Posts Tagged ‘NGOs’

250 NGOs address letter to Hungarian parliament regarding restriction on the work of human rights defenders

February 20, 2018

Bulgaria: 200 European Human Rights Organizations Protest in Hungary

More than 250 (!) human rights organizations protested today against the new laws proposed by the Hungarian Parliament aimed at limiting the work of NGOs helping refugees in the country. “We express our solidarity with civil society and all human rights defenders in Hungary – the brave people who are fighting for a more honest society,” reads part of the open letter  published by Amnesty International [the list can be consulted via the link below]. Today, parliament is going to discuss legislative changes that will impose new restrictions on non-governmental organizations in the country. It is expected that many of them will even be banned. According to the bills published last week on Parliament’s website, these organizations will be required to pay a 25% tax on all their foreign funding, and their workers will be banned from accessing refugee centers near the country’s borders.

The affected NGOs will also have to register with the Ministry of the Interior, which in turn will have the right to impose fines or deny them the right to work legally in Hungary. But to approve the changes, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government needs a two-thirds majority, which is not currently in parliament.

On 15 February 2018 the High Commissioner of Human Rights of the Council of Europe had already addressed the issue in a tough statement :

I am seriously concerned at the legislative package recently announced by the Hungarian government under the name “Stop Soros”. If adopted by Parliament, it will introduce further arbitrary restrictions to the indispensable work of human rights NGOs and defenders in Hungary. In a letter I sent to the Hungarian Parliament in May 2017, I set out my concerns regarding the then draft law on the Transparency of Organisations Supported from Abroad, which stigmatised a large number of organisations pursuing lawful activities in the field of human rights and introduced far-reaching restrictions on freedom of association in contravention of international human rights standards. I regret that instead of addressing those pressing human rights concerns, the Hungarian government appears now intent on intensifying stigmatisation and restrictions against NGOs working specifically on migration-related issues.

While I have not yet seen the final text of the proposed legislative package – changes to an earlier version I had examined were announced only the day before yesterday to make it “significantly stricter” – I am alarmed that it will aggravate the situation of freedom of association in Hungary even further. I understand that the changes made this week introduce mandatory licences for NGOs with a goal “to ensure that it is only possible to organise, support or finance migration in Hungary while in possession of a licence, which would be issued by the Minister of Interior following an assessment of the related national security aspects”. NGOs failing to abide by this requirement could be subject to sanctions, including a fine and ultimately dissolution. In addition, any such NGO that receives any amount of funding from abroad would be required to pay a 25% tax on such foreign funding.

The package also foresees the creation of “immigration restraining orders” that can be used to prevent any person deemed to “support the unlawful entry and residence of a third-country national” from accessing an 8-km zone from external borders – or even the entire Hungarian territory for non-nationals. Considering the context in which the proposed measures were conceived, there is an obvious risk that arbitrary restrictions may be applied on the freedom of movement of persons involved in refugee assistance at the border.

These proposed measures raise particular concerns because of the likelihood that they will be applied to organisations and individuals who carry out activities in the field of protecting the human rights of immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees that should be fully legitimate in a democratic society. Unfortunately recent public declarations of the Hungarian government referring to organisations which may come under the effect of the package only reinforce these concerns. In particular, the proposed package (which the government itself has named “Stop Soros”) follows a series of legal measures and stigmatising government rhetoric targeting entities funded or otherwise linked to Hungarian-American philanthropist George Soros, which carry out professional and important work in Hungary, including in the field of human rights.

Finally, I am alarmed at the escalating rhetoric used by the Hungarian government to portray NGOs and immigrants as a threat to national security. This discourse is stirring up among the population fears and intolerance towards foreigners and mistrust towards civil society organisations.

The proposed package of laws introduces administrative and financial burdens that constitute restrictions on freedom of association which cannot be regarded as necessary in a democratic society and are therefore at variance with international human rights standards. The package as a whole is stigmatising and is bound to have a chilling effect on NGOs but also their donors and individuals who work for or with them. I call once more on Hungary to refrain from penalising, stigmatising or putting at any disadvantage whatsoever NGOs, including those working in the field of migration, and to restore an enabling environment conducive to the work of human rights defenders.

The next day the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights labeled the law an “assault on human rights” and urged its government to uphold the right of freedom of association. It appeared to mark a further tightening of controls on groups “working on issues the government regards as against state interests, such as migration and asylum”, U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said. It represented “an unjustified restriction on the right to freedom of association and is a worrying continuation of the government’s assault on human rights and civic space,” he told a Geneva news briefing…

See also my earlier post: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/06/13/human-rights-defenders-in-hungary-not-yet-foreign-agents-but-getting-close/

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2018/02/in-solidarity-with-civil-society-in-hungary/

http://www.novinite.com/articles/188074/200+European+Human+Rights+Organizations+Protest+in+Hungary

https://www.coe.int/en/web/commissioner/-/commissioner-concerned-about-proposed-additional-restrictions-to-the-work-of-ngos-in-hungary

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-hungary-soros-law-un/hungary-anti-immigration-bill-an-assault-on-human-rights-u-n-idUSKCN1G0102

 

12 human rights NGOs urge Uzbekistan to pick up pace with reforms

February 15, 2018

The Financial Times (amongst others) reports that changes in Uzbekistan are possibly going in the right direction. [“While Mr Mirziyoyev was part of the old system too, as prime minister for 13 years, his ousting of Mr Inoyatov was the boldest in a series of steps apparently designed to start opening the country up. He has freed 18 high-profile political prisoners — even if thousands more remain in jail — and taken nearly 16,000 people off a 17,500-strong security blacklist of potential extremists that stopped them travelling or getting jobs”.]  This echoes what HRW said on 5 September 2017 after delegation had made its first visit to Uzbekistan since the organization was banned there in 2010:  “The key is for the Uzbek government to transform the modest steps it has taken thus far into institutional change and sustainable improvements”. Now (13 February 2018) twelve international NGOs have publicly urged Uzbekistan to release journalists and human rights defenders.

Journalist Bobomurod Abdullaev faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty. 
Journalist Bobomurod Abdullaev faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty. 

In a joint statement HRW, IPHR, Amnesty International, the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, Civil Rights Defenders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Freedom House, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Reporters Without Borders, Freedom Now, ARTICLE 19, and the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights have called on Tashkent to “ensure a thorough, impartial, and independent investigation into the alleged torture and other ill-treatment” of independent journalist Bobomurod Abdullaev.

[Abdullaev was detained in September on charges of “conspiracy to overthrow the constitutional regime” and faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty. In October, Uzbek authorities arrested well-known economist and blogger Hayot Nasriddinov. They have accused him and others, including Akrom Malikov, an academic who was arrested in 2016, of plotting to overthrow the government.

At a time when the Uzbek government appears to be taking steps to reform the country’s feared security services, reports of a journalist’s torture in their custody should prompt an immediate investigation and decisive, public condemnation,” HRW Central Asia researcher Steve Swerdlow said in the statement.

There is a real opportunity for change in Uzbekistan – and yet we hear of journalists and bloggers still being detained and tortured. This case is a test of whether Uzbekistan’s human rights situation is really improving or not,” Brigitte Dufour, director of International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR), said in the rights groups’ statement.

For my earlier posts on Uzbekistan, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/uzbekistan/

https://www.rferl.org/a/uzbekistan-12-rights-watchdogs-urge-tashkent-to-release-journalist-others/29039260.html

https://eurasianet.org/node/84971

https://www.ft.com/content/6c37419c-0cbf-11e8-8eb7-42f857ea9f09

Enough break-ins is enough say Ugandan human rights defenders

February 12, 2018

I wrote earlier about the suspiciously high rate of break-ins in the human rights community in Kampala [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/06/14/uganda-ngo-offices-regularly-ransacked-coincidence/]. The Ugandan Observer of 12 February writes: “Angry human rights workers camp at Old Kampala police

Police has called for calm and patience from furious staff of human rights awareness and promotion forum-Uganda (HRAPF), who’d staged a protest at Old Kampala police station following a second break-in into their offices last week. Nearly two years after the first break-in on May 22, 2016 – leading to the brutal murder of the security guard on duty Emmanuel Arituha; last week on February 9, HRAPF offices in Kampala were again broken into by unknown assailants.

Some of HRAPF staff and partners in a meeting with police station DPC

Armed with placards, HRAPF staff camped at Old Kampala police station to demand for the immediate conclusion of the investigations into the now rampant breaking into NGO offices. Following a meeting with senior police officials at the station, police acknowledged the need for quicker investigations and promised to provide armed guards to the NGO until the investigations are concluded. For the first break-in investigations, police officials reportedly said the file had been called to the CIID headquarters but will be recalled to the station to conclude investigations. 

A matrix organised by the by National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders Uganda (NCHRDU), shows that at least 24 premises of Non-governmental organisations and civil societies have been broken into since 2012.

…..

Organisations such as the Uganda Land Alliance, the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, the Legal Aid Service Providers Network, Akina Mama Wa Afrika and the Anti-Corruption Coalition have suffered break-ins in similar fashion and, despite timely reports to the police on all occasions, investigations have been unsatisfactory and the follow up insufficient.

This is the latest in a series of attacks against civil society organisations which, regardless of the motivations of the assailants, points to the increasing lack of protection provided to human rights defenders in Uganda, said Jjuuko.

http://observer.ug/news/headlines/56884-angry-human-rights-workers-camp-at-old-kampala-police.html

https://76crimes.com/2018/02/09/unchecked-criminals-hit-ugandan-civic-groups/

The saga of the “anti-NGO” committee in the UN continues

February 9, 2018

This blog has several times paid attention to the rather weird situation that the UN “NGO Committee” (at NY level) has a rather negative attitude towards the very NGOs that it is supposed to assist. See e.g.:

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/06/01/ngo-committee-of-the-un-shows-its-bizarre-bias-against-human-rights-ngos/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/05/04/ishr-starts-campaign-to-monitor-committee-that-throttles-ngo-access-to-the-un/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/02/08/un-committee-on-ngos-denies-ngo-the-right-to-speak/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/06/07/uns-ngo-committee-seems-not-very-fond-of-ngos/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/05/04/jean-daniel-vigny-hopes-to-improve-ngo-participation-at-the-un/

Now, on 29 January 2018, the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) came out with the video above as well as the following statement:

A group of regional and international human rights NGOs was blocked from making a statement at the UN NGO Committee session today.  Despite a precedent set two years ago for the delivery of a general statement, all requests since have been refused.  Read here the NGOs’ call for leadership and reform:

Today a group of NGOs sought to deliver a general statement  urging the Committee to embrace the principles of transparency, accountability and accessibility in its work to ensure its practice is fair, expeditious and apolitical. The ECOSOC NGO Committee reviews applications for accreditation, providing a gateway for NGOs into the UN.  It has been much criticised – by States, UN officials and NGOs – for practices including repeated questioning of applicants and multiple deferrals of applications for no good reason. The NGOs’ attempt to speak was blocked.

ISHR along with Amnesty International, Civicus, Conectas Diretos Humanos, Human Rights Watch, Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, International Commission of Jurists and Outright Action International came with two key calls for Committee and observer States, related to participation and membership.

1/  The NGO Committee must provide for remote participation by accredited NGOs:

ECOSOC recently requested the NGO Committee to institute regular meetings with accredited NGOs in regard to the ‘evolving relationship’ between NGOs and the UN. Despite the fact that these have been required since 1996, the meeting scheduled to take place in the next months, will be the first. The NGOs urge that provision be made for remote participation by accredited NGOs unable to travel to New York for the meeting. ‘Clearly, access to UN conversations should not be limited to those who have resources to travel to New York or Geneva or other major UN hubs.  A diversity of voices should be heard,’ they note.  ‘We hope that States will ensure that the principle of accessibility to UN processes will be applied when defining working methods for the upcoming meeting.’

2/  States with good records on key freedoms should stand for membership of Committee:

Safeguarding civil society space at the UN is an essential component in the struggle to protect civil society space globally.  With this in mind, the NGOs call on all States with a commitment to defending the work of civil society to put themselves forward as candidates for the elections to the Committee in April. ‘Action to defend civil society space at the UN starts here at this very Committee’, say the NGOs.

Uruguay invokes ‘right to be heard’ as statement is blocked:

In response to China and Russia’s objections to the presentation of the NGO statement, Uruguay spoke forcefully in favour of hearing from civil society.  Opposition to the NGOs’ ‘right to be heard’ went against the principle of transparency in Committee practice, Uruguay said.  It also represented a step back by a Committee whose very mandate speaks to strengthening links between NGOs and the UN system.

Through their statement, civil society could provide insights that contribute to improving the work of the Committee,’  Uruguay noted. Hearing the statement ‘would allow the Committee to understand civil society’s ideas, experiences and expectations.’ The EU, UK and US also made statements of support.  These were not enough to overcome the opposition.

As we were not permitted to deliver our statement to the Committee today, we shall now request a written version be circulated to all ECOSOC members,‘ said ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw, reflecting on the morning’s events. ‘We shall also look into ways to ensuring NGOs can make general statements at the Committee in future.

https://www.ishr.ch/news/ngo-committee-ngos-blocked-delivering-statement

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.

New coalition of Human Rights Defenders in the Philippines tries to deal with killings

November 4, 2017

Read the rest of this entry »

Civil society participation at the UN subject of ISHR event on 17 July

July 9, 2017

Civil society participation at the UN is essential to ensure the relevance and value of debates and decisions at the international level along with the implementation of UN resolutions and recommendations on the ground. The International Service for Human Rights is organizing an interactive event to discuss NGO engagement with UN bodies and processes as well as opportunities and imperatives for reform. Monday 17 July, 11:30 – 13:00Room XXIV, Palais des Nations, Geneva

ISHR will also launch a brand new handbook, the ‘Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly: A Practical Guide for NGOs’. Copies of the updated version of the ‘Practical Guide to the UN Committee on NGOs’ will also be available at the event.

Panelists
Dianela Pi, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Uruguayan Mission to the UN in Geneva
Iniyan Ilango, FORUM-ASIA
Eleanor Openshaw, International Service for Human Rights
Moderator

• Tanya Bennett, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Australian Mission to the UN in Geneva

Concluding remarks:
• Peggy Hicks, OHCHR

[Attendance with UNOG pass only. If you are a member of civil society interested in attending but don’t have a UNOG pass, please contact information@ishr.ch.]

Human Rights Defenders issues on the agenda of the next 35th Human Rights Council

June 1, 2017

The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) in Geneva has published again its timely alert to the next Session of the UN Human Rights Council, from 6 to 23 June 2017. 

It is a rich document [https://www.ishr.ch/news/human-rights-council-key-issues-agenda-35th-session-june] and I list here only the items most directly related to Human Rights Defenders:

Thematic areas of interest:

Sexual orientation and gender identity

The first annual report of the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity will be presented between 9:00 and 12:00am on Tuesday 6 June. Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Uruguay will organise an event on Advancing human rights protection and ending violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity on 9 June from 11:30-13:00 in Room IX.

Reprisals

In a recent letter to the President of the Human Rights Council, ISHR called for urgent attention to be given to cases of reprisals which have not been followed up by the Human Rights Council. One of the most serious instances of reprisal is against Chinese human rights defender Cao Shunli, who died in detention on 14 March 2014 after being detained for her engagement in UN human rights mechanisms. Despite her case being communicated with the Bureau during the three years following her death, there has been no independent investigation or adequate response. ISHR looks forward to consolidating the advances made by the recent appointment of Assistant Secretary General Andrew Gilmour to receive, consider and respond to allegations of reprisals. Acts of intimidation and reprisal against human rights defenders seeking to cooperate with the UN constitute violations of international human rights law and undermine the human rights system. The Human Rights Council should respond with appropriate gravity to reprisals and follow-up past cases during its 35th session. [for my many posts on reprisals see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/]

Business and human rights

The mandate of the Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises will be up for renewal during the session. The report of the Working Group will be considered by the Council, in addition to reports of country missions to Mexico and the Republic of Korea.

The Working Group will also present a study on best practices and how to improve the effectiveness of cross-border cooperation between States with respect to law enforcement on the issue of business and human rights, and a report on public procurement (not yet available at time of writing). Over the past three years, the Working Group has increasingly recognised the role of human rights defenders in ensuring business respect for human rights, and the specific challenges faced by defenders working on business and human rights issues, as exemplified by a dedicated workshop on this topic during its last session in May 2017. Since the last renewal of the mandate in 2014, the Working Group has also made increasing use of its ability to confront States and companies with allegations of human rights violations. From just 16 such communications in 2014 the Working Group has increased to 21 in 2015 and 42 in 2016. Both of these trends should be recognised and encouraged by the resolution renewing the mandate of the Working Group.

Women human rights defenders and women’s rights

The annual full day discussion on the human rights of women will take place on Tuesday 13 June from 9:00 to 12:00 and from 15:00 to 18:00. It will focus on engaging men and boys in responding to and preventing violence against women and girls. Engaging with men and boys to combat violence and discrimination against women and girls is essential to efforts to prevent and eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence against them. This should include challenging the harmful gender stereotypes and negative social norms, attitudes and behaviours that underlie and perpetuate such violence.  Equally, it is important that the Council’s discussions and resolutions in this area  recognise the critical role of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) and organisations led by women and girls as rights holders and agents of change. They should be involved and consulted in the planning, design, implementation and monitoring of legislation, policies and programmes, including programs aimed at engaging men and boys.

ISHR will support joint advocacy on the resolutions on violence against women and discrimination against women, and on the ‘protection of the family’. The latter resolution will focus on ‘the rights of older persons in the context of family.’ States must ensure that this resolution upholds universal principles of human rights based on equality and non-discrimination. Many household structures and family forms exist across the world, facing particular situations and challenges that require tailored policy responses…

Cooperation of States with Special Procedures

There remains a consistent lack of State cooperation with Special Procedures, as demonstrated by the number of communications sent by the experts that have not received a State response, recorded in the Joint Communications Report published at every session of the Human Rights Council. ISHR welcomes recent developments in making communications more accessible, including the searchable database of communications, but continues to express concern that access to information regarding specific cases and State replies is still hard to find for victims and authors. [see my post from many years ago: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140603192912-22083774–crime-should-not-pay-in-the-area-of-international-human-rights]

Country specific developments

China: The Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Prof Philip Alston, will present the report from his country visit to China. Prof Alston was tailed by State security and was prevented from meeting with civil society during his visit. As a result, the country report stresses the necessity of civil society in holding the Chinese Government accountable to human rights standards. The country visit was further undermined by reprisals. Following a meeting with Prof Alston, disbarred human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong disappeared. His family was informed of his detention nearly one month later. Despite UN experts calling for an investigation into his disappearance, Jiang remains in ‘residential surveillance in a designated location’. Prof Alston’s report will be a key opportunity to discuss the ongoing crackdown on human rights defenders and concerns the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for civil society in China.  [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/jiang-tianyong/]

Burundi The commission of inquiry on Burundi will present an oral update on 14 and 15 June. ISHR remains concerned by consistent and deliberate lack of cooperation with human rights mechanisms in Burundi. The country continues to refuse to cooperate with UN Human Rights Council’s Independent Experts and despite the international community’s efforts to mitigate a human rights crisis, the situation continues to deteriorate. ISHR calls on the Burundian authorities to cease attacks against journalists and defenders and to cooperate with the UN commission of inquiry and implement the recommendations from both UN and African Commission reports.  [see inter alia: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/02/08/what-is-burundi-doing-in-the-un-human-rights-council/]

Other country situations where human rights defenders will surely come up: 

  • The interactive dialogue on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), from 12:00 to 15:00 on Tuesday 20 June.
  • The interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on Côte d’Ivoire will take place from 9:00 to 12:00 on Tuesday 20 June.
  • ISHR has joined a coalition of civil society organisations in urging State delegations to the Human Rights Council to express concern about the ongoing human rights crisis in Ethiopia.

Council programme, appointments and resolutions

Organisational meeting. The President of the Human Rights Council once again urged States to combat reprisals during the session. ‘As part of a constructive working atmosphere, it is in our common interest to have a climate of trust and security, whereby States ensure the appropriate protection against any acts of intimidation or reprisals against individuals and groups that cooperate or have cooperated with the United Nations, their representative and human rights mechanisms,’ he stated.

Appointment of mandate holders The President of the Human Rights Council has proposed candidates for the following four vacancies of mandate holders to be filled at this session:

  1. Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity [HRC resolution 26/6]
  2. Special Rapporteur on minority issues [HRC resolutions 25/5 and 34/6]
  3. Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants [HRC resolution 26/19]
  4. Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism [HRC resolution 31/3]

Panel discussions

During each Council session, panel discussions are held to provide member States and NGOs opportunities to hear from subject-matter experts and raise questions. Among the 4 panel discussions scheduled for this session:

Resolutions to be presented to the Council’s 35th session

At the organisational meeting on 22 May 2017 the following resolutions were announced (States sponsoring the resolution in brackets):

  • Resolution for the extension of the mandate on the Working Group on business and human rights (Norway and core group of Russia, Argentina and Ghana)
  • Resolution on accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women (Canada)
  • Resolution on discrimination against women (Colombia, Mexico)
  • Resolution on the protection of the human rights of migrants (Mexico)
  • Resolution on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism (Mexico)
  • Resolution on the human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic (France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, UK and USA )
  • Resolution on the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, jurors and assessors, and the independence of lawyers (Australia, Botswana, the Maldives, Mexico, Thailand, Hungary)
  • Resolution for renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Independence and impartiality of the judiciary, jurors and assessors, and the independence of lawyers (Hungary)
  • Resolution for the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (Sweden)
  • Resolution for the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus(EU)
  • Resolution for the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights (France, Albania, Chile, Morocco, Senegal, Romania, Philippines, Peru)

For the the guide to the 34th session see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/24/34th-human-rights-council-ishr-guide-to-key-issues-for-human-rights-defenders/

 

NGOs jointly address (again) the human rights crisis in Ethiopia

May 26, 2017

preview
They draw attention to persistent and grave violations of human rights in Ethiopia and the pressing need to support the establishment of an independent, impartial and international investigation into atrocities committed by security forces to suppress peaceful protests and independent dissent. And they ask countries to prioritise and address through joint statements the ongoing human rights crisis in Ethiopia at the upcoming UN Human Rights Council from 6 – 23 June 2017. [for last year’s call see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/09/un-human-rights-council-urged-to-address-situation-in-ethiopia/]

In the wake of unprecedented, mass protests that erupted in November 2015 in Oromia, Amhara, and the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples (SNNPR) regional states, Ethiopian authorities routinely responded to legitimate and largely peaceful expressions of dissent with excessive and unnecessary force. As a result, over 800 protesters have been killed, thousands of political activists, human rights defenders, journalists and protesters have been arrested, and in October 2016, the Ethiopian Government declared a six-month nationwide State of Emergency, that was extended for an additional four months on 30 March 2017 after some restrictions were lifted.

The State of Emergency directives give sweeping powers to a Command Post, which has been appointed by the House of People’s Representatives to enforce the decree, including the suspension of fundamental and non-derogable rights protected by the Ethiopian Constitution, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and other international human rights treaties to which Ethiopia is party. More information on the human rights violations occurring under the current State of Emergency is included in the Annex at the end of this letter.

Lack of independent investigations

Few effective avenues to pursue accountability for abuses exist in Ethiopia, given the lack of independence of the judiciary – the ruling EPRDF coalition and allied parties control all 547 seats in Parliament.

Ethiopia’s National Human Rights Commission, which has a mandate to investigate rights violations, concluded in its June 2016 oral report to Parliament that the lethal force used by security forces in Oromia was proportionate to the risk they faced from the protesters. The written Amharic version of the report was only recently made public, and there are long-standing concerns about the impartiality and research methodology of the Commission. On 18 April 2017, the Commission submitted its second oral report to Parliament on the protests, which found that 669 people were killed, including 63 members of the security forces, and concluded that security forces had taken “proportionate measures in most areas.” Both reports are in stark contrast with the findings of other national and international organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions has rated the Commission as B, meaning the latter has failed to meet fully the Paris Principles.

Refusal to cooperate with regional and international mechanisms

In response to the recent crackdown, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has called for “access for independent observers to the country to assess the human rights situation”, and recently renewed his call for access to the country during a visit to the capital, Addis Ababa. Ethiopia’s government, however, has rejected the call, citing its own investigation conducted by its Commission. UN Special Procedures have also made similar calls.

In November 2016, the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights adopted a resolution calling for an international, independent, and impartial investigation into allegations of the use of excessive and unnecessary lethal force by security forces to disperse and suppress peaceful protests. Recent European parliament and US Congressional resolutions have also called for independent investigations. The Ethiopian embassy in Belgium dismissed the European Parliament’s resolution citing its own Commission’s investigations into the protests.

As a member of the UN HRC, Ethiopia has an obligation to “uphold the highest standards” of human rights, and “fully cooperate” with the Council and its mechanisms (GA Resolution 60/251, OP 9), yet there are outstanding requests for access from Special Procedures, including from the special rapporteurs on torture, freedom of opinion and expression, and peaceful assembly, among others.

The letter urges Ethiopia to:

  1. urgently allow access to an international, thorough, independent, impartial and transparent investigation into all of the deaths resulting from alleged excessive use of force by the security forces, and other violations of human rights in the context of the protests;
  2. respond favourably to country visit requests by UN Special Procedures,
  3. immediately and unconditionally release journalists, human rights defenders, political opposition leaders and members as well as protesters arbitrarily detained during and in the aftermath of the protests;
  4. ensure that those responsible for human rights violations are prosecuted in proceedings which comply with international law and standards on fair trials; and
  5. fully comply with its international legal obligations and commitments including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and its own Constitution.

Download PDF (401.12 KB)

The Ethiopian Zone 9 bloggers were finalists for the 2016 MEA, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/15/martin-ennals-award-2016-relive-the-ceremony-in-13-minutes-or-in-full/ 

Source: Joint NGO Letter Addressing the Pervasive Human Rights Crisis in Ethiopia – Ethiopia | ReliefWeb

ProtectDefenders.eu seeks Head of Secretariat of its office in Brussels

May 8, 2017

ProtectDefenders.eu is the EU Human Rights Defenders mechanism, established to protect Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) at high risk and facing the most difficult situations worldwide. The mechanism is implemented by a Consortium of 12 international NGOs with the support of the European Commission. The EU HRD mechanism began its operations on 1st October 2015 for a duration of 36 months. ProtectDefenders.eu is seeking to recruit an experienced manager (Head of Secretariat – HoS) to run the Secretariat of the mechanism in Brussels and to ensure coordination of the project implementation and all related financial and narrative reporting.

The mission of ProtectDefenders.eu is to:

  • operate a permanent and rapid response mechanism to provide emergency support and material assistance to human rights defenders in danger;
  • manage a support programme of temporary relocation for human rights defenders at risk to relocate inside their country, within their region or abroad in case of urgent threat;
  • support and coordinate an exchange platform for organisations and stakeholders working on temporary relocation for human rights defenders including through the EU Temporary Relocation Platform;
  • provide training, support and capacity-building to human rights defenders and local organizations;
  • monitor the situation of human rights defenders and advocate for a protection agenda for Human Rights Defenders at local, regional and international level;
  • promote coordination between organizations dedicated to support for human rights defenders, EU institutions and other relevant actors.

For earlier posts on this entity: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/protectdefenders-eu/ Read the rest of this entry »