Posts Tagged ‘Michelle Bachelet’

High Commissioner, please put human rights defenders up front

September 20, 2018

In a briefing paper for the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, ISHR has set out ten concrete and practical ways in which the High Commissioner and her Office can contribute to protecting human rights defenders and promoting a safe and enabling environment for their work at the international and national-levels.

Supporting and empowering these defenders – and protecting them against those governments, corporations and fundamentalists whose currency is prejudice, profit or privilege – should be the new High Commissioner’s highest priority. She should consult closely with defenders, speak out and pursue accountability when they are attacked, push for laws and mechanisms to protect them at the national level, and ensure that the UN human rights system is safe, accessible and effective for them,‘ ISHR Director Phil Lynch said.

The ISHR briefing paper complements a broader civil society letter supported by more than 750 civil society [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/09/08/civil-society-sends-letter-to-new-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-bachelet/].

Recommendations for the High Commissioner to support human rights defenders

  1. Be proactive in regularly consulting and working in partnership with human rights defenders and other independent civil society actors.
  2. Make clear and regular statements on the essential role played by human rights defenders and the need to ensure they can work in a safe and enabling environment without fear or hindrance, acknowledging the protection needs of particular groups of defenders.
  3. Speak out and demand accountability on cases of threats, attacks and reprisals against human rights defenders, including by calling for and supporting impartial investigations, prosecution of perpetrators, and effective remedies for victims.
  4. Push and work with States to fulfil the commitments laid out in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, including through repealing restrictive legislation and developing specific laws, policies and mechanisms to protect defenders.
  5. Establish a comprehensive set of indicators to assess State fulfilment of human rights obligations related to human rights defenders, which could be used as an evidentiary basis for assessing compliance.
  6. Build strategic alliances with States, civil society, academics, business enterprises and other actors with a shared interest in human rights, ensuring an enabling environment for civil society and respect for the rule of law.
  7. Define an operating procedure at OHCHR to ensure that all offices establish and apply minimum standards in regard to their work on and with human rights defenders.
  8. Encourage the Secretary General to carry out a full audit of UN work on human rights defenders and to develop an organisation-wide policy on supporting and protecting defenders. More generally, work closely with the Secretary-General to ensure that all UN agencies contribute to, and coordinate on, the protection of defenders and ensuring an enabling environment for their work.
  9. Encourage the development and implementation of an effective UN-wide policy on preventing and addressing reprisals and strongly support continuation and adequate resourcing of the mandate of the UN Senior Official on reprisals.
  10. Work to ensure that UN human rights bodies and mechanisms are accessible, effective and protective for human rights defenders, in particular by ensuring that any reform efforts are informed by the full and meaningful participation of civil society. Strong leadership from the High Commissioner is essential to ensure that the process to strengthen the Treaty Bodies in 2020, and the General Assembly mandated status review of the Human Rights Council in 2021, are underpinned by these principles.

http://www.ishr.ch/news/high-commissioner-put-human-rights-defenders-front

Civil Society sends letter to new High Commissioner for human rights Bachelet

September 8, 2018

A large group of international and regional NGOs have agreed on the following letter to the new High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet; sent on 1 September 2018 [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/08/22/change-of-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-at-the-un-optimism-warranted/]. The tone is totally right for the difficult years ahead:

Dear High Commissioner Bachelet,

As local, national, regional, and international civil society organizations from every corner of the world, we offer warm congratulations on your appointment as United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights.
We are committed to a world in which every person enjoys human rights and dignity and in which our communities are fair, just and sustainable. We consider that a strong High Commissioner, working in strategic partnership with independent civil society, can contribute significantly to the realization of this vision.

You take up office at a time when human rights are under attack and when we risk the reversal of many of the achievements of the modern human rights movement. We look to you in these troubled times to be an unwavering voice in the defence of human rights, and of victims, rights-holders and human rights defenders around the world.

On every continent, the rights of individuals, communities and peoples are being violated and abused by governments and non-state actors, often with complete impunity. Civil society, peaceful dissidents, and the media are often brutally silenced. The role of your Office in ensuring robust monitoring of, and reporting on, such situations is essential for curbing violations and deterring further abuse, as well as for ensuring justice and accountability. Technical-assistance and capacity building by the OHCHR is also critical and, to be effective, should be approached holistically alongside a rigorous assessment of the rights challenges in the country, including through key indicators to measure progress and assess the degree of engagement and cooperation by the State.

As High Commissioner, you have a unique role to play in bringing country situations of concern to the attention of the UN Human Rights Council and other UN bodies, particularly situations that may not be on their agenda or which receive limited attention, often because of political pressure. This role should extend to providing briefings to the Security Council on situations either on its agenda or that, if left unattended, could represent a threat to international peace and security. Monitoring missions and inter-sessional briefings to the HRC can be initiated at the High Commissioner’s prerogative, on the basis of your Office’s universal mandate, bringing attention to neglected country situations and contributing towards the achievement of the Council’s mandate to prevent human rights violations.

We are aware that the position of High Commissioner comes with its own challenges. Many States will insist you avoid “naming and shaming” and push you to engage in “quiet diplomacy” and to respect national sovereignty. Often, those most intolerant of criticism and most forceful in suppressing dissent will speak the loudest in seeking to mute your voice. Survivors, victims and defenders on the front line in countries where their rights are being violated will rely on you as a human rights champion, to have the courage and conviction to call out violators clearly and publicly, even when it’s challenging or unpopular with governments.

Globally, the rights essential to civic space are being systematically undermined. Civil society and human rights defenders face severe daily risks in their struggle to defend human rights on the ground, including imprisonment, asset-freezes, defamatory campaigns, torture, enforced disappearance, and even death. Risks are also present in the UN context, where individuals frequently face intimidation, harassment or reprisals for their engagement with the UN. We urge you to be a staunch defender of the rights of defenders both on the ground and at the UN, to publicly call out violators, and to undertake or push for investigations into attacks and reprisals. We also encourage you to take full advantage of the distinct, often innovative complementary role of civil society to the work of the OHCHR, and ensure the Office works closely with civil society as a strategic partner at the national, regional, and international levels.

Currently, the human rights framework itself is under unparalleled attack. Authoritarian populists are attacking the universality of human rights, disproportionately and unlawfully restricting rights in the purported interests of “national security,” often tacitly or openly encouraging attacks by their followers or vigilantes on rights defenders as well as the vulnerable and poor, while selectively interpreting human rights and seeking to co-opt or subvert human rights mechanisms to suit their political agendas. Safeguarding and strengthening universal human rights norms and mechanisms should be a core responsibility of the High Commissioner.

The current climate highlights the need for a strong public advocacy role for your mandate in the defence of international human rights law and the international human rights system, as well as a strong role internally within the UN to mainstream respect for human rights throughout the work of UN organs and agencies, and within the Sustainable Development Agenda.

Once again, we congratulate you on your new role, and stand ready to support you and your Office in the fulfilment of your vital mandate.

With assurances of our highest consideration,

Women Human Rights Defenders in 2012: Rosalyn Warren in the Huffington Post

January 7, 2013

On 7 January 2013, Rosalyn Warren posted the following worthwhile round up of woman HRDs in 2012:

On Human Rights Day on the 10th December 2012, the UN called on the rights of all people — women, youth, minorities, persons with disabilities, indigenous people, the poor and marginalized — to make their “voice heard.” What Human Rights day also marked was the murder of Nadia Sadiqi, a women’s activist and an Afghan official in charge of women’s affairs, who was murdered by two unidentified gunmen while on her way to work.

This marked the end of a year in which attempts to brutally suppress human rights defenders continued: Nadia Sadiqi had only just taken over the job role after her predecessor, Hanifa Safi, was assassinated in a bomb attack in July. Women have long held a crucial and leading role in human rights advocacy, but living in a time where in some parts of the world human rights defenders are facing escalating levels of intimidation, harassment and attacks, and violence against women is endemic everywhere both at home and abroad, we heard the voices of women fighting for human rights loud and clear, and more so than ever before. As a young, female, human rights activist myself, this only reinforces my view that the fight for human rights led by girls and women is of even more importance moving into 2013.

United Nations officials marked Human Rights Day by declaring that everyone has the right to be heard: nevertheless, the next generation of women human rights defenders still face much of the same danger before them when they speak out. When journalist and human rights activist Natalya Estemirova was abducted and murdered by armed men in Grozny, Chechen Republic in 2009, it was a stark reminder of the dangerous consequences of being a vocal voice for human rights in Russia. Fast-forward three years, and human rights activism in Russia has a new face: Pussy Riot. Pussy Riot were not callously murdered for their activism, like the ever-growing list of journalists murdered for their human rights and political reporting, and justice for Natalia Estermedia is still being called for — but what Pussy Riot did do was wave a flag to the world that said that the women fighting for rights in their country will not be ignored, forgotten or silenced.

The next generation of females fighting for human rights is also getting younger. When 15 year-old schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban for her efforts to defend the education of girls in October, a denunciation of targeting girls and women through violence in an attempt to silence them was echoed around the world. Michelle Bachelet the executive director of UN Women, marked Human Rights Day by commenting that this stifling of girls and women’s voices is hiding back progress for women and all members of society, stating: “Women’s participation is fundamental for sustainable development, peace and democracy.” They may have tried to silence Malala, but she continues to inspire her generation to participate in the struggle for basic rights such as education. This was shown with 21 year-old Afghan activist Noorjahan Akbar who says in a recent Daily Beast interview that Malala’s shooting only strengthens the fight for girls’ rights: “Maybe 10 to 12 years ago, people wouldn’t have held a protest because a young girl was attacked. But now it is happening and people are speaking up against it, fighting, and protesting. That gives me a lot of hope for the future. Not just for me and my work, but for other women.”

But 2012 was not a year in which women stood alone: many men joined them in standing for their human rights. In October, Dr. Denis Mukwege a leading women’s rights activist from the Democratic Republic of Congo escaped an assassination attempt, just one month after condemning impunity for mass rape in the DRC at a UN speech. But whether it be with Dr. Denis Mukwege, the Kachin women in Burma demanding an investigation into Kachin abuses, or the women and men that are taking to the streets in India today against rape and sexual violence, the message is the same: human rights advocacy is still just as important today as it has ever been.

I felt proud to see so many women as the driving force for human rights in 2012, particularly with the media showing them in their true state: as strong, powerful advocates of basic human rights, not as repressed women unable to speak out. Nadia Sadiqi did not die in vain. On Human Rights Day, the day that marked her murder, a special tribute was made to Malala Yousafzai by UNESCO and Pakistan, with the launch of Malala’s Fund for Girls Education. Let’s hope that 2013 continues to inspire girls and women to get involved with human rights advocacy wherever they are.

Follow Rossalyn Warren on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RossalynWarren