Posts Tagged ‘Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe’

Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, on Human Rights Defenders in Annual Report 2016

April 27, 2017

Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, devoted a short chapter to Human Rights Defenders in his Annual Report covering 2016 (Chapter 3 V p. 59 – 61):

Human rights defenders

The situation of human rights defenders and the responsibility of states to ensure a safe and enabling environment for their work remained at the forefront of the Commissioner’s attention in 2016. The Commissioner organised and participated in round tables and side events, and in two inter-mechanism meetings, related to the role and the situation of human rights defenders in various parts of Europe. He also published thematic documents relating to the important role and contribution of human rights defenders with respect to the protection of human rights. As part of his continued monitoring, the Commissioner published several statements on the situation of human rights defenders in various regions of Europe. Moreover, the Commissioner intervened before the European Court of Human Rights as a third party in three cases relating to human rights defenders: Khadija Ismayilova v. Azerbaijan; Svetlana Khusainovna Estemirova v. the Russian Federation; and Khalid Bagirov v. Azerbaijan (for further information on third party interventions, see chapter 6 of his report). In March, the Commissioner issued statements about a series of violent attacks against journalists, human rights defenders and NGOs in Chechnya and Ingushetia in the North Caucasus. The Commissioner contacted the Russian authorities indicating the need for immediate protection of those who had come under attack, and for a prompt and thorough investigation with a view to holding those responsible to account.

Round table on missing persons and victims of enforced disappearance in Europe

On 30 June and 1 July, the Commissioner organised in Strasbourg a round table with human rights defenders on missing persons and victims of enforced disappearance in Europe. In addition to human rights defenders from more than 20 different European countries, the event was attended by experts in the eld, including the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, and a member of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, Henrikas Mickevičius. During the round table, the participants discussed the recommendations contained in the Commissioner’s Issue Paper Missing persons and victims of enforced disappearance in Europe. The participants also exchanged important information on issues relating to missing persons, victims of disappearances and transitional justice in European countries affected by these issues. In particular, they raised the importance of establishing the truth, instituting efficient and effective domestic legal and institutional frameworks, and combating impunity through prosecution and punishment of those responsible for enforced disappearances, and the necessity to provide support and reparation for victims. The round table was also aimed at reviewing the situation of human rights defenders working on those issues, including obstacles that human rights organisations and defenders face in carrying out their activities and possible ways to overcome them.

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Europe also sees shrinking space for human rights defenders

April 4, 2017

On 4 April 2017 Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner, wrote about “The Shrinking Space for Human Rights Organisations“. The new EU ‘alert site I referred to yesterday [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/03/protectdefenders-eu-launches-new-alert-website-but-no-single-stop-yet/] showed in 2016 some 86 reported violations in the European (and Central Asian) region, mostly detention and judicial harassment. Also the recent CIVICUS findings of the narrowing space for civil society points in this direction. An example could be Hungary as illustrated by reports of Human Rights Watch (2016), Human Rights First (2017) and Amnesty International (2016/17); the issue of academic freedom is not directly related but part of the restrictive trend [see links below].

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The 5th “Inter-mechanisms”: consultations between inter-govenmental and non-governmental entities on human rights defenders

November 17, 2014

On November 12 and 13, 2014, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst, met with representatives of regional human rights defenders’ mechanisms, in the framework of the first part of the fifth “inter-mechanisms” meeting. Enhancing coöperation between the UN mechanism and its regional counterparts was defined as a priority by the UN Special Rapporteur in his first report to the UN General Assembly in October 2014.

The “inter-mechanisms meeting 5.1” gathered representatives from the UN, the International Organisation of “La Francophonie” (OIF), the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, the OSCE/ODIHR, the European Union, as well as international NGOs. It was hosted by theOIF headquarters in Paris, and was facilitated by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT joint programme).Participants reflected on ways to enhance cooperation, if not articulation, in processing submissions and public statements about human rights defenders’ violations, and in enhancing the follow-up of individual communications and recommendations from country visits. They further discussed best practices and strategies to tackle the issue of arbitrary detention, particularly on emblematic cases.

The meeting also allowed for an exchange on the definition of reprisals and impunity, how they relate to each other, and how tackling impunity through accountability would ultimately mitigate the root-cause of reprisals.

Finally, participants had a discussion on the issue of NGO funding, including foreign funding, as well as on the protection of land rights defenders, echoing the topics of the 2013 and 2014 Annual Reports of the Observatory.

This meeting aimed to prepare an “inter-mechanisms meeting 5.2”, gathering mandate-holders themselves, which the Observatory will organise during the first quarter of 2015 at the OIF headquarters. Last but not least, FIDH and OMCT were invited by the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe to hold the sixth meeting in Strasbourg, and a future meeting in Warsaw, by ODIHR.

“Inter-mechanisms 5.1”: enhanced cooperation will lead to better protection of human rights defenders – FIDH.