Posts Tagged ‘Phil Lynch’

High Commissioner, please put human rights defenders up front

September 20, 2018

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

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

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

Recommendations for the High Commissioner to support human rights defenders

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

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

Important side event in Geneva on ending reprisals coming up

September 12, 2018

On Wednesday 19 September (16:00-17:30 – Room XXIV, Palais des Nations, Geneva) the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) is organizing a side event Ending reprisals: Discussion with human rights defenders and experts.

This event seeks to provide a space for human rights defenders and experts to shed light on the nature and extent of reprisals and intimidation against those cooperating with the UN; discuss and expand on the Secretary-General’s report; and to consider efforts to date to address reprisals and intimidation against those cooperating with the UN as well as ways to further develop and strengthen policies and practices to prevent and address reprisals.

Participants: 

  • Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights
  • Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • National human rights defenders

Moderator: Phil Lynch, Director of ISHR (see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/06/08/ishr-new-report-on-reprisals-and-restrictions-against-ngo-participation-in-the-un/)

The event is co-sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Ireland to the United Nations and the Permanent Mission of Uruguay to the Office of the United Nations.

Download the flyer here

some of my earlier posts on reprisals: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/

Adidas and Human Rights Defenders: no longer run-of-the-mill?

December 8, 2016

In 2012 – in the run up to the London Olympics – the Playfair 2012 Campaign (supported by War on Want and others) highlighted the appalling experiences of workers making Adidas official Olympic and Team GB goods in China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. “Around the world 775,000 workers, mainly women, in 1,200 factories across 65 countries make Adidas products. Almost all of the jobs are outsourced to factories in poorer countries, yet through Adidas’ buying practices the company has enormous influence over their working conditions, and ultimately their lives. In the run up the London 2012 Olympics research has exposed the harsh reality of life for these workers.” The campaign demanded Adidas to end worker exploitation. playfair2012.org

In a report of 11 March 2015 on Labor Rights Abuses in Cambodia’s Garment Industry Human Rights Watch noted that brands can do more and said “For example, Adidas wrote to Human Rights Watch that it first started privately disclosing its supplier list to academics and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in 2001 and moved to a public disclosure system in 2007.”

In an article in Open Democracy of 17 June 2015  Mauricio Lazala and Joe Bardwell under the title: “What human rights?” Why some companies speak out while others don’t.state that:More recently, civil society has called on FIFA sponsors to respond to human rights concerns at construction sites for the Qatar 2022 World Cup. So far, Adidas, Coca-Cola and Visa have issued statements supporting workers’ rights in the country

In an article published on 16 November 2015, ISHR Director Phil Lynch explored the role, responsibility and interest of business when it comes to supporting human rights defenders and protecting civil society space. He mentions Adidas in the following context: The fourth and final category of actions, perhaps the most important but also the least common, involves business actively advocating and seeking remedy for human rights defenders and against laws and policies which restrict them. Such action could be private, as I understand to be the predominant approach of Adidas. It could also be public, such as the open letters and press statements issued by Tiffany & Co and others for the release of Angolan defender and journalist Rafael Marques

On 31 December 2015, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre listed in its “KnowTheChain” (a ranking of 20 apparel and footwear companies on efforts to address forced labour in the supply chain) Germany-based Adidas as number one out of 20.

On 21 June 2016 Adidas published its policy on HRDs: “The Adidas Group and Human Rights Defenders“. As there is such a dearth of corporate policies specifically on human rights defenders, here follows the key part in quote:

The threats faced by human rights defenders come in many forms – physical, psychological, economic, and social – and involve the interaction of many factors (poor governance, the absence of the rule of law, intolerance, tensions over development issues, etc.) and can be triggered by different actors, both private and State.

In his report to the General Assembly in 2015, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders recommended that both States and businesses should play an active role in supporting and promoting the role of HRDs working in their sectors. This should include, for example, speaking out when human right defenders are targeted for their corporate accountability work. Businesses must also cease and abstain from supporting any actions, directly or indirectly, which impinge upon defenders’ rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.

The adidas Group has a longstanding policy of non-interference with the activities of human rights defenders, including those who actively campaign on issues that may be linked to our business operations. We expect our business partners to follow the same policy; they should not inhibit the lawful actions of a human rights defender or restrict their freedom of expression, freedom of association, or right to peaceful assembly.

We value the input and views of all stakeholders and we are willing, and open, to engage on any issue, be this related to our own operations or our supply chain. Often, our engagement with human rights defenders is constructive, especially where we identify areas of shared concern. For example, with respect to transparency and fair play in sports, or environmental sustainability, or the protection of worker rights in our global supply chain. In these instances, we may actively support the work of the HRD and derive shared value from our joint endeavours in, say, improving working conditions, safety, or the environment.

Read the rest of this entry »

Monday 26 September: important panel discussion on responses to intimidation and reprisals against HRDs

September 21, 2016

Ghana, Hungary, Ireland and Uruguay – in cooperation with ISHR – are organizing a panel discussion about current situations, existing practices and new ideas for better implementation of Human Rights Council resolutions on preventing and responding to reprisals.ISHR-logo-colour-high

Monday 26 September 2016, 1.00 – 3.00 pm – Room XXIII, Palais des Nations

Panelists
•    Ms Peggy Hicks, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
•    Mr Alessio Bruni, Rapporteur on reprisals of the Committee Against Torture
•    H.E. Ms Yvette Stevens, Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone to the UN
•    Ms Maryam Al-Khawaja, Co-director of Gulf Center for Human Rights
•    Mr Philip Lynch, Director of International Service for Human Rights

Moderator
•    H.E. Ms Zsuzsanna Horváth, Permanent Representative of Hungary to the UN

For my earlier posts on reprisals: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/reprisals/

Source: Invitation, Monday 26 September, 1pm: Comprehensive responses to acts of intimidation and reprisals in the field of human rights

Panel on Human rights defenders and the rule of law – 8 June Geneva

May 29, 2015

The International Service for Human Rights and United Kingdom Mission in Geneva are organising a panel discussion on “Human rights defenders and the rule of law” on Monday, 8 June 2015, 16.30-18.00 (followed by a reception) at the Graduate Institute, Maison de la Paix (Auditorium 2), Genève, Switzerland.

This event will discuss the importance of the rule of law in safeguarding the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly for human rights defenders and activists, and the vital role of human rights defenders and international mechanisms in establishing, maintaining and promoting the rule of law. It will also explore the notion that respect for the rule of law requires respect for the rule of international law and national law that is in conformity with international law.

Panelists:

  • Olga Abramenko, Director, ADC Memorial (Russia)
  • Ruki Fernando, Human Rights Advisor, INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre (Sri Lanka)
  • Mona Rishmawi, Chief of the Rule of Law, Equality and Non-Discrimination Branch with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • Phil Lynch, Director, International Service for Human Rights

Moderator: Julian Braithwaite, UK Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva

If you want to attend please contact before 3 June: anne.jahren@fco.gov.uk

For those unable to attend, you can follow the event on Twitter through @UKMissionGeneva and @ISHRGlobal.

Human rights defenders and the rule of law: panel discussion on 8 June.

Report on a panel: Counter-terrorism laws must not criminalise human rights defenders

March 17, 2015

I was in Geneva last week where a number of interesting meetings took place. One of the side events I attended (a picture went out on Twitter), concerned the crucial issue of  “ Human rights defenders and national security”, on 9 March organized by a group of NGOs (International Service for Human Rights, Article 19, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Human Rights House Foundation, the International Commission of Jurists and the World Organisation Against Torture).ISHR-logo-colour-high

The panel was moderated by ISHR Director Phil Lynch, and had a very knowledgeable speakers such as Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders; Hina Jilani, Pakistani human rights lawyer and former Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders; Jimena Reyes, Director of the Americas Desk at FIDH; Roselyn Hanzi from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights; Gerald Staberock, Director of the World Organisation against Torture (OMCT); and Tanele Maseko, human rights defender from Swaziland.
A short report below:
Restrictions on human rights defenders

Phil Lynch opened the discussion by referring to unequivocal examples of restrictions imposed on human rights defenders by the operation of counter-terrorism laws, with examples cited including the recent amendments to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act in Australia which criminalises the disclosure of information about ‘special intelligence operations’, even where such disclosures expose or relate to serious human rights abuses; draft legislation in China which vaguely defines ‘terrorism’ to include ‘thought, speech or behavior’ that is ‘subversive’ or seeks to ‘influence national policy making’, and Law 8/2015, passed recently in Egypt, which allows individuals and associations which ‘infringe public order’ or ‘harm national unity or national security’ to be designated as terrorists. Concern was also expressed that renewed US efforts to combat extremism do not contain adequate human rights safeguards and that the imperative to counter-terrorism is being used as a subterfuge by regimes in allied States – such as Bahrain, China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia – to further restrict and repress civil society.

Panelists built on these examples throughout the discussion, referring to significant limitations on, and prosecution of, human rights defenders under the guise of national security in their regions, including the prosecution of indigenous activists campaigning against major development projects in Chile under the Anti-Terrorist Act; human rights defenders being spied on by intelligence authorities in Cuba which consequently contributed to their murder; human rights defenders in Zimbabwe being charged for allegedly participating in a disruptive demonstration, or under the Official Secrets Act which forbids the release of information, even if that information regards human rights violations; and human rights defenders being imprisoned and labelled terrorists for voicing disagreement with the government in Swaziland. Members of the audience provided further examples, including defenders in South Korea being charged under a law that prohibits support for North Korea.

Legislation protecting the rights of defenders

A schizophrenia currently exists in many countries where authorities laud their own human rights mechanisms in the international sphere and then actively criminalise the activities of human rights defenders at home,’ said Hina Jilani. It is essential that along with a national law for the protection of human rights defenders, counter terrorism laws do not impose restrictions on those protections.

Counter terrorism laws should be developed in a manner that fights terrorism, while at the same time, respecting the legitimate work of human rights defenders,’ said Gerald Staberock of OMCT.

The panelists also stressed the importance of ensuring the rights of human rights defenders are not constrained under other laws, such as laws prohibiting criticism of the head of state, emir or the army.

Independence of the judiciary and the military

The discussion also highlighted the necessity to ensure the independence of the judiciary. In this regard, Jimene Reyes of FIDH referred to the use of the judicial system in Cuba as an ‘instrument of uncritical oppression’. Members of the audience identified the importance that the judiciary, as well as the executive, must be able to recognise and respect the legitimate activities of human rights defenders.

Similarly the importance of the separation between the State and the military was emphasised. Ms Reyes stressed the risk for human rights defenders if they are ‘considered by the military to be the enemy’.

Importance of civil society participation

While there is a clear trend of governments using counter-terrorism legislation to conflate the legitimate activities of human rights defenders with actions that threaten national security, the panelists were in clear consensus that human rights defenders and a strong and healthy civil society is essential to the stability of the State and good governance.

‘The work of human rights defenders and other civil society actors is crucial to address inequality and to promote good governance, accountability and inclusive development, all of which contribute to national security,’ said Phil Lynch of ISHR. ‘However, to ensure this is possible, it is essential to raise national and international awareness of the pitfalls of counter-terrorism legislation and the importance of civil society participation’.

The event concluded with a reflection of the need to counter the ‘rhetoric of fear’ and firmly establish that ‘the rights to peaceful assembly and of association do not encourage extremism, chaos, or violence but are, in fact, the best antidotes we have against all of these ills’.

Myself and others brought up the need to fight back in the public domain and the media against campaign to delegitimize the work of human rights defenders and show more the positive contribution their legitimate work brings to society.

[The high-level segment of the Council session has called on all States to fully implement Human Rights Council Resolution 22/6, which was led by Norway and adopted by consensus in March 2013. It urges States to ensure that ‘measures to combat terrorism and preserve national security … do not hinder the work and safety’ of human rights defenders.]

National security: Counter-terrorism laws must not criminalise human rights defenders | ISHR.

High-level Legal Briefing and Debate on Reprisals on 20 November 2014 in Geneva

November 12, 2014

On Thursday, 20 November 2014, the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) celebrates its 30th anniversary with the launch and discussion of two important legal reports:ISHR-logo-colour-high

The first is a memorandum of advice on the legal obligations of the Human Rights Council, its President and Bureau to combat reprisals prepared by Sir Nicolas Bratza and Prof Egbert Myjer (both formerly of the European Court of Human Rights – Egbert Myjer portrayed here on the left), together with the leading international law firm Freshfields. This is indeed a crucial area for the future of the whole human rights system as argued consistently in this blog : https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/reprisals/]

 

The second study is a comparative research report on the recognition and protection of human rights defenders under national law.

The panelists are:

  • Sir Nicolas Bratza, report author and former President of the European Court of Human Rights

  • Maryam Al-Khawaja, Bahraini human rights defender

  • Reine Alapini-Gansou, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

The debate is moderated by Phil Lynch, Director, International Service for Human Rights

The event takes place in Room IX of the Palais des Nations, Geneva, from 15h00 to 16h15. The legal briefing is followed by ISHR’s 30th anniversary reception.

Invitation to a High-level Legal Briefing: 20 November 2014.

Human Rights Council in throwback to muzzling NGOs

September 24, 2014

Phil Lynch, Director of the International Service for Human Rights, wrote an insightful post on URG Insights that is a must. It describes with concrete examples how the current Human Rights Council – and especially its Bureau – is failing to uphold the acquired right of NGOs to speak freely in the UN and – when necessary – mention names of offending countries. It seems like a complete throwback to the early 80’s when in the then Commission on Human Rights NGOs were restricted in mentioning countries by name. This let to untenable and even comical situations where NGOs would describe in detail atrocities and then say that they were talking about a big country in the south of Latin America, only to be asked by the Chair to say which country they had in mind. When the obvious answer came: “Argentina”, the NGO was ruled out of order! That States now feel that the time is right to try again to muzzle NGO criticism became already clear last year with China’s elaborate efforts to silence the ‘one minute silence’ for Cao Shunli [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/china-in-the-un-human-rights-council-manages-to-silence-cao-shunli-as-well-as-ngos/] and the worryingly broad support it got for its procedural wrangling. Thus it would be crucial that the whole NGO movement and the States that support them take a clear stand. In meantime Lynch’s Human Rights Council President, Bureau and Member States must respect the role and rights of NGOs” is giving the right background and follows here in toto:

“The right, and indeed the responsibility, of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to critique governments, expose and pursue accountability for human rights violations, and advocate for changes in law, policy and practice should be uncontroversial and uncontested. This is particularly the case at the UN Human Rights Council, the world’s apex body for human rights debate and dialogue, the mandate of which includes promoting and protecting the right to freedom of expression.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sri Lanka reprisals against human rights defenders who cooperate with the UN continue

September 17, 2014

A UN Human Rights Council mandated inquiry is currently investigating alleged violations of international humanitarian law, as well as gross and systematic human rights abuses, committed by the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which led to estimated 40,000 civilian deaths in 2009 alone. In a joint letter dated 25 August to the President of the UN Human Rights Council and to the Ambassador of Sri Lanka, a coalition of NGOs outline an alarming trend of intimidation, threats and reprisals in Sri Lanka against people engaging with UN human rights mechanisms, including the Commission of Inquiry.

This pattern has been brought many times to the attention of the UN Human Rights Council by civil society, human rights experts and States, and even by the UN Secretary-General and High Commissioner. ‘The Government of Sri Lanka has the primary responsibility for protecting people from threats, intimidation and reprisal, and must condemn all such acts immediately and unequivocally as well as take all necessary lawful steps to affirm and uphold the right of all persons to free communication with the UN, safe from hindrance or insecurity’ said ISHR Director Phil Lynch. See also on reprisals: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/reprisals/

Still on 13 September 2014, human rights defenders Mr Namal Rajapakshe and Mr Manjula Pathiraja in Sri Lanka were threatened with death in connection to their work as defence lawyers, reported Front Line on 15 September. Namal Rajapakshe and Manjula Pathiraja are leading human rights lawyers who have frequently appeared (often pro bono) in public interest litigation representing victims of human rights violations across Sri Lanka.

[On 13 September 2014, two unidentified men wearing jackets and helmets covering their faces entered the office of Namal Rajapakshe and threatened that he and Manjula Pathiraja would be killed should they appear in any more “unnecessary cases”.  This is not the first time that Namal Rajapakshe and Manjula Pathiraja have been targeted. On 4 August 2014, the human rights defenders were intimidated, along with another lawyer, while they were making representations on behalf of their clients. They were harassed by a group of thugs inside the Maradana Police station – in front of the local Inspector.]

via Sri Lanka: End reprisals against those who cooperate with the UN | ISHR.

New UN High Commissioner should be the “Human Rights Defender-in-Chief”

August 11, 2014

(re-issued for technical reasons)

My reference last week to an interview with the new Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/08/05/michel-forst-new-special-rapporteur-on-human-rights-defenders-gives-indication-of-his-priorities/] seemed well appreciated judging from the number of views. Therefore I now refer you to a piece by the Director of the ISHR, Phil Lynch, of 16 July, who addresses the incoming UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein as the “human rights defender-in-chief “, saying that he has a particular responsibility to protect human rights defenders, especially so when they face intimidation and reprisals for their efforts to seek accountability at the UN for human rights violations. Read the rest of this entry »