Posts Tagged ‘Reliefweb’

New Right to Healthy Environment: NGOs urge action

October 11, 2021

On 11 October 2021 ReliefWeb published the open letter signed by 166 civil society organizations and individuals calling upon world leaders to put human rights at the centre of environmental policy (for signatories see link below).

“Respecting and protecting human rights and protecting the environment are inextricably linked. Yet while Heads of State from 88 countries have called to end siloed thinking in the Leaders Pledge for Nature, environmental policy-making still too often excludes or sidelines human rights.

Today we, the undersigned — a broad range of indigenous peoples’ organisations, civil society groups — including human rights, land and environmental defender organisations — academics and [UN] experts from the Global South and North — call on the world’s leaders to bring together human rights, environmental and climate in policy-making in order to secure a just, equitable and ecologically healthy world for all.

The reciprocal relationship between nature and people has existed since time immemorial, but it is now unbalanced. There are countless examples in all parts of the world of how forests, savannas, fresh water sources, oceans, and even the air itself, are being privatised, polluted and destroyed by industries such as agriculture, timber, pulp and paper, mining and oil and gas extraction. These and many other industries not only wreak destruction on Mother Earth, but they also have direct and devastating impacts on human rights. Indigenous peoples and local communities living in close proximity to the production, extraction and processing of raw materials suffer dispossession of their lands, impoverishment, deterioration of their health, and destructive impacts on their culture, among many other abuses. In turn, human rights, land and environmental defenders who seek to prevent these violations suffer threats, criminalisation and violent attacks, and increasingly, killings.

The costs of both environmental destruction and measures to address this often fall disproportionately on those already in precarious positions — such as indigenous peoples, afro-descendants, local communities, women, children and youths, and poorly-paid workers, particularly in the Global South but also in the Global North — while the profits of the largest and most environmentally-damaging industries, and the wealth of their owners and financers, continues to grow. It is unforgivable that polluting industries profit at the expense of the health and human rights of marginalised communities. And, ultimately, this environmental destruction has indirect human rights impacts on us all.

Just this month the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution recognising the Right to a Healthy Environment. Yet while there is evidence that the protection of human rights can lead to better environmental outcomes, calls for recognition of the holistic and indivisible nature of human rights and the environment often go unheeded in global, regional and national environmental and climate policy forums.

This must change. As a global community we face multiple, intersecting crises: increasing human rights abuses and environmental harms by companies, land grabs, the loss of food and water sovereignty, increasing poverty and inequality, increased attacks and killings of defenders, climate change-induced disasters and migration, the diminishing health of the oceans and critical biodiversity loss. Resolving these crises demands a holistic approach to environmental policy that embeds human rights and tackles systemic problems, including historically rooted social injustice, ecological destruction, state capture by corporations, corruption and impunity, as well as and social and economic inequality.

We urge world leaders to ensure that all policymaking related to the environment — including the climate and biodiversity crises, ownership and use of land, water and resources, ecosystem degradation, corporate accountability and trade, among others — address human rights and the environment in an integrated manner. This would help to catalyse the transformative action that is urgently required.

Respect for, protection, promotion and fulfilment of human rights, and the protection of those who defend them, must be an essential and non-negotiable part of measures adopted in upcoming negotiations at the UN Convention of Biological Diversity, COP15, and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP26. Human rights must also be central to regional and national level climate and environmental policies, such as proposed deforestation legislation in the UK, the EU and the USA, which must be further strengthened.

The time to act is now: we call on you to unite human rights, climate and the environment once and for all. In doing so, you can help us and our future generations to thrive by living in harmony with nature. And in doing so, you can affirm that both nature and people have intrinsic worth and that governments are serious in living up to their duty both to protect Mother Earth and to respect, protect and fulfil human rights.”

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/09/13/global-witness-2020-the-worst-year-on-record-for-environmental-human-rights-defenders/

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/open-letter-civil-society-world-leaders-put-human-rights-centre-environmental-policy

https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO2110/S00102/civil-society-calls-on-world-leaders-to-put-human-rights-at-the-centre-of-environmental-policy.htm

Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, at the 46th session of the Human Rights Council

August 23, 2021

Courtesy of Reliefweb, here the reference to “States in denial: the long-term detention of human rights defenders – Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor” (A/76/143), posted 19 Aug 2021 Originally published 19 July 2021.

Summary

In the present report, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, analyses the situation of human rights defenders in long – term detention, serving sentences of 10 years or longer. The Special Rapporteur draws attention to underlying factors that contribute to the phenomenon of detaining human rights defenders for lengthy periods as a result of their legitimate human rights activities. The report contains examples of individual cases of human rights defenders serving long-term prison sentences. She makes recommendations to relevant stakeholders to halt and reverse these trends and suggests ways to prevent this from happening in the future. [see also; https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/05/20/special-rapporteur-mary-lawlor-starts-new-website/]

1. Introduction

  1. In December 2015, woman human rights defender Lodkham Thammavong was 1 of some 30 people who protested outside the Lao Embassy in Bangkok to express their concern over the Lao Government’s alleged human rights violations.
  2. Three months later, when she returned to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, she and two other human rights defenders, Soukane Chaithad and Somphone Phimmasone, were arrested by Lao police.
  3. The Special Rapporteur has received credible information that they were not informed of the charges against them and no arrest warrants were presented at the time of arrest or afterward. Ms. Thammavong and the others were reportedly forced to make false confessions, paraded on national television to apologize for being traitors and denied their rights to legal representation.
  4. A year later, in March 2017, after an unfair trial, Ms. Thammavong was found guilty of “treason to the nation, propaganda against the State, and gatherings tied at causing social disorder”. She was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Mr. Chaithad and Mr. Phimmasone were also convicted on the same charges, and given 16 and 20 years, respectively.
  5. At the time of writing, Ms. Thammavong is currently being held in Tan Piao Prison, located around 60 km from Vientiane, making family visits difficult. She is said to be lacking access to water and still has had no access to legal counsel.
  6. Unfortunately, such attacks on human rights defenders are not rare. Hundreds of human rights defenders across the world are serving long prison sentences after being convicted on fabricated charges following unfair trials. Many, like Ms. Thammavong, were denied adequate legal representation.
  7. The Special Rapporteur has monitored numerous cases of defenders serving more than 10 years in prison, and of many other defenders facing charges for which they could be sentenced to similarly long terms. Many, like Ms. Thammavong, have been sentenced under vague and ill-defined charges often relating to treason, subversion or terrorism.
  8. Many are held in harsh conditions, and/or have been forced to confess to crimes they did not commit. Some suffer from ill health and are deprived of adequate medical attention. Some are also denied regular access to their families. Some are at risk of being sentenced to death, and some have died in jail while serving long sentences.
  9. In the present report, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, intends to show that the issue of the long-term detention of human rights defenders is extensive, that there are many commonalities in the methods used to unjustly jail them and that many Member States – including some who are members of the Human Rights Council, or who aim at being a member – consistently deny they are holding defenders in jail. She advises States on how to prevent further such attacks on defenders and recommends that all human rights defenders be immediately and unconditionally released from jail.
  10. The full extent of this problem is not known. Human rights defenders are serving long terms in detention on every continent, but there are very likely many more cases than those featured in the present report that have not been brought to the Special Rapporteur’s attention.
  11. The cases included here are only those where consent has been obtained directly from the defenders themselves, or from their families or representatives. Many other cases are also known to the Special Rapporteur, but are not included in the report for various reasons, including where it was not possible to obtain consent or where highlighting cases would risk making the situation of the defenders worse. Some defenders were jailed so long ago that their cases have faded from public view and no longer feature in many advocacy efforts. This can also make consent and information more difficult to obtain.
  12. There is a wide range of defenders serving long terms in detention. Some are labour leaders, some are lawyers, others are journalists. Some are jailed for defending article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which outlines the right for people to vote in elections. Others are targeted for peacefully advocating for democratic reform, or for exposing deficiencies in governance. The Special Rapporteur reiterates that peacefully defending these and other rights that States have promised to safeguard is never a crime.
  13. Some defenders have been targeted and jailed in reprisal for their engagement, or intended engagement, with United Nations mechanisms. Some are famous, winners of international awards for their work, with prominent international profiles, while others are relatively unknown, even within their country. Some hold dual nationalities and are citizens of countries other than the one in which they are jailed.
  14. Some defenders have been convicted in mass trials and some have been sentenced in absentia. Some defenders sentenced to long terms in jail are living in exile, unable to return to their country for fear of arrest. Others are kept in long periods of pretrial detention, not knowing if or when they will face charges that could send them to prison for long terms.
  15. Other defenders are seized and nothing is heard from or about them for many years. Not all are held by Governments. Some, like Syrian woman human rights defender Razan Zaitouneh, are believed to have been taken by militia groups. There has been no news of her current whereabouts for years.
  16. Other human rights defenders sentenced to long terms in jail die in custody. Human rights defender Azimjan Askarov was unjustly sentenced to prison in 2010 in Kyrgyzstan, and he was still in prison 10 years later with serious medical problems. Despite appeals from the mandate holder, the United Nations, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to the authorities for his release on health grounds, he died in detention in 2020.
  17. The Special Rapporteur notes there is often a flurry of attention and activity around a case when a human rights defender is arrested or convicted, sometimes accompanied by intense international media coverage and advocacy from foreign governments and United Nations mechanisms. But even with the most prominent defenders, attention typically fades over the years as fresh cases demand the attention and resources of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), independent United Nations experts and interested Governments.
  18. Many defenders serving long sentences feel forgotten or abandoned.
  19. The effect of the long-term detention of defenders can be devastating – to themselves, to their families, to their communities and to the civil societies to which they belong. Just fighting a legal case can exhaust a defenders’ resources, and that of their NGO. Indeed, this damage to them and their work is often the motivation for their being targeted.
  20. States will recall that in her first report to the General Assembly in 2020 (A/75/165), the Special Rapporteur outlined her priorities for the mandate, which included a focus on “defenders serving long terms in prison”. She believes States should have confronted this enduring problem long ago. Some States have ignored years of appeals to stop jailing human rights defenders and still refuse to release those they currently hold in detention.
  21. The Special Rapporteur is instructed under the mandate to study developments and challenges on the right to promote and protect human rights and seek, receive and respond to information on the situation of human rights defenders, and to recommend effective strategies to better protect human rights defenders.
  22. One simple piece of advice for States to better protect human rights defenders is not to put them in prison for long terms for peacefully defending the rights of others.
  23. Many States sentence human rights defenders to long terms in prison because they want to, and because they can. They want to because they are unhappy with defenders exposing corruption, pointing out human rights violations or highlighting other deficiencies in governance.
  24. Jailing defenders does not always silence them, and some continue to defend rights while in detention, but States often use this method of attack against human rights defenders to crush peaceful dissent.
  25. States can do this because they ignore international treaties they have committed to, often with negligible international consequences. They enable themselves to jail human rights defenders by passing vague laws, often in the name of national security or countering terrorism, by staging sham trials that fail meet international standards, by torturing defenders into making false confessions and by lying about the work of human rights defenders.
  26. Some States contest that those jailed are not defenders but subversives, traitors or terrorists. The Special Rapporteur knows the difference, and she respectfully reminds States that her long years of experience in identifying who is a human rights defender – and who is not – is partly why she was entrusted with this mandate. The Special Rapporteur is keen to discuss individual cases with States to better explain why those in detention referred to in the present report are human rights defenders.
  27. Despite the many detailed cases regularly presented to Member States of human rights defenders currently serving long jail terms, the Special Rapporteur notes that in response to her call to Member States for submissions to the present report, not one State acknowledged holding any human rights defender in long-term detention.
  28. Many States have for many years used this method of attack against human rights defenders. The Special Rapporteur’s predecessors in this mandate have, since the mandate was established 20 years ago, repeatedly recommended that States not use unfair trials or security legislation as a pretext for jailing, or otherwise attacking, human rights defenders.
  29. In 2001, Hina Jilani, the first mandate holder on the situation of human rights defenders, in her first report to the then Commission on Human Rights, stated that: “The situation of human rights defenders … and their sentencing after unfair trials will be a matter of serious concern for the Special Representative” (E/CN.4/2001/94, para. 89 (f)).
  30. Despite regular, detailed updates to Member States from the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders over many years about this unjust practice, defenders are still routinely subjected to unfair trials, after which many are sentenced to long terms in prison.
  31. In her most recent report to the Human Rights Council, presented earlier this year (A/HRC/46/35), the Special Rapporteur focused on the killing of human rights defenders. She identified a lack of political will from Member States to hold the perpetrators accountable as a key driver of the murders. In the case of long-term detention of defenders, it is less the absence of political will to prevent this abuse, but rather the active presence of a political will in States to target defenders.
  32. Some representatives of Member States have told the Special Rapporteur, in response to her raising the case of an unfair trial, that they cannot interfere in their countries’ independent judicial process. While the Special Rapporteur respects the principle of judicial independence, she cannot be silent when a criminal justice system falls short of international standards and is used to unjustly jail human rights defenders.
  33. In 2003, Ms. Jilani told Member States: “When human rights defenders are arrested, detained and/or prosecuted under security legislation, the process should be fully transparent. The charges on which the arrest and detention are based should be made public and explained in a sufficiently complete manner that the veracity of their substance can be independently verified” (A/58/380, para. 71).
  34. Many States are still failing this test of transparency and continue to consign human rights defenders to long years of misery in prison.
  35. While those mechanisms which enable long-term, unjust detention, including torture, unfair trials and the gross misrepresentation of the work of those peacefully defending the rights of others, should be addressed, the fundamental reason that defenders are held in long-term detention is because of the political will in States to do so.
  36. Targeting human rights defenders with long jail terms is never acceptable, and it is a red line no State should cross. It is immoral, illegal, inexcusable and dishonourable. This practice exposes States’ lack of resolution to fulfil the international standards they have committed to uphold. Consigning those who peacefully defend human rights to prison raises serious questions about States’ intentions to abide by the international agreements they have signed.

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/states-denial-long-term-detention-human-rights-defenders-report-special-rapporteur

UN Human Rights Council concluds 44th session and appoints four special rapporteurs, including Irene Khan

July 20, 2020

Thanks to ReliefWeb‘s detailed coverage of the UN Human Rights Council:

On 17 july The Human Rights Council adopted four resolutions dealing with the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests ; the situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic ; the Social Forum ; and the contribution of respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms to achieving the purposes of the Charter of the United Nations. It also appointed four Special Procedure mandate holders, and concluded its regular forty-fourth session.

The Council also appointed four new Special Procedure mandate holders : Marcos A. Orellana (Chile) for the position the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes ; Irene Khan (Bangladesh) for the position of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression ; Tlaleng Mofokeng (South Africa) as Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health ; and Siobhán Mullallay (Ireland) as the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children.

Yackoley Kokou Johnson, Vice-President of the Council and Rapporteur, noted that during the session, the Council had held 29 meetings, seven debates and 35 interactive dialogues, including with the High Commissioner on her annual report, as well as with 22 Special Procedure mandate holders, two commissions of inquiry and two special representatives of the Secretary-General, covering over 50 human rights themes and 40 country situations.

Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger, President of the Council, concluded by thanking those present for their dedication, flexibility and creativity in implementing many precautionary measures, proving that the Council could continue to do its important work in these difficult times.

The Human Rights Council is scheduled to hold its forty-fifth session from 14 September to 2 October.

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/human-rights-council-adopts-four-resolutions-appoints-four-special-procedure-mandate__________

UNDP launches a Global Initiative on Business and Human Rights

July 8, 2020

With thanks to Reliefweb for posting on 7 July 2020 here UNDP’s launch of a project to implement the human rights and bussines agenda.

Excerpts from the speech by Mourad Wahba (Assistant Administrator of UNDP and Director of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Arab States):

UNDP has been working on advancing the business and human rights agenda since 2016 when we started a regional programme in Asia, built around the participation and partnership of governments, businesses, Civil Society organisations, National Human Rights Institutions, trade unions and other stakeholders. Our work has been strongly aligned with the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, ILO and the OECD.

Our collaboration will now grow. Last week, UNDP launched a Global Initiative on Business and Human Rights building on our achievements in Asia, which will incrementally expand to the rest of the world.

The Global Initiative will have four main fronts:

  1. Supporting governments in developing and implementing National Action Plans;
  2. Strengthening access to justice for victims of business-related human rights abuses;
  3. Advising corporations on how to address human rights risks; and
  4. Enabling peer-learning for government officials, businesses, civil society and national human rights institutions.

We are honoured to partner with the Working Group and OHCHR, to chart the lessons learned since the adoption of the Guiding Principles and accelerate their implementation. Over the coming 12 months we will be hosting regional consultations, which will guide the development of a joint Roadmap for the Next Decade of Business and Human Rights.

Our network of five regional offices and 170 country offices will be leveraged to ensure all relevant stakeholders, including representatives of vulnerable and marginalised groups, are consulted on the way forward.

UNDP believes that the elaboration of this Roadmap should be guided by the goals set in the 2030 Agenda and the Secretary General’s Call to Action for Human Rights….

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/28/ngos-demand-that-rules-against-strategic-lawsuits-against-public-participation-slapp-are-upgraded/

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/project-launch-business-and-human-rights-towards-decade-global-implementation

NEW: Casualty recording is now a human rights issue in the UN

July 7, 2020

On 1 july 2020 Rachel Taylor, a consultant researcher working with AOAV, wrote that for the first time “Casualty recording has been recognised as an essential component of human rights at the highest international level”. The topic is too important for just a reference, so here long excerpts:

Casualty recording was explicitly mentioned in three resolutions passed by 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva: the biennial thematic resolution on Prevention of Genocide; the resolution on the situation of human rights in Myanmar; and the resolution on the situation of human rights in Syria.

[A bit more on this UK-based NGO: Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) central mission: to carry out research and advocacy in order to reduce the incidence and impact of global armed violence.It does research on the harm wrought by explosive weapons. AOAV carries out research and advocacy campaigns to strengthen international laws and standards on the availability and use of conventional and improvised weapons, to build recognition of the rights of victims and survivors of armed violence, and to research the root causes and consequences of armed violence in affected countries. It publishes Global Explosive Violence Monitor, as well reportsn on manufactured weapons, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), and guns.]

In the early months of this year, AOAV worked with diplomats to ensure the importance of casualty recording was recognised within the Council’s agenda.

The importance of civil society-led casualty recording, alongside initiatives by states and/or internationally mandated organisations, is acknowledged in the Prevention of Genocide resolution. Similarly, the resolution on the situation of human rights in Myanmar includes casualty recorders alongside human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and others for whom the right to access and share information publicly merits special protection. This strengthens high-level recognition of the validity of casualty recorders’ work and its legal relevance. It also supports casualty recorders’ demands for access to official information on casualties which states may be reluctant to share.

The Myanmar resolution cites casualty recording as a component of victims’ and survivors’ right to an effective remedy. This is reinforced in the Prevention of Genocide resolution which recognises the contribution of casualty recording towards ‘ensuring accountability, truth, justice, reparation, [and] guarantees of non-recurrence’. These rights are universal, non-derogable and legally binding under international human rights law. The incorporation of casualty recording as a component or contributing facet of these rights paves the way towards its recognition per se as a specific legal obligation of states.

The resolution on the Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arabic Republic draws a link between casualty recording and states’ obligations under humanitarian law to search for and identify missing persons in armed conflict. It also calls upon parties to the conflict to enable communication with families during the recording process. This supports families’ rights to demand information and transparency from state authorities concerning the death of a loved one. Elsewhere, the Syria resolution notes that the absence of casualty records can affect inheritance and custody rights, particularly for women and children. This is important recognition of the gendered impact of inadequate casualty recording, which links the issue with the ‘Women, Peace and Security’ agenda as well as efforts related to the rights of children in armed conflict.

For many years, casualty recording has been promoted as a humanitarian tool rather than a human rights principle. This was misguided. Although there is clear evidence of casualty recording obligations in international humanitarian law, the link between casualty recording and human rights is far more pertinent. There can be no effective right to life, to truth, or to accountability without casualty recording, to name just a few.

Bringing new concepts and terminology into Human Rights Council resolutions is never easy. Semantic battles over virtual synonyms can rage for weeks. States seem to be – by default – often opposed to things that may place new or more stringent obligations upon them. Many arguments are used to push new issues away from the Council’s agenda and onto a different body whether this be humanitarian, development or security-focused.

Effective humanitarian responses rely on rapid production and transmission of rough, ‘good enough’ data. This is far removed from the comprehensive and meticulous investigation, identification, and documentation of individual deaths which casualty recording entails. These initiatives take place over many years, often alongside judicial or pseudo-judicial processes, long after humanitarian actors have left the field. In short, casualty recording is not a humanitarian issue. It is an essential element of the human rights regime.

The 43rd session of the Human Rights Council recognised this and has taken the first steps towards international recognition a legal obligation on states to respect, protect and fulfil the right to comprehensive and individualised casualty recording. This is only good news.

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/getting-it-right-casualty-recording-human-rights-issue-un-has-now-shown

In the same context also a reference to the Benetech Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG – slogan: “We are statisticians for human rights“) analyzes the patterns and magnitude of large-scale human rights violations. Together with local partners, HRDAG collects and preserves human rights data and helps NGOs and other human rights organizations accurately interpret quantitative findings. HRDAG statisticians, programmers, and data analysts develop methodologies to determine how many of those killed and disappeared have never been accounted for – and who is most responsible. HRDAG is one of the pioneers for the calculation of scientifically sound statistics about political violence from multiple data sources including the testimony of witnesses who come forward to tell their stories. It describes methodologies that HRDAG analysts have developed to ensure that statistical human rights claims are transparently, demonstrably, and undeniably true. See: http://(http://www.hrdag.org/

I should furthermore declare my interest in the topic of documenting human rights as one of the founders of HURIDOCS in 1982, see: https://www.huridocs.org/who-we-are/

EU Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World 2019

June 16, 2020

Courtesy of Reliefweb of 15 Jun 2020, here the introduction to the EU’s annual report on human rights

1. INTRODUCTION

The 2019 EU annual report on human rights and democracy in the world marks the final phase of implementation of the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy (2015-2019) 1 . It presents the progress achieved to date, by means of a comprehensive set of actions taken by the European External Action Service (EEAS), the European Commission and EU delegations and offices around the world. In 2019, the EU demonstrated once again that it is a reliable, cooperative and principled global player, working for a better world where all human rights are fully protected and respected.

However, in many parts of the world, challenges remain. Human rights defenders (HRDs), journalists and media workers are under threat and attack because of their daily work, civic and democratic space continues to be restricted, women’s and girls’ human rights are being violated, and vulnerable groups are often left behind and exposed to further discrimination and inequality.

Against this background, the international community celebrated in 2019 the 10th anniversary of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the 70th anniversary of the Council of Europe and the 100th anniversary of the International Labour Organisation. These anniversaries gave great impetus to the EU’s continuous efforts to translate its legal and policy frameworks on human rights into reality. The EU worked with all partners to turn challenges into opportunities for all human beings, at any time, in any place.

The 21st EU-NGO Forum on Human Rights, held in Brussels on 3-4 December, put the human rights and environment nexus in the spotlight as an emerging challenge and gained unprecedented traction. On 9 December 2019, the Foreign Affairs Council agreed on the political appropriateness of establishing an EU global human rights sanctions regime to tackle serious human rights violations worldwide committed by state and non-state actors.

In 2019, the first ever EU guidelines focusing on economic, social and cultural rights were adopted: the EU Human Rights Guidelines on safe drinking water and sanitation. These guidelines opened new horizons in promoting the indivisibility of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. The Council also adopted Guidelines on non-discrimination in external action and revised Guidelines on EU policy towards third countries on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Moreover, the Council conclusions on Democracy adopted in October provided a comprehensive framework to advance democratic governance.

This report focuses on thematic issues, using a number of country-specific examples, and aims to be a practical tool for all stakeholders. Reporting on human rights and democracy at country level can be found on the EEAS2 and EU delegations’ webpages.

Download report (PDF | 1.13 MB)

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/eu-annual-report-human-rights-and-democracy-world-2019

UN Special procedures discuss human rights and Covid-19

May 2, 2020

On 30 April 2020 the UN Human Rights Council held a virtual informal conversation on the human rights implications of the COVID-19 crisis with representatives of the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures mandate holders.

The special procedures of the Human Rights Council are independent human rights experts with the mandates to report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective. The Coordination Committee, composed of six Special Procedures mandate holders, aims to enhance coordination among mandate holders and to act as a bridge between them, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the broader United Nations human rights framework and civil society.

….Anita Ramasastry, Chairperson of the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures, noted that the Coordination Committee had helped create a dedicated COVID-19 web page, which it hoped would become over time a living repository of guidance and advice to States on good practice. The Special Procedures mandate holders had risen to the challenge and through their powerful statements, actions and innovations promoted a human rights-based approach to addressing this crisis, said Ms. Ramasastry. They attempted to help States to ensure that policies and decisions taken during the crisis were consistent with human rights.

Dainius Pûras, Special Rapporteur on the right to health said advances in biomedical sciences were very important to realize the right to health during this pandemic, but equally important were human rights. The way to the effective management of the pandemic was the application of the principles of non-discrimination, participation, empowerment and accountability to all policies. He also stressed the importance of access to reliable and accurate information and the protection of the right to privacy, including in the use of technologies to track the spread of the virus.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers welcomed the guidance provided by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to ensure that States’ responses complied with human rights obligations. They asked what steps had been taken to ensure the lifting of unilateral and illegal coercive measures, which violated human rights. Any measures to counter the pandemic should be necessary and proportionate, pursue legitimate purposes, and comply with international norms. Respect for human rights was vital, not only for the emergency response phase, but also during the post-crisis recovery. Speakers noted that emergency powers had been used to enact repressive measures that may have the effect of silencing dissent. They stressed the importance of upholding economic, social and cultural rights, including issues related to access to housing and food. It was hard to find a more striking example of the interconnectedness of rights than this crisis.

In conclusion, Mr. Pûras said lessons still had to be drawn from this pandemic. However, lots of lessons learned from previous public health crises could be applied today to address the current crisis. The AIDS epidemic, for instance, had shown that a human rights-based approach was most effective. It should also be noted that the current crisis had revealed the weakness of healthcare systems, including in some developed countries, which would have to be addressed.

The webcast of this informal virtual conversation is available on demand on UN Web TV, while summaries of the discussion in English and French can be found on the United Nations Office at Geneva News and Media page.

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/human-rights-council-discusses-human-rights-implications-covid-19-crisis-its-special

Joint NGO statement on civil and political rights at First Virtual Informal Dialogue with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on COVID-19

April 15, 2020

In the context of policy response by Human Rights NGOs to COVID-19 this joint statement should not be missing: On 9 April 2020 Reliefweb published the Joint NGO statement on civil and political rights at First Virtual Informal Dialogue with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on COVID-19

This joint statement on the protection of civil and political rights in the context of the COVID-19 crisis was delivered on behalf of 33 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) during the first virtual informal briefing with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on 9 April 2020. It was delivered in conjunction with a separate joint statement on economic, social and cultural rights (IOR 40/2124/2020).

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/14/un-guidelines-for-use-of-emergency-powers-in-time-of-covid-19-pandemic/

Policy response from Human Rights NGOs to COVID-19: Amnesty International

April 10, 2020
In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, many human rights organisations have been formulating a policy response. While I cannot be complete or undertake comparisons, I will try and give some examples in the course of these weeks. Here the one by Amnesty International as posred on 8 April in Reliefweb: “Human rights defenders: We need them more than ever! States worldwide must protect Human Rights Defenders in the current COVID-19 crisis“:

At a time when some of our human rights have been restricted in order to implement public health measures, human rights defenders are more crucial than ever in our struggle to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure that no one is left behind…..

Crisis like this one put these commitments to the test. It is paramount that states around the world recommit to protect and recognize those who individually or collectively take action to protect our human rights, including in the context of the pandemic. In particular, states must ensure that all measures restricting the right to defend human rights, including those imposing limitations on the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, are strictly necessary and proportionate for the protection of public health. The authorities must not use restrictions imposed during the pandemic to suppress relevant information uncomfortable for the government or use the situation as a pretext to crack down critics and human rights defenders. States must recognise that human rights defence is an essential activity during emergency periods and ensure that human rights defenders can exercise their work free from reprisals, intimidation or threats, so that together we can all face up to this crisis.

Human rights defenders, including those working in the field of research, health and social care, journalism and other areas, have been key in informing the public about the challenges posed by COVID-19 at all stages of the crisis. Their work is essential in ensuring states provide accessible and reliable information in a fair and transparent manner and can raise the alarm when measures are damaging or inadequate. Governments must ensure that those carrying out this role can continue to do so. They must respond by being accountable and open to scrutiny as well as by providing evidence-based and accurate information as the pandemic unfolds. Other activists, including women and LGBTI human rights defenders, trade unionists, environmental and land defenders, refugees and migrants’ rights defenders and indigenous rights defenders, are also helping the public understand the impact and implications of COVID-19 in their communities and how it affects different sectors of society, particularly the most marginalized and at risk.

Human rights defenders play a key role in watching that the measures taken by authorities do not infringe unduly on human rights – for example on the right to freedom of expression, on the right to privacy, or on the rights to health, housing and to an adequate standard of living – and speak out when this happens.

Human rights defenders raise the alarm and demand action when marginalized groups or individuals are being disproportionately affected or forgotten by the new measures, that is those historically discriminated against: people in the informal economy, people at risk of domestic violence, refugees and migrants, or people in detention, for example.

Human right defenders keep a check on the misuse of power of non-state actors. For example, they raise their voice against abuses by businesses and corporations, including when they fail to uphold labour and human rights standards in their responses to the pandemic, or when they shift the economic impact on workers, or when they fail to provide adequate protection from contagion for workers at risk.

Health and social care workers are at the frontline of this pandemic, continuing to deliver services despite the personal risks to them and their families, including contracting COVID19 while doing their jobs, working long hours, enduring psychological distress and fatigue. At the same time, thousands of individuals are volunteering to help those in need and provide crucial services. Many others, such as those involved in cleaning, sanitation and domestic work, in running transport systems, in the production of food, and other key workers, are also providing critical services, sometimes without adequate protection for themselves. All these individuals are not only doing their jobs, they are also protecting everybody’s right to health despite serious challenges and risks. They should be given with urgency adequate and quality tools, protection measures and any other support they need to carry out their work in safety.

Without all the individuals and collectives who defend our human rights worldwide, it would be almost impossible to tackle COVID-19 and save as many lives and livelihoods as possible. It is therefore not just states’ obligation, but it is in the interest of states and society at large to recognise, protect and enable human rights defenders to carry out their crucial work so that the harshest impact of the crisis can be mitigated and ensure that no one is left behind.

Recommendations

In the weeks since the outbreak of COVID-19, we have seen a flourishing of solidarity and empathy towards people in need and those most at risk, including a revival of community initiatives and self-help groups. It is time for those in power to recognise and protect human rights defenders, who are precisely those leading the way in showing how to include all sectors of society in the effort against the pandemic. Human rights defenders have long led the way in delivering justice, equality and rights for all without discrimination, with their empathy, activism, passion and hope. They must be protected!

Authorities worldwide must send a clear, unequivocal message in all their communications stating that:

  • Human rights defenders are key allies to address the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and therefore will be recognised and protected without discrimination at all times
  • Physical or verbal attacks against human rights defenders will not be tolerated and, where applicable, those responsible will be brought to justice in fair trials
  • Human rights defenders are key to overcoming the pandemic in a way that is inclusive and respectful of human rights, and therefore need to be included in any collective actions to tackle it
  • Those human rights defenders on the frontline of the pandemic must be given the necessary information, the tools and the protective equipment they need to carry out their human rights activities in safety

Human Rights Day 2018 – anthology part II

December 11, 2018

Yesterday I published a small selection of events related to International Human Rights Day [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/10/human-rights-day-2018-just-an-anthology/] but things keep coming in so here is the follow-up with another 10 items:

  1. in the UN family: ReliefWeb published an overview of how the UN family has been making sure that this year’s Human Rights Day succeeds in raising awareness of the principles enshrined in the document, which are as important and relevant today, as they were in 1948. It refers to SG António Guterres and UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet in Marrakesh for global migration pact on Monday…..

Threats to human rights were also being highlighted at UN headquarters in New York on Monday, where charities, non-governmental organizations and members of civil society were joined by Andrew Gilmour, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, for a discussion about the ways that modern challenges, unforeseen 70 years ago, are impacting rights. The talk covered digital technologies, which have led to many benefits, but also brought about new risks which could replicate, and even exacerbate existing threats to human rights; and climate change, which risks making much of the planet uninhabitable.

Defending human rights in conflict zones:

..In Afghanistan, the UN Assistance Mission (UNAMA) renewed its call for human rights and fundamental freedoms to be respected in the country, welcoming breakthroughs such as the work of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, new laws empowering the media, a new Penal Code reflecting the country’s commitment to promote fundamental freedoms, and the presence of women in civil service positions and in the private sector. Meanwhile, in South Sudan, commuters in the capital, Juba, got the chance to see their military in a different light on Monday: as athletes. Hundreds of military personnel – as well as police and prison officers, fire-fighters and members of the wildlife services – took part in a 10-kilometre race around the streets of the capital, organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), to promote awareness of human rights and the need for peace in the conflict-affected country. Speaking on Monday, David Shearer, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMISS, said that “the only way that South Sudan is going to recover is by having peace and respect for human rights. If respect for human rights is there, then there is peace. If there is peace, it involves respect for human rights and people’s ethnicity and political persuasion. The two things go hand in hand.

 

2. The Phnom Penh Post of 10 December () reports that the Cambodian authorities used the occasion to a ban march for Human Rights Day

Phnom Penh authorities have banned a planned march as local NGOs and workers’ unions gear up to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Monday, with a youth group leader saying they would march nonetheless….In a letter issued on Saturday, Mean Chanyada, Phnom Penh’s deputy governor, said the NGOs concerned had been told that they could celebrate the anniversary at Freedom Park but marching was prohibited. “If [you] gather at a location outside the permitted area and continue to march on the street, which would affect security, safety and public order, the representatives will face the law,” Chanyada said. Sar Mory, the deputy chief of the Cambodian Youth Network (CYN) said on Sunday that he was concerned that important messages would not reach the public if they were to celebrate the anniversary without marching. “The reason we want to march is that we want to get our messages heard, ……

 

3. The winners of the “Kids for Human Rights” international drawing competition were announced on 10 December 2018. Nine young, creative artists from Australia, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Canada, Iran, Portugal, Thailand and the United States have won the top prizes in the “Kids for Human Rights” international drawing competition, launched earlier this year by the United Nations and the Gabarron Foundation. The call generated more than 17,000 entries. The full list winners is available hereThe international jury was presided by internationally known Spanish artist Cristóbal Gabarrón and included Hani Abbas, a Syrian-Palestinian cartoonist who won the 2014 Editorial Cartoon International Prize awarded by Cartooning for Peace, Kate Gilmore, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Susanna Griso, Spanish journalist and television presenter, Jenna Ortega, a young American actress, Tomas Paredes, President of the Spanish chapter of the International Association of Art Critics, and Jayathma Wickramanayake, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Youth.

 

4. The International Policy Digest used the occasion to draw attention to another international document that celebrates its 70th anniversary: the Genocide Convention which was signed into life a day before the UDHR, 9 December.,, It was the Polish-Jewish lawyer, Raphael Lemkin, who advocated for an international law for the crime of genocide. Before 1944, there was no law. However, in the wake of the Holocaust, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 260 (III) A on December 9, 1948 outlawing genocide. On January 12, 1951, the Convention came into force. …The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, has argued that genocide continues to remain a “threat and reality.” She urged nations to act based on the “warning signs” often preceding genocide. She added that the crime of genocide is as real today as it was at the time of its signing. There are still 45 UN Member States who yet to ratify or agree to the Convention...

 

5. In Zimbabwe, a prominent human rights defender reminded Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa that he had termed the abduction of journalist activist Itai Dzamara “barbaric” and called on him to follow his words with actions to prevent and punish rights abuses. [Dzamara has been missing since March 2015].  Zimbabwe Peace Project director Jestina Mukoko said: “With all due respect, I call upon the President to return to the words and show that it is barbaric. Such things are not expected from civilised people, inflicting pain on another person and the constitution clearly states that.”….Lawyer Jeremiah Bhamu, who has represented many abduction victims, called on the Zimbabwean government to ratify the convention on torture…The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association said while the adoption of the new constitution with a modern Declaration of Rights, enshrined in chapter four, in 2013 has been an important milestone, a lot needed to be done to align laws, respect its provisions and establish a culture of constitutionalism. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/08/jestina-mukokos-150-000-triumph-in-zimbabwe-gives-hope-to-all-torture-victims/]

 

6. “As human rights declaration turns 70, development banks have a way to go to respect and protect rights defenders” writes Olexi Pasyuk in Bankwatch. To coincide with this milestone, Bankwatch together with more than 200 organisations globally has called on international financiers to ensure that these institutions support the realisation of human rights, avoid causing or contributing to rights abuses, promote an enabling environment for public participation, and safeguard rights defenders.

 

7.  

Today, on the occasion of the Human Rights Day – 20 years on from the first UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and on the 70th anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights – The Human Rights Defenders World Summit 2018 published the final document of the action plan for the protection and the promotion of the work of human rights defenders. This action plan proposes a concrete set of measures and calls for a lasting commitment from States and other key actors to act to protect human rights defenders and to take concrete actions to offer better protection and create a more enabling environment for their work. We trust that this document will become a key reference for advocacy work at national, regional and international levels for the years to come. The action plan is available to download in five languages on the Summit’s website https://hrdworldsummit.org/action-plan/ It will be presented at the United Nations in New York on December 18th during the high level panel of experts on the situation of HRDs at the initiative of Norway. More information soon on the summit facebook page and website. See also  Summit’s Facebook page, and on the website. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/07/24/announcement-of-the-human-rights-defenders-world-summit-in-paris-october-2018/]

 

8. Democracy without Borders writes on the occasion that Human rights defenders continue to face onerous challenges. In response to these challenges, Democracy Without Borders joined more than 900 other civil society organizations from across the world in supporting a global statement that urges governments “to create an enabling environment for HRDs to operate in line with regional and international human rights obligations and standards.”

Supporters of the Yellow Umbrella human rights and democracy movement in Hong Kong face state persecution. Source: Studio Incendo/Flickr
…..Unfortunately, as is evident from the monitoring of the situation of HRDs, those at the forefront of defending, promoting and protecting human rights are prime targets of attacks perpetrated by state and non-state actors. HRDs are often victims of physical assaults, and arbitrary and unlawful detention is the number one tactic of repression used by states. It is the increasingly threatening situation for HRDs that motivates the current global statement. [CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation,. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/07/global-statement-on-the-20th-anniversary-of-the-un-declaration-on-human-rights-defenders/]

9.  In the Philippines, in line with the country’s celebration of Human Rights Day, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) opened on Monday a freedom park to honor those who fought against human rights violation. Dubbed as the Liwasang Diokno, the CHR commemorated the heroic act of late Senator Jose ‘Ka Pepe’ Diokno, whom the agency tagged as a “symbol of freedom, democracy, and human rights.” Diokno was one of those individuals who fought to attain democracy in the country during the Martial Law era under the Marcos administration. a statue of Diokno was also installed inside the park with the approval of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.With the opening of the Liwasang Diokno at the central office of CHR in Quezon City, the human rights group urged the public to continue to be more active in defending the human rights. The freedom park has a 30-tier fountain in its center, symbolizing the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

 

10.  A lights projection showing the faces of imprisoned, threatened and at-risk human rights defenders (HRDs) from around the world will shine at Dublin City Hall to mark the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The faces will be projected on December 10th and 11th during a public reception, hosted by the Lord Mayor of Dublin Nial Ring with Front Line Defenders, Dublin City Council and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

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https://reliefweb.int/report/world/worldwide-un-family-celebrates-enduring-universal-values-human-rights

https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/phnom-penh-authorities-ban-march-human-rights-day

https://www.unog.ch/unog/website/news_media.nsf/(httpNewsByYear_en)/7C0D10EB243EC1FEC125835F003D589B?OpenDocument

https://intpolicydigest.org/2018/12/10/two-important-days-on-the-un-calendar-warranting-greater-attention/

https://citizen.co.za/news/news-africa/2048178/human-rights-defenders-urge-mnangagwa-to-walk-the-talk-on-rights-abuses/

https://bankwatch.org/blog/as-human-rights-declaration-turns-70-development-banks-have-a-ways-to-go-to-respect-and-protect-rights-defenders?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Bankwatch-blog+%28Bankwatch+blog%29