesting for the media, not attractive for donors, etc), we should devise urgently mechanism to remedy this situation, to make sure that “crime does not pay”.

Some ideas:

  • Every year on 10 December, Human Rights Day, the human rights movement – through a coalition of major and representative NGOs – makes public a list of the top 10 ‘refusniks’ (countries that stand out in ‘non-cooperation’)
  • Non-enforcement of decisions by any of the UN treaty bodies will have to be strengthened (report to the General Assembly is not enough). The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights could be asked to compile annually a list of non-enforced decisions and give it the widest possible dissemination, including to the meetings of the States Parties. Persistent non-compliance should be routinely followed by inter-state complaints.
  • A business company struck of the list of the Global Compact MUST make this known in the same media and publications in which its joining was announced and with same emphasis (this should be made this part of the code). Non-compliance with this requirement should lead to an active campaign by the UN to explain why the company was struck off the list.

 Reactions and other ideas are most welcome.