Posts Tagged ‘Michel Forst’

General Assembly 2018: Human Rights Defenders were a main dish on 23 October

November 7, 2018

On 26 October 2018, the ISHR reported on how the General Assembly addressed the 20th anniversary of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. Special Rapporteur Michel Forst delivered a detailed reflection and assessment of global protection efforts in his report to the General Assembly this week.

On 23/24 October, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, called the international community to action, urging open and frank dialogue and solidarity to address oppression. He addressed the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee and engaged in a dialogue on his report to the General Assembly.

In light of the 20th anniversary of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, his report focused on effective implementation strategies, incorporating both a reflection of progress made over the past two decades and an overview of recommendations on how to improve systems and mechanisms moving forward. ‘The past 20 years have been an era of struggle for human rights. Victories have been hard fought and challenges have proliferated,’ the Special Rapporteur said in his report. ‘The celebration of this milestone must be tempered by a recognition of the sacrifices of human rights defenders, their families and their communities.’

After surveying 140 States, the Special Rapporteur addressed the following key matters: the evolution of the use of the term ‘human rights defenders’, mechanisms and practices to support them and legal/ administrative frameworks to protect them. “20 years ago, the Declaration laid the groundwork for the protection of human rights defenders and amplified the importance of their inclusion as a stakeholder in human rights initiatives, but there is still work to be done,” said ISHR’s Legal Counsel Tess McEvoy.

Several States voiced their support for the report and the mandate, including Spain, Iceland, Canada, Australia, EU, Poland, Ireland, Switzerland, Mexico, Liechtenstein, Estonia, Czech Republic, Colombia, France, Slovenia, Norway, US, Belgium and the United Arab Emirates.

The United States referenced the Secretary General’s report on reprisals highlighting attacks and intimidation against defenders in more than 38 countries, saying they are ‘alarmed and monitoring all allegations.’ The US then proceeded to list over 20 specific names of individuals from 14 different countries who are victims of such reprisals. These include:

Both China and Iran criticised the report on the basis that defenders, activists and social leaders do not deserve ‘special treatment’ regardless of the risks these individuals face. Cuba rejected any attempts to paint political prisoners as human rights defenders. The Russian Federation challenged the notion of ‘State obligation’ on the basis that the Declaration of Human Rights Defenders is a non-binding document. In response to the Russian Federation’s point on the non-obligatory nature of the Declaration of Human Rights, the Special Rapporteur swiftly reminded States that while the Declaration is non-binding it reaffirms other legally binding human rights obligations.

The Special Rapporteur concluded with a call to action at the upcoming Human Rights Defenders World Summit in Paris, where a statement will be prepared, including for presentation at the upcoming high-level event on defenders at the General Assembly.

The Special Rapporteur also referenced a document—outlining the results of his global survey on defenders in 140 countries—which he hoped would be published on the OHCHR website without further delay. He invited supporters of the mandate to inform OHCHR of the need to disseminate the report via the OHCHR website.

The Special Rapporteur referenced the study being prepared by the UN Secretary-General in efforts to protect global defenders. The report of this study will be shared with States in the coming weeks. The Special Rapporteur also voiced concern about the lack of NGO access to the UN and asked members of the Committee on NGOs to invite him in to engage with the Committee.

The Special Rapporteur concluded by saying that his report to the Human Rights Council in March 2019 will focus on the situation of women defenders.

https://www.ishr.ch/news/ga73-un-expert-defenders-reflects-20-years-struggle-progress-and-remaining-challenges

For earlier posts on the anniversary: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/20th-anniversary-un-declaration-on-hrds/

“Reprehensible” says UN about Mexican killing of human rights defender

November 7, 2018

On 6 November 2018, four UN Special  Rapporteurs have strongly condemned the killing of Julián Carrillo, an indigenous rights defender from the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, who had worked tirelessly for over two decades to defend his community against the exploitation of Rarámuri ancestral lands.

On 23 October 23 2018, Julián Carrillo told a friend by phone that he believed he was being watched and said he would go into the forest in an attempt to hide. On the evening of 25 October, his body was found. He had multiple bullet wounds. “We urge the Mexican authorities to identify the perpetrators of this reprehensible crime and to bring them to justice in accordance with the law,” the experts said.

The experts also urged the Government to address the underlying causes of such violence. “The killing of Julián Carrillo highlights the serious situation in the Sierra Tarahumara where the lack of recognition of indigenous land rights is a root cause of the recurring violence against and displacements of indigenous communities.”… [The UN experts are: Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Ms. Victoria Tauli Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples;  Ms. Agnès Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; and Ms. Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons.]

Julián Carrillo’s murder is one of a spate of killings of human rights defenders in the country. According to official OHCHR figures, 21 human rights defenders have been killed so far this year, nine of them from indigenous communities. Four members of Julián Carrillo’s family – his son, son-in-law and two nephews – have been killed since February 2016.

This follows soon after the assassination on Wednesday 23 October of journalist Gabriel Soriano Kuri.  Soriano had been covering Governor Héctor Astudillo Flores’ third annual report for the Radio y Televisión de Guerrero (RTG) broadcaster that evening. After the event, held in Acapulco, he was driving a company vehicle when he was attacked and killed by armed civilians. Following the murder, Astudillo offered his condolences to Soriano’s family via Twitter. But it didn’t go down very well. Soriano’s daughter replied with a blunt message: “My dad was assassinated doing his job. Covering your report to the state! Do your job and fix the situation the state is in. It’s not right,” she wrote. Her discontent was echoed in at least three demonstrations where journalists demanded that authorities solve the assassination of their colleague. A state journalists’ association reported that three members of the profession have been slain during Astudillo’s three years in office.

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/es/profile/noel-castillo-aguilar

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/10/mexico-asesinato-de-lider-raramuri-demuestra-falta-de-proteccion-estatal/

https://mexiconewsdaily.com/news/demonstrations-follow-journalists-assassination/

Forst in UN New York: ‘more concerned than ever for human rights defenders’

October 25, 2018

Michel Forst, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, expressed in New York “grave concern” on Tuesday 23 October 2018 regarding the treatment of human rights defenders, as more than 1,000 have been killed between 2015 and 2017. See also the latest report on the situation of human rights defenders issued earlier this year (http://undocs.org/en/A/73/215 – 23 July 2018).

2018 marks the twentieth anniversary of the UN mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders. In a speech made to the UN General Assembly, Forst explained how the program’s very existence is in jeopardy but the anniversary presents an “opportunity not only to review the situation of human rights defenders but also to set out a vision for the human rights movement for the coming years.

Forst praised the work that has been done but fears for the safety of human rights defenders. “The Declaration has become a milestone in the human rights project and resources have been provided for the promotion and protection of human rights defenders. However, I am more concerned than ever. … We are facing an alarming panorama for human rights defenders. Their situation is deteriorating all over the world despite States’ obligations to ensure the protection of human rights defenders.”

In honor of the anniversary, a number of events are scheduled in the upcoming months intended to draw attention to the issue of human rights defenders: From October 29-31, the second Human Rights Defenders World Summit will take place in Paris [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/07/24/announcement-of-the-human-rights-defenders-world-summit-in-paris-october-2018/ ]. A UN  “high-level plenary meeting” in New York will take place in mid-December tasked with addressing good practices and new opportunities in the Declaration’s implementation.

Further plea to Nobel foundation to recognize the HRDs of the world

October 5, 2018

On Thursday, 4 October 2018 Michel Forst and Susi Bascon wrote for the Thompson Reuters Foundation a piece entitled: “Growing global authoritarianism means we all need to become human rights defenders”. It is a further appeal to for the 2018 Nobel Peace prize to go to the Human Rights Defenders of the world {see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/09/18/campaign-to-give-the-nobel-peace-prize-2018-to-the-global-community-of-human-rights-defenders/]:

It would be foolish to think that defending human rights is just an issue for people in faraway countries

Every night Juana Ramirez Santiago would deliver her husband’s dinner to the hardware store he worked as a watchman. One evening in late September she called him to tell him she was on her way. She never arrived. Neighbours heard four gun shots then found her lying dead on the street. Juana – who helped found a group to challenge violence against women – was just one of hundreds of human rights defenders brutally assassinated so far this year. 2018 is on course to set a grisly record. 

Tomorrow, the Nobel committee will announce the winner of the 2018 Peace Prize. This year the prize should be awarded not to a person or an organisation but – for the first time ever – to a community: a collective award for human rights defenders like Juana Ramirez all around the world.

Each day, these brave people stand up and speak out for nothing more than the rights which everyone should be entitled. And as a result, each day, many are silenced – thrown in jail, attacked or even murdered.

Yet how many of us have heard their names? They are hidden heroes. Too often they have to stand alone, courageous individuals and small grassroots communities forced to face down crooked legal systems, corrupt multinationals and oppressive governments. That’s why the role of UN special rapporteur for human rights defenders was developed. It’s why organisations like Peace Brigades International – who provide crucial life-saving support to defenders on the ground – exist. 

The prize would shine a global spotlight on their struggle in a year when we mark the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders which outlined how defending human rights is a right in and of itself, not a crime. 

The award could not come at a more urgent time. Not just because they deserve recognition, but because in the words of the late Kofi Anna, “We need to be vigilant in the protection of human rights defenders, for when the defenders’ rights are violated, all our rights are injured.”

Defenders are an example to us all. They show us that our rights are not only granted by law but upheld and protected by communities and individuals. They demonstrate that we all need to be human rights defenders. Particularly now that there’s a growing backlash against human rights. 

It would be foolish to think that this is just an issue for people in faraway countries. Threats to hard won rights are advancing across the West, even in the United States. Just look at women’s rights. Access to abortion is being tightened in states like Iowa, Louisiana and Mississippi.

On LGBT rights it’s still legal to fire someone for being gay in most places in the United States. There are real fears about a rollback of rights from the Supreme Court.  

When even leaders of even the oldest democracies brand the media as an enemy of the people or say that “it’s embarrassing for the country to allow protesters” it’s time to recognise that the struggle of distant human rights defenders is a struggle everyone must face. That is, if we want to continue living in healthy, free and democratic societies.

Make no mistake, the tide has shifted – freedom and democracy are on the defensive. Authoritarianism is on the rise worldwide. That’s why we need to stand shoulder to shoulder with defenders across the globe.  And that’s why they should win the Nobel Prize. Worldwide, a narrative is spreading that human rights defenders are criminals.

The Nobel Prize is the loudest stage we have to challenge the growing discourse that discourse that dismisses and delegitimises non-violent activists as terrorists, anti-patriots, or threats to security and development.

It would send a clear message: to human rights defenders both home and abroad – you are not alone. To those who would harm them – the eyes of the world are watching and your actions will have consequences. And to the rest of us? The rights we don’t defend are the rights we can so easily lose. 

Michel Forst is the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights defenders and Susi Bascon is the director of the Peace Brigades UK

———-

http://news.trust.org//item/20181004153903-7wymp/

UN rapporteurs ask India to protect journalist Rana Ayyub and refer to fate of Gauri Lankesh

May 27, 2018

Many newspapers reported (here India Today) that a group of UN human rights experts has expressed concern over continued threats to journalist Rana Ayyub, calling on the Indian government to urgently take steps to protect her and ensure the threats against her are promptly and thoroughly investigated. “We are highly concerned that the life of Rana Ayyub is at serious risk following these graphic and disturbing threats,” said the UN experts.

Ayyub is an independent journalist and writer whose work has included investigations into alleged crimes committed by public and government officials.

The experts recalled the murder of another Indian journalist, Gauri Lankesh, who had also received death threats for her work. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/06/gauri-lankesh-and-gulalai-ismail-win-2017-anna-politkovskaya-award/]

The UN experts are: Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief and Special Rapporteur on violence against women.

https://www.indiatoday.in/pti-feed/story/un-experts-asks-india-to-protect-journalist-rana-ayyub-from-online-hate-campaign-1242829-2018-05-27

“I Defend Rights”: Shifting the Narrative about Human Rights Defenders

March 24, 2018

I Defend Rights: Shifting the Narrative about Human Rights Defenders and Civil Society Globally is a project of the Norwegian Human Rights Fund and Memria.org, in collaboration with numerous partners around the world (see the list of partners below).

It is about collecting audio accounts from human rights defenders to create a global archive of recordings of their experiences working on the front lines defending the rights of others. We will then develop multiple ways to share many of these audio recordings with much broader audiences, such as through exhibits and using social media platforms. Any defender (including you!) can participate and easily:

 

https://www.idefendrights.org

Michel Forst: “Empowering defenders on the move is crucial to the prevention of further tragedy”

February 20, 2018

The ISHR in a piece of 16 February 2018 draws attention to tow complementary reports on the situation of human rights defenders in a migration context. They fit admirably with the outcry of 250 NGOs concerning Hungary referred to in my earlier post of today [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/20/250-ngos-address-letter-to-hungarian-parliament-regarding-restriction-on-the-work-of-human-rights-defenders/].

The first is the report, by UN Special Rapporteur Michel Forst, which examines the many ways in which human rights defenders are impacted by the current environment related to migrant and refugee flows. For example, defenders may become migrants or refugees as a result of the harassment and violence they face in their own communities or countries. ‘Empowering defenders on the move is crucial to the prevention of further tragedy‘.

The second is the OHCHR Principles and Practical Guidance for the protection of the Human Rights of Migrants in Vulnerable Situations, especially Principle 18 which states that ‘States must respect and support the activities of human rights defenders who promote and protect the human rights of migrants’.

Both document will be considered at the upcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council.

The two documents are fully complementary’, Sarah Brooks of the ISHR says. ‘The recommendations of the OHCHR and the UN expert have no daylight between them – their message is quite simple. In order for lives to be saved, States must ensure that human rights defenders and civil society can operate safely and without hindrance.’

Migrants – including migrant workers – who seek to stand up for their rights and those of others face unique threats, including deportation.  The case of Sujana Rana and Rose Limu Jee, two migrant domestic workers from Nepal who were detained and deported after advocating for freedom of association in Lebanon, is a prime example. And defenders in countries of destination – whether the Gulf, the United States, or many Member States of the European Union (e.g. Hungary) – find that their own governments may rollback protections or even funding for civil society and defenders when migration-related issues are the focus, or in the worst cases criminalise assistance to migrants and refugees.

Main challenges

  • Limits on access to migrant and refugee populations. This can appear as overt limits on physical presence in border areas or due to the remote nature of some areas where populations on the move are concentrated. This includes securitised border zones and offshore facilities.  In both cases, the real impact is to increase physical and financial barriers to access, preventing people on the move from accessing independent services and much-needed legal counsel.
  • Criminalisation. Some defenders struggle against risks of criminal prosecution both nationally and as a result of local bylaws, particularly registration requirements (based on geographic areas of work, for example). The overzealous application of existing law has also been sued to accuse people of harbouring or smuggling, when in reality the individual was engaged in humanitarian activity. This threat of criminal charges has a chilling effect, as does the decrease in funding for organisations working in this area (both anti-racism work and traditional legal aid centres).
  • The growing role of non-state actors.  Especially in some parts of Latin America, organised crime poses significant threats to defenders, as well as to States should they try to protect them. Businesses are also implicated, as the report notes particular types of private employment contracts which ‘gag’ service providers and impose outsized fines or criminal penalties for discussing the situation.  Finally, in cases where governments have outsourced certain services, tools like access to information requests (normally directed at public authorities) are no longer available.

http://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc37-global-community-must-recognise-defenders-people-move-says-un-expert

http://www.ishr.ch/sites/default/files/article/files/201802_ohchr_principles_and_practical_guidance.pdf

UN Experts urge USA not to deport human rights defenders like Maru Mora Villalpando

February 14, 2018

On 14 February 2018 a group of four UN human rights experts urged the United States Government to respect the rights of human rights defenders, amid concern over action being taken against a Mexican woman who campaigns to protect migrants’ rights. Maru Mora Villalpando, who has been in the US since 1996, is facing deportation proceedings after fronting a high-profile campaign against alleged human rights violations at a US immigrants’ detention centre, operated by a private company on behalf of the US government. [Ms. Villalpando, whose 20-year-old daughter is a US citizen, is co-founder of a group which highlights human rights concerns about the Northwest Detention Centre in Tacoma, Washington.  She has raised the issue with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and with the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, alleging corporate involvement in human rights violations as well as expressing concern over hunger strikes and the deportation of migrants. The UN experts have been in contact with the Government regarding their concerns.]

Ms. Villalpando’s notice to appear at deportation proceedings, received without warning, seems to be related to her advocacy work on behalf of migrant detainees”, the experts said. “We urge the US Government to protect and ensure Ms. Villalpando’s rights as a defender and her right to family life”.

“The authorities should take all necessary measures to guarantee that no action, including detention and deportation, as means of retaliation, is taken against Ms. Villalpando for reporting cases of the detention of immigrants and alleged violations of their human rights, especially in view of the reported conditions in these centres of detention”. The experts said they were concerned that Ms. Villalpando’s case appeared to be part of a pattern. “Giving people notice of deportation proceedings appears to be a part of an increasing pattern of intimidation and retaliation against people defending migrants’ rights in the US”, the experts said.

The UN experts are: Ms. Elina Steinerte, Vice-Chair on Communications of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mr. Felipe González MoralesSpecial Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Ms. Anita Ramasastry, Chair person of UN Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22657&LangID=E

5th Werner Lottje lecture in Berlin focuses on Cambodia

February 8, 2018

On 21 February 2018, Bread for the World and the German Institute for Human Rights organise for the 5th time the Werner Lottje Lecture [the lecture is named after the German activist who was a major force in the international human rights movement [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/11/16/and-a-lot-more-about-werner-lottje-the-great-german-human-rights-defender/].

This year the focus is on human rights defenders in Cambodia.

For last year’s lecture see: : https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/26/the-4th-werner-lottje-lecture-showcases-the-zone-9-bloggers-from-ethiopia-15-february/.

Programme:

Cornelia Füllkrug-Weitzel; President Bread for the World

Naly Pilorge; Acting Director, LICADHO, Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights

Julia Duchrow; Head Human Rights and Peace, Bread for the World

Michel Forst; UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders

19:00 panel discussion with Gyde Jensen; MP, chair of the Bundestag Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Assistance; Michel Forst; Naly Pilorge; and Dr. Julia DuchrowModerated by Michael Windfuhr; acting Director German Institute for Human Rights

 

Date and place: 21/2/2018, 17:30 – 20:00 at Brot für die Welt, Caroline-Michaelis-Straße 1, 10115 Berlin.

To attend please contact eimear.gavin@brot-fuer-die-welt.de (+49 (0)30 65211 1811) before 15 February.

 

There will be German – English interpretation.

 

Human Rights NGOs in Europe no longer the standard to follow!

January 27, 2018

In January 2018 the EU Fundamental Rights Agcncy (FRA) published a Report “Challenges facing civil society organisations working on human rights in the EU“. Its conclusion is that the situation is getting more difficult. Also, on 26 January 2018, the Thomson Reuters Foundation published an interview with Michel Forst, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders said that the EU are setting a bad example by allowing some of its members to stifle human rights groups, which is encouraging crackdowns elsewhere in the world.

In the interview done by Umberto Bacchi, Michel Forst said that the EU has historically done a good job supporting and protecting rights advocates worldwide but the bloc’s authority is now being undermined from within. Officials in Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Israel and other countries pointed at recent laws in Hungary and Poland to justify their own regulations which may curb the independence of non-governmental organisations.

There is a need for European countries to be more coherent … not to teach human rights outside of Europe and then not respecting human rights inside Europe,” said Forst, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders. Charities in dozens of countries, from Angola to India and Tajikistan have faced restrictions targeting their funding and operations over the past two years, according to an EU report. The trend is part of a global backlash on civil society that has seen rights activists in some parts of the world criminalised or branded as troublemakers, Forst stated.

Last year, Hungary introduced a measure requiring NGOs that get money from abroad to register with the state, a bill that NGOs say stigmatizes them and is intended to stifle independent voices. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/06/13/human-rights-defenders-in-hungary-not-yet-foreign-agents-but-getting-close/]. Poland instead introduced legislation to set up a centralised authority controlling charities’ funding. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/02/backsliding-on-civic-space-in-democracies-important-side-event-on-3-march-in-geneva/%5D. As countermeasure, the EU should boost direct funding of rights groups operating within its borders, Forst said. “What is absurd for me is that the EU is funding organisations in Latin America, in Africa – which is good – but there is no more funding for EU NGOs,” he said. Money should be allocated from a dedicated fund and not channelled through governments, he said.

Besides Europe, Forst also singled out Australia for its treatment of asylum seekers held in offshore camps, adding it was “not a safe place” for human rights defenders due to pressure from the government. A December report by Pro Bono Australia and the Human Rights Law Centre, two rights groups, found Australian NGOs were often pressured into “self-silencing” their advocacy work fearing funding cuts and political retribution.

(Global civil society) space is shrinking because it is shrinking in Europe, because it is shrinking in the Americas, in Australia,” said Forst.

—-

The FRA’s report finds that civil society organisations in the European Union play a crucial role in promoting fundamental rights, but it has become harder for them to do so – due to both legal and practical restrictions. This report looks at the different types and patterns of challenges faced by civil society organisations working on human rights in the EU. While challenges exist in all EU Member States, their exact nature and extent vary. Data and research on this issue – including comparative research – are generally lacking. The report also highlights promising practices that can counteract these worrying patterns.