Posts Tagged ‘joint statement’

71 countries make first joint statement on reprisals at the Third Committee

November 14, 2019

which followed the GA, reported this unprecedented move: a cross-regional group of countries called on all States and the UN to prevent, respond to, and ensure accountability for cases of intimidation and reprisals against those who engage or seek to engage with the UN. In this joint statement presented to the Third Committee of the General Assembly in Octber 2019, 71 countries (listed below) highlighted that the UN must ensure that civil society organisations and human rights defenders who wish to engage with the UN are able to do so without fear of reprisal or intimidation. That same week the Assistant Secretary-General in his mandate as the senior official on reprisals held an event to discuss the annual reprisals report of the Secretary General.

This welcome move led by the Permanent Mission of the United Kingdom to the UN is in line with the call made, just last month, in resolution 42/28 at the Human Rights Council for the General Assembly to remain seized of all work in this area. ‘The statement highlighted that beyond the immediate impact on victims, these acts of intimidation and reprisals undermine the credibility and effectiveness of the UN as a whole, including the human rights system,’ said ISHR’s Tess McEvoy.

The integral role played by civil society and human rights defenders in encouraging openness, transparency and dialogue between people and those in power was also acknowledged. While highlighting positive steps that have been taken by the UN, including the Secretary-General’s annual report on reprisals and the work done by the Assistant Secretary-General in his mandate as the senior official on reprisals, the 71 countries strongly condemned any act of intimidation and reprisal, whether online or offline, against individuals and groups who cooperate or seek to cooperate with the UN, and expressed alarm about the growing number of cases.

‘While positive responses by some States to cases of reprisals were acknowledged, critically, the statement acknowledged the primary obligation of States to prevent and address reprisals. Moreover, all States were called on to prevent and ensure adequate protection against such acts by raising awareness, investigating and ensuring accountability and effective remedy by both State or non-State actors,’ added McEvoy. The statement also made clear the duty of the UN to address reprisals and called on the UN to strengthen the collective response to reprisals.

While we welcome this statement and the leadership of the United Kingdom as a step towards enhanced dialogue on the issue of reprisals at the General Assembly, more needs to be done to protect the right of everyone to communicate with the UN. We echo previous calls for States to step up efforts to address reprisals, including by referring to  specific cases during future dialogues at the UN. [see also my ‘old’: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/03/13/zero-tolerance-for-states-that-take-reprisals-against-hrds-lets-up-the-ante/]

The full statement as delivered is available here. The statement was made by the United Kingdom on behalf of Afghanistan, Albania, Andorra, Australia, Austria, the Bahamas, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, the Dominican Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Latvia, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Marshall Islands, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, the Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Panama, Poland, Portugal, the Republic of Korea, the Republic of Moldova, Romania, Samoa, San Marino, Seychelles, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, Tuvalu, Ukraine, the United States, Uruguay and Vanuatu.

https://www.ishr.ch/news/unga74-71-countries-make-first-joint-statement-reprisals-third-committee

Massive call in support of Ahmed Mansoor at his 50th birthday – How can Emirates remain deaf?

November 5, 2019

Screenshot from Youtube video on Ahmed Mansoor, a Martin Ennals Award Laureate 2015, Youtube/Martin Ennals Foundation

Screenshot from Youtube video on Ahmed Mansoor, a Martin Ennals Award Laureate 2015, Youtube/Martin Ennals Foundation

142 civil society organisations have called upon the UAE government to unconditionally release human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, whose life they believe may be at risk following beatings and hunger strikes to protest his inhumane prison conditions. This statement was originally published on gc4hr.org on 16 October 2019.

Your Excellency, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan,

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has recently announced multiple projects promoting pluralism and tolerance both at home and abroad. 2019 has been declared the ‘Year of Tolerance’ and in 2020, Dubai will host the World Expo trade fair, under the theme ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.’ Upon Dubai’s selection for this exhibition in 2013, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said: “[w]e renew our promise to astonish the world in 2020.” We welcome these public commitments to tolerance and open-mindedness.

It is in this same spirit that we, the undersigned, call upon the UAE government to immediately and unconditionally release human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, whose life we believe may be at risk following beatings and hunger strikes to protest deplorable and inhumane prison conditions. The Authorities have convicted and imprisoned him solely for his human rights work and for exercising his right to freedom of expression, which is also protected under the UAE’s Constitution. Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience.

Before his imprisonment, Mansoor was known as ‘the last human rights defender left in the UAE’ on account of his fearless work to document human rights violations in the country. His willingness to speak out publicly in defence of human rights on his blog, via social media and in interviews with international media was an example to us all. He is also an engineer, a poet, and a father of four. He is on the advisory boards of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and Human Rights Watch and was awarded the 2015 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.

UAE authorities arrested Mansoor on 20 March 2017 at his home and subjected him to enforced and involuntary disappearance for over six months, with no access to a lawyer and sparse contact with his family, who did not know his exact whereabouts. The authorities held him in solitary confinement for prolonged periods of time.

Shortly after his arrest, a group of United Nations human rights experts said that the UAE should release him immediately, describing his arrest as “a direct attack on the legitimate work of human rights defenders in the UAE.” They expressed fear that his arrest “may constitute an act of reprisal for his engagement with UN human rights mechanisms, for the views he expressed on social media, including Twitter.”

A year later, on 29 May 2018, Mansoor was sentenced under vague charges of “insulting the status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols, including its leaders”, “publishing false information to damage the UAE’s reputation abroad” and “portraying the UAE as a lawless land.” He received a sentence of 10 years in prison, a fine of 1,000,000 UAE Dirhams (US$272,000), three years of probation after completion of his sentence, and confiscation of his electronic devices. On 31 December 2018, the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court upheld his conviction and sentence.

The UAE’s Government actions against Mansoor have been widely criticised. For instance, on 4 October 2018, the European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning Mansoor’s “harassment, persecution and detention, and calling for his release.” In May 2019, after he ended a month-long hunger strike to protest his unjust conviction and his detention conditions in Al-Sadr prison, a group of UN Special Rapporteurs stated that his conditions of detention “violate[d] basic international human rights standards and risk[ed] taking an irrevocable toll on Mr Mansoor’s health.” In September 2019, Mansoor was severely beaten for continuing his protests and he undertook yet another hunger strike. Nevertheless, he continues to be held in an isolation cell with no running water or bed and is not permitted to leave his cell except for family visits.

In September 2019, the annual report of the UN Secretary General about reprisals against those who cooperate with the UN mechanisms cited Mansoor’s case. This was the fourth time that the Secretary General had denounced reprisals against him, having previously raised concerns in 2014, 2017 and 2018.

It is a tragedy and a disgrace for the UAE that this Tuesday, on 22 October of the UAE’s ‘Year of Tolerance’, Ahmed Mansoor will turn 50, alone in a prison cell in such deplorable conditions, simply for exercising his fundamental right to free speech and for speaking out against human rights violations.

Mansoor’s imprisonment is part of a larger and growing pattern of repression in the UAE. Since 2011, the authorities have embarked on an unprecedented campaign of repression on freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association in the country, shrinking the space for peaceful dissent to near-obliteration. Authorities have used privately manufactured technologies, such as those made by NSO Group, for the unlawful targeted surveillance of human rights defenders, including Mansoor, in order to monitor and clamp down on dissent. The authorities have arrested, detained, and prosecuted activists, human rights defenders and other critics of the government, including prominent lawyers, judges and academics, on broad and sweeping national security-related or cybercrime charges and in proceedings that fail to meet international fair trial standards.

The UAE has publicly declared itself a champion of tolerance in the Middle East and the world. Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it has an obligation to protect the rights of its citizens and residents. For this reason, we call upon the UAE government to uphold these principles, and to release Ahmed Mansoor without further delay.

Yours sincerely,

https://ifex.org/open-letter-to-the-emirati-authorities-to-free-human-rights-defender-ahmed-mansoor-on-his-50th-birthday/

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/10/uae-global-call-for-release-of-prominent-human-rights-defender-ahmed-mansoor/

Result of the 42nd session of the UN Human Rights Council

October 2, 2019

On 27 September 2019 a group of civil society organisations welcomed significant outcomes of the HRC’s 42nd session, including reaffirming its condemnation of reprisals and extending its scrutiny over Yemen, Venezuela, Cambodia, Burundi, Myanmar, and Sudan. This session witnessed heightened scrutiny of Council members by shedding light on the situation in Saudi Arabia, but it missed an opportunity to ensure scrutiny over situations in China, Kashmir and Egypt. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/05/human-rights-defenders-issues-at-the-42nd-session-of-the-un-human-rights-council/]

The 42nd session also advanced standards on several issues including the right to privacy, administration of justice and the death penalty, but failed to defend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism against attempts to dilute and distract its focus. The High Commissioner failed again to present the database on companies facilitating Israel’s illegal settlements.

The Council reaffirmed that reprisals can never be justified. Council members rejected attempts to weaken the text including deleting the references to the roles of the Assistant Secretary-General and the Human Rights Council Presidents. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/23/andrew-gilmours-2019-report-on-reprisals-it-gets-worse-but-response-remains-mostly-rhetoric/] The resolution listed key trends such as the patterns of reprisals, increasing self-censorship, the use of national security arguments and counter-terrorism strategies by States as justification for blocking access to the UN, acknowledged the specific risks to individuals in vulnerable situations or belonging to marginalized groups, and called on the UN to implement gender-responsive policies to end reprisals. The Council called on States to combat impunity and to report back to it on how they are preventing reprisals, both online and offline.

They welcome the creation of a Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on Venezuela as an important step towards accountability for the grave human rights violations documented by the High Commissioner.

They welcome the renewal and strengthening of the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen, sending a clear message to parties to the conflict – and to victims – that accountability is at the center of the mandate, and providing a crucial and much-needed deterrent to further violations and abuses. States should support the recommendations made by the GEE in their recent report, including prohibiting the authorization of transfers of, and refraining from providing, arms that could be used in the conflict to such parties; and clarifying the GEE’s role to collect and preserve evidence of abuses.

They welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia, but regret that calls to strengthen the mandate of the OHCHR to monitor and report on the situation have been ignored. We regret that the resolution fails to accurately depict the continuing crackdowns on civil society and the severity and scale of recent attacks on the political opposition.

They welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi. Its work is vital as the country heads towards elections in 2020. The Burundian Government should desist from denial and insults, and should cooperate with the Commission and other UN bodies and mechanisms.

They welcome that the EU and OIC have jointly presented a resolution on Myanmar requesting the High Commissioner to report on the implementation of the recommendations of the Fact-Finding Mission at HRC 45. However, the international community needs to take stronger action to ensure accountability for and cessation of grave international crimes, in particular by referring Myanmar to the ICC and imposing a global arms embargo – and by acting on the FFM’s reports, including those on economic interests of the military and on sexual and gender-based violence in Myanmar and the gendered impact of its ethnic conflicts.

On terrorism and human rights, they are deeply disappointed that Mexico and other States have partially acquiesced in attempts by Egypt to dilute or distract the work of the Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism away from its appropriate focus on human rights violations while countering terrorism and human rights of victims of terrorism. We regret that States have asked the Special Rapporteur to spend the limited time and resources of the mandate, to comment on the overbroad concept of the “effects” of terrorism, by which Egypt and some other States seem primarily to mean macroeconomic, industrial, and investment impacts, rather than the human rights of individual victims. The length to which States seem willing to put the existing Special Rapporteur’s mandate at risk, in the name of protecting it, while failing even to incorporate stronger consensus text on human rights issues included in the most recent merged parallel resolution at the General Assembly, suggests that the merger of the previous Mexican and Egyptian thematic resolutions no longer holds any real promise of positive results for human rights.

They welcome the Council’s renewed attention to the protection of the right to privacy in the digital age: fully integrating human rights into the design, development and deployment of Artificial Intelligence, machine learning technologies, automated decision-making, and biometric systems, is essential to safeguard not only the right to privacy, but also to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association, and economic social and cultural rights.

On human rights in the administration of justice, we welcome the focus in this year’s resolution on concrete measures to prevent and respond to violence, death and serious injury in situations of deprivation of liberty, which illustrates the potential of thematic resolutions to set out specific practical, legal and policy steps that can be drawn on by governments, civil society, and other stakeholders to have real positive impact at the national level.

They commend Australia for its leadership on Saudi Arabia, as well as the other States who stood up for women’s rights activists and accountability. They urge more States to live up to their commitment to defend civil society and sign the statement in the coming 2 weeks.

For five years since the last joint statement in March 2014, the Council has failed to hold Egypt accountable for continuing systematic and widespread gross human rights violations. In the latest crackdown on peaceful protests, reports indicate that more than 2000 people have been arrested in the past week. When will the Council break its silence and convene a Special Session to address the grave and deteriorating human rights situation in Egypt?

Signatories:

  • International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  • DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  • Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
  • CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  • Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
  • Asian Legal Resource Centre
  • Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  • International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
  • Amnesty International
  • Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
  • Human Rights Watch
  • International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  • Physicians for Human Rights (PHR)

—————

Below the fulll list of 38 texts adopted:

Resolutions

Action on Text under Agenda Item 1 on Organizational and Procedural Matters

In a Presidential Statement (A/HRC/42/L.32) on the reports of the Advisory Committee, adopted without a vote, the Human Rights Council takes note of the reports of the Advisory Committee on its twenty-second and twenty-third sessions.

Action on Texts under Agenda Item 2 on the Report of the High Commissioner and Reports of the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.6) on the composition of staff of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, adopted by a vote of 30 in favour, 13 against and four abstentions, the Council requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue her efforts with a view to redress the current imbalance in the geographical composition of the staff of her Office and requests her to submit a report at the Council’s forty-fifth session.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.16) on the human rights situation in Yemen, adopted by a vote of 22 in favour, 12 against and 11 abstentions, the Council decides to renew the mandate of the Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts for a further period of one year to, inter alia, monitor and report on the situation of human rights and carry out comprehensive investigations into all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law and all alleged violations of international humanitarian law committed by all parties to the conflict since September 2014. The Council requests the Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts to present a comprehensive written report to the Human Rights Council at its forty-fifth session.

In a resolution ( A/HRC/42/L.21/Rev.1 ) on the situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar, adopted by a vote of 37 in favour, two against and seven abstentions, the Council requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to follow up on the implementation of the recommendations made by the independent international fact-finding mission, including those on accountability, and to continue to track progress in the situation of human rights in Myanmar, including of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities, and to present a written report thereon to the Human Rights Council at its forty-fifth session.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.38/Rev.1) on strengthening cooperation and technical assistance in the field of human rights in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, adopted by a vote of 18 in favour, six against and 23 abstentions, the Council welcomes the permanent presence of the Office of the High Commissioner in Venezuela under the terms established in the memorandum of understanding signed on 20 September 2019, including unlimited access to all region and detention centres, and requests the High Commissioner to present to the Council, at its forty-third and forty-fifth sessions, as well as before the end of 2019, an oral update on the situation of human rights in Venezuela. The Council also requests the High Commissioner to submit a comprehensive written report on the situation of human rights in Venezuela at its forty-fourth session, including the outcome of the investigation on the ground into allegations of possible human rights violations to ensure the accountability of perpetrators and redress for victims.

Action on Texts under Agenda Item 3 on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, including the Right to Development

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.1) on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation for a period of three years and requests the Special Rapporteur to compile good practices at the local, national, regional and international levels in order to promote the progressive realization of the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, and to report thereon to the Human Rights Council at its forty-fifth session.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.2) on the role of prevention in the promotion and protection of human rights, adopted without a vote, the Council affirms the importance of effective preventive measures as a part of overall strategies for the promotion and protection of all human rights, and requests the Office of the High Commissioner to prepare a study, to be presented to the Human Rights Council at its forty-fifth session, on the contribution of the special procedures in assisting States and other stakeholders in the prevention of human rights violations and abuses.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.5) on the World Programme for Human Rights Education: adoption of the plan of action for the fourth phase, adopted without a vote, the Council adopts the plan of action for the fourth phase (2020–2024) of the World Programme for Human Rights Education and decides to convene at its forty-eighth session a high-level panel discussion to mark the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training, on the theme “The tenth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training: good practices, challenges and the way forward”.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.7) on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, adopted by a vote of 25 in favour, 14 against and eight abstentions, the Council invites the Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order to examine the impact of financial and economic policies pursued by international financial institutions on a democratic and equitable international order, in particular those of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and to submit the report to the Human Rights Council at its forty-fifth session.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.8) on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, adopted by a vote of 29 in favour, 14 against and four abstentions, the Council renews for a period of three years the mandate of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, and requests the Working Group to report its findings to the Human Rights Council at its forty-fifth session and to the General Assembly at its seventy-fifth session.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.9) on the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences, adopted without a vote, the Council renews the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences, for a period of three years, and requests the Special Rapporteur to submit reports on the implementation of the mandate to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly in accordance with their annual programmes of work.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.11) on human rights in the administration of justice, including juvenile justice, adopted without a vote, the Council invites States to take into consideration the issue of human rights in the administration of justice in the context of the Universal Periodic Review and requests the High Commissioner to submit to the Human Rights Council, at its forty-seventh session, an analytical report on human rights in the administration of justice, in particular on current and emerging challenges in the protection of persons deprived of their liberty, including judicial oversight.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.13) on the human rights of older persons, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to extend the mandate of the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons for a period of three years, and requests the Secretary-General to ensure that the reports of the Independent Expert are brought to the attention of the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.14) on the right to social security, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to convene, before its forty-fifth session, an intersessional full-day panel discussion on the right to social security in the changing world of work with a view of identifying challenges and best practices. It also requests the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a summary report on the panel discussion and to submit it to the Human Rights Council at its forty-sixth session.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.17) on marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to convene, during the high-level segment at its forty-third session, a high-level panel discussion to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women, with a particular focus on the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome documents of its review conferences, as well as on achievements, best practices and challenges in this regard.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.18) on the right to privacy in the digital age, adopted without a vote, the Council requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to organize, before its forty-fourth session, a one-day expert seminar to discuss how artificial intelligence, including profiling, automated decision-making and machine-learning technologies may, without proper safeguards, impact the enjoyment of the right to privacy, to prepare a thematic report on the issue, and to submit it to the Council at its forty-fifth session.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.19) on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, as established by the Human Rights Council in paragraph 1 of its resolution 6/29, for a further period of three years.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.20) on human rights and transitional justice, adopted without a vote, the Council requests the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to examine in a report how addressing a legacy of gross violations and abuses of human rights and serious violations of international humanitarian law through transitional justice measures can contribute to sustaining peace and the realization of Sustainable Development Goal 16, and to present the report to the Human Rights Council at its forty-sixth session.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.23) on terrorism and human rights, adopted without a vote, the Council strongly condemns terrorist acts and all acts of violence committed by terrorist groups and the continued systematic and widespread abuses of human rights perpetrated by such groups, and requests States to refrain from providing support to entities or persons involved in terrorist acts, including support in establishing propaganda platforms advocating hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, including through the Internet and other media.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.24) on human rights and indigenous peoples, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to hold an intersessional round table on possible steps to be taken to enhance the participation of indigenous peoples’ representatives and institutions in meetings of the Human Rights Council on issues affecting them, with the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples’ representatives and institutions from the seven indigenous sociocultural regions represented at the thirteenth session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.25) on human rights and indigenous peoples: mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples for a period of three years to, inter alia, examine ways and means of overcoming existing obstacles to the full and effective protection of the rights of indigenous peoples, to pay special attention to the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous children and women, and to take into account a gender perspective in the performance of the mandate.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.27) on the protection of the rights of workers exposed to hazardous substances and wastes, adopted without a vote, the Council encourages States, business enterprises and other actors to implement the 15 principles presented by the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes through their respective legal and policy frameworks, as well as through initiatives and programmes to strengthen the coherence between human rights and occupational health and safety standards with regard to the exposure of workers to toxic substances.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.34/Rev.1) on arbitrary detention, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to extend the mandate of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention for a further period of three years, and requests the Working Group to prepare a study on arbitrary detention related to drug policies to ensure that upholding the prohibition thereon is included as part of an effective criminal justice response to drug-related crimes, and that such a response also encompasses legal guarantees and due process safeguards, and to submit to the Council at its forty-seventh session a report thereon, and to bring the report to the attention of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs as the policymaking body of the United Nations with prime responsibility for drug-control matters.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.36) on the right to development, adopted by a vote of 27 in favour, 13 against and 7 abstentions as orally revised, the Council decides that, at its twenty-first session, the Working Group on the Right to Development will commence the elaboration of a draft legally binding instrument on the right to development on the basis of the draft prepared by the Chair-Rapporteur. The Council further decides to extend for a period of three years the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the right to development, and to organize a biennial panel discussion on the right to development, starting at its forty-fifth session. It also decides to establish a subsidiary expert mechanism to provide the Council with thematic expertise on the right to development that shall consist of five independent experts who shall serve for a three-year period. The expert mechanism shall report annually to the Human Rights Council on its work and shall meet once annually for three days in Geneva and once annually for three days in New York.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.37) on the question of the death penalty, adopted by a vote of 26 in favour, 14 against and 6 abstentions, the Council decides that the upcoming biennial high-level panel discussion to be held at the forty-sixth session of the Human Rights Council will address the human rights violations related to the use of the death penalty, in particular with respect to whether the use of the death penalty has a deterrent effect on crime rate, and requests the Office of the High Commissioner to prepare a summary report on the panel discussion and to submit it to the Human Rights Council at its forty-eighth session.

Action on Resolutions under Agenda Item 4 on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.4/Rev.1) on the situation of human rights in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, adopted by a vote of 19 in favour, seven against and 21 abstentions, the Council requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a comprehensive written report on the situation of human rights in Venezuela and to present the report to the Council at its forty-fourth session. The Council decides to establish, for a period of one year, an independent international fact-finding mission and to dispatch that mission urgently to Venezuela to investigate extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment since 2014, with a view to ensuring full accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims. The Council requests the mission to present a report on its findings during an interactive dialogue at its forty-fifth session.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.10/Rev.1) on the situation of human rights in Burundi, adopted by a vote of 23 in favour, 11 against and 13 abstentions, the Council decides to extend the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi in order for it to deepen its investigations, including into respect for and observance of political, civil, economic and social rights in the electoral context, until it presents a final report to the Human Rights Council during an interactive dialogue at its forty-fifth session and to the General Assembly at its seventy-fifth session. The Council requests the Commission to present an oral briefing to the Council at its forty-third and forty-fourth sessions during an interactive dialogue.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.22) on the human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, adopted by a vote of 27 in favour, six against and 13 abstentions, the Council deplores the fact that the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic continues in its ninth year with its devastating impact on the civilian population, and urges all parties to the conflict to abstain immediately from any actions that may contribute to the further deterioration of the human rights, security and humanitarian situations. The Council demands that the Syrian authorities cooperate fully with the Human Rights Council and the Commission of Inquiry by granting the Commission immediate, full and unfettered access throughout the Syrian Arab Republic, and expresses deep concern about the grave humanitarian situation in the country and at the plight of the 11.7 million people in need of full, timely, immediate, unhindered and safe humanitarian assistance.

The Council welcomes the work of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011 and its close cooperation with the Commission of Inquiry and Syrian civil society, and invites Member States to actively support the Mechanism and to provide adequate financial means for its functioning. The Council further welcomes the steps taken by Member States to prosecute the most serious crimes under international law committed in the Syrian Arab Republic in national courts under the principles of universal jurisdiction and extraterritorial jurisdiction as an important contribution to end impunity and ensure justice for victims.

Action on Resolution under Agenda Item 5 on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.33/Rev.1) on cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights, adopted by a vote of 36 in favour and 11 against, with no abstentions, as orally revised, the Council calls upon States to combat impunity by conducting prompt, impartial and independent investigations and pursuing accountability for all acts of intimidation or reprisal by State and non-State actors against any individual or group who seeks to cooperate, cooperates or has cooperated with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights, and by condemning publicly all such acts, underlining that these can never be justified.

Action on Resolution under Agenda Item 9 on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.28/Rev.1) From rhetoric to reality: a global call for concrete action against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, adopted without a vote as orally revised, the Council requests the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to organize, before the eleventh session of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, a two-day expert seminar to consider the elements of a draft additional protocol to the Convention. It further requests the Group of Independent Eminent Experts on the Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action to convene its seventh session for five working days during 2020 and to submit a report to the General Assembly at its seventy-fifth session.

Action on Resolutions under Agenda Item 10 on Technical Assistance and Capacity Building

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.3) on promoting international cooperation to support national mechanisms for implementation, reporting and follow-up, adopted without a vote, the Council requests the Office of the High Commissioner to organize five regional consultations to exchange experiences and good practices relating to the establishment and development of national mechanisms for implementation, reporting and follow-up, and their impact on effective implementation of human rights obligations and commitments.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.12) on technical assistance and capacity-building for Yemen in the field of human rights, adopted without a vote, the Council requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue to provide substantive capacity-building and technical assistance to the Government of Yemen and technical support to the National Commission of Inquiry to ensure that it continues to investigate allegations of violations and abuses committed by all parties to the conflict in Yemen, and requests the High Commissioner to present a written report on the implementation of technical assistance at the Council’s forty-fifth session.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.15) on the enhancement of technical cooperation and capacity-building in the field of human rights, adopted without a vote, the Council decides that the theme of the annual thematic panel discussion under agenda item 10, to be held during its forty-fourth session, will be “Upholding the human rights of prisoners, including women prisoners and offenders: enhancing technical cooperation and capacity-building in the implementation of the Nelson Mandela Rules and the Bangkok Rules”.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.26/Rev.1) on assistance to Somalia in the field of human rights, adopted without a vote as orally revised, the Council decides to renew the mandate of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia for a period of one year and requests the Independent Expert to report to the Human Rights Council at its forty-fifth session and to the General Assembly at its seventy-fifth session.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.29/Rev.1) on technical assistance and capacity-building in the field of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, adopted without a vote, the Council requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to present an oral update on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo at its forty-third session and a comprehensive report at its forty-fifth session.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.30) on technical assistance and capacity-building to further improve human rights in the Sudan, adopted without a vote as orally revised, the Council decides to renew the mandate of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan for period of one year recognising the intention to phase out the mandate and requests the Independent Expert to present a report on the implementation of his mandate to the Human Rights Council at its forty-fifth session. The Council requests the Government of the Sudan and the Office of the High Commissioner to present their oral reports on progress towards the opening of a country office during an enhanced interactive dialogue at the Council’s forty-forth session.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.31) on technical assistance and capacity-building in the field of human rights in the Central African Republic, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to renew, for one year, the mandate of the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in the Central African Republic and to organize, at its forty-third session, a high-level interactive dialogue to assess the evolution of the human rights situation on the ground, placing special emphasis on preventing the recruitment and use of children in the armed conflict and protecting their rights through their demobilization and reintegration.

In a resolution (A/HRC/42/L.35/Rev.1) on the advisory services and technical assistance for Cambodia, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to extend for two years the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, and requests the Special Rapporteur to report on the implementation of her mandate to the Human Rights Council at its forty-fifth and forty-eighth sessions.

http://ishr.ch/news/hrc42-civil-society-presents-key-takeaways-human-rights-council

https://reliefweb.int/report/venezuela-bolivarian-republic/human-rights-council-closes-forty-second-regular-session-adopts

Revoking of Kamila Shamsie’s Dortmund book award is fiercely contested

September 25, 2019

Kamila Shamsie.
Kamila Shamsie. Photograph: Teri Pengilley/The Guardian

The judges had initially chosen Shamsie for writing that “builds bridges between societies”, but changed their minds on learning she backed the BDS movement, saying that her “political positioning to actively participate in the cultural boycott … contrasts with the claim of the Nelly Sachs prize to proclaim and exemplify reconciliation among peoples and cultures”.

Shamsie’s supporters reply asks: “What is the meaning of a literary award that undermines the right to advocate for human rights, the principles of freedom of conscience and expression and the freedom to criticise? … Without these, art and culture become meaningless luxuries.”

The revoking of Shamsie’s award follows a motion passed in May by the German parliament that labelled the BDS movement antisemitic. But the letter writers point to a decision earlier this month in the administrative court of Cologne ruling that Bonn city council’s decision to exclude the German-Palestinian Women’s Association from a cultural festival because of its support for BDS was unjustified. The writers highlight the statement last year from more than 40 progressive Jewish organisations arguing that conflating anti-Jewish racism with opposition to Israel’s policies and system of occupation and apartheid “undermines both the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality and the global struggle against antisemitism”.

The letter also criticises the German city of Dortmund, which runs the award, for refusing to make public Shamsie’s written response to the decision.

Shamsie, winner of the UK’s Women’s prize for fiction, had called it a “matter of outrage that the BDS movement (modelled on the South African boycott) that campaigns against the government of Israel for its acts of discrimination and brutality against Palestinians should be held up as something shameful and unjust”. Asked to comment, a spokeswoman for the city of Dortmund said that the jury had decided not to give any further statements. “The council has legitimated the jury of Nelly Sachs prize to choose an awardee,” she said. “The jury is autonomous in its decision and gave reasons in the press release. There has been no council meeting after the jury’s decision, so the withdrawal has not been a topic for the council yet.”

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/sep/23/hundreds-of-authors-protest-after-kamila-shamsies-book-award-is-revoked

https://www.timesofisrael.com/writers-defend-uk-author-stripped-of-prize-for-her-support-of-israel-boycott/

http://english.wafa.ps/page.aspx?id=qfv8dda113530808358aqfv8dd

https://www.dawn.com/news/1507849

Saudi Arabia in the spotlight at the 42nd Sesstion of the Council – hits back wildly

September 25, 2019

The ISHR published a media release on 23 September 2019 about Australia delivering a joint statement on behalf of a cross-regional group of States expressing their concern over the persecution and intimidation of activists, including women human rights defenders, reports of torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, unfair trials, arbitrary detention and impunity. It calls on the Saudi government to end impunity including for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, accept visits by UN experts, end the death penalty and ratify international human rights treaties.  [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/08/saudi-arabia-for-first-time-openly-criticized-in-un-human-rights-council/]

During the same debate, the sister of woman human rights defender Loujain Al-Hathloul, Lina Al-Hathloul called on the UN Human Rights Council to help her hold those who tortured her sister accountable, and secure her immediate and unconditional release.  Since March 2019, the Council has increased its scrutiny of Saudi Arabia, when Iceland delivered the first ever joint statement on the country. In June 2019, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial and summary executions Dr. Agnes Callamard presented to the Council her investigation which found the State of Saudi Arabia responsible for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Turkey in October 2018. The UN expert urged States to act immediately to ensure accountability for Khashoggi’s murder and guarantee non-repetition.

Australia, leading a cross-regional group of States, has stood up today for human rights despite the political and economic costs’, said Salma El Hosseiny, ISHR’s Human Rights Council advocate. ‘The international community sent a strong and clear message to the government of Saudi Arabia that its crimes won’t go unanswered and that as a Council member, it will be held to heightened scrunity’. [The States who signed on the joint statement are: Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, The United Kingdom].

ISHR, as part of the Coalition of Free Saudi Women Human Rights Defenders has been advocating for the immediate and unconditional release of Saudi women’s rights activists. The statement has set out a list of measures that Saudi Arabia should take to demonstrate its political will to engage in good faith with the Council and improve its human rights record. They include:

  • ending the persecution and intimidation of activists, journalists, dissents and their family members;
  • ending impunity for torture and extrajudicial killings, including establishing the truth and accountability for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi;
  • ending its use of the death penalty;
  • accepting visits by relevant UN Special Procedures;
  • ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/16/rsfs-press-freedom-award-2019-goes-to-three-women-journalists/]

If Saudi Arabia does not meet any of the benchmarks, the Council should follow up with a resolution establishing a monitoring mechanism over the human rights situation in the country in the upcoming session in March 2020′, concluded El Hosseiny.  Read the joint statement here and watch Lina Al-Hathloul’s statement here.

In response the Saudi delegation has accused the Australian government of racism and of supporting anti-Islamic terrorists like the alleged Christchurch shooter.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/sep/25/saudi-arabia-accuses-australia-of-racism-in-extraordinary-un-broadside

https://mailchi.mp/ishr/alert-to-the-human-rights-councils-35th-session-32317?e=d1945ebb90

Intimidation and Reprisals on UN premises – NGOs ask for more action

September 17, 2019

On 23 August 2019, 23 NGOs wrote to the United Nations to raise concerns over the alarming pattern of intimidation and reprisals faced by members of civil society during sessions of the Human Rights Council and Treaty Bodies. The letter calls on the ASG to raise this issue during his speech before the HRC on 19 September 2019, and urges the OHCHR to take measures to ensure that such acts of reprisals are not repeated in the future. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/05/human-rights-defenders-issues-at-the-42nd-session-of-the-un-human-rights-council/

Below is the original text of the letter, as sent to the UN representatives in question:

To: Mr Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights; H.E. Mr Coly Seck, Permanent Representative of Senegal and President of the Human Rights Council; Mr Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

Mr Gilmour, 

We, the undersigned organisations, write to raise deep concerns about a consistent pattern of intimidation and reprisals faced by members of civil society from around the world during sessions of the Human Rights Council (HRC) and the Treaty Bodies. We are particularly concerned by acts of intimidation perpetrated by representatives of and individuals affiliated with government parties. 

During the 41st session of the HRC, staff of Permanent Missions and individuals wearing non-diplomatic badges, who were later verified as working with UN Member and Observer States, attended our side-events, and blatantly eavesdropped on our conversations, recorded our comments, took photos and videos of the audience, and made threatening gestures and remarks. 

We are all the more concerned as this is not the first time that human rights defenders and other individuals engaging with the HRC have faced acts of harassment and intimidation. Rather, these tactics are part of a consistent and systematic pattern of behaviour that we have unfortunately come to anticipate and expect at every session of the HRC. 

Furthermore, HRDs engaging with the Treaty Bodies also face intimidation and reprisals perpetrated by representatives of and individuals affiliated with government parties. There have been multiple instances of so-called “GONGOs” – governmental non-governmental organisations – registering for confidential and closed briefings with Treaty Bodies’ members. This allows them to know exactly who among civil society is present during these briefings. There has also been cases of briefings that have been filmed without the permission of NGOs. 

What is more, governments’ support given to GONGOs means that they are often granted consultative status with the UN. On the contrary, independent NGOs continue to be denied the ECOSOC status, demonstrating that reprisals against HRDs also occur within the UN system. In addition, the proliferation of GONGOs both at the HRC and Treaty Bodies, allows them to influence the discourse about human rights in a particular state or region, thus minimising the real issues at stake. 

The aforementioned acts of harassment and intimidation are concerning not only because they create an atmosphere of fear and self-censorship, but also because numerous human rights defenders who have travelled to Geneva to participate in HRC or Treaty Body sessions have faced reprisals upon their return to their countries as a direct result of this. As such, we take these acts of intimidation very seriously and submit that they may result in further acts of retaliation.

We note with appreciation that the current president of the HRC, his Excellency Mr Coly Seck, Permanent Representative of Senegal, addressed some of the issues raised in this letter during the final meeting of the 41st session of the HRC. He expressed his concern that “civil society organisations continue to face intimidation and reprisals” and pointed out that a number of cases had been reported to him, including of verbal harassment and unauthorised photographs taken during side-events. He emphasised that “any acts of intimidation against any individual or group that attempts to cooperate with the Human Rights Council is unacceptable”, and reminded Member and Observer States of their responsibility to ensure that civil society operate in a safe space. 

In addition, in July 2019, Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation, working in conjunction with the University of Oxford, Tibet Justice Centre and the Economic and Social Research Council launched the report “Compromised Space for Unrepresented Peoples at the United Nations”. Based on interviews and testimonies from 77 HRDs working on behalf of minorities, indigenous communities and other unrepresented peoples, it identifies a systematic attack on the UN human rights system by certain governments. This is characterised by “blocking tactics […] including deferring ECOSOC status decisions, and intervening in plenary statements, to more overt instances of harassment, intimidation and outright violence, which constitute state reprisals”. Such challenges are compounded for HRDs from minority, indigenous and marginalised groups.

While we acknowledge that HRC presidents, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ (OHCHR) reprisals team, the Treaty Bodies’ focal points for reprisals and yourself have all previously raised awareness on this issue, we strongly believe that there is a need to draw further attention to such acts of intimidation and harassment. We further note that to date, the OHCHR has not developed a systematic and practical response to the practices outlined in this letter. 

It is our contention that failure to sanction reprisals on UN premises will only embolden such acts elsewhere. Therefore, we call on you to raise this grave pattern during the presentation of the UNSG annual report on reprisals during the 42nd session of the HRC. We also call on you to urge the OHCHR to take measures to ensure that such acts of intimidation do not happen in the future. 

Yours sincerely, 

  1. Access Now 
  2. ALQST 
  3. Association for Victims of Torture in the UAE 
  4. Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain 
  5. Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy
  6. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  7. CCPR Centre 
  8. Committee for Justice 
  9. European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights 
  10. Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights
  11. MENA Rights Group 
  12. The Omani Centre for Human Rights
  13. OMCT
  14. Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion 
  15. International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE 
  16. International Centre for Justice and Human Rights 
  17. International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism 
  18. Right Livelihood Foundation 
  19. Rights Realization Centre 
  20. Salam for Democracy and Human Rights
  21. Statelessness Network Asia Pacific 
  22. Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization
  23. World Uyghur Congress 

https://unpo.org/article/21663

 

What should Michel Forst’s successor as Rapporteur on HRDs look like?

September 11, 2019

The current Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders shaking hands with the UN Secretary General
Michael Forst (l) with the UN Secretary General

An exceptionally large group of 131 national and international NGOs (for list see: http://www.ishr.ch/sites/default/files/documents/190909_criteria_jt_letter_sr_on_hrds_signatories.pdf) have set out the criteria that should be at the heart of the selection of the next UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. As Michel Forst’s term as mandate holder comes to an end, candidates have until 17 October 2019 to submit their applications for the position. (If your organisation would like to endorse the criteria, please sign on here)

The document sets out the skills and expertise that should be taken into account in the appointment of the next expert in March 2020. These fit under 4 priorities:

  • qualifications and skills;
  • relevant expertise
  • established competence;
  • and flexibility/ readiness and availability

The document also provides information on the application process, and underlines the importance of independence and impartiality, as well as experience or knowledge of the realities faced by human rights defenders.

ISHR’s Programme Manager Helen Nolan stated: ‘Human rights defenders who are most at risk around the world are often persons with discriminated identities or from communities that are marginalised, so the Special Rapporteur should be able to consider the particular contexts and challenges faced by these individuals and groups with the benefit of insights from the mandate holder’s personal experience’.

The checklist is available here.

http://www.ishr.ch/news/special-procedures-what-skills-do-we-need-next-un-expert-human-rights-defenders-rapporteur

48 Human Rights groups intervene for detained Nigerian Omoyele Sowore

August 26, 2019

On 23 August 2019 48 NGOs issued an urgent appeal in relation to the arrest and detention of Omoyele Sowore, Nigerian journalist and human rights defender, to the UN and African human rights bodies. Joy Hyvarinen, head of advocacy at Index on Censorship said: “Index on Censorship urges the Nigerian authorities to release the prominent journalist and campaigner Omoyele Sowore immediately. The arrest and detention are a shocking violation of Mr Sowore’s human rights, which calls into question Nigeria’s willingness and ability to meet international human rights obligations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Omoyele Sowore (Photo: Mohamed Nanabhay / Wikipedia)

To the members of the Working Group and the Special Rapporteurs:

We, 48 human rights and press freedom organisations, respectfully request that you consider this urgent appeal in relation to the arrest and arbitrary detention of Nigerian journalist and human rights defender Omoyele Sowore who was arrested by the authorities following a call for peaceful protest. We request that you urgently intervene to secure the immediate release of Mr Sowore and declare his arrest and detention a gross violation of his human rights, including the right not to be arbitrarily detained as protected by Article 9(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Banjul Charter); the right to a fair trial as protected by Article 14 ICCPR and Article 7 of the Banjul Charter; the right to freedom of expression as protected by Article 19 ICCPR and Article 9 of the Banjul Charter; the right of freedom of peaceful assembly and of association as protected by Articles 21 and 22 ICCPR and Articles 10 and 11 of the Banjul Charter; and his rights as a human rights defender as outlined in the 1999 UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and 2017 African Commission Cotonou Declaration on strengthening and expanding the protection of all Human Rights Defenders in Africa.

Background 

  1. Mr Sowore is a prominent journalist, human rights activist and pro-democracy campaigner. He is the founder of Sahara Reporters, an online news agency based in New York City that focuses on corruption, human rights abuses and other political misconduct in Nigeria. Challenging government corruption and speaking truth to power has been the constant thread throughout Mr Sowore’s career, from the leading of student protests in the 1990’s to his recent campaign running for Presidential office in Nigeria.

Omoyele Sowore’s arrest and detention 

  1. Mr Sowore was arrested on 3 August 2019 in his hotel room during a trip to Lagos. Security agents forcefully detained Mr Sowore without informing him of any charges against him and flew him to Abuja, where he is currently being detained at the facility of the headquarters of the Nigerian State Security Service. Mr Sowore has access to food and water, but no access to the outside world: no newspapers, television or phone, and he spends most days in isolation. He was held incommunicado until 6 August, during which time Mr Sowore refused to answer any questions without consulting with his lawyer. He was allowed access to his lawyers only on 7 August, 4 days after his arrest.
  2. Based on Section 35 of the Nigerian Constitution, Mr Sowore should have been arraigned before a court within 48 hours. As of today, Mr Sowore has not been arraigned in any court.
  3. However, on 6 August, 3 days after his arrest, the State Security Service did seek an ex- parte order from the Federal High Court in Abuja to detain Mr Sowore under Section 27(1) of the Terrorism Act 2013, which enables the detention of anyone planning to “commit an act of violence”. The Court’s order of 8 August, made within 48 hours after the State Security Service’s request, granted the authorities permission to detain Mr Sowore for 45 days. Within 24 hours, his legal team, led by Mr Femi Falana, filed a motion to set aside the order and requested Mr Sowore’s immediate release, arguing that his detention was contrary to the Nigerian Constitution. At the time of writing, this request has not been heard by the courts and no date for hearing has been fixed. Importantly: no formal charges have been filed against Mr Sowore.

Mr Sowore’s call for a peaceful #RevolutionNow protest 

  1. The arrest of Mr Sowore appears to be the direct consequence of his call for a peaceful protest scheduled to take place on 5 August 2019, using the hashtag #RevolutionNow.

The objective of the protest was to demand that the Nigerian government end corruption and economic inequality and guarantee education to all. That the protest Mr Sowore and the Coalition for Revolution (CORE) movement he founded called for was a peaceful one is made clear at the very outset of the call for protest, issued on 27 July, which starts by setting out the “rules of engagement”:

We eschew all forms of violence. No protester should throw any object as little as stones or attack any security officials. We are aware of their intent to provoke the mass unduly by using undue tactics and sponsored agents, so as to give the protest a bad name. We encourage all Nigerians to remain calm as we are ready to fight these injustices to a logical conclusion. 

  1. A week earlier, in an interview with the Arise News channel, Mr Sowore stated that “Nigeria needs revolution, not war,” clearly distinguishing his call for substantial change from a call to violence. Mr Sowore has used the word “revolution” contextually to mean “change for the better” since 2006, when he founded Sahara Reporters. Mr Sowore then stated that he would “revolutionise” the way news is being reported in Nigeria –– something he actually did with the investigative citizen journalism the website publishes.
  2. Despite Mr Sowore’s arrest and detention, the 5 August #RevolutionNow protests took place in Abuja, Lagos, Osun, Ondo and Cross River. Protesters met a police force that dispersed them with teargas and gunshots. Numerous protesters, including several of Sahara Reporters’ journalists, were arrested and charged with illegal assembly.

Request for urgent action 

  1. It is clear that Mr Sowore’s arrest on apparent grounds of suspicion of terrorism is unfounded. Mr Sowore did what he has done throughout his career as a journalist and human rights activist: exercise his right to freedom of expression and seek to bring about change through peaceful means, in this case a peaceful protest. The use of the emotive term “revolution” merely underlines his desire for transformative change in what he considers the shortcomings of the current government. There are strong suspicions that Mr Sowore’s arrest stems from ulterior motives than responding to any supposed criminal wrongdoing. This is further highlighted by the fact that the authorities failed to define a charge against him for the first few days after his arrest; the investigations that were subsequently instigated against him under the Terrorism Act were clearly only created to serve the purpose of silencing Mr Sowore.
  2. As such, the arrest and detention of Mr Sowore amount to a violation of his right not to be arbitrarily detained as guaranteed under Article 9 ICCPR and Article 6 of the Banjul Charter. The fact that the charges brought against him most likely stem from his call for a peaceful demonstration and his critical stance on the Nigerian government also violates Mr Sowore’s right to free expression under Article 19 of the ICCPR and Article 9 of the Banjul Charter and his right of freedom of peaceful assembly and of association under Articles 21 and 22 ICCPR and Articles 10 and 11 of the Banjul Charter. Not properly arraigning Mr Sowore before a competent court within the time limit mandated by the Nigerian Constitution and not allowing him access to a lawyer during the initial days of his detention violates his right to a fair trial as protected by Article 14 ICCPR and Article 7 of the Banjul Charter. The foregoing also constitutes a violation of his rights as a human rights defender as defined in the 1999 UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and 2017 African Commission Cotonou Declaration on strengthening and expanding the protection of all Human Rights Defenders in Africa.
  3. As a State Party to both treaties, Nigeria is under an obligation to guarantee these rights to all its citizens, as specified under Article 2(1) of the ICCPR and Article 2 of the Banjul Charter. Accordingly, we appeal to the Working Group and UN and AU Special Rapporteurs to:
  • intervene urgently to secure the immediate release of Mr Sowore; and
  • declare his arrest and continuing detention a gross violation of his human rights.

SIGNED BY:
All Workers’ Convergence (AWC) 

Afrika Movement for Freedom and Justice (AMFJ)

Agege Women Agenda (AWA)

ARTICLE 19 Senegal/West Africa

Centre for Constitutional Rights

Centre for Human Rights and Social Justice (CHRSJ)

Chidi Odinkalu Former Chairman, National Human Rights Commission (Nigeria) & Senior Fellow, Open Society Justice Initiative

Coalition for Revolution (CORE) 

Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) 

Community Women Initiatives (CWI) 

The Concerned Forum 

Congress of Progressive Youths (COPY) 

Democratic Youth League

Edo State Civil Society Organisation (EDOSCO)

Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria 

Freedom of Expression Hub

Gani Fawehinmi Apostles 

Gani Fawehinmi Memorial Organization (gafam.org) 

Governance Advancement Initiative for Nigeria (GAIN)

Global Voices Sub-Saharan Africa

Grassroot Justice Centre

Human and Environment Development Agenda (HEDA) 

Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-UGANDA)

IAmVocal

Index on Censorship 

Media Legal Defence Initiative

Media Rights Agenda

Moshood Abiola Vanguard for Democracy (MAVD)

Movement For People’s Rights

National Conscience Party (NCP), Lagos State Branch

Nigerians in Diaspora Europe, Belgium-Luxembourg (NIDOE-BeLux)

Open Society for West Africa (OSIWA), Nigeria Office

Paradigm Initiative

People’s Alternative Front (PAF)

Peoples’ Unite

Rivers State Civil Society Coalition (RIVSCO)

Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) 

Save Lagos Group

Socialist Vanguard Tendency (SVT) 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP)

Sovereign Vital Force 

Spaces for Change 

Take-It-Back (TiB) Movement 

Talakawa Parliament

Veteran Group for Operation Clean Crusade (VGOCC) 

Women for Leadership Change

Workbond International Network (WIN)

Youth In Good Governance Initiative (YIGGI) 

Statement by western diplomats in Zimbabwe on human rights defenders

August 21, 2019

The Heads of Mission in Zimbabwe of the European Union, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Romania, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and the USA issued the following statement on 20 August 2019:

Intimidation, harassment and physical attacks on human rights defenders, trade union and civil society representatives, and opposition politicians – prior to, during and following the demonstration in Harare on 16 August – are cause for great concern.

The Zimbabwean Constitution guarantees the right to personal security from violence and prohibits physical or psychological torture. The Heads of Mission urge the authorities to respect these fundamental rights, and to hold perpetrators of violence legally responsible.

The Heads of Mission call on the authorities to respect the constitutional rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression as well as to peaceful protest, and urge all political party leaders and supporters to abstain from threats and incitement to violence as well as acts of violence or vandalism. The security forces must adhere to their Constitutional mandate and exercise restraint and proportionality while maintaining public order.

Only by addressing concretely and rapidly these human rights violations will the Government of Zimbabwe give credibility to its commitments to address longstanding governance challenges. The Heads of Mission reiterate their calls for the implementation of the government’s political and economic reform agenda, underpinned by inclusive national dialogue and increased efforts to address the severe social situation.

See also the Government’s reaction: https://allafrica.com/stories/201908210061.html

https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/66559/joint-local-statement-respect-human-rights-and-freedom-assembly_en

https://www.africanews.com/2019/08/20/joint-local-statement-on-respect-for-human-rights-and-freedom-of-assembly/

International support for the staff of “The Intercept” website in Brasil

August 2, 2019

On 31 July a number of and leading international and Brazilian free speech organizations appealed for support for the staff of The Intercept Brasil, a Rio de Janeiro-based investigative news website that has been the target of a fierce campaign of harassment and intimidation since 9 June. The Intercept Brasil’s revelations about the “Operation Car Wash” corruption case triggered a wave of verbal attacks and threats against the website’s representatives. The most serious recent attacks include Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s public threat on 27 July to imprison The Intercept Brasil founder and editor Glenn Greenwald. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/12/15/edward-snowden-gets-another-human-rights-award-in-berlin/]

The 26 press freedom and human rights organizations and media outlets named below strongly condemn the recent wave of attacks and threats against the investigative news website The Intercept Brasil. We call on the authorities to ensure respect for the constitutionally guaranteed right of journalists to protect the confidentiality of their sources.

The attacks began on 9 June after The Intercept Brasil published the first of a series of reports revealing apparent irregularities in the “Operation Car Wash” investigation, one of the most important corruption investigations in Brazilian history. To publish these revelations, which are based on documents provided by an anonymous source, The Intercept Brasil partnered with several Brazilian media outlets including the Folha de São Paulo newspaper and Veja magazine.

Since then, the staff of The Intercept Brasil and in particular, its founder Glenn Greenwald, have been subjected – especially on social networks – to countless insults, slurs and death threats accompanied by false information designed to undermine the credibility of its reporting. This harassment is symbolic and symptomatic of the difficulties encountered by all media workers who investigate sensitive stories in Brazil, where the journalists are often the targets of intimidation and persecution campaigns.

Regardless of their provenance, the attempts to undermine and attack the credibility of The Intercept Brasil and its partners are viewed by the signatories of this appeal as a grave threat to the freedom to inform. Not only are they designed to deflect the public’s attention from the content of the revelations but above all, they reinforce an increasingly hostile work environment for the media and especially for investigative journalism.

We remind the authorities that the Brazilian state has a duty to guarantee the protection of journalists and to investigate the serious threats received by the journalists at The Intercept Brasil and its partners.

Freedom of the press and information are pillars of democracy. They transcend political divisions and must be protected and guaranteed at all costs.

Signatories:

Agência Pública de Jornalismo Investigativo

Amnesty International Brazil

Article 19 Brasil

Asociación de la Prensa de Madrid (APM)

Associação Brasileira de Imprensa (ABI)

Associação Brasileira de Jornalismo Investigativo (Abraji)

Associação dos Correspondentes Estrangeiros (ACE) de São Paulo

Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

Federação Nacional dos Jornalistas (FENAJ)

Federación de las Asociaciones de Periodistas de España (FAPE)

Freedom House

Freedom of the Press Foundation

Global Editors Network (GEN)

Human Rights Watch

IFEX

Index on Censorship

Instituto Vladimir Herzog

Interamerican Press Association (IAPA/SIP)

International Press Institute

Intervozes

Mediapart

Observatório da Imprensa

PEN International

Reporters sans frontières (RSF)

The Guardian

Witness Brasil