Posts Tagged ‘ISHR’

Applications for the 2023 Human Rights Defender Advocacy Programme (HRDAP) of the ISHR: deadline 10 January

January 5, 2023

The International Service for Human Rights in Geneva (ISHR) calls for applications for a new hybrid version of the Human Rights Defender Advocacy Programme (HRDAP). This intensive course will take place remotely between 17 April and 7 June and will be followed by an in-person training from 14 to 24 June 2023 in Geneva. The course equips human rights defenders with the knowledge and skills to integrate the UN human rights system into their existing work at the national level in a strategic manner. It also provides an opportunity for participants to prepare for and engage in lobbying and advocacy activities at the UN with the aim to create change back home. Find out why you should join HRDAP23 from Bonnie, one of our HRDAP 2022 Alumni:

So if you are a human rights defender keen to use the UN to push for change at home, get a taste of the programme here and apply before 10 January 2023!


Apply before 10 January 2

Report on the 51st session of the Human Rights Council

October 14, 2022

The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) and 12 other NGOs gave a joint assessment of the 51st session of the Human Rights Council which was held from Monday 12 September to Friday 7 October 2022. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/09/20/human-rights-defenders-at-the-51st-session-of-the-un-human-rights-council/]

We welcome that for the first time, the Council heard from two representatives of directly impacted communities from the podium in the enhanced interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner and the International Independent Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in Law Enforcement: Collette Flanagan of Mothers against Police Brutality (MAPB) whose son was killed by United States‘ police in 2013; and Jurema Werneck, director of Amnesty International in Brazil. As highlighted in the HC’s report, States are continuing to deny the existence and impact of systemic racism, especially institutional racism. Our view is that States actively protect the interests of police institutions in order to maintain the status quo which is designed to oppress Africans and people of African descent.  We call on States to fully implement the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA), to fully cooperate with the International Independent Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in the context of Law Enforcement including accepting country visits, implement the recommendations from their report and the High Commissioner’s Agenda towards Transformative Change for Racial justice and Equality.

We welcome the ‘from rhetoric to reality: a global call for concrete action against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance’ resolution. The resolution, interalia,  strongly condemns the discriminatory treatment, unlawful deportations, excessive use of force and deaths of African migrants and migrants of African descent, including refugees and asylum-seekers, at the hands of law enforcement officials engaged in migration and border governance. It calls on States to ensure accountability and reparations for human rights violations at borders and to adopt a racial justice approach, including by adopting policies to address structural racism in the management of international migration. It reiterates that the Transatlantic Trade in Enslaved Africans and colonialism were grave violations of international law that require States to make reparations proportionate to the harms committed and to ensure that structures in the society that are perpetuating the injustices of the past are transformed, including law enforcement and administration of justice and to dispense reparatory justice to remedy historical racial injustices…..

We welcome the resolution on the “human rights implications of new and emerging technologies in the military domain” and its request for a study examining these implications. The adoption of the resolution adds to the growing attention that UN human rights mechanisms are paying to the negative human rights impacts of arms, including new technologies that can be weaponised.  It is undoubtable that concerns relating to the military domain should not be seen as only relevant to disarmament fora. In response to comments from some States on whether international humanitarian law (IHL) falls within the remit of HRC, we recall that international human rights law and IHL are complementary and mutually reinforcing, as the HRC itself has reiterated on several occasions in past resolutions. We welcome the inclusion of paragraph on the responsibility to respect human rights of business enterprises, and in this regard, we recall the Information Note by the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights on the Arms Industry (“Responsible business conduct in the arms sector: Ensuring business practice in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights”) published in August 2022. While we welcome the reference in the resolution to the role of human rights defenders and civil society organisations in raising awareness about the human rights impacts of the use of new and emerging technologies in the military domain, we regret that it does not include a specific mention of the risks that the use of these technologies can pose for human rights defenders and civil society organisations.

We welcome the resolution on arbitrary detention and especially the inclusion of a new paragraph on the necessity to fully implement the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. The resolution recognises the role of HRDs, peaceful protesters, journalists and media workers in safeguarding the prohibition of arbitrary deprivation of liberty and calls upon States to make sure that they are not arbitrarily detained as a result of their activities. We further commend the main sponsor, France, for having rejected any language that could have weakened the resolution, especially on the right to legal assistance.

We welcome the adoption of the safety of journalists resolution. It has now been a decade since the first resolution on this topic, and the HRC has since created an elaborate and robust set of international standards to protect journalists. This iteration of the resolution adds new strong commitments on multiple new and emerging issues affecting journalists, from strategic lawsuits against public participation to extraterritorial attacks. It also strengthens language on investigations into attacks against journalists, calling on authorities to exhaust lines of enquiry that determine whether such attacks are linked to their journalistic work. We now urge States to implement these commitments to their full extent.

We welcome the approval by consensus by the Council of the resolution on terrorism and human rights, that has been updated with important paragraphs related to the centrality of the rule of law and human rights to counter terrorism, international human rights obligations in transfers of terrorist suspects, profiling of individuals, detention, the right to a fair trial and other due process guarantees, the right to privacy and freedom of expression, and in relation to children rights and civil society. We regret that paragraphs stemming from security based concerns have increased even though they are unrelated to the competence of the Council to promote human rights.

We warmly welcome the adoption of the resolution on the human rights situation in the Russian Federation, mandating a Special Rapporteur on Russia for the first time. …The Russian Federation’s growing repressive policies, combined with the country’s exclusion from the Council of Europe – victims of new human rights violations committed by the Russian Federation from 17 September lost protection under the European Convention on Human Rights– and its diplomatic isolation from those States which have been supportive of human rights and civil society in Russia, have made it increasingly difficult for Russian human rights defenders, activists, and civil society organisations to engage with the international community. Russian civil society had been vocal in calling for a Special Rapporteur’s mandate, strongly believing it will help to create a bridge between the United Nations and Russian civil society and the wider general public in Russia at an acute moment of widespread domestic human rights violations, both ensuring their voice is heard at an international level, and that the United Nations can further develop its understanding and analysis of the deterioration in Russia’s domestic human rights situation and the implications that has had – and continues to have – for Russia’s foreign policy decisions.

We welcome the extension and strengthening of the OHCHR capacity to collect, consolidate, analyse and preserve evidence and information and to develop strategies for future accountability, as well as to extend the mandate for enhanced monitoring and reporting by the OHCHR on Sri Lanka. Given the complete lack of any credible avenues for accountability at the national level, the OHCHR’s Sri Lanka Accountability Project remains the only hope of justice, more than thirteen years after the war, for thousands of victims of war time atrocities and their families.

We welcome the UN Secretary General’s report on missing people in Syria; and urge States to support and implement the report’s findings, in line with resolution A/HRC/51/L.18 which underscored “the report’s finding that any measure towards addressing the continuing tragedy of missing persons in the Syrian Arab Republic requires a coherent and holistic approach going beyond current efforts, which must be inclusive and centered on victims”. Addressing the issue of missing persons in Syria requires a “new international institution” mandated to clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing persons, to “work in cooperation and complementarity with existing mechanisms”, the body having “a structural element that ensures that victims, survivors and their families […] may participate in a full and meaningful manner in its operationalization and work” as recommended in the study of the Secretary General.

The Council has taken a vitally important step in renewing the mandate of the Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela and of the reporting mandate of OHCHR for a further two years. In its most recent report, A/HRC/51/43, the Fact-Finding Mission deepened its investigation of alleged crimes against humanity, making clear that alleged perpetrators remain in power. The ongoing accountability drive through the work of the Mission allied with the work of OHCHR, is key to providing victims of violations with hope for justice. It is also key to the prevention of ongoing violations, particularly in the context of upcoming elections, and of encouraging political processes that respect human rights.

We regret that the Council failed to respond adequately to several human rights situations including Afghanistan, China, Philippines, and Yemen.

We welcome the extension and strengthening of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan. However, this in no way makes up for the Council’s repeated failure to respond to the calls from Afghan human rights defenders, especially women human rights defenders, and civil society for an independent accountability mechanism with a mandate and resources to investigate the full scope of violations abuses that continue to be committed in Afghanistan by all parties and to preserve evidence of these violations for future accountability. It is particularly concerning that despite the overwhelming evidence of gross violations and abuses in Afghanistan that the Council failed to muster consensus on even the bare minimum.

We deplore that this Council was unable to endorse the proposal for a debate on Xinjiang, after the UN identified possible crimes against humanity committed by the Chinese government against Uyghurs and Turkic peoples. Dialogue is a pillar of multilateralism, and is fundamental, even on the hardest issues. Despite the leadership of the core group and all 18 States who voted in favour, this Council looked the other way. We strongly condemn the 19 countries who blocked this proposal, and regret all the abstentions that enabled it. We particularly regret that leading OIC States Indonesia and Qatar, as well as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, the UAE, Côte d’Ivoire, Mauritania, Sudan, Gabon, Cameroon and Eritrea, decided to abandon Uyghurs and Muslim minorities in China. We command Somalia for being the only Muslim Council member to stand up for Muslim minorities. Uyghur and international human rights groups won’t give up efforts to hold China accountable. We urgently call on current and future Council members to support efforts to prevent the continuation of atrocity crimes in Xinjiang, and uphold this Council’s credibility and moral authority. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/10/05/uyghur-issue-at-the-un-human-rights-council-will-there-be-even-a-debate/]

We are deeply disappointed that despite the High Commissioner’s clear recommendation and demands by victims and their families as well as civil society from the Philippines, the Council has failed to put forward a resolution mandating the High Commissioner to continue monitoring and reporting on the situation, allowing the Philippines to use the rhetoric of cooperation and the UN Joint Programme for Human Rights to window-dress its appalling human rights record without any tangible progress or scrutiny.

We are dismayed by an Item 10 resolution that will not allow for reporting to the HRC on the human rights situation in Yemen.   Despite a truce that now looks in danger of collapsing, the humanitarian and human rights crisis in Yemen has not ended.  …Lasting peace in Yemen requires a sustained commitment by the international community to ensure accountability and redress for the millions of victims in Yemen. We call on UN member states to give meaning to the pledges they have made and begin to work toward the establishment of an international independent investigative mechanism on Yemen.

On 10 October 2022 a Blog post of the Universal Rights NGO gave the following quick summary of this session of the Human Rights Council

With Ms. Michelle Bachelet’s mandate as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights having come to an end on 31 August 2022, and the incoming UN High Commissioner, Mr. Volker Türk, not taking up his official functions until 17 October 2022, Ms. Nada Al-Nashif, opened, as Acting High Commissioner, by presenting a global update on the situation of human rights around the world.

Four new Special Procedures mandate-holders were appointed to the following mandates: the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (India), the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (Colombia), the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers (United States of America), and one member of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (from Eastern European States).

9 expert members were elected to the Human Rights Council’s Advisory Committee (from Algeria, Angola, China, Qatar, Slovenia, Spain, Uruguay, Bahamas, Brazil).

42 texts (39 resolutions, one decision, and one statement by the President) were considered by the Council. This represents a 52% increase in the number of adopted texts compared to one-year prior (HRC48). Of the 41 adopted texts, 30 were adopted by consensus (73%), and 11 by a recorded vote (27%).

The Council rejected a draft decision to hold a debate on the situation of human rights in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China by vote (17 votes in favour, 19 against, and 11 abstentions).

Following the adoption by vote of a draft resolution on the situation of human rights in the Russian Federation (17 votes in favour, 6 against, and 24 abstentions), the Council created a new Special Procedure mandate on the situation of human rights in the Russian Federation for a period of one year, and requested the mandate holder to make recommendations and to present a comprehensive report to the Council at its 54th session and to the General Assembly at its 78th session, while calling upon the Russian authorities to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur.

The Council further extended the mandates of 8 thematic Special Procedures (i.e., the Independent Expert on older persons; the Special Rapporteurs on the right to development, on contemporary forms of slavery, on the rights to water and sanitation, on Indigenous Peoples, and on the right to health, as well as the Working Groups on arbitrary detention, and on mercenaries), and 7 country-specific mechanisms (i.e., the Special Rapporteurs on Afghanistan, and on Burundi; the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia; the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the International Team of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo; the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic; and the mandate of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia).

25 written amendments were tabled by States ahead of the consideration of texts by the Council but 14 were withdrawn by the main sponsor prior to voting. The remaining 11 amendments were rejected by a vote. Additionally, one oral amendment was brought forward by China during voting proceedings.

31 of the texts adopted by the Council (79%) had Programme Budget Implications (PBI) and required new appropriations not included in previous Programme Budgets. 

https://ishr.ch/latest-updates/hrc51-civil-society-presents-key-takeaways-from-human-rights-council/

https://www.universal-rights.org/urg-human-rights-council-reports/report-on-the-51st-session-of-the-human-rights-council/

Report on the 50th Session of the UN HRC

September 20, 2022

The following NGOs made a joint statement on the 50th session of the UN Human Rights Council:  International Service for Human Rights; Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA); ARTICLE 19; DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project); CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation; Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI); International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI); The Global Interfaith Network (GIN SSOGIE NPC); World Uyghur Congress; Gulf Centre for Human Rights; Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies; Child Rights Connect; Access Now; Association for Progressive Communications (APC); IFEX; Human Rights House Foundation; FIDH.

We welcome the resolution on discrimination against women and girls which focused on girls’ activism. This strong text regrettably faced a series of amendments which challenged the very notion of children, especially of girls and adolescents as rights holders, and sought to deny women and girls their agency.  The amendments are a continuation of a trend of hostile arguments and rhetoric on issues of gender, autonomy of women and girls and participation, which is coalescing and increasing in an alarming fashion. We are deeply concerned by the coordinated and targeted attacks against the rights of women, girls, LGBTIQ+ people and marginalized communities which aim at undermining sexual and reproductive rights and the right to bodily autonomy.  We are also concerned by recurrent attacks against children’s rights, which specifically question their right to participate and express their views freely and their rights as human rights defenders. We urge this Council to abide by its mandate to uphold the strongest human rights standards for all and to resist any retrogression that would have deep and harmful impact on those affected. 

We welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Independent Expert on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity for the second time, and the successful opposition of 12 out of 13 hostile amendments presented. 1,256 non-governmental organisations from 149 States and territories in all regions supported a campaign to renew the mandate. This was the first time this Council explicitly condemned legislation that criminalises consensual same-sex conducts and diverse gender identities, and called on States to amend discriminatory legislation and combat violence on the grounds on SOGI. This renewal once again reaffirms this Council’s commitment to combating discrimination and violence on the grounds of SOGI.

We welcome the resolution on freedom of peaceful assembly and association, renewing the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. At a time when civic space urgently needs to be protected and defended, we welcome that the resolution addressed substantive concerns, including access to funding, which is increasingly an existential threat to civil society worldwide.

We welcome that the resolution on peaceful protest reiterates that protests are a fundamental aspect of participation in public affairs, and highlights that people from marginalized communities can be particularly vulnerable to unlawful use of force. We regret that language urging a landmark moratorium on surveillance technology that could be used to violate human rights during protests was lost during negotiations. Hostile amendments calling for obligations to be imposed on protest organisers were overwhelmingly rejected. We now call on states to ensure accountability for excessive use of force which has been all too prevalent in protests worldwide, and urge future resolutions to strengthen this core issue.

We welcome the new resolution on freedom of opinion of expression, which reiterates that this vital right is one of the essential foundations of democratic societies and an important indicator of the level of protection of other human rights and freedoms. We particularly welcome new guidance related to the theme of digital, media and information literacy, which enables the full enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression. However, we strongly encourage the core group to ensure that future iterations of the resolution address core challenges to the right to freedom of expression which have been overlooked, including criminal defamation laws and strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs).

We welcome the approval of the resolution on the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, jurors and assessors, and the independence of lawyers, its focus on participation of women in the administration of justice, and the enhanced gender approach. This is a timely and crucial focus for this Council.

We welcome the Council’s approval of the resolution on the  importance of casualty recording for the promotion and protection of human rights that reaffirms the importance of the right to truth and takes note of key international standards for accountability, such as the updated set of principles for the protection and promotion of human rights through action to combat impunity[1] and the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law, and the Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death.

We welcome the resolution on human rights and the regulation of civilian acquisition, possession and use of firearms’ focus on business and human rights – which we hope will contribute to ensuring that States and manufacturers and dealers of firearms undertake participatory, gender-responsive human rights impacts assessments, and ensuring mandatory human rights due diligence (HRDD) requirements for the arms sector based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. We regret that important notions of patterns of structural discrimination have been reduced to discrimination rooted in negative stereotypes.

We welcome  the urgent debate on women and girls in Afghanistan and urge the Council to ensure that it remains accessible and responds adequately to the demands and needs of women human rights defenders from the country. It is imperative that this Council continues to ensure access and engagement of women human rights defenders, women political leaders and survivors and takes all necessary measures to address and ensure accountability for gender apartheid in Afghanistan. While welcoming the resolution, we regret the lack of inclusion of NGO suggestions for more specific investigation and reporting operational language that would have mandated the High Commissioner to look into the specific situation of women and girls in Afghanistan. We strongly encourage that future resolutions regarding the situation address the core issue of accountability, which has been overlooked in resolutions passed by the Council to date.

We welcome the latest resolution on Belarus, which extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. Since the previous version of this resolution was passed at HRC47, the human rights situation in Belarus has significantly deteriorated, with all independent human rights organisations in Belarus forcibly liquidated, and many human rights defenders indefinitely detained or imprisoned.

We welcome the extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, who plays an essential role in documenting violations Eritrean authorities commit at home and abroad. We stress the need for the HRC to adopt resolutions that fully reflect the situation in the country and fully describe and condemn violations.

The United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on Libya (FFM)  presented their latest report to the UN Human Rights Council only  days after protestors in Libya stormed the countries parliament and other government buildings.   Their report details gross human rights violations committed by armed groups and government forces throughout the country, including allegations of crimes against humanity and war crimes.   Despite these findings the UN Human Rights Council has  adopted a resolution drafted by Libya that only allows the investigation to continue for a  “final, non-extendable period of nine months.” NGOs have called on states to ensure that UN monitoring is maintained as long as gross human rights violations and abuses continue to be carried out in Libya with impunity.  By creating an abbreviated operational time frame and pre-emptively dismissing the possibility of renewing the FFMs mandate – the resolution adopted by this Council sends a dangerous message to armed groups in the country that the international community lacks the will to ensure a  sustained and serious accountability process. For these reasons, and in light of recent events in Libya,  we urge member states of the Human Rights Council to  work to ensure the  FFM is preserved or an alternative mechanism is created that will sufficiently respond to the long-standing and urgent need to protect victims and end impunity in Libya beyond March 2023. Failure to do so will only encourage more violence and hamper efforts to ensure a sustainable peace.

We note the approval of the resolution on the situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar. Rohingyas and other minorities in Myanmar continue to be victims of gross human rights violations, including crimes under international law, and it is important their plight  remains at the centre of this Council’s attention. We regret however that the resolution fails to recognise the gravity of the situation on the ground and calls for the immediate “voluntary” return of Rohingya to Myanmar despite the complete absence of the conditions for safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return in the country, as confirmed by the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar.

We welcome the report of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) which emphasized Israel’s systematic discrimination, and stressed its strategic geographic, social and political fragmentation of the Palestinian people. The report addressed the lack of accountability and compliance with recommendations made by previous UN bodies, including commissions of inquiry and fact-finding missions, addressing the failure of third States to uphold their obligations under international law. In the interactive dialogue, the CoI responded to the joint statement by the United States of America questioning the validity of the CoI mandate, by exposing the double standards when it comes to holding Israel accountable. Commissioners also reiterated the overwhelming support for the mandate, including during the interactive dialogue. We call on States to continue to support this important accountability mechanism and ensure the CoI has sufficient resources to discharge its mandate.

The outcome on Sudan that was achieved at this session is the best possible outcome that could be achieved by consensus. As the de facto authorities and security forces continue to kill protesters peacefully demanding civilian rule, however, consensus cannot be the Council’s only guide. We stress the need for long-term scrutiny of Sudan, beyond what resolution 50/L.14/Rev.1 has requested. The Council should keep all options on the table to expose and respond to the situation.

We regret that the Council failed to respond to several human rights situations.

In Cameroon, as the crisis in the North-West and South-West regions continues, with violations committed by all sides, including recently unspeakable atrocities committed by armed separatists, and grave violations continue to be reported in the Far North and in the rest of the country, particularly against independent and opposition voices, it is essential for the Council to follow up on its joint statement of March 2019. This is all the more important since both the African Union and the UN Security Council have been silent on what remains one of the most serious human rights crises on the African continent.

We welcome the joint statement by 47 States expressing serious concern at the human rights situation in China, including in the Uyghur region (Xinjiang), Hong Kong and Tibet, and echo the call for the prompt release of the High Commissioner’s long-overdue report on the serious violations in Xinjiang. The High Commissioner, or her successor, should present her report upon release in an intersessional briefing to the Human Rights Council. 42 Special Procedures experts have also reiterated their call for the creation of a UN-mandated mechanism to ‘monitor, analyse and report annually on the human rights situation in China’, underlining the importance for the credibility of the UN system to ‘ensure a consistent UN approach to all States.’ In its September session, the Council should take action on the basis of objective information from the UN system – namely the OHCHR Xinjiang report, Special Procedures concerns, and the upcoming Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee’s ongoing review of Hong Kong – with a view to establish a space for formal discussion of the human rights situation in China. 

The continued silence of this Council on the critical human rights situation in Egypt is of great concern.  As Egypt prepares to host COP 27 it continues to carry out  widespread and systematic violations of human rights, including freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association. Almost all independent media has been forced to shut down or threatened into silence.  100s of websites continue to be banned.  Thousands of civil society and media representatives have been and continue to be  disappeared, tortured and/or arbitrarily detained under the pretence of counter-terrorism and national security. This includes well known blogger and democracy activist Alaa Abdel Fattah – recently  sentenced to an additional 5 years in prison by an exceptional court.  His crime?  Advocating for democracy and rights.  He is currently approaching day 100 of a hunger strike. We urge this Council and its Special Procedures to take action to protect and ensure the release of Mr. Fattah and the thousands of others like him in Egypt.  

There have been strong calls from international and Russian civil society for Russia to be on the formal agenda of the Human Rights Council since the beginning of 2021.  A recent further intensification of human rights violations in Russia has led to calls for the HRC to mandate a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Russian Federation. While the joint statement signed by nearly 50 delegations at HRC50 was important, the situation now demands stronger action and we will be looking for the HRC to take action at the next session.

See also: July 11, 2022 Blog, Blog, Uncategorized, URG Human Rights Council Reports

https://ishr.ch/latest-updates/hrc50-civil-society-presents-key-takeaways-from-human-rights-council/

Human rights defenders at the 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council

September 20, 2022

The 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council has started well and good on 12 September and will last until 7 October. I am awfully delayed in extracting from the – as always excellent – guide – produced by the team of the ISHR – the issues most directly affecting human rights defenders. Apologies.

Readthe full Alert to the session online here and to stay up-to-date, follow @ISHRglobal and #HRC51 on Twitter. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/09/15/new-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-volker-turk-the-man-for-an-impossible-job/

Throughout the session ISHR is calling on States to #EndReprisals against human rights defenders and civil society groups who engage with the United Nations!

Some Thematic areas

Reprisals On 29 September, Ilze Brands Kehris, the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights will present the Secretary-General’s annual report on Cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights (also known as ‘the Reprisals Report’) to the Council in her capacity as UN senior official on reprisals. The presentation of the report will be followed by a dedicated interactive dialogue, as mandated by the September 2017 resolution on reprisals. ISHR remains deeply concerned about reprisals against civil society actors who engage or seek to engage with UN bodies mechanisms. The dedicated dialogue is a key opportunity for States to raise concerns about specific cases of reprisals and demand that Governments provide an update on any investigation or action taken toward accountability. An increasing number of States have raised concerns in recent sessions about individual cases of reprisals, including in Egypt, Nicaragua, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Bahrain, Yemen, Burundi, China and Venezuela, Egypt, Burundi, Lao and China, Belarus, Iran, Turkmenistan, and the Philippines. During its 48th session, the Council adopted a resolution on reprisals. The text, which was adopted by consensus, invited the UN Secretary-General to submit an annual report on reprisals and intimidation to the UN General Assembly. Once again, the resolution listed key trends including that acts of intimidation and reprisals can signal patterns, increasing self-censorship, and the use of national security arguments and counter-terrorism strategies by States as justification for blocking access to the UN. The resolution also acknowledged the specific risks to individuals in vulnerable situations or belonging to marginalised groups, and called on the UN to implement gender-responsive policies to end reprisals. The Council called on States to combat impunity by conducting prompt, impartial and independent investigations and ensuring accountability for all acts of intimidation or reprisal, both online and offline, by condemning all such acts publicly, providing access to effective remedies for victims, and preventing any recurrence.

Other thematic reports At this 51st session, the Council will discuss a range of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights and issues through dedicated debates, including

Special Rapporteur on truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence

Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences 

Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order.

Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances

Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes 

In addition, the Council will hold dedicated debates on the rights of specific groups including with the: Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The Council will also consider various other reports, see the full list here.  

Country-specific developments
Afghanistan The Council will hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan and enhanced interactive dialogue on the human rights situation of women and girls in Afghanistan on 12 September. While a Special Rapporteur mandate is necessary to monitor and report on the human rights situation in Afghanistan, the dire situation in the country and the atrocities affecting women and girls warrant a more robust and systematic response. ISHR together with other NGOs call on the Council to establish in parallel an ongoing accountability mechanism with the specific mandate: To investigate all alleged violations and abuses of human rights law amounting to crimes under international law in Afghanistan, in particular against women and girls, To collect, consolidate and analyse evidence of such violations and abuses, including their gender dimension, and to systematically record and preserve all information, documentation and evidence, including interviews, witness testimony and forensic material, consistent with international law standards, in view of any future legal proceedings; To document and verify relevant information and evidence, including through field engagement, and to cooperate with judicial and other entities, national and international, as appropriate; To identify, where possible, those individuals and entities responsible for all alleged violations and abuses of human rights law amounting to crimes under international law in Afghanistan, in particular against women and girls, with a view to ensuring that those responsible are held accountable.

China  Despite significant pressure, the UN human rights office (OHCHR) has published its human rights assessment on the Uyghur region (Xinjiang). The report highlights ‘serious human rights violations’, including torture and sexual and gender-based violence, stressing that existing ‘highly securitised and discriminatory’ re-education camps ‘provide fertile ground for such violations to take place on a broad scale.’ The OHCHR found that the ‘arbitrary and discriminatory detention of members of Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim group […] may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.’ It also warns that ‘conditions remain in place for serious violations to continue and recur’, calling for ‘urgent attention’ by the international community.  The Human Rights Council, and all governments that are genuinely committed to rights protection globally, cannot turn a blind eye to the severity and scale of evidence verified by the UN.  In line with ‘objective criteria’ for Human Rights Council action, ISHR calls on:  The Council to hold a formal discussion on China’s human rights crisis, including the human rights situations in the Uyghur region (Xinjiang), the Tibetan region, Hong Kong, and on human rights defenders;  States to initiate and support efforts to establish an independent international mechanism to monitor and report on the human rights situation in China, in line with the call by 50 UN Special Procedures experts. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/09/01/finally-the-long-awaited-un-report-on-china/

Burundi The Council will hold an Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Burundi on 22 September.  Since the Special Rapporteur’s mandate was operationalised, the human rights situation in Burundi has not changed in a substantial or sustainable way. The limited improvements since President Évariste Ndayishimiye was sworn in, in June 2020, as well as the positive signals he sent, particularly with regard to freedom of the press and promises of justice, have not materialised into long-term reforms. All the structural issues the CoI and other human rights actors identified remain in place. These include arbitrary arrests of political opponents or those perceived as such, acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, sexual and genderbased violence, undue restrictions to freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association, and violations of economic, social and cultural rights that are intertwined with the economic underpinnings of the State. In the absence of structural improvements and as grave human rights violations and abuses continue to be committed with impunity, the Council should adopt a resolution that reflects realities on the ground and ensures continued monitoring, reporting, and public debates on Burundi’s human rights situation. It should grant the Special Rapporteur the time he needs to fulfill his mandate and urge Burundi to cooperate with him, including by granting him access to the country. At its 51st session, the Council should adopt a resolution that extends the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Burundi for a further year.

Egypt The continued silence of the Council on the critical human rights situation in Egypt is of great concern. As Egypt prepares to host COP27, it continues to carry out widespread and systematic violations of human rights, including freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association against Egyptian and foreign nationals.

Egyptian authorities have for years employed draconian laws, including laws on counterterrorism, cybercrimes, and civil society in order to subdue the civilian populations and stifle all forms of peaceful dissent and mobilization. Under the current government, Egypt has become among the worst three countries in the world in the numbers of jailed journalists and almost all independent media has been forced to shut down or threatened into silence. Hundreds of websites continue to be banned. Scores of civil society and media representatives have been and continue to be disappeared, tortured and/or arbitrarily detained under the pretense of counter-terrorism and national security.

While the release of a few select arbitrarily-detained activists is a sign that international pressure works, the number of releases pales in comparison to the vast numbers of individuals newly detained by the National Security Prosecution, or whose arbitrary detention has been renewed in 2022. Amongst those still in prison is well known Egyptian-British human rights defender Alaa Abdel Fattah – recently sentenced to an additional 5 years in prison by an exceptional court.  He is on hunger strike for over 150 days. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/07/07/mona-seifs-letter-a-cry-for-help-for-alaa/]We urge the Council and its Special Procedures to take action to protect and ensure the release of all those arbitrarily detained in Egypt.

Russia  Together with Russian and international human rights organisations, ISHR continues to call on the Human Rights Council to establish a dedicated international mechanism to monitor and report on the dire human rights situation in Russia. As recognised by UN human rights experts, this situation includes: the stigmatisation and criminalisation of independent civil society; the persecution of human rights defenders, peaceful protesters and political activists, including through arbitrary arrest, detention, ill-treatment and torture; the banning of independent media and the silencing of journalists; attacks against women and LGBTI persons and activists; the propagation of massive disinformation; and the systematic erosion of any semblance of the rule of law or accountability mechanisms.  As further recognised by independent UN experts, by undermining and attacking independent civil society, persecuting human rights defenders, activists, and opposition and dissenting voices, banning independent media, silencing journalists, and effectively outlawing any form of peaceful protest, the Russian authorities have created an environment that, at least in part, facilitates its war in Ukraine. The war has led to an enormous loss of civilian life, displacement of millions of Ukrainian civilians, and contributed to a global food security and energy crisis, among other developments. A dedicated Special Rapporteur mandate would independently collect, analyse and present information on the human rights situation in Russia and make recommendations to the Council and the authorities on how to address it. It would serve as a crucial lifeline between Russian human rights defenders and the international community at a time when other bridges have been cut. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/04/26/lev-ponomarev-human-rights-defender-leaves-russia/] Finally, a Special Rapporteur could speak up authoritatively against the deepening restrictions on human rights in Russia and on behalf of those facing intimidation, harassment and reprisal for their human rights work.

Israel and oPT ISHR joined over 150 organisations from all world regions demand that the international community condemns and takes action to protect seven Palestinian civil society organisations that have been subject to illegal threats, raids and closure by Israeli authorities.

On the morning of 18 August 2022, the Israeli occupying forces (IOF) raided and sealed the doorways into the offices of the seven Palestinian organisations: Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Al-Haq Law in the Service of Man (Al-Haq), Bisan Center for Research and Development, Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P), Health Work Committees (HWC), the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC). We urge States to unequivocally condemn Israel’s targeting of Palestinian civil society and tactics to further repress of freedom of expression, and to take all necessary action to support and protect Palestinian human rights defenders and ensure the continuation of their invaluable work.

We call upon States to demand that Israel immediately revoke its designations of Palestinian human rights and civil society organisations as ‘terrorist organisations’, reverse the military orders designating the organisations and closing their offices, and repeal its Anti-Terrorism Law (2016) as it does not meet basic human rights standards. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/12/15/human-rights-defenders-targeted-by-israel-launch-new-joint-website/

Venezuela The HRC’s fact-finding mission on Venezuela will present its final report under its current mandate to the Human Rights Council on 26 September, followed by an interactive dialogue with States. All eyes are on Latin American states, in particular, to see whether or not they will present a resolution to renew the mission’s mandate.  While there have been significant human rights changes in Venezuela – including a reduction in extrajudicial executions between 2020 and 2021 – the human rights situation in the country remains grim, with clear retrogression in some cases. This is not the time for States to end the work of the Mission, a key accountability mechanism which during its work to date has produced evidence of likely crimes against humanity.  Not only is its work on past violations far from over, but it could play a key role in the prevention of further violations, particularly at times of instability such as is possible during upcoming Presidential elections.   ISHR has worked as part of a Coalition of Venezuelan, regional and international organisations calling for the continuation of the mandate of the Mission. These demands were recently made in a letter to States, signed by 125 other Venezuelan and international organisations. The continuation of the Mission should be a key part of foreign policy aims of states of the region, and ISHR hopes to see States step up on this front in the coming days and weeks.

Yemen ISHR joined NGOs in urging States to work toward the establishment of an independent international criminally focused investigative mechanism on Yemen in the coming period, including at HRC51. While a Yemen truce hangs in the balance, little to no progress has been made by parties to the conflict to  address ongoing and widespread violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law or remedy the harms they have inflicted on civilians throughout the conflict. The humanitarian situation in Yemen remains desperate, and, in recent weeks, armed clashes have once again increased. Civilians continue to fall victim to shelling, drone strikes and other attacks.These factors attest to the urgent and critical need to reinvigorate international accountability efforts on Yemen through the establishment of an independent international investigation. After its mandate ended in October 2021, members of the GEE called on the international community to take specific initiatives at the international level in pursuit of accountability.  Continued impunity will only increase the likelihood that more children will starve, more rights defenders and journalists will be imprisoned or executed, more homes and schools will be bombed, and the cycle of violence and suffering will continue. In this context, an international independent criminal accountability mechanism for Yemen can play a critical role to deter violence, protect civilians and promote a genuine and lasting peace.  In December 2021, nearly 90 civil society organisations called on member states of the UN to move quickly and establish such a mechanism in order to  investigate and publicly report on the most serious violations and abuses of international law committed in Yemen.

Other country situations These include: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan and Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on the human rights situation of women and girls in Afghanistan Interactive Dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner on Nicaragua Interactive Dialogue on the report of the OHCHR on Sri Lanka Interactive Dialogue on the report of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, Interactive Dialogue with the SR on Myanmar, Interactive Dialogue on the OHCHR report on Myanmar, Acting High Commissioner oral update on the human rights situation in Myanmar Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia Interactive Dialogue on the oral update of OHCHR on technical assistance and capacity-building for South Sudan Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic  Interactive Dialogue on the interim oral update of the Acting High Commissioner on the situation of human rights in Belarus  Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine and Interactive Dialogue on the Acting High Commissioner oral update on Ukraine Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner and experts on the Democratic Republic of Congo Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia and presentation of the Secretary-General’s report  Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on Somalia Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on the Central African Republic  Presentation of the High Commissioner’s report on cooperation with Georgia  Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner on the Philippines

Council programme, appointments and resolutions

States announced at least 29 proposed resolutions. Read here the reports presented this session. Appointment of mandate holders: The President of the Human Rights Council will propose candidates for:  Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons; Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, member from Eastern European States; Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

Read here the three year programme of work of the Council with supplementary information. Read here ISHR’s recommendations on the key issues that are or should be on the agenda of the UN Human Rights Council in 2022.

Concerning side events, the Secretariat informed the Bureau that it had developed a way to organise the time slots for the three meeting rooms in order to allow for side events to take place in the Palais des Nations during the 51st session of the Council. The time slots for side events will be allocated according to availability and on a first-come, first-served basis. In order to accommodate as many requests as possible, only one side event per requesting organiser will be accommodated and each side event would be limited to one hour in duration. Organisers are requested to strictly respect the allotted time and to leave the room on time in order to ensure the smooth organisation of the following side event. NGOs will find additional information on the modalities and the criteria at the OHCHR NGO participation web page. The Secretariat underscored that these measures will be implemented during the 51st session on a pilot basis.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/09/20/report-on-the-50th-session-of-the-un-hrc/

https://ishr.ch/latest-updates/hrc51-key-issues-on-agenda-of-september-2022-session/

Webinar to introduce ISHR’s #EndReprisals database

July 12, 2022

Join the International Service for Human Rights on 13 July 2022 for a webinar to introduce ISHR’s #EndReprisals database. In follow up to ISHR’s 2021 study on the impact of the UN Secretary-General’s reports on reprisals, the ISHR’s #EndReprisals Database compiles cases or situations of intimidation and reprisals documented by the United Nations Secretary-General since 2010. [ See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/09/30/reprisals-on-the-agenda-of-the-un-and-the-new-ishr-campaign-to-endreprisals/]

Each year the Secretary-General prepares a report that documents acts of intimidation and reprisals aimed at creating fear or blocking access to the United Nations of people who defend human rights. With ISHR’s #EndReprisals Database, users can more easily navigate the information contained in those reports, and research, analyse, and take action on the cases or situations so that together we can #EndReprisals. The webinar will introduce users to the database and its functionalities.

Register now for Webinar on 13 July 2022 15:00-16.00 pm CEST

https://mailchi.mp/ishr/749qlxejj6-33545?e=d1945ebb90

50th session Human Rights Council: issues directly affecting Human Rights Defenders

June 22, 2022

A bit belatedly this overview for the 50th session:

The 50th session of the UN Human Rights Council, from 13 June to 8 July 2022, will consider issues including sexual orientation and gender identity, violence and discrimination against women and girls, poverty, peaceful assembly and association, and freedom of expression, among others. It will also present an opportunity to address grave human rights situations including in Afghanistan, Belarus, China, Eritrea, Israel and OPT, Russia, Sudan, Syria and Venezuela, among many others. With “HRC50 | Key issues on agenda of June 2022 session” the ISHR provided again its indispensable guide. Here’s an overview of some of the key issues on the agenda that are the most relevant to HRDs [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/02/21/guide-to-49th-session-of-human-rights-council-with-human-rights-defenders-focus/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/04/15/results-49th-session-human-rights-council-as-seen-by-ngos/

Thematic areas of interest

Here are some highlights of the session’s thematic discussions

Business and human rights

Despite their vital work to protect the environment and combat climate change, Indigenous peoples as well as land and environmental defenders continue to be attacked. New data shows an alarming pattern of violence and harassment as a precursor to lethal attacks against defenders. 

In 2020, Global Witness registered the killings of 137 land and environmental defenders in just five of the most dangerous countries for them: Colombia, Guatemala, Kenya, Mexico and the Philippines. However, a new dataset from the ALLIED Data Working Group, a coalition in which ISHR takes part, focused on these countries has for the first time documented what is often hidden – the non-lethal attacks, including threats, harassment, smear campaigns and stigmatisation that are a precursor to the shocking number of deaths we see each year.

The findings highlight the urgent need for States to monitor, collect data, report on the situation of these defenders, and address the root causes of attacks against them. ISHR urges all States to make a commitment to the systematic monitoring of attacks on indigenous, land and environmental defenders in their countries, and to take stronger action, together with civil society and relevant UN Special Procedures, to address the root causes of attacks in the debate with the Working Group due to take place on 21 June 2022. 

Reprisals

Reports of cases of intimidation and reprisal against those cooperating or seeking to cooperate with the UN not only continue, but grow. Intimidation and reprisals violate the rights of the individuals concerned, they constitute violations of international human rights law, and they undermine the UN human rights system.

The UN has taken action towards addressing this critical issue, including:

  • Requesting that the Secretary General prepare an annual report on cases and trends of reprisals;
  • Establishing a dedicated dialogue under item 5 to take place every September;
  • Affirmation by the Council of the particular responsibilities of its Members, President and Vice-Presidents to investigate and promote accountability for reprisals and intimidation; and
  • The appointment of the UN Assistant Secretary General on Human Rights as the Senior Official on addressing reprisals.

Despite this, ISHR remains deeply concerned about reprisals against civil society actors who try to engage with UN mechanisms, and consistent in its calls for all States and the Council to do more to address the situation.

During the 48th session, the Council adopted a resolution on reprisals. The text was adopted by consensus for the first time since 2009 and invites the UN Secretary General to submit his annual report on reprisals and intimidation to the UN General Assembly. Once again the resolution listed key trends, including that acts of intimidation and reprisals can signal patterns, increasing self-censorship, and the use of national security arguments and counter-terrorism strategies by States as justification for blocking access to the UN. The resolution also acknowledged the specific risks to individuals in vulnerable situations or belonging to marginalised groups, and called on the UN to implement gender-responsive policies to end reprisals. The Council called on States to combat impunity by conducting prompt, impartial and independent investigations and ensuring accountability for all acts of intimidation or reprisal, both online and offline, by condemning all such acts publicly, providing access to effective remedies for victims, and preventing any recurrence.

Item 5 of the Human Rights Council’s agenda provides a key opportunity for States to raise concerns about specific cases of reprisals, and for governments involved in existing cases to provide an update to the Council on any investigation or action taken toward accountability. The President should also update the Council on actions taken by the President and Bureau to follow up on cases and promote accountability under this item.

Due to the lack of a general debate under item 5 at HRC 50, ISHR encourages States to raise concerns about specific cases of reprisals during the interactive dialogues on the relevant countries on the agenda at this session or in the context of thematic interactive dialogues where relevant.

During the organisational meeting held on 30 May, the President of the Council stressed the importance of ensuring the safety of those participating in the Council’s work, and the obligation of States to prevent intimidation or reprisals.

In line with previous calls, ISHR expects the President of the Human Rights Council to publicly identify and denounce specific instances of reprisals by issuing formal statements, conducting press-briefings, corresponding directly with the State concerned, publicly releasing such correspondence with States involved, and insisting on undertakings from the State concerned to investigate, hold perpetrators accountable and report back to the Council on action taken.

Sexual orientation and gender identity

The mandate of the Independent Expert on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is up for renewal for the second time at this session. We will be following this closely and call on all States to support the mandate and contribute to the Council’s efforts to combat violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Other thematic reports

At this 50th session, the Council will discuss a range of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights through dedicated debates with the mandate holders and the High Commissioner, including interactive dialogues with:

  • The Special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association
  • The Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
  • The Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health
  • The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
  • The Special Rapporteur on the right to education
  • The Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity
  • The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary of arbitrary executions
  • The Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights
  • The Special Rapporteur on promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change
  • The Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises
  • The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance
  • The High Commissioner on State responses to pandemics 

In addition, the Council will hold dedicated debates on the rights of specific groups including;

  • The Special Rapporteur on the rights of internally displaced persons
  • The Working Group on discrimination against women and girls
  • The Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, its causes and consequences
  • The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants
  • The Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children
  • The Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members
  • The Special Rapporteur on independence of judges and lawyers

Country-specific developments

Afghanistan

Together with WHRDs from the country and civil society organisations from all regions, ISHR calls on States to lead and support an Urgent Debate at HRC50 on women’s rights in Afghanistan.

Since August 2021, when the Taliban took control of the country, there has been an enormous deterioration in the recognition and protection of the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan, including with respect to the rights to non-discrimination, education, work, public participation, health, and sexual and reproductive health. The Taliban has also imposed sweeping restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly and movement for women and girls. Afghanistan is now the only country in the world to expressly prohibit girls’ education.

The world’s worst women’s rights crisis demands a response and it would be unacceptable for the June session of the HRC, traditionally the session focused on gender-related issues, to pass without some meaningful action on the issue. I

The Council will hold an interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner on the update on Afghanistan on 15 June 2022. 

China 

The High Commissioner’s visit to China failed to adequately address widespread and systematic violations in the country, express solidarity with victims and defenders, or pave the way for meaningful monitoring of China’s human rights crisis across the Uyghur and Tibetan regions, Hong Kong and mainland China. The High Commissioner’s end of mission statement failed to address strong, specific concerns or make substantive, concrete recommendations to the governmen. The broad concerns issued in a light language do not match the scope and gravity of human rights violations across the country that have been thoroughly documented by UN experts and civil society and that could amount to crimes against humanity and genocide.

States should call on the High Commissioner to immediately publish her OHCHR report on the Uyghur region, with clear, compelling recommendations to the government, and present her findings in a briefing to the Human Rights Council. The High Commissioner should also ensure that the established annual meeting and working group for dialogue with the authorities are of public nature, include specific substantive recommendations to the government, and involve substantial consultation with a diverse set of independent civil society groups. China should also follow suit on promises for subsequent visits by the OHCHR by granting prompt unfettered access to Hong Kong and the Tibetan region. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/06/09/disappointment-with-un-high-commissioners-visit-to-xinjiang-boils-over/

Burundi

The Commission of Inquiry on Burundi (CoI) concluded its work at the 48th HRC session in October 2021 while a new resolution establishing a mandate of UN Special Rapporteur on Burundi was adopted, resolution 48/16. The resolution tasks the mandate with monitoring the human rights situation in the country, making recommendations for its imp­ro­ve­ment, and re­por­ting to the Human Rights Council. During the 50th HRC session, the newly nominated Special Rapporteur on Burundi will present their first oral update on 29 June 2022.

Egypt

Notwithstanding the launch of a national human rights strategy, the fundamental purpose of which is to deflect international scrutiny rather than advance human rights, there has been no significant improvement in the human rights situation in Egypt since the joint statement delivered by States in March 2021 at HRC46. Emblematic recent examples include: Ayman Hadhoud’s death in the custody of Egyptian security forces following his enforced disappearance over two months ago and the execution of seven people in Egypt on 8 and 10 March 2022 following trials in which the defendants were forcibly disappeared, tortured, and denied their right to a lawyer.

In response to the Egyptian President’s announcement of “reactivating the work of the Presidential Pardon Committee” on 26 April 2022, Egyptian human rights organisations submitted a proposal for a fair and transparent process to release political prisoners in Egypt. Yet, recent harsh sentences in unfair trials against peaceful critics demonstrate further the lack of political will of the Egyptian authorities to address the crisis of arbitrary detention in Egypt. ISHR joined more than 100 NGOs from around the world in urging the HRC to create a monitoring and reporting mechanism on the ever-deteriorating human rights situation in Egypt. 

Israel and oPT

This session, the COI on the oPt and Israel established in 2021 will present its first report to the HRC. Civil society from around the world had welcomed the historic resolution establishing the standing Commission of Inquiry to address Israel’s latest and ongoing violations against the Palestinian people on both sides of the Green Line, while also addressing the root causes of Israel’s settler colonialism and apartheid. The interactive dialogue with the CoI comes in the context of mounting recognition of Israel’s establishment and maintenance of an apartheid regime by Israel over the Palestinian people as a whole. During HRC49, the SR on the oPT called on the international community to accept and adopt his findings as well as the “findings by Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights organisations that apartheid is being practised by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territory and beyond.” In its 2019 concluding observations, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination found that Israel’s policies violated Article 3 of ICERD pertaining to segregation and apartheid on both sides of the Green Line. In 2022, the Human Rights Committee concluding observations on Israel emphasized the “pre-existing systematic and structural discrimination against non-Jews”.

While some States continue to seek to undermine the mandate of the CoI and effective accountability mechanisms to put an end to Israel’s apartheid regime, CSOs support the CoI’s methodological approach to fulfill its vital mandate. We call on States to engage with the substance of the mandate of the CoI during the interactive dialogue, express support for this important accountability mechanism and ensure it has sufficient resources to discharge its mandate.

Russia 

Together with a coalition of international and regional NGOs, as well as numerous Russian civil society organisations, ISHR urges the Council to establish an independent international monitoring and reporting mechanism on Russia. In the context of the systematic repression of civil society organisations, severe restrictions on press freedoms and independent media, severe restrictions and criminalisation of many forms of free expression, association, assembly and peaceful protest, and the propagation of huge volumes of misinformation, a Special Rapporteur is necessary to ensure that the international community receives vital information about the human rights situation on the ground. 

Sudan

The Council will hold a debate with the High Commissioner and Expert on Sudan on 15 June 2022.

The Sudanese Women Rights Action documented from March to April 2022 the violations against women protesters, including arrests, injuries, and sexual violence. Their report also highlighted the economic and humanitarian situation in conflict areas and in the country in general. The report shows that “the coup leaders are using increasing violence against women protesters, including arrests, fabricated charges, direct lethal violence in protests, and sexual violence. The civic space is shrinking across Sudan, where human rights groups and WHRDs are not able to work freely and safely. Surveillance on internet, communication, movement, and offices of many groups led them to work from underground. The economic conditions and the fragile political situation is increasing women insecurity, as the peace process failed to end violence conflict areas. Women in Sudan are living in constant fear of violence with growing threats of the collapse of the state.”

In light of this context, ISHR urges all States to support the adoption of a resolution that ensures continued attention to Sudan’s human rights situation through enhanced interactive dia­logues at the Council’s 52nd and 53rd regular sessions. While the Expert’s mandate is ongoing, a resolution is required for the Council to hold public de­bates and continue to formally discuss the situation. A resolution at the Council’s 50th session would ope­ra­tio­nalise resolution S-32/1, which in its operative paragraph 19 called upon “the High Commis­sioner and the designated Expert to monitor human rights violations and abu­ses and to continue to bring information thereon to the attention of the Human Rights Council, and to advise on the further steps that may be needed if the situation continues to deteriorate.”

Venezuela

On 29 June, the Council will hold an interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner on her report on the situation of human rights in Venezuela. The Council requested her to provide in this report a detailed assessment of the implementation of the recommendations made in her previous reports. Implementation of recommendations and improvements in the human rights situation on the ground remains a critical question as HRC mandates for OHCHR and the international investigative body for Venezuela expire in September. Venezuelan civil society groups continue to show evidence of a lack of any substantive human rights reform in the country, of a lack of meaningful cooperation by the State and – in fact – of regression in key areas such as judicial independence and civic space. ISHR urges States at the upcoming session to express support for the work of OHCHR in the country, and encourage the Office to speak clearly to realities on the ground. In addition, States should signal their support for the continuance of the work of the HRC’s fact-finding mission to the country through an extension of the Mission’s mandate at HRC51. 

The adoption of the report of the third cycle UPR on Venezuela will also take place on the 29 June or 1 July.  

Other country situations

The Council will hold an interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s annual report on 14 June 2022. The Council will hold debates on and is expected to consider resolutions addressing a range of country situations, in some instances involving the renewal of the relevant expert mandates. These include:

  • Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea
  • Interactive Dialogues with the High Commissioner and Special Rapporteur on Myanmar
  • Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner on Nicaragua
  • Interactive Dialogues with the High Commissioner on Ukraine
  • Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria
  • Interactive Dialogue with the International commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia 
  • Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Belarus
  • Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya
  • Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on Central African Republic 

Council programme, appointments and resolutions

The President of the Human Rights Council will propose candidates for the following mandates: 

  1. Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief
  2. Special Rapporteur on the right to education
  3. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
  4. Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, member from African States
  5. Expert Mechanism on the Right to Development, member from Latin American and Caribbean States
  6. Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
  7. Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, member from Eastern European States
  8. Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, member from Western European and other States

Resolutions to be presented to the Council’s 50th session

At the organizational meeting on 30 May the following resolutions were announced (States leading the resolution in brackets):

  1. Elimination of discrimination against women (Mexico), mandate renewal 
  2. Freedom of expression (Brazil, Canada, Fiji, Sweden, Namibia, Netherlands) 
  3. Elimination of female genital mutilation (Africa Group)
  4. Rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association (Czech Republic, Indonesia, Lithuania, Maldives, Mexico), mandate renewal 
  5. Human rights situation in Sudan (United Kingdom, Germany, Norway, United States)
  6. Human rights situation in Syria (Germany, France, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Netherlands, Qatar, Turkey, United States, United Kingdom)
  7. Mandate of the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity  (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Uruguay), mandate renewal 
  8. Casualty recording and the promotion and protection of human rights (Liechtenstein, Croatia, Costa Rica, Sierra Leone) 
  9. Human rights and climate change (Bangladesh, Philippines, Viet Nam)
  10. Access to medicines and vaccines in the context of the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Senegal, South Africa, Thailand)
  11. Enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights (NAM)
  12. Independence and impartiality of the judiciary, jurors and assessors, and the independence of lawyers (Hungary, Australia, Botswana, Maldives, Mexico, Thailand)
  13. Human rights and the regulation of civilian acquisition, possession and use of firearms (Ecuador, Peru)
  14. Human rights in Belarus, mandate renewal (European Union)
  15. Human rights in Eritrea, mandate renewal (European Union) 
  16. The promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protest (Switzerland, Costa Rica)
  17. Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar (OIC) 
  18. Accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women (Canada), mandate renewal 
  19. Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (Austria, Honduras, Uganda), mandate renewal
  20. Human rights and international solidarity (Cuba)
  21. Social Forum (Cuba)

Read the calendar here

Adoption of Universal Periodic Review (UPR) reports

During this session, the Council will adopt the UPR working group reports on Myanmar, Togo, Syrian Arab Republic, Iceland, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Lithuania, Uganda, Timor-Leste, Republic of Moldova, South Sudan, Haiti and Sudan.

Panel discussions

During each Council session, panel discussions are held to provide member States and NGOs with opportunities to hear from subject-matter experts and raise questions. Seven panel discussions are scheduled for this upcoming session:

  1. Panel discussion on the root causes of human rights violations and abuses against Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar 
  2. Panel discussion on menstrual hygiene management, human rights and gender equality
  3. Panel discussion on good governance in the promotion and protection of human rights during and after the COVID-19 pandemic
  4. Annual full-day discussion on the human rights of women
  5. Panel discussion on the adverse impact of climate change on the full and effective enjoyment of human rights by people in vulnerable situations
  6. High-level panel discussion on countering the negative impact of disinformation on the enjoyment and realization of human rights
  7. Annual thematic panel discussion on technical cooperation and capacity-building

Stay up-to-date: Follow @ISHRglobal and #HRC50 on Twitter, and look out for its Human Rights Council Monitor. During the session, follow the live-updated programme of work on Sched. 

https://ishr.ch/latest-updates/hrc50-key-issues-on-agenda-of-june-2022-session/

Today event by ISHR on Resisting police violence

June 22, 2022

Register here for this on-line event. When we think of police violence, the images that are conjured up are of Black men being targeted and tortured at the hands of law enforcement. 
Demanding justice and accountability for victims of systemic racism, Wednesday 22 June
16:00 – 18:00 CET

While these images are important, they tell only a part of the story. What are the harms that we are not seeing?  How are those harms felt more broadly by communities that are impacted directly and those who witness its affects as the humdrum of terror running automatically in the background? And, how are human rights defenders using the United Nations as a tool to expose these violations and seek justice for victims? 

This event, organised by the UN Anti-Racism Coalition, will address these questions and expand the definition of what it means to be directly impacted by police and State-sanctioned violence. The aim is to highlight and recognise the broader and deeper impacts of systemic racism. 


SPEAKERS: 

Ana Paula Oliveira, Bruna da Silva, Vanessa Francisco Sales, human rights defenders from Brazil 

María Mercedes Manjarrez, human rights defender from Colombia  

Esther Mamadou, human rights defender from Spain  

Ejim Dike, human rights defender from Nigeria  

Adrienne Hood, human rights defender from the United States 

MODERATOR: Iki Yos, Caribbean, afrodiasporic-transborder artist, performer, and anti-racist activist You are welcome to join this discussion, which will be held in English with simultaneous interpretation in Spanish, French and Portuguese. Click here to register to the event and here for more information. 

Download flyer in English,FrenchSpanish and Portuguese

Historic vote: Russia also out of ECOSOC NGO Committee

May 13, 2022

On Wednesday, 13 April, members of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) elected 19 members to the UN Committee on NGOs, a body frequently criticised for restricting civil society participation at the UN. See my earlier posts on this topic: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/ngo-committee/

Members of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) voted to elect 19 members for the next 4 year term (2022-2025) of the ECOSOC Committee on NGOs. The 19 members of the Committee, elected from five regional groups, are the gatekeepers for civil society at the UN as they decide which NGOs receive UN accreditation participation rights.

In the election, the Eastern European States was the only regional group which presented a competitive slate, as three candidates, Armenia, Georgia and Russia, contested for the two available seats. Armenia, Georgia and Russia received 47, 44 and 15 votes respectively. As a result, Russia,  a member of the Committee since its establishment in 1947, has been voted out. This result comes one week after a historic resolution of the UN General Assembly to suspend Russia’s Human Rights Council membership. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/04/08/suspension-of-membership-un-human-rights-council-finally-operationalised/

Despite Russia’s departure, the incoming NGO Committee still includes members with deeply problematic records on safeguarding human rights and civil society participation. According to the CIVICUS Monitor, 60% of the incoming members are currently characterised as being ‘closed’ or ‘repressed’ civic spaces. This includes all members for the Asia-Pacific region. Civic space is ‘obstructed’ or ‘narrowed’ within the remaining 40%.

Members of the NGO Committee are the primary decision makers on which NGOs can access UN bodies and processes,” said Maithili Pai, Programme Officer and ISHR focal point for civil society access and participation. “States must fulfil their fundamental mandate under ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31 by acknowledging the breadth of NGO expertise and their capacity to support the work of the UN, and ensuring just, balanced, effective and genuine involvement of NGOs around the world.” she added.

ISHR is aware of 352 currently deferred organisations seeking UN accreditation, at least 40 which have faced over four years of deferrals, and one that has been deferred for 14 years. In response, ISHR sought to campaign for states to engage in competitive and meaningful elections that could produce positive outcomes for civil society. We urge incoming members of the Committee to open the doors of the UN to civil society groups from around the world.

https://ishr.ch/latest-updates/ecosoc-committee-on-ngos-elections-russia-voted-out-for-first-time-in-75-years/

Profile of Soun Yuthyia from Cambodia

May 11, 2022

I chose to be a human rights defender by, hopefully, protecting those who don’t know where to find a solution when there are human rights abuses happening to them.”

Soun Yuthyia is the advocacy director for The Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, an organisation that seeks to protect and promote respect for human rights throughout Cambodia. He shares his vision for the future of Cambodia and how his work has positively impacted the people of Cambodia.

Yuthyia also shares his experience with HRDAP and the ISHR Academy in the below video:

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/vAfHKFScArU

https://ishr.ch/defender-stories/human-rights-defenders-story-soun-yuthyia-from-cambodia/

International Service for Human Rights: annual report 2022 (2021)

May 8, 2022

The last 18 months have been deeply challenging from a human rights perspective, with the COVID pandemic exposing and exacerbating inequalities, human rights defenders continuing to face deadly threats and choking restrictions to their work, and some governments working to undermine the accessibility and effectiveness of human rights mechanisms and multilateral processes.  But it’s also been a period over which sparks have been lit on key issues which we must now nurture and ensure fires of progress that long burn bright. 

ISHR invites you to discover our latest annual report, outlining our key impacts during the last year and our vision for 2022 and the years ahead.

What did we achieve in 2021?

Here are just a few examples of our collective impact:  Together with human rights defenders fighting racism, we celebrated the establishment of a historic expert mechanism to advance racial justice and equality in law enforcement, as well as a commission to inquire into the root causes of conflict and violence against the Palestinian people. Together with defenders promoting women’s rights, we were inspired by the widespread mobilisation and calls for accountability in cases of sexual harassment and assault, as well as the release from arbitrary detention of a number of prominent women human rights defenders. Together with defenders working on the environment and the climate crisis, we commended the landmark recognition under international human rights law of the right to a healthy and sustainable environment, as well as the mandating of a new UN Special Rapporteur on Climate Change. Together with defenders working to make governments accountable, we rejoiced in seeing an increased number and diversity of persons prepared to speak up and take action against widespread and systemic violations in States including China, Egypt, Nicaragua, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, while in other States in Africa, Asia and Latin America progress was made in the legal recognition and protection of defenders. See more achievements by clicking on the two videos below and visiting our website!

For other annual reports of 2021, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/annual-report-2021/

Announcing the launch of its 2022 Annual Report