Posts Tagged ‘NGOs’

ECOSOC plenary to finally break deadlock on recognition of NGOs?

December 7, 2022

On 6 December 2022 Louis Charbonneau of Human Rights Watch wrote about the need to unblock the accreditation of NGOs which are stuck in the NGO Committee of ECOSOC. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/02/14/towards-a-fairer-selection-of-ngos-to-participate-in-the-un-human-rights-debate/ These applications have been stuck in limbo due to several countries including China, Russia, and India obstructing the accreditation process.

On December 7, ECOSOC’s 54 members will vote on whether to grant UN consultative status to the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Coptic Solidarity, the Arab-European Center of Human Rights and International Law, the Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice, the World Union of Cossack Atamans, Man and Law, and World Without Genocide. These nine groups are among hundreds whose applications were on hold due to interminable questioning from some members of the UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (the “NGO committee”). UN accreditation gives organizations access to many UN buildings, officials, and agencies – and to formally participate in numerous UN activities.

At its September session, the NGO committee rejected the nine groups’ accreditation applications and deferred action on 319 other organizations’ applications.

India has been instrumental in blocking IDSN, which advocates for the elimination of caste discrimination and other forms of discrimination around the world. According to the International Service for Human Rights, IDSN’s application was deferred for 15 years – a record for blocking an organization. The IDSN says it received over 100 questions from the committee, and despite responding promptly to all of them, was always deferred.

The only way out of this limbo is if individual member countries rescue the applications from the NGO committee and force a vote in an ECOSOC plenary meeting, where civil society groups stand a better chance of success. That is what will happen on December 7.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/12/06/un-member-countries-should-accredit-blocked-human-rights-groups

Joint statement NGOs on 77th GA Third Committee

November 23, 2022

14 NGOs that closely follow and engage with the Third Committee have joined together to publish a joint statement on outcomes of this 77th session. The undersigned civil society organisations mark the conclusion of the UN General Assembly’s (GA) 77th Third Committee session with the following observations on some thematic and country-specific resolutions considered at this session. We urge all States to implement the commitments they have made in the resolutions discussed below to their full extent.

  • Joint statements

We welcome the joint statement on the human rights situation in Xinjiang, China delivered by Canada on behalf of a cross-regional group of 50 countries. This statement echoes the UN Human Rights Office’s independent, objective analysis and its findings which the UN’s human rights office determined may amount to crimes against humanity, and urges China to implement that report’s recommendations, in particular on enforced disappearance. There was an increase in State support compared to last year, signalling hope for future initiatives to debate the situation and support victims to secure accountability. Nonetheless, there is more work to ensure support from member states, in the EU and globally, as well as from Muslim-majority countries. 

We welcome the joint statement on reprisals led by Ireland and joined by a cross-regional group of countries, calling on all States and the UN to prevent, respond to, and ensure accountability for cases of intimidation and reprisals against those who engage or seek to engage with the UN. We welcome that 80 States continued to sign on to the statement but urge more States to sign on to future such statements. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/11/30/75-countries-join-statement-on-reprisals-at-the-third-committee-but-more-needed/

We welcome a resolution on the right to privacy in the digital age. The resolution integrates much of the progressive language seen in the most recent Human Rights Council version of the resolution, contending with new and persisting challenges for the right to privacy worldwide, with a particular focus on the impact on human rights defenders and journalists. However, the resolution missed an opportunity to make strong recommendations on the proliferation of private surveillance technologies, including spyware, which global experts are calling to ban or suspend through a moratorium. We call on future resolutions to contain stronger language on biometric technologies, particularly recognising that these technologies should never be used for mass surveillance of public spaces. 

We welcome the adoption of the resolution on Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions by a vote which aims to uphold the right to life, liberty and security and acknowledges that impunity is a major contributor to executions. We welcome the new references to freedom of religion or belief, new technologies, institutions as places of custody, as well as strengthened language on the role of civil society and human rights defenders in the protection against arbitrary deprivation of life. We also welcome that the resolution once again highlighted the targeting (including killing) of specific groups of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, indigenous communities, human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists or demonstrators, or because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Critically, we welcome the rejection by a vote of an oral amendment attempting to remove the reference to ‘sexual orientation and gender identity’ in that listing.

We welcome support by an overwhelming majority of States for the resolution on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty proposed by Australia and Costa Rica (on behalf of an Inter-Regional Task Force of States). A record number of 126 States voted in favour of the text (including Ghana, Liberia and Myanmar, after abstaining in the GA plenary in 2020), while 37 voted against and 24 abstained. The text reiterates calls made in previous resolutions, including to halt executions with the view to abolishing the death penalty. It also includes additions on the importance of transparency and access to information regarding the use of the death penalty and criminal prosecutions to identify discriminatory practices, the negative impact on the rights of children and youth whose parental caregivers face the death penalty, the need to ensure that trial leading to imposition of the death penalty complies with fair trial and non-discrimination guarantees, ensuring the death penalty is not applied on the basis of laws targeting individuals for exercising their human rights, the need to improve conditions in detention for those on trial for capital crimes or on death row, ensuring respect for their inherent dignity, and complying with international standards, in evaluating, promoting, protecting and improving their physical and mental health.  

We welcome the adoption of the resolution on Inclusive development for and with persons with disabilities, that newly calls for leadership and participation of persons with disabilities in disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and other climate change policies and programmes, as well as affordable and accessible internet, and continues to emphasize non-discrimination, accessibility and inclusion in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, including for women and girls with disabilities. In particular, we welcome the request for the Secretary-General to report on participation of persons with disabilities in COVID-19 response and recovery, and on the implementation of the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy. We regret that despite wide support, language supporting the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of sexual and reproductive health of persons with disabilities, on an equal basis with others, was not included in the final resolution.

We welcome the adoption by consensus of the resolution on the Human rights treaty body system. We regret that States were not able to ‘welcome’, but merely ‘take note’ of the biennial report by the UN Secretary-General on the state of the treaty body system and the report of the most recent meeting of treaty body chairpersons. We urge all States to follow through with their reaffirmation in the resolution of the formula contained in General Assembly resolution 68/268, and allocate corresponding financial and human resources in the Fifth Committee that the treaty bodies require to function effectively.

Gender Issues

We welcome the adoption by consensus of the resolution on Child, Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM) presented by Canada and Zambia, and for the first time co-sponsored by 125 States, including several countries with high CEFM prevalence. We welcome new references to multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, including in the context of climate change, conflict and poverty. We particularly welcome the call to Member States to address the root causes of gender inequality, gender stereotypes and negative social norms that underlie CEFM and for participatory and adequately funded measures to address the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 including school closures; the digital divide; uninterrupted access and funding for sexual and reproductive health-care services; adolescent-centered services; and redistribution of unpaid care and domestic work. We regret that despite significant support, references to comprehensive sexuality education and intimate partner violence were omitted. 

The resolution on Intensification of efforts to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, presented by Netherlands and France, was adopted by a vote for the second time. We welcome the text, focused this year on eliminating gender stereotypes and negative social norms. It included commitments to prevent and eliminate violence against all women, including intimate partner violence, femicide, commitments to protect, respect and fulfill all human rights, including sexual reproductive health and reproductive rights; recognize challenges and obstacles to eliminating discriminatory attitudes perpetuating multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination against women and girls; text on migrant and indigenous women and girls, racism, xenophobia, women human rights defenders, promoting young women and adolescents’ participation and leadership in decision making positions as well as full, effective, equal and meaningful participation of all women in all their diversity. Although we are encouraged by the rejection of 9 amendments presented by Guatemala, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, we regret that consensus was not achieved on a number of important commitments, that have been previously agreed, aiming to prevent and eliminate gender stereotypes and negative social norms and take multisectoral, effective and gender-responsive measures to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence. We are also dismayed that a vote was called on the reference to the Generation Equality Forum, an initiative with wide support from diverse stakeholders globally.

We welcome the adoption of the resolution on Intensifying global efforts for the elimination of female genital mutilation (FGM) presented by Burkina Faso (on behalf of African Group) which has not been fully opened up since 2018. The resolution failed to strengthen the most pertinent and pressing areas for preventing and eliminating FGM, especially in relation to health outcomes for girls, adolescents and women including the lack of inclusion on sexual and reproductive health, comprehensive sexuality education and  multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination. Despite this, we welcome language on the cross-border and transnational practice of FGM, an important component of FGM prevention and elimination.

The resolution on Intensifying efforts to end obstetric fistula presented by Senegal (on behalf of African Group) was a  technical rollover (with no substantive changes to the respective 2018 and 2020 texts) and adopted by consensus. Given the devastating impact of Obstetric fistula on women and girls, and the exacerbation of root causes due to climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, we are disappointed about the missed opportunity to outline global, regional and national level efforts to end this tragedy by 2030, an integral component of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. 

We welcome the adoption of the resolution on Trafficking in women and girls presented by the Philippines, which includes references to access to justice for victims, government commitments to eliminate, prevent and respond to all forms of violence against women and girls including trafficking, and the linkage between climate change and trafficking. While encouraged that the text maintained critical elements from previous years, we regret that it did not include: progressive references to gender transformative, survivor, victim-centred and trauma-informed approaches to anti-trafficking efforts; references to women and girls in all their diversity; comprehensive sexuality education; and recognition of the importance of full, equal and meaningful participation of women and girls in addressing trafficking. 

Country Situations

We welcome the adoption of the resolution on the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran, with 50 cosponsors by a vote of 79 (80) votes in favour (Panama voted after votes were locked), 28 against and 68 abstentions. We welcome new references expressing concern on the violent enforcement of the hijab and chastity law by the Iranian morality police, ‘widespread use of force against non-violent protestors’, the proposed bill on the use of firearms during protests, and calls to release persons participating in peaceful protests, to address poor conditions of prisons, and to implement the amendment to the Nationality Law, which gives Iranian women married to foreign nationals the right to request Iranian citizenship for their children under 18. We also welcome calls to end violations of the rights to freedom of expression and opinion including internet disruption practices, and the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief against recognized and unrecognised religious minorities, particularly Baha’is being subject to increased persecution, arrest, destruction and confiscation of property.  See more: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/11/23/un-human-rights-council-holds-special-session-on-iran-on-24-november/

We welcome the resolution on the situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic, cosponsored by 32 Member States. The resolution references the wide range of human rights violations and abuses perpetrated in Syria, many of which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. We particularly welcome the decision to take further actions on the issue of missing people in Syria, based on the SG’s recommendation in his report on the matter, and to include survivors and their families throughout the process. We call upon the Member States to implement the SG’s recommendation by establishing an International Mechanism to reveal the fate and whereabouts of the missing persons in Syria without further delay.  

We regret that the resolution on the situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar, which was adopted by consensus, does not reiterate key elements of the 2021 UNGA resolution which followed the military coup in February 2021. We regret that it fails to comprehensively address, condemn, and call for an end to ongoing and escalating human rights violations by the military, as described in detail by the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar. However, we acknowledge that language regarding the ongoing commission of rights violations against and protection needs of the Rohingya has been retained, and the expression of solidarity with the Rohingya made by Myanmar’s Permanent Representative.

We welcome the consensus adoption of the resolution on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). We welcome in particular the retention of a call for the UN Security Council to resume discussions on the human rights situation in the DPRK, supplemented with a call for the OHCHR to brief it. The Security Council held formal meetings annually on the human rights situation in the country in December from 2014-2017, however in December 2020 and 2021, the subject was discussed in closed consultations under ‘Any other Business’.

We welcome the adoption of the resolution on Human rights in the temporarily occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine. We welcome in particular the resolution’s condemnation of the ‘unprecedented wave’ of violations that Russian forces have committed in Crimea following the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, including  arbitrary detention, forcible transfers and enforced disappearances. We also welcome the call on Russia to cease violations and abuses including those within the framework of so-called filtration procedures and forcible transfers or deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia, and to lift discriminatory regulatory barriers prohibiting or limiting the activities of religious groups.

  • Civil society access

While we welcome the action by some States to welcome civil society organisations to join informals as observers this session, it was deeply disappointing that only a few States extended this invitation. This year, civil society again faced additional challenges in even keeping abreast of information regarding informal negotiations as information on informals taking place was once again not shared in the UN journal as it previously was. This year this information was only published on the e-deleGATE platform to which civil society has no access. These critical barriers to civil society access to Third Committee negotiations, deprive the Committee of civil society’s technical expertise and mean that its outcomes fail to leverage the contributions of a crucial stakeholder in promoting the implementation of human rights.

Access Now 

Amnesty International

Association for Progressive Communications 

Center for Reproductive Rights

Fòs Feminista, International Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice

Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

Global Justice Centre

Human Rights in China

Human Rights Watch

International Disability Alliance

International Service for Human Rights

Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights

Outright Action International

Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM)

https://ishr.ch/latest-updates/joint-civil-society-statement-on-the-outcomes-of-unga-77-third-committee/

Independent Commission of Inquiry hears Palestinian complaints

November 9, 2022
Members of the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry attend a press briefing at the UN headquarters in New York

Members of the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory and in Israel, Navanethem Pillay, Miloon Kothari and Chris Sidoti attend a press briefing at the United Nations headquarters in New York, U.S., October 27, 2022. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/File Photo

On 7 November 2022 Emma Farge reported for Reuters how a Palestinian human rights group told a U.N. panel on Monday 7 November it had been subject to threats and “mafia methods” during a campaign of harassment organised by Israel to silence groups documenting alleged Israeli rights violations.

The independent Commission of Inquiry, established by the Human Rights Council, the U.N. top human rights body, last year, plans five days of hearings which it says will be impartial and examine the allegations of both Israelis and Palestinians. Israel dismissed the process overseen by the panel as a sham while it declined comment on the specific allegations.

In the opening session, the commission heard from representatives of Palestinian organisations shuttered by Israel in August and designated as “terrorist” entities. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/10/23/assault-by-israel-on-palestinian-human-rights-ngos/

Shawan Jabarin, General Director of human rights group Al-Haq, denied the terrorism charge and called the closure an “arbitrary decision“, saying Israeli security forces had used “mafia methods” against it in a years-long harassment campaign. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2011/11/30/israel-refuses-to-let-hrd-shawan-jabarin-travel-to-receive-award-in-denmark/

They used all means, I can say. They used financial means; they used a smear campaign; they used threats,” he said, saying his office was sealed with a metal door on Aug. 18.

Asked to detail the threats mentioned to the panel, Jabarin told Reuters after the hearing that he had received a phone call from somebody he identified as being from “Shabak”, or the Israel Security Agency, two days after the raid. They threatened him with detention, interrogation or “other means” if he continued his work, he added.

https://www.reuters.com/world/un-hearings-probing-alleged-israeli-rights-abuses-open-geneva-2022-11-07/

Report on the 51st session of the Human Rights Council

October 14, 2022

The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) and 12 other NGOs gave a joint assessment of the 51st session of the Human Rights Council which was held from Monday 12 September to Friday 7 October 2022. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/09/20/human-rights-defenders-at-the-51st-session-of-the-un-human-rights-council/]

We welcome that for the first time, the Council heard from two representatives of directly impacted communities from the podium in the enhanced interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner and the International Independent Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in Law Enforcement: Collette Flanagan of Mothers against Police Brutality (MAPB) whose son was killed by United States‘ police in 2013; and Jurema Werneck, director of Amnesty International in Brazil. As highlighted in the HC’s report, States are continuing to deny the existence and impact of systemic racism, especially institutional racism. Our view is that States actively protect the interests of police institutions in order to maintain the status quo which is designed to oppress Africans and people of African descent.  We call on States to fully implement the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA), to fully cooperate with the International Independent Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in the context of Law Enforcement including accepting country visits, implement the recommendations from their report and the High Commissioner’s Agenda towards Transformative Change for Racial justice and Equality.

We welcome the ‘from rhetoric to reality: a global call for concrete action against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance’ resolution. The resolution, interalia,  strongly condemns the discriminatory treatment, unlawful deportations, excessive use of force and deaths of African migrants and migrants of African descent, including refugees and asylum-seekers, at the hands of law enforcement officials engaged in migration and border governance. It calls on States to ensure accountability and reparations for human rights violations at borders and to adopt a racial justice approach, including by adopting policies to address structural racism in the management of international migration. It reiterates that the Transatlantic Trade in Enslaved Africans and colonialism were grave violations of international law that require States to make reparations proportionate to the harms committed and to ensure that structures in the society that are perpetuating the injustices of the past are transformed, including law enforcement and administration of justice and to dispense reparatory justice to remedy historical racial injustices…..

We welcome the resolution on the “human rights implications of new and emerging technologies in the military domain” and its request for a study examining these implications. The adoption of the resolution adds to the growing attention that UN human rights mechanisms are paying to the negative human rights impacts of arms, including new technologies that can be weaponised.  It is undoubtable that concerns relating to the military domain should not be seen as only relevant to disarmament fora. In response to comments from some States on whether international humanitarian law (IHL) falls within the remit of HRC, we recall that international human rights law and IHL are complementary and mutually reinforcing, as the HRC itself has reiterated on several occasions in past resolutions. We welcome the inclusion of paragraph on the responsibility to respect human rights of business enterprises, and in this regard, we recall the Information Note by the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights on the Arms Industry (“Responsible business conduct in the arms sector: Ensuring business practice in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights”) published in August 2022. While we welcome the reference in the resolution to the role of human rights defenders and civil society organisations in raising awareness about the human rights impacts of the use of new and emerging technologies in the military domain, we regret that it does not include a specific mention of the risks that the use of these technologies can pose for human rights defenders and civil society organisations.

We welcome the resolution on arbitrary detention and especially the inclusion of a new paragraph on the necessity to fully implement the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. The resolution recognises the role of HRDs, peaceful protesters, journalists and media workers in safeguarding the prohibition of arbitrary deprivation of liberty and calls upon States to make sure that they are not arbitrarily detained as a result of their activities. We further commend the main sponsor, France, for having rejected any language that could have weakened the resolution, especially on the right to legal assistance.

We welcome the adoption of the safety of journalists resolution. It has now been a decade since the first resolution on this topic, and the HRC has since created an elaborate and robust set of international standards to protect journalists. This iteration of the resolution adds new strong commitments on multiple new and emerging issues affecting journalists, from strategic lawsuits against public participation to extraterritorial attacks. It also strengthens language on investigations into attacks against journalists, calling on authorities to exhaust lines of enquiry that determine whether such attacks are linked to their journalistic work. We now urge States to implement these commitments to their full extent.

We welcome the approval by consensus by the Council of the resolution on terrorism and human rights, that has been updated with important paragraphs related to the centrality of the rule of law and human rights to counter terrorism, international human rights obligations in transfers of terrorist suspects, profiling of individuals, detention, the right to a fair trial and other due process guarantees, the right to privacy and freedom of expression, and in relation to children rights and civil society. We regret that paragraphs stemming from security based concerns have increased even though they are unrelated to the competence of the Council to promote human rights.

We warmly welcome the adoption of the resolution on the human rights situation in the Russian Federation, mandating a Special Rapporteur on Russia for the first time. …The Russian Federation’s growing repressive policies, combined with the country’s exclusion from the Council of Europe – victims of new human rights violations committed by the Russian Federation from 17 September lost protection under the European Convention on Human Rights– and its diplomatic isolation from those States which have been supportive of human rights and civil society in Russia, have made it increasingly difficult for Russian human rights defenders, activists, and civil society organisations to engage with the international community. Russian civil society had been vocal in calling for a Special Rapporteur’s mandate, strongly believing it will help to create a bridge between the United Nations and Russian civil society and the wider general public in Russia at an acute moment of widespread domestic human rights violations, both ensuring their voice is heard at an international level, and that the United Nations can further develop its understanding and analysis of the deterioration in Russia’s domestic human rights situation and the implications that has had – and continues to have – for Russia’s foreign policy decisions.

We welcome the extension and strengthening of the OHCHR capacity to collect, consolidate, analyse and preserve evidence and information and to develop strategies for future accountability, as well as to extend the mandate for enhanced monitoring and reporting by the OHCHR on Sri Lanka. Given the complete lack of any credible avenues for accountability at the national level, the OHCHR’s Sri Lanka Accountability Project remains the only hope of justice, more than thirteen years after the war, for thousands of victims of war time atrocities and their families.

We welcome the UN Secretary General’s report on missing people in Syria; and urge States to support and implement the report’s findings, in line with resolution A/HRC/51/L.18 which underscored “the report’s finding that any measure towards addressing the continuing tragedy of missing persons in the Syrian Arab Republic requires a coherent and holistic approach going beyond current efforts, which must be inclusive and centered on victims”. Addressing the issue of missing persons in Syria requires a “new international institution” mandated to clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing persons, to “work in cooperation and complementarity with existing mechanisms”, the body having “a structural element that ensures that victims, survivors and their families […] may participate in a full and meaningful manner in its operationalization and work” as recommended in the study of the Secretary General.

The Council has taken a vitally important step in renewing the mandate of the Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela and of the reporting mandate of OHCHR for a further two years. In its most recent report, A/HRC/51/43, the Fact-Finding Mission deepened its investigation of alleged crimes against humanity, making clear that alleged perpetrators remain in power. The ongoing accountability drive through the work of the Mission allied with the work of OHCHR, is key to providing victims of violations with hope for justice. It is also key to the prevention of ongoing violations, particularly in the context of upcoming elections, and of encouraging political processes that respect human rights.

We regret that the Council failed to respond adequately to several human rights situations including Afghanistan, China, Philippines, and Yemen.

We welcome the extension and strengthening of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan. However, this in no way makes up for the Council’s repeated failure to respond to the calls from Afghan human rights defenders, especially women human rights defenders, and civil society for an independent accountability mechanism with a mandate and resources to investigate the full scope of violations abuses that continue to be committed in Afghanistan by all parties and to preserve evidence of these violations for future accountability. It is particularly concerning that despite the overwhelming evidence of gross violations and abuses in Afghanistan that the Council failed to muster consensus on even the bare minimum.

We deplore that this Council was unable to endorse the proposal for a debate on Xinjiang, after the UN identified possible crimes against humanity committed by the Chinese government against Uyghurs and Turkic peoples. Dialogue is a pillar of multilateralism, and is fundamental, even on the hardest issues. Despite the leadership of the core group and all 18 States who voted in favour, this Council looked the other way. We strongly condemn the 19 countries who blocked this proposal, and regret all the abstentions that enabled it. We particularly regret that leading OIC States Indonesia and Qatar, as well as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, the UAE, Côte d’Ivoire, Mauritania, Sudan, Gabon, Cameroon and Eritrea, decided to abandon Uyghurs and Muslim minorities in China. We command Somalia for being the only Muslim Council member to stand up for Muslim minorities. Uyghur and international human rights groups won’t give up efforts to hold China accountable. We urgently call on current and future Council members to support efforts to prevent the continuation of atrocity crimes in Xinjiang, and uphold this Council’s credibility and moral authority. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/10/05/uyghur-issue-at-the-un-human-rights-council-will-there-be-even-a-debate/]

We are deeply disappointed that despite the High Commissioner’s clear recommendation and demands by victims and their families as well as civil society from the Philippines, the Council has failed to put forward a resolution mandating the High Commissioner to continue monitoring and reporting on the situation, allowing the Philippines to use the rhetoric of cooperation and the UN Joint Programme for Human Rights to window-dress its appalling human rights record without any tangible progress or scrutiny.

We are dismayed by an Item 10 resolution that will not allow for reporting to the HRC on the human rights situation in Yemen.   Despite a truce that now looks in danger of collapsing, the humanitarian and human rights crisis in Yemen has not ended.  …Lasting peace in Yemen requires a sustained commitment by the international community to ensure accountability and redress for the millions of victims in Yemen. We call on UN member states to give meaning to the pledges they have made and begin to work toward the establishment of an international independent investigative mechanism on Yemen.

On 10 October 2022 a Blog post of the Universal Rights NGO gave the following quick summary of this session of the Human Rights Council

With Ms. Michelle Bachelet’s mandate as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights having come to an end on 31 August 2022, and the incoming UN High Commissioner, Mr. Volker Türk, not taking up his official functions until 17 October 2022, Ms. Nada Al-Nashif, opened, as Acting High Commissioner, by presenting a global update on the situation of human rights around the world.

Four new Special Procedures mandate-holders were appointed to the following mandates: the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (India), the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (Colombia), the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers (United States of America), and one member of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (from Eastern European States).

9 expert members were elected to the Human Rights Council’s Advisory Committee (from Algeria, Angola, China, Qatar, Slovenia, Spain, Uruguay, Bahamas, Brazil).

42 texts (39 resolutions, one decision, and one statement by the President) were considered by the Council. This represents a 52% increase in the number of adopted texts compared to one-year prior (HRC48). Of the 41 adopted texts, 30 were adopted by consensus (73%), and 11 by a recorded vote (27%).

The Council rejected a draft decision to hold a debate on the situation of human rights in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China by vote (17 votes in favour, 19 against, and 11 abstentions).

Following the adoption by vote of a draft resolution on the situation of human rights in the Russian Federation (17 votes in favour, 6 against, and 24 abstentions), the Council created a new Special Procedure mandate on the situation of human rights in the Russian Federation for a period of one year, and requested the mandate holder to make recommendations and to present a comprehensive report to the Council at its 54th session and to the General Assembly at its 78th session, while calling upon the Russian authorities to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur.

The Council further extended the mandates of 8 thematic Special Procedures (i.e., the Independent Expert on older persons; the Special Rapporteurs on the right to development, on contemporary forms of slavery, on the rights to water and sanitation, on Indigenous Peoples, and on the right to health, as well as the Working Groups on arbitrary detention, and on mercenaries), and 7 country-specific mechanisms (i.e., the Special Rapporteurs on Afghanistan, and on Burundi; the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia; the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the International Team of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo; the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic; and the mandate of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia).

25 written amendments were tabled by States ahead of the consideration of texts by the Council but 14 were withdrawn by the main sponsor prior to voting. The remaining 11 amendments were rejected by a vote. Additionally, one oral amendment was brought forward by China during voting proceedings.

31 of the texts adopted by the Council (79%) had Programme Budget Implications (PBI) and required new appropriations not included in previous Programme Budgets. 

https://ishr.ch/latest-updates/hrc51-civil-society-presents-key-takeaways-from-human-rights-council/

https://www.universal-rights.org/urg-human-rights-council-reports/report-on-the-51st-session-of-the-human-rights-council/

Call for an EU Visa framework for At-Risk Human Rights Defenders

September 24, 2022

ProtectDefenders.eu and the great many undersigned NGOs are convinced that with political will and clear guidelines, the EU can and should return to its political mandate in favour of human rights and human rights defenders, and lead on the implementation of concrete initiatives, good practises, and policy changes to ensure that at-risk human rights defenders can access European Union visas with guarantees, security, and predictability.

More specifically, they call on the EU stakeholders to:
i) propose a specific facilitated procedure for human rights defenders within the EU Visa Code, setting common criteria and defining the elements of a facilitated procedure;
ii) include instructions in the EU Visa Handbook on granting facilitations to HRDs and their family members,
iii) work towards amending the legal instruments on visas, particularly the Visa Code, and
iv) introduce amendments to the Temporary Protection Directive that allow temporary protection status in the EU to be granted to defenders at risk.


Furthermore, they call on the EU Member States to implement consistent policies and guidelines to recognise the right of human rights defenders to access visas; as well as to promote the exhaustive use of their current prerogatives to urgently guarantee access to visas for those facing severe threats and risks.


ProtectDefenders.eu is the European
Union Human Rights Defenders
mechanism, led by a Consortium of 12
NGOs active in the field of Human Rights:
• Asian Forum for Human Rights and
Development (FORUM-ASIA)
• DefendDefenders – East and Horn of Africa
Human Rights Defenders Project
• Euro-Mediterranean Foundation Of
Support To Human Rights Defenders
(EMHRF)
• ESCR-Net
• Front Line Defenders
• ILGA World
• Peace Brigades International
• Protection International
• Reporters Without Borders
• The International Federation for Human
Rights (FIDH)
• The World Organisation Against Torture
(OMCT)
• Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human
Rights (UAF)
This initiative is supported by:
• AfricanDefenders
• Amnesty International
• Araminta
• Artist Protection Fund
• Artists at Risk (AR)
• Asociación Zehar-Errefuxiatuekin
• Brot für die Welt
• Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
• Center for Applied Human Rights (CAHR),
University of York
• Civil Rights Defenders
• Comissió Catalana d’Ajuda al Refugiat
(CCAR)
• Defenders in Dordrecht (DiD)
• Docip (Indigenous Peoples’ Center for
Documentation, Research and Information)
• European Center for Press and Media
Freedom (ECPMF)
• Fédération internationale des ACAT /
International Federation of ACAT (FIACAT)
• Freedom House
• Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
• Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
• Hamburg Foundation for politically
persecuted persons
• Heinrich-Boell-Stiftung (hbs)
• Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF)
• Human Rights House Tbilisi
• Humanists International
• Iniciativa Mesoamericana de Mujeres
Defensoras de Derechos Humanos
• International Arts Rights Advisors (IARA)
• International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN)
• International Partnership for Human
Rights (IPHR)
• International Service for Human Rights
(ISHR)
• Justice & Peace
• Mundubat
• Open Society Foundations (OSF)
• PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC)
• Pen International
• Réseau de Défenseurs des Droits Humains
de l’Afrique Centrale (REDHAC)
• Scholars at Risk
• Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders
Network
• Tbilisi Shelter City
• Un Ponte Per
• Unit for the Protection of Human Rights
Defenders of Guatemala

Applications open for the Global Advocacy Learning Programme on Human Rights and Development #GALP2022

September 22, 2022


On 22 September 2022 Forum Asia announced the Call for Applications for its “Global Advocacy Learning Programme on Human Rights and Development” which provides a comprehensive set of knowledge and skills to human rights and development activists. Extremely qualified and experienced facilitators, as well as international experts, will guide the participants through the most relevant and pressing issues related to human rights and development. The participants will learn and engage in interactive sessions throughout the 7-day programme touching upon, among others, human rights advocacy and mechanisms at national, regional, and international level, business and human rights, gender, and environment. All participants will receive high-quality reading and training materials. All sessions will be conducted in English.

Dates and Venue

The fourth edition of the Global Advocacy Learning Programme on Human Rights and Development will take place in Thailand from 29 November to 5 December 2022. Details about the venue will be communicated to all confirmed participants.

Participants

Participants from all over Asia are expected to participate in the fourth edition of the Global Advocacy Learning Programme on Human Rights and Development. Their participation will be fully covered by FORUM-ASIA. Participants will be selected based on the following criteria:

  • Genuine interest in issues related to human rights/sustainable development/gender/environment
  • Being currently employed or actively partner with a national, regional or international civil society organization and/or community-based group;
  • Preferably 3 years working experience in organisations addressing issues related to human rights/ development/environment/gender (applicants with less than 3 years will be considered on an exceptional basis);
  • Excellent command of English, both spoken and written.

Only those selected will be contacted.

All interested applicants should apply promptly by submitting the duly filled application Online Application Form by Friday 7 October 2022.

For more information, email globalacademy@forum-asia.org

Report on the 50th Session of the UN HRC

September 20, 2022

The following NGOs made a joint statement on the 50th session of the UN Human Rights Council:  International Service for Human Rights; Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA); ARTICLE 19; DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project); CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation; Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI); International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI); The Global Interfaith Network (GIN SSOGIE NPC); World Uyghur Congress; Gulf Centre for Human Rights; Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies; Child Rights Connect; Access Now; Association for Progressive Communications (APC); IFEX; Human Rights House Foundation; FIDH.

We welcome the resolution on discrimination against women and girls which focused on girls’ activism. This strong text regrettably faced a series of amendments which challenged the very notion of children, especially of girls and adolescents as rights holders, and sought to deny women and girls their agency.  The amendments are a continuation of a trend of hostile arguments and rhetoric on issues of gender, autonomy of women and girls and participation, which is coalescing and increasing in an alarming fashion. We are deeply concerned by the coordinated and targeted attacks against the rights of women, girls, LGBTIQ+ people and marginalized communities which aim at undermining sexual and reproductive rights and the right to bodily autonomy.  We are also concerned by recurrent attacks against children’s rights, which specifically question their right to participate and express their views freely and their rights as human rights defenders. We urge this Council to abide by its mandate to uphold the strongest human rights standards for all and to resist any retrogression that would have deep and harmful impact on those affected. 

We welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Independent Expert on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity for the second time, and the successful opposition of 12 out of 13 hostile amendments presented. 1,256 non-governmental organisations from 149 States and territories in all regions supported a campaign to renew the mandate. This was the first time this Council explicitly condemned legislation that criminalises consensual same-sex conducts and diverse gender identities, and called on States to amend discriminatory legislation and combat violence on the grounds on SOGI. This renewal once again reaffirms this Council’s commitment to combating discrimination and violence on the grounds of SOGI.

We welcome the resolution on freedom of peaceful assembly and association, renewing the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. At a time when civic space urgently needs to be protected and defended, we welcome that the resolution addressed substantive concerns, including access to funding, which is increasingly an existential threat to civil society worldwide.

We welcome that the resolution on peaceful protest reiterates that protests are a fundamental aspect of participation in public affairs, and highlights that people from marginalized communities can be particularly vulnerable to unlawful use of force. We regret that language urging a landmark moratorium on surveillance technology that could be used to violate human rights during protests was lost during negotiations. Hostile amendments calling for obligations to be imposed on protest organisers were overwhelmingly rejected. We now call on states to ensure accountability for excessive use of force which has been all too prevalent in protests worldwide, and urge future resolutions to strengthen this core issue.

We welcome the new resolution on freedom of opinion of expression, which reiterates that this vital right is one of the essential foundations of democratic societies and an important indicator of the level of protection of other human rights and freedoms. We particularly welcome new guidance related to the theme of digital, media and information literacy, which enables the full enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression. However, we strongly encourage the core group to ensure that future iterations of the resolution address core challenges to the right to freedom of expression which have been overlooked, including criminal defamation laws and strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs).

We welcome the approval of the resolution on the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, jurors and assessors, and the independence of lawyers, its focus on participation of women in the administration of justice, and the enhanced gender approach. This is a timely and crucial focus for this Council.

We welcome the Council’s approval of the resolution on the  importance of casualty recording for the promotion and protection of human rights that reaffirms the importance of the right to truth and takes note of key international standards for accountability, such as the updated set of principles for the protection and promotion of human rights through action to combat impunity[1] and the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law, and the Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death.

We welcome the resolution on human rights and the regulation of civilian acquisition, possession and use of firearms’ focus on business and human rights – which we hope will contribute to ensuring that States and manufacturers and dealers of firearms undertake participatory, gender-responsive human rights impacts assessments, and ensuring mandatory human rights due diligence (HRDD) requirements for the arms sector based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. We regret that important notions of patterns of structural discrimination have been reduced to discrimination rooted in negative stereotypes.

We welcome  the urgent debate on women and girls in Afghanistan and urge the Council to ensure that it remains accessible and responds adequately to the demands and needs of women human rights defenders from the country. It is imperative that this Council continues to ensure access and engagement of women human rights defenders, women political leaders and survivors and takes all necessary measures to address and ensure accountability for gender apartheid in Afghanistan. While welcoming the resolution, we regret the lack of inclusion of NGO suggestions for more specific investigation and reporting operational language that would have mandated the High Commissioner to look into the specific situation of women and girls in Afghanistan. We strongly encourage that future resolutions regarding the situation address the core issue of accountability, which has been overlooked in resolutions passed by the Council to date.

We welcome the latest resolution on Belarus, which extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. Since the previous version of this resolution was passed at HRC47, the human rights situation in Belarus has significantly deteriorated, with all independent human rights organisations in Belarus forcibly liquidated, and many human rights defenders indefinitely detained or imprisoned.

We welcome the extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, who plays an essential role in documenting violations Eritrean authorities commit at home and abroad. We stress the need for the HRC to adopt resolutions that fully reflect the situation in the country and fully describe and condemn violations.

The United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on Libya (FFM)  presented their latest report to the UN Human Rights Council only  days after protestors in Libya stormed the countries parliament and other government buildings.   Their report details gross human rights violations committed by armed groups and government forces throughout the country, including allegations of crimes against humanity and war crimes.   Despite these findings the UN Human Rights Council has  adopted a resolution drafted by Libya that only allows the investigation to continue for a  “final, non-extendable period of nine months.” NGOs have called on states to ensure that UN monitoring is maintained as long as gross human rights violations and abuses continue to be carried out in Libya with impunity.  By creating an abbreviated operational time frame and pre-emptively dismissing the possibility of renewing the FFMs mandate – the resolution adopted by this Council sends a dangerous message to armed groups in the country that the international community lacks the will to ensure a  sustained and serious accountability process. For these reasons, and in light of recent events in Libya,  we urge member states of the Human Rights Council to  work to ensure the  FFM is preserved or an alternative mechanism is created that will sufficiently respond to the long-standing and urgent need to protect victims and end impunity in Libya beyond March 2023. Failure to do so will only encourage more violence and hamper efforts to ensure a sustainable peace.

We note the approval of the resolution on the situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar. Rohingyas and other minorities in Myanmar continue to be victims of gross human rights violations, including crimes under international law, and it is important their plight  remains at the centre of this Council’s attention. We regret however that the resolution fails to recognise the gravity of the situation on the ground and calls for the immediate “voluntary” return of Rohingya to Myanmar despite the complete absence of the conditions for safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return in the country, as confirmed by the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar.

We welcome the report of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) which emphasized Israel’s systematic discrimination, and stressed its strategic geographic, social and political fragmentation of the Palestinian people. The report addressed the lack of accountability and compliance with recommendations made by previous UN bodies, including commissions of inquiry and fact-finding missions, addressing the failure of third States to uphold their obligations under international law. In the interactive dialogue, the CoI responded to the joint statement by the United States of America questioning the validity of the CoI mandate, by exposing the double standards when it comes to holding Israel accountable. Commissioners also reiterated the overwhelming support for the mandate, including during the interactive dialogue. We call on States to continue to support this important accountability mechanism and ensure the CoI has sufficient resources to discharge its mandate.

The outcome on Sudan that was achieved at this session is the best possible outcome that could be achieved by consensus. As the de facto authorities and security forces continue to kill protesters peacefully demanding civilian rule, however, consensus cannot be the Council’s only guide. We stress the need for long-term scrutiny of Sudan, beyond what resolution 50/L.14/Rev.1 has requested. The Council should keep all options on the table to expose and respond to the situation.

We regret that the Council failed to respond to several human rights situations.

In Cameroon, as the crisis in the North-West and South-West regions continues, with violations committed by all sides, including recently unspeakable atrocities committed by armed separatists, and grave violations continue to be reported in the Far North and in the rest of the country, particularly against independent and opposition voices, it is essential for the Council to follow up on its joint statement of March 2019. This is all the more important since both the African Union and the UN Security Council have been silent on what remains one of the most serious human rights crises on the African continent.

We welcome the joint statement by 47 States expressing serious concern at the human rights situation in China, including in the Uyghur region (Xinjiang), Hong Kong and Tibet, and echo the call for the prompt release of the High Commissioner’s long-overdue report on the serious violations in Xinjiang. The High Commissioner, or her successor, should present her report upon release in an intersessional briefing to the Human Rights Council. 42 Special Procedures experts have also reiterated their call for the creation of a UN-mandated mechanism to ‘monitor, analyse and report annually on the human rights situation in China’, underlining the importance for the credibility of the UN system to ‘ensure a consistent UN approach to all States.’ In its September session, the Council should take action on the basis of objective information from the UN system – namely the OHCHR Xinjiang report, Special Procedures concerns, and the upcoming Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee’s ongoing review of Hong Kong – with a view to establish a space for formal discussion of the human rights situation in China. 

The continued silence of this Council on the critical human rights situation in Egypt is of great concern.  As Egypt prepares to host COP 27 it continues to carry out  widespread and systematic violations of human rights, including freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association. Almost all independent media has been forced to shut down or threatened into silence.  100s of websites continue to be banned.  Thousands of civil society and media representatives have been and continue to be  disappeared, tortured and/or arbitrarily detained under the pretence of counter-terrorism and national security. This includes well known blogger and democracy activist Alaa Abdel Fattah – recently  sentenced to an additional 5 years in prison by an exceptional court.  His crime?  Advocating for democracy and rights.  He is currently approaching day 100 of a hunger strike. We urge this Council and its Special Procedures to take action to protect and ensure the release of Mr. Fattah and the thousands of others like him in Egypt.  

There have been strong calls from international and Russian civil society for Russia to be on the formal agenda of the Human Rights Council since the beginning of 2021.  A recent further intensification of human rights violations in Russia has led to calls for the HRC to mandate a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Russian Federation. While the joint statement signed by nearly 50 delegations at HRC50 was important, the situation now demands stronger action and we will be looking for the HRC to take action at the next session.

See also: July 11, 2022 Blog, Blog, Uncategorized, URG Human Rights Council Reports

https://ishr.ch/latest-updates/hrc50-civil-society-presents-key-takeaways-from-human-rights-council/

Enforced disappearances in China

August 31, 2022

On 30 August, 2022, the International Day of the Disappeared, the international community must recognize and respond to the widespread use of enforced disappearances in the People’s Republic of China, say an impressive group of NGOs (see list a the end):  

Just over five years ago, on 13 August 2017, human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng vanished for the third time. Gao, praised as the ‘Conscience of China’, had long fought for the rights of those who dared to speak out, who belonged to religious minorities, who were evicted from their homes when their land was seized, or who protested against exploitation. For that, he was in and out of prison and separated from his family for nearly a decade. For more than five years, his wife and children have had no idea of his whereabouts, nor even if he is alive. [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/33C77656-F58B-454E-B4C7-E1775C954F14]

Gao Zhisheng’s case is severe, and yet represents only the tip of the iceberg: many other activists and lawyers face a similar fate, such as Tang Jitian, disappeared in 2021, tortured, and detained in a secret location. UN experts, including the Working Group on enforced disappearance, have sounded the alarm from as early as 2011 about the use of enforced disappearances against those taking part in China’s human rights movement. It is used to silence those promoting rights and freedoms, to enable acts of torture and ill-treatment without any oversight, and to send a chilling message to any person who may dare to criticize the government. 

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres echoed this when he reminded the international community that enforced disappearance is a ‘method of repression, terror, and stifling dissent’. Relatives – themselves also victims of this crime– are deprived of their right to justice, and to know the truth, constituting a form of cruel and inhumane treatment for the immediate family. 

But no matter how powerful a country is, no matter what security challenges (real or perceived) they may face, the experts rightfully emphasize: ‘There can never be an excuse to disappear people.’ Enforced disappearances are strictly prohibited under international law under any circumstances, and may constitute a crime against humanity when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against any civilian population. 

The Chinese government continues to ignore calls for it to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. It has disregarded requests for over nine years by the UN’s Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances to visit the country, including its most recent on 7 January 2022. In the meantime, the number of cases of individuals disappeared presented before the Working Group soared, reaching 214 by 2021, out of which 98 remain outstanding. 

It is urgent that the UN, governments, and civil society worldwide press China to end, unequivocally, all forms of enforced disappearance. 

UN experts and civil society actors have documented many practices used by the Chinese authorities amounting to enforced disappearance. Some are written into Chinese law, or Chinese Communist Party guidance; others happen outside the scope of China’s own laws.  Some target individuals for their actions or speech; others are wielded with the intent to terrorize a particular ethnic or religious community. 

Residential Surveillance at a Designated Locations (RSDL)

‘Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location’  is allowed for in China’s Criminal Procedure Law, and authorizes holding someone in custody – prior to arrest – for up to six months in an undisclosed location. This ‘location’ is unofficial, selected at the discretion of the police, and the individual is isolated in solitary confinement without access to family, counsel or options to appeal the measure. This is especially true for those activists and dissidents accused of ‘national security crimes’. Incomplete government data admits to use of RSDL in some 23,700 instances, but civil society estimates that for the period 2013 to 2021, the real figure is closer to 85,000, with increased use over time. The practice continues despite having been condemned by UN experts as ‘a form of enforced disappearance’ that ‘may per se amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, or even torture.’ The experts’ assessment is clear: RSDL must be repealed. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/02/05/chinas-residential-surveillance-at-a-designated-location-needs-to-disappear/]

Liuzhi system 

The liuzhi (留置) extralegal detention system mimics the practice of RSDL, but is used to specifically punish any public servant or Chinese Communist Party (CCP) member who allegedly ‘violates duties’ or commits ‘economic crimes,’ potentially reaching nearly 300 million victims.  As with RSDL, liuzhi detentions can last up to six months, holding victims incommunicado and in solitary confinement at undisclosed locations. Yet, detentions are outside the scope of China’s laws, including the Criminal Procedure Law, as liuzhi is not part of the criminal justice system. Instead, it is run by China’s powerful extra-judicial anti-graft watchdog, the National Supervision Commission (NSC), a quasi-state body answerable only to the CCP. Legal safeguards, including the right to legal counsel, do not apply to individuals investigated under liuzhi, until and unless their case is sent for criminal prosecution. Incomplete official data acknowledges 11,000 individuals held under liuzhicivil society estimates actual figures to surpass 57,000 disappeared victims. UN experts addressed a general allegation on this issue to China in September 2019.

Psychiatric incarceration (ankang)

Since the 1980s, China’s Ministry of Public Security has locked up individuals targeted for their political and religious beliefs in psychiatric hospitals for the criminally insane, known as ankang (安康) (‘peace and health’). Despite legal reforms, police continue to send human rights defenders for compulsory treatment without medical justification in both ankang facilities, and psychiatric hospitals for the general public. Civil society data indicates this is a regular, large-scale practice, where victims are denied contact with the outside world and often subjected to torture and ill-treatment, while families are not informed about their relatives’ forced hospitalization.

Enforced disappearance in Tibet

The Chinese authorities continue to disappear Tibetans, including religious leaders, critics and influential thinkers, subjecting them to torture and ill-treatment, and employing the threat of disappearance to instill widespread fear across Tibet.  In February 2022, six UN experts raised concern over the physical well-being of Tibetan musician Lhundrup Drakpa, writer Lobsang Lhundrub, and school teacher Rinchen Kyi, arrested and disappeared ‘in connection with their cultural activities in favour of the Tibetan minority language and culture.’ In July 2021, four UN experts expressed similar concern over the enforced disappearance of Rinchen Tsultrim and Go Sherab Gyatso, pointing to a ‘worrying pattern of arbitrary and incommunicado detentions (…) against the Tibetan religious minority, some of them amounting to enforced disappearances.’ 

The 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, one of the most important Tibetan Buddhist leaders, was disappeared in 1995 at the age of six. The Chinese government continues to ignore calls for his release, UN experts’ concerns, or the UN child rights committee’s request for access to establish his whereabouts and health.

Enforced disappearance in the Uyghur region 

Beginning in 2017 in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR, or Uyghur Region), Uyghurs and Turkic Muslims have been detained incommunicado by Chinese government officials in internment camps, forced labor facilities, official prisons where they serve lengthy sentences, and other facilities where they are at risk of being subject to forced labor. Reports to the UN Working Group on enforced disappearances escalated dramatically, indicating a widespread and systematic practice. While the Chinese government refers to these camps as ‘vocational education and training centers’, administrative detention in the camps has no basis in Chinese, or international law. 

Journalists and NGOs have reported countless testimonies of people whose family members are or were missing and believed to be detained in the XUAR, and yet who have no way to establish their family members’ whereabouts.  They almost never receive official confirmation regarding their family member’s status from the Chinese authorities; efforts to gather information from Chinese consulates or embassies abroad have been largely unsuccessful. Very few detainees are allowed contact with the outside world. Even nominally ‘free’ Uyghurs living in XUAR have been effectively forbidden to speak with their family or friends abroad. Uyghurs in the country and overseas are wholly deprived of their right to truth. 

We, the undersigned organizations, urge the international community as a whole to ensure sustained attention and take meaningful action to put an end to all forms of enforced disappearance in China. The authorities must release all those disappeared, ensure their relatives’ right to truth, justice, reparation, and guarantees of non-recurrence. 

We stand in solidarity with all those missing, and with their loved ones, left longing for them to return alive. 

Signatories

            Amnesty International

            China Against the Death Penalty

            China Aid Association

            Chinese Human Rights Defenders

            Freedom House

            Front Line Defenders

            Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

            Grupo de Apoio ao Tibete Portugal

            Hong Kong Democracy Council

            Hongkongers in Britain

            Hong Kong Watch

            International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) 

International Campaign for Tibet

            International Commission of Jurists

            International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

            International Society for Human Rights

            International Tibet Network

            Lawyers for Lawyers

            Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada

Northern California Hong Kong Club

            Objectif Tibet, Sciez, France

            PEN America

Safeguard Defenders

The Rights Practice

The 29 Principles

Tibet Initiative Deutschland

Tibet Justice Center

Tibet Support Group Ireland

Students for a Free Tibet

Swiss Tibetan Friendship Association

Uyghur Human Rights Project

World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

World Uyghur Congress

Enforced Disappearances in Bangladesh have to stop

August 30, 2022

On 29 August 2022, on the occasion of the International Day of Victims of Enforced Disappearances, AFAD, FIDH, Maayer Daak and Odhikar urge the government of Bangladesh to:
1) Halt all enforced disappearances and immediately return all disappeared persons to their
families.
2) Set up an independent mechanism to investigate all cases of enforced disappearances.
3) Refrain from all forms of reprisals against human rights defenders, family members of the
disappeared, and civil society activists, and ensure the safety and security of victims and
their families.
4) Hold all perpetrators accountable.
5) Ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced
Disappearance.
6) Adopt and implement domestic legislation criminalizing enforced disappearance in line
with international law.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/03/17/un-experts-urge-bangladesh-to-end-reprisals-against-human-rights-defenders/

The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) is a federation of human rights
organizations working directly on the issue of involuntary disappearances in Asia. AFAD was founded
on 4 June 1998 in Manila, Philippines and was the recipient of the 2016 Asia Democracy and Human
Rights Award. See: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/5E526725-F43B-83FB-3B7E-2B3C56D01F60
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) is the world’s oldest non-governmental
human rights organization. Founded in 1922, FIDH federates 192 member organizations from 117
countries. Its core mandate is to promote respect for all the rights set out in the UDHR. http://www.fidh.org
Maayer Daak is a platform of the families of victims of enforced disappearances in Bangladesh with
the common goal of seeking the whereabouts of their loved ones and advocating for justice.
Odhikar is a human rights organisation in Bangladesh, established on October 10, 1994 by a group of
human rights defenders, to monitor human rights violations and create wider awareness. It holds
special consultative status with the ECOSOC of the United Nations.

http://odhikar.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Joint-Statement-IDD-AFAD-FIDH-Maayer-Daak-Odhikar.pdf

UN and NGOs denounce ODHIKAR’s deregistration in Bangladesh

June 16, 2022

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and 11 international and regional rights organisations have demanded that the government must immediately cancel its decision to deregister rights organisation Odhikar and allow the rights organisation to function without fear of reprisal.

Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a press briefing in Geneva statement on Friday, ‘We are concerned by the Government of Bangladesh’s decision not to approve the renewal of registration for Odhikar, a prominent and respected human rights organisation in the country’.

She said, ‘We urge the government to immediately reconsider this decision, and to ensure that Odhikar has the ability to seek full judicial review of any such determination. We are further concerned that this decision will have a chilling effect on the ability of civil society organisations to report serious human rights violations to UN human rights mechanisms.’

Odhikar has documented and reported on rights violations for many years to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Special Procedures mandate holders and human rights treaty bodies, she mentioned in the briefing available on the website of the UN body.

Intimidation and reprisals against Odhikar have been documented since 2013, and appear to have intensified, with accusations of ‘anti-state’ and ‘anti-government’ activities, she added.

‘There has been increased surveillance of its activities in recent months. The UN Secretary-General has also raised concerns about reprisals against Odhikar over the past decade for cooperating with the UN,’ she said.

On June 5, 2022, the bureau sent a letter to Odhikar, denying its application for renewal of registration. Odhikar’s application for renewal of its registration with the NGO Affairs Bureau under the Prime Minister’s Office has been pending since 2014, she said, adding that Odhikar’s bank account was also frozen in 2014. ‘We call for Odhikar to be permitted access to its banked funds pending reconsideration of the renewal application,’ said the UN official.

Eleven international and regional human rights organisations, meanwhile, in a joint statement called on the government to immediately reverse the decision to deregister Odhikar.

Human rights defenders should be allowed to conduct their work without fear of reprisals, intimidation, and harassment from the authorities,’ read the statement issued by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network, Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances, Capital Punishment Justice Project, Elios Justice at Monash University, Human Rights First, International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearance, International Federation for Human Rights, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Robert F Kennedy Human Rights and World Organisation Against Torture. {See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/03/17/un-experts-urge-bangladesh-to-end-reprisals-against-human-rights-defenders/]

The rights organisation in the statement said this latest development appeared to be part of a pattern of reprisals by the government against human rights organisations groups and defenders following the US sanctions against the Rapid Action Battalion on December 10, 2021. [See https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/03/21/bangladesh-sanctions-seem-to-work/]

On 14 June 2022 Forum Asia in a strong statement said: FORUM-ASIA expresses its solidarity with Odhikar and calls on the Bangladeshi authorities to immediately recall the decision of rejecting Odhikar’s renewal application thereby ensuring it to carry on their human rights work. FORUM-ASIA reiterates its earlier call to repeal the Foreign Donation (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Act, 2016 as it imposes restrictions on civil society organisations’ ability to access resources.

The same day, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation said they “are extremely alarmed by the decision of the government to arbitrarily revoke the registration of Odhikar, a leading human rights organisation in Bangladesh. This move is another blow to civil society and human rights defenders who have been facing systematic repression by the Sheikh Hasina regime.

http://www.humanrights.asia/opinions/AHRC-ETC-004-2022/

https://www.newagebd.net/article/172898/un-11-intl-orgs-slam-odhikar-deregistration