Posts Tagged ‘Michael Ineichen’

Resolution on protection of defenders of economic, social and cultural rights adopted by Human Rights Council !!

March 25, 2016

 

On 24 March 2016 the ISHR reported that the UN Human Rights Council has adopted the landmark resolution on the protection of human rights defenders working to promote economic, social and cultural rights (see my post of 23 March: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/03/23/norwegian-resolution-un-human-rights-council-defenders-amendments/).

The Norwegian-led resolution was adopted by a vote of 33 Member States of the Human Rights Council to just 6 against. Eight States in the 47-seat Council abstained. Over 150 NGOs from all over the world united to call on Member States of the Council to adopt the resolution and reject a series of 30 hostile amendments proposed by Russia, China, Egypt, Cuba and Pakistan, designed to undermine the protection of defenders and to deny their legitimacy and very existence.

The 6 States that voted ‘No’ on the resolution were not surprisingly Burundi, China, Cuba, Nigeria, Russia and Venezuela. States that abstained were Bolivia, El Salvador, Kenya, Namibia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Viet Nam. Interesting and positive to note that some of the States that had supported hostile amendments (including Ecuador, Indonesia and India) in the end voted in favour of the resolution.

[The resolution affirms the legitimate and essential role of human rights defenders in promoting, protecting and contributing to the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights – including indigenous rights and the right to development – and condemns restrictions and attacks against them by both States and business enterprises. It also underscores the fact that exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly and public participation can be essential to the promotion, protection and realisation of ESC rights, and that restrictions or violations of these democratic rights may lead and amount to violations of the ESC rights for which defenders are advocating.

The resolution also provides invaluable guidance to States and business as to obligations and good practices in the protection of defenders. For States, such obligations and good practices include developing specific human rights defender protection laws and mechanisms, investigating and ensuring accountability for attacks and reprisals against them, and facilitating access to information and participation in policy and decision-making processes. For businesses, the resolution reinforces the obligation to respect and not interfere with the work of defenders, and to consult closely with defenders to identify, avoid, mitigate and remedy human rights risks and violations associated with business activities and development projects.]

We particularly recognise the principled leadership of Norway in leading the development of this timely resolution,’ Mr Ineichen of the ISHR said.ISHR-logo-colour-high

The systematic but ultimately unsuccessful efforts by a small group of States to undermine the human rights defender resolution paradoxically demonstrate the vital importance and potential impact of this resolution,‘ said ISHR Director Phil Lynch.

 

Source: Human Rights Council adopts historic resolution on protection of defenders of economic, social and cultural rights | ISHR

What is Burundi doing in the UN Human Rights Council?

February 8, 2016

Burundi is still one of the basket cases in Africa and since my lats post nothing has improved [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/11/10/burundi-what-more-early-warning-does-one-need/].  The Special Session of the Human Rights Council in December 2015 mandated the High Commissioner for Human Rights to put together an expert mission to Burundi, to investigate abuses and make recommendations to the Council and the Burundian government on ways of ending serious human rights violations. But the follow-up is below par: Read the rest of this entry »

Joint Inspection Unit on human rights: not so innocent as it sounds

April 7, 2015

In a long but excellent post in Universal Rights of 23 March 2015, Subhas Gujadhur and Marc Limon dissect the issue of the Joint Inspection Unit‘s [JIU] report at the 28th session of the UN Human Rights Council (2 – 27 March) under the title: “The JIU report: what’s all the fuss about?”.

The background in short is that for years a number of countries – not by coincidence those that do not like the sometimes rather forthright pronouncements by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights -have tried to get more ‘control’ over its management and resources. They are in fact using the ‘backdoor’ of the UN inspection unit to get there.

This is a very important issue but one that is too much cloaked in UN jargon to make it to mainstream media. In the words of the authors:  “Casual observers of the Human Rights Council may have been forgiven.. for a degree of bafflement at repeated and sometimes quite excitable references to a three letter acronym: JIU.

So let me quote liberally from the post in question:

The report on the ‘review of management and administration’ of the OHCHR [JIU/REP/2014/7] was produced by the JIU in response to a request by the Human Rights Council in March 2013 (resolution 22/2) and the report’s author, Mr. Gopinathan Achamkulangare, hoped to be able to present is to the Council at is 28th session.

This may all seem innocuous enough. However, resolution 22/2 and the JIU report touch upon fundamental and extremely sensitive questions about the role, prerogatives and independence of OHCHR, and its relationship with the member states of the Council; and are part of a long-running struggle between two groups of states with very different views on what OHCHR is, what it is there to do, and how it’s work should be overseen.

Council resolution 22/2 (adopted by a vote, with developed countries against and developing countries in favour) requested the JIU to ‘undertake a comprehensive follow up review of the management and administration of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), in particular with regard to its impact on the recruitment policies and composition of the staff.’ This resolution, like many previous ones with the same title, was pushed by Cuba and others in the belief that the staffing policies of the OHCHR favoured individuals from some regions (notably the West) over others.

In Cuba’s view, OHCHR had continuously failed to improve regional balance among its staff and thus, in order to strengthen accountability; it was asked to report and explain itself to the Council.

However, to others – especially Western states – asking the OHCHR to report to the Council on an administrative issue represented a worrying step towards making this supposedly independent entity answerable – and thus under the political oversight of – states sitting in the UN’s apex human rights intergovernmental body.

Similar differences of opinion have arisen, since the Council’s establishment in 2006, with regard to the financial resources of the OHCHR. Cuba and other developing countries have regularly expressed concern about where the Office’s money comes from (the UN’s regular budget or voluntary contributions from certain states), and how it is used and allocated (e.g. to certain field operations, to certain Special Procedures mandates). These concerns led Cuba and others to circulate a resolution in 2011, calling for greater financial transparency – though this was subsequently replaced by a Presidential Statement merely inviting the High Commissioner to provide more information on funding.

Central to the concerns of Cuba and others on both issues is a suspicion that the high proportion of individuals from Western states working at the Office (including at senior levels) together with Western financial support (especially where that support is ‘earmarked’ for certain purposes), gives the West undue influence over the OHCHR.

For its part, Western states, together with a number of states from other regions, suspect that Cuba and other leading countries of the Like Minded Group are intent on undermining the independence of the Office and bringing it under the political control of the Council (and thereby seeking to stop OHCHR criticism of states’ human rights records).

It should also be noted that the main author of the report is Mr. Gopinathan Achamkulangare, a former Ambassador of India to the Human Rights Council, who took position in the debates favoring the prerogatives of the Council over the OHCHR.

The report (more detail in the post itself) makes six recommendations:

  1. The GA should initiate an action-oriented review of the governance arrangements of the OHCHR through an open-ended working group/ad hoc committee […] so as to strengthen the capacity of member states to provide strategic guidance and to direct and monitor the work of OHCHR.
  2. The High Commissioner should update the existing action plan with specific measures, targets and timetables to broaden the geographical diversity of the professional workforce.
  3. The High Commissioner should develop a comprehensive strategy and related action plan to adapt specific circumstances and requirements of OHCHR’s human resource management strategy and policies.
  4. The Secretary General should, in the context of the Human Rights Up Front initiative, review the mandates of the different UN entities with human rights functions with a view of streamlining their work and mainstreaming human rights across the UN system.

The controversy even led to uncertainty that Mr. Gopinathan Achamkulangare would be allowed to present the report with some states (correctly, based on a legal analysis of relevant UN documents) arguing that discussing the management and administration of OHCHR is not part of the Council’s mandate as per GA resolution 60/251. In the end, the President of the Council and the Bureau announced that, as a courtesy, the JIU inspector would be allowed to present his report, but there would be no interactive debate with states.

By the time of the report’s presentation on 13th March, the Secretary-General had provided his comments on its findings and recommendations.[Note by the Secretary-General, A/70/68/Add.1] as follows:

  • The Secretary-General in effect rejected recommendation 1, arguing that ‘existing governance arrangements strike an appropriate balance between independence and accountability.’ The Secretary-General noted GA resolution 48/141 (1993) creating the post of High Commissioner, which decided that the High Commissioner would be appointed by the Secretary-General (i.e. is part of the secretariat). He also rejected the notion (used to support the view that while the High Commissioner is independent, the OHCHR is not and should operate under the political oversight of the Council) that the High Commissioner and OHCHR ‘have separate mandates and perform separate functions.’
  • Regarding recommendation 4, the Secretary-General noted that geographical diversity is a priority for the entire secretariat.
  • The Secretary-General also rejected recommendation 5 which called for the UN secretariat’s human resource management strategy to be ‘adapted to the specific circumstances and requirements of OHCHR’, on the grounds that ‘OHCHR is part of the Secretariat…and its staff members are subject to the same regulations, rules and policies as other departments.’
  • Finally, the Secretary-General welcomed recommendation 6 as a useful opportunity to strengthen the mainstreaming of human rights across the UN system.

There was some debate in which Western states, in line with the analysis of the Secretary-General, rejected key findings and recommendations in the report. For example, Norway noted that ‘existing governance arrangements strike an appropriate balance between independence and accountability,’ and underscored the importance of safeguarding the independence of the High Commissioner.

Countering this view, Pakistan on behalf of Like-Minded Group (LMG) states, expressed support for the JIU conclusions and recommendations, noting that oversight by a relevant intergovernmental body would contribute to ‘enhanced efficiency and effectiveness of the Office activities.’ LMG states therefore called for a clarification ‘of the respective roles of the different intergovernmental bodies with a view to streamlining the governance dynamics of OHCHR’ (i.e. in line with the JIU’s recommendations).

The post by Subhas Gujadhur and Marc Limon provides detailed and interesting background to the issue of imbalance in staffing and funding and rightly states that it “doesn’t take an international lawyer to understand that all these utterances are packed with possible political meanings, some subtle some less so, and have enormous potential implications for the functioning of the UN human rights system”.

——–

In this context, on 23 March a group of leading human rights NGOs (delivered by HRW, and supported by ISHRCivicusFIDHFORUM ASIAOMCT and EIPR), called in a statement to the Human Rights Council to resist Cuban-led attempts to micromanage and fetter the independence of the UN’s top human rights official.

The statement said that among its contradictory recommendations, the report proposes a mechanism to enable States to ‘direct and monitor’ the work of the High Commissioner and highlighted that creation of High Commissioner for Human Rights was one of the landmark achievements of the Vienna Declaration adopted by all States in 1994. For more than 20 years, successive High Commissioners have provided a strong and independent voice, committed to promoting and protecting human rights around the world, the statement said.

Today, that independence is under threat. The draft resolution, inaccurately titled “Composition of staff of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights” seeks to affirm and encourage follow-up to the report of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU), which reviews the “Management and Administration” said John Fisher of HRW delivering the statement.

The independence of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and his office is axiomatic to his effectiveness. The High Commissioner must be free to speak without fear and without favour, unconstrained by the political agenda of any State or group of States,’ said ISHR’s Michael Ineichen. ‘This report must not be permitted to be used as a subterfuge to constrain the High Commissioner and his office at a time when both their monitoring and reporting, and their advice and technical assistance, are needed perhaps more than ever before.’

See the full statement here.

 http://www.universal-rights.org/blogs/128-the-jiu-report-what-s-all-the-fuss-about

Human Rights Council: Reject attempts to limit Office of the High Commissioner | ISHR.

China OR the UN must ensure independent investigation into death of Cao Shunli !

March 27, 2015

When late Chinese human rights defender Cao Shunli – as Final Nominee of he Martin Ennals Award 2014 – got a standing ovation during the ceremony in October last year, we all said, with the 10 NGOs on the Jury, that we should not forget her. On 19 March 2015 in a statement to the UN Human Rights Council that is exactly what a group of NGOs [International Service for Human Rights and supported by Human Rights WatchCIHRSCIVICUSConectasEHARDPArticle 19HRHF and ALRC] asked for: Ensure independent investigation into death of Cao Shunli.CAO_SHUNLI_PORTRAIT

China must ensure a full, independent and impartial investigation into the death of Chinese human rights defender Cao Shunli, ..If Chinese authorities are unable or unwilling to conduct such an investigation in accordance with international standards, the Human Rights Council as the world’s top human rights body must take appropriate action, the statement said.

One year after her tragic death, there has been no adequate investigation or accountability in relation to the death of Chinese defender Cao Shunli,’ said Michael Ineichen, Head of Human Rights Council Advocacy at ISHR. ‘If China is let of the hook for such a blatant case of reprisals against someone wanting to cooperate with UN human rights mechanisms, the Council sends a message to rights abusers that activists can be attacked with impunity.’

The statement highlighted the negative effect of impunity for cases of intimidation and reprisals, as shown by the numerous reported cases of intimidation and reprisals occurring during the 28th session of the Human Rights Council, including against South Sudanese and Bahraini defenders.

The legal and moral obligations of States to protect those who cooperate with the UN are clear, and if a State fails to conduct stop reprisals or to properly investigate allegations, the UN has a responsibility to act, the statement said.

We welcome recent advances on the institutional level, such as the treaty body policies that recognise States’ primary duty to ensure accountability in the case of reprisals, and the UN’s own duty of care,’ said Eleanor Openshaw, Head of Reprisals Advocacy at ISHR. ‘However, in the absence of a more systematic approach, such as through a dedicated focal point on reprisals which could coordinate investigation of and follow-up to individual cases, these steps will remain the proverbial drop in the ocean’   The statement is available as a PDF and video.

for more on reprisals in this blog see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/reprisals/

The work of the International Service for Human Rights in the limelight

April 16, 2014

There are many international NGOs doing excellent work for human rights defenders, but I want to highlight one here in particular: the International Service for Human Rights. It has a clear mandate and niche, based in Geneva for 30 years (with a small office in New York) is the main advocate for human rights defenders in the UN. The Director, Phil Lynch, sent out an overview in April 2014 of its activities covering the recent months, especially the latest session of the UN Human Rights Council. Please read the statement in full and – if you want regular updates – subscribe to the ISHR Newsletter: Read the rest of this entry »

Zero Tolerance for States that take reprisals against HRDs – Let’s up the ante

March 13, 2014

States that commit or tolerate reprisals against #HRDs for cooperation with #UN should loose their voting rights says@thoolen is what Michael Ineichen twitted about my intervention in a meeting in Geneva  organized by the ISHR. on 11 March. And that is basically correct. However, a bit more explanation of my rather ‘extremist position’ may be in order:

The topic of reprisals against persons who cooperate (as witnesses) with the UN and its various office holders has been raised by many, including this blog. [see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/09/20/protecting-human-rights-defenders-from-reprisals-crucial-issue-with-timely-article-and-side-event-on-24-september/ and https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/10/14/conclusions-of-side-event-on-reprisals-against-human-rights-defenders/.] When at the very well-attended side event organized by the International Service for Human Rights in the margin of the UN Council of Human Rights, the issue of reprisals came up again, I said that the international community is perhaps a bit too timid in its reaction to the increase in reprisals against Human Rights Defenders who testify to or cooperate with the United Nations. I stated that ‘messing with witnesses’ is considered by judges in almost all legal systems as an extremely grave thing. Or taking another analogy from legal thinking: a crime is considered a ‘qualified crime’ or ‘aggravated crime’ (and punished more severely) when certain circumstances are present, including when there is a dependency link between the victim and the perpetrator (think of murder or rape by the a custodian, a teacher or a doctor).

The resolution establishing the new Human Rights Council – replacing the previous Commission – states that “members elected to the Council shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.” And one of the novelties touted was that the General Assembly, via a two-thirds majority, can suspend the rights and privileges of any Council member that it decides has persistently committed gross and systematic violations of human rights during its term of membership. 

The chilling effect that reprisals can have – especially when met with impunity – is potentially extremely damaging for the whole UN system of human rights procedures and will undo the slow but steady process of the last decades. Taken together with the above-mentioned seriousness of the aggravating character of reprisals, a powerful coalition of international and regional NGOs could well start public hearings with the purpose of demanding that States that commit reprisal be suspended.

If States can lose their right to vote in the General Assembly if they do not pay their fees for several years, there is in fact nothing shocking in demanding that States, who persecute and intimidate human rights defenders BECAUSE they cooperate with the United Nations, are not allowed to take part in the proceedings of the UN human rights body.

 

UN Human Rights Council 2013 condemns crackdown on Human Rights Defenders

September 28, 2013

Michael Ineichen of the International  Service for Human Rights [ISHR] in its Monitor of 27 September 2013 welcomes the adoption of a Resolution by the UN Human Rights Council which condemns the global crackdown on civil society and calls on all ISHR-logo-colour-highgovernments to protect and support the work of non-governmental organisations and human rights defenders. In a resolution adopted that day, entitled ‘Civil society space’, Read the rest of this entry »