Posts Tagged ‘reprisals’

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/

#EndReprisals campaign continues throughout HRC 51

September 20, 2022

Human rights defenders promote dignity, fairness, peace and justice in their homes, workplaces, communities and countries. They challenge governments that fail to respect and protect their people, corporations that degrade and destroy the environment, and institutions that perpetuate privilege and patriarchy. For many, the United Nations (UN) is the last arena in which they can confront abuses. 

Human rights defenders must be able to share crucial information and perspectives with the UN safely and unhindered. Yet some States try to escape international scrutiny by raising obstacles – such as intimidation and reprisals – aimed at creating fear and systematically hindering defenders’ access to and cooperation with human rights mechanisms. See my post of today: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/09/20/human-rights-defenders-at-the-51st-session-of-the-un-human-rights-council/

This needs to change! Join the campaign of the International Service for Human Rights today so human rights defenders have a seat at the UN table.

What can you do? ISHR and partners have worked to support individual defenders and organisations that have endured multiple forms of reprisals and intimidation. Take action for them now and help #EndReprisals!

Here are two quick, impactful actions you can take:

Write to State representatives at the UN and urge them to take up cases from Belarus, Burundi, China, Egypt, and Venezuela
Click to tweet a message in solidarity with the individuals or groups described in a specific case:

 Tweet for Viasna in Belarus

Tweet for human rights lawyers in Burundi

Tweet for Jiang Tianyong in China

Tweet for Ibrahim Metwally Hegazy in Egypt

Tweet for NGOs in Venezuela

Join the campaign

Human rights defenders at the 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council

September 20, 2022

The 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council has started well and good on 12 September and will last until 7 October. I am awfully delayed in extracting from the – as always excellent – guide – produced by the team of the ISHR – the issues most directly affecting human rights defenders. Apologies.

Readthe full Alert to the session online here and to stay up-to-date, follow @ISHRglobal and #HRC51 on Twitter. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/09/15/new-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-volker-turk-the-man-for-an-impossible-job/

Throughout the session ISHR is calling on States to #EndReprisals against human rights defenders and civil society groups who engage with the United Nations!

Some Thematic areas

Reprisals On 29 September, Ilze Brands Kehris, the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights will present the Secretary-General’s annual report on Cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights (also known as ‘the Reprisals Report’) to the Council in her capacity as UN senior official on reprisals. The presentation of the report will be followed by a dedicated interactive dialogue, as mandated by the September 2017 resolution on reprisals. ISHR remains deeply concerned about reprisals against civil society actors who engage or seek to engage with UN bodies mechanisms. The dedicated dialogue is a key opportunity for States to raise concerns about specific cases of reprisals and demand that Governments provide an update on any investigation or action taken toward accountability. An increasing number of States have raised concerns in recent sessions about individual cases of reprisals, including in Egypt, Nicaragua, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Bahrain, Yemen, Burundi, China and Venezuela, Egypt, Burundi, Lao and China, Belarus, Iran, Turkmenistan, and the Philippines. During its 48th session, the Council adopted a resolution on reprisals. The text, which was adopted by consensus, invited the UN Secretary-General to submit an annual report on reprisals and intimidation to the UN General Assembly. Once again, the resolution listed key trends including that acts of intimidation and reprisals can signal patterns, increasing self-censorship, and the use of national security arguments and counter-terrorism strategies by States as justification for blocking access to the UN. The resolution also acknowledged the specific risks to individuals in vulnerable situations or belonging to marginalised groups, and called on the UN to implement gender-responsive policies to end reprisals. The Council called on States to combat impunity by conducting prompt, impartial and independent investigations and ensuring accountability for all acts of intimidation or reprisal, both online and offline, by condemning all such acts publicly, providing access to effective remedies for victims, and preventing any recurrence.

Other thematic reports At this 51st session, the Council will discuss a range of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights and issues through dedicated debates, including

Special Rapporteur on truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence

Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences 

Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order.

Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances

Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes 

In addition, the Council will hold dedicated debates on the rights of specific groups including with the: Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The Council will also consider various other reports, see the full list here.  

Country-specific developments
Afghanistan The Council will hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan and enhanced interactive dialogue on the human rights situation of women and girls in Afghanistan on 12 September. While a Special Rapporteur mandate is necessary to monitor and report on the human rights situation in Afghanistan, the dire situation in the country and the atrocities affecting women and girls warrant a more robust and systematic response. ISHR together with other NGOs call on the Council to establish in parallel an ongoing accountability mechanism with the specific mandate: To investigate all alleged violations and abuses of human rights law amounting to crimes under international law in Afghanistan, in particular against women and girls, To collect, consolidate and analyse evidence of such violations and abuses, including their gender dimension, and to systematically record and preserve all information, documentation and evidence, including interviews, witness testimony and forensic material, consistent with international law standards, in view of any future legal proceedings; To document and verify relevant information and evidence, including through field engagement, and to cooperate with judicial and other entities, national and international, as appropriate; To identify, where possible, those individuals and entities responsible for all alleged violations and abuses of human rights law amounting to crimes under international law in Afghanistan, in particular against women and girls, with a view to ensuring that those responsible are held accountable.

China  Despite significant pressure, the UN human rights office (OHCHR) has published its human rights assessment on the Uyghur region (Xinjiang). The report highlights ‘serious human rights violations’, including torture and sexual and gender-based violence, stressing that existing ‘highly securitised and discriminatory’ re-education camps ‘provide fertile ground for such violations to take place on a broad scale.’ The OHCHR found that the ‘arbitrary and discriminatory detention of members of Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim group […] may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.’ It also warns that ‘conditions remain in place for serious violations to continue and recur’, calling for ‘urgent attention’ by the international community.  The Human Rights Council, and all governments that are genuinely committed to rights protection globally, cannot turn a blind eye to the severity and scale of evidence verified by the UN.  In line with ‘objective criteria’ for Human Rights Council action, ISHR calls on:  The Council to hold a formal discussion on China’s human rights crisis, including the human rights situations in the Uyghur region (Xinjiang), the Tibetan region, Hong Kong, and on human rights defenders;  States to initiate and support efforts to establish an independent international mechanism to monitor and report on the human rights situation in China, in line with the call by 50 UN Special Procedures experts. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/09/01/finally-the-long-awaited-un-report-on-china/

Burundi The Council will hold an Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Burundi on 22 September.  Since the Special Rapporteur’s mandate was operationalised, the human rights situation in Burundi has not changed in a substantial or sustainable way. The limited improvements since President Évariste Ndayishimiye was sworn in, in June 2020, as well as the positive signals he sent, particularly with regard to freedom of the press and promises of justice, have not materialised into long-term reforms. All the structural issues the CoI and other human rights actors identified remain in place. These include arbitrary arrests of political opponents or those perceived as such, acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, sexual and genderbased violence, undue restrictions to freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association, and violations of economic, social and cultural rights that are intertwined with the economic underpinnings of the State. In the absence of structural improvements and as grave human rights violations and abuses continue to be committed with impunity, the Council should adopt a resolution that reflects realities on the ground and ensures continued monitoring, reporting, and public debates on Burundi’s human rights situation. It should grant the Special Rapporteur the time he needs to fulfill his mandate and urge Burundi to cooperate with him, including by granting him access to the country. At its 51st session, the Council should adopt a resolution that extends the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Burundi for a further year.

Egypt The continued silence of the Council on the critical human rights situation in Egypt is of great concern. As Egypt prepares to host COP27, it continues to carry out widespread and systematic violations of human rights, including freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association against Egyptian and foreign nationals.

Egyptian authorities have for years employed draconian laws, including laws on counterterrorism, cybercrimes, and civil society in order to subdue the civilian populations and stifle all forms of peaceful dissent and mobilization. Under the current government, Egypt has become among the worst three countries in the world in the numbers of jailed journalists and almost all independent media has been forced to shut down or threatened into silence. Hundreds of websites continue to be banned. Scores of civil society and media representatives have been and continue to be disappeared, tortured and/or arbitrarily detained under the pretense of counter-terrorism and national security.

While the release of a few select arbitrarily-detained activists is a sign that international pressure works, the number of releases pales in comparison to the vast numbers of individuals newly detained by the National Security Prosecution, or whose arbitrary detention has been renewed in 2022. Amongst those still in prison is well known Egyptian-British human rights defender Alaa Abdel Fattah – recently sentenced to an additional 5 years in prison by an exceptional court.  He is on hunger strike for over 150 days. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/07/07/mona-seifs-letter-a-cry-for-help-for-alaa/]We urge the Council and its Special Procedures to take action to protect and ensure the release of all those arbitrarily detained in Egypt.

Russia  Together with Russian and international human rights organisations, ISHR continues to call on the Human Rights Council to establish a dedicated international mechanism to monitor and report on the dire human rights situation in Russia. As recognised by UN human rights experts, this situation includes: the stigmatisation and criminalisation of independent civil society; the persecution of human rights defenders, peaceful protesters and political activists, including through arbitrary arrest, detention, ill-treatment and torture; the banning of independent media and the silencing of journalists; attacks against women and LGBTI persons and activists; the propagation of massive disinformation; and the systematic erosion of any semblance of the rule of law or accountability mechanisms.  As further recognised by independent UN experts, by undermining and attacking independent civil society, persecuting human rights defenders, activists, and opposition and dissenting voices, banning independent media, silencing journalists, and effectively outlawing any form of peaceful protest, the Russian authorities have created an environment that, at least in part, facilitates its war in Ukraine. The war has led to an enormous loss of civilian life, displacement of millions of Ukrainian civilians, and contributed to a global food security and energy crisis, among other developments. A dedicated Special Rapporteur mandate would independently collect, analyse and present information on the human rights situation in Russia and make recommendations to the Council and the authorities on how to address it. It would serve as a crucial lifeline between Russian human rights defenders and the international community at a time when other bridges have been cut. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/04/26/lev-ponomarev-human-rights-defender-leaves-russia/] Finally, a Special Rapporteur could speak up authoritatively against the deepening restrictions on human rights in Russia and on behalf of those facing intimidation, harassment and reprisal for their human rights work.

Israel and oPT ISHR joined over 150 organisations from all world regions demand that the international community condemns and takes action to protect seven Palestinian civil society organisations that have been subject to illegal threats, raids and closure by Israeli authorities.

On the morning of 18 August 2022, the Israeli occupying forces (IOF) raided and sealed the doorways into the offices of the seven Palestinian organisations: Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Al-Haq Law in the Service of Man (Al-Haq), Bisan Center for Research and Development, Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P), Health Work Committees (HWC), the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC). We urge States to unequivocally condemn Israel’s targeting of Palestinian civil society and tactics to further repress of freedom of expression, and to take all necessary action to support and protect Palestinian human rights defenders and ensure the continuation of their invaluable work.

We call upon States to demand that Israel immediately revoke its designations of Palestinian human rights and civil society organisations as ‘terrorist organisations’, reverse the military orders designating the organisations and closing their offices, and repeal its Anti-Terrorism Law (2016) as it does not meet basic human rights standards. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/12/15/human-rights-defenders-targeted-by-israel-launch-new-joint-website/

Venezuela The HRC’s fact-finding mission on Venezuela will present its final report under its current mandate to the Human Rights Council on 26 September, followed by an interactive dialogue with States. All eyes are on Latin American states, in particular, to see whether or not they will present a resolution to renew the mission’s mandate.  While there have been significant human rights changes in Venezuela – including a reduction in extrajudicial executions between 2020 and 2021 – the human rights situation in the country remains grim, with clear retrogression in some cases. This is not the time for States to end the work of the Mission, a key accountability mechanism which during its work to date has produced evidence of likely crimes against humanity.  Not only is its work on past violations far from over, but it could play a key role in the prevention of further violations, particularly at times of instability such as is possible during upcoming Presidential elections.   ISHR has worked as part of a Coalition of Venezuelan, regional and international organisations calling for the continuation of the mandate of the Mission. These demands were recently made in a letter to States, signed by 125 other Venezuelan and international organisations. The continuation of the Mission should be a key part of foreign policy aims of states of the region, and ISHR hopes to see States step up on this front in the coming days and weeks.

Yemen ISHR joined NGOs in urging States to work toward the establishment of an independent international criminally focused investigative mechanism on Yemen in the coming period, including at HRC51. While a Yemen truce hangs in the balance, little to no progress has been made by parties to the conflict to  address ongoing and widespread violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law or remedy the harms they have inflicted on civilians throughout the conflict. The humanitarian situation in Yemen remains desperate, and, in recent weeks, armed clashes have once again increased. Civilians continue to fall victim to shelling, drone strikes and other attacks.These factors attest to the urgent and critical need to reinvigorate international accountability efforts on Yemen through the establishment of an independent international investigation. After its mandate ended in October 2021, members of the GEE called on the international community to take specific initiatives at the international level in pursuit of accountability.  Continued impunity will only increase the likelihood that more children will starve, more rights defenders and journalists will be imprisoned or executed, more homes and schools will be bombed, and the cycle of violence and suffering will continue. In this context, an international independent criminal accountability mechanism for Yemen can play a critical role to deter violence, protect civilians and promote a genuine and lasting peace.  In December 2021, nearly 90 civil society organisations called on member states of the UN to move quickly and establish such a mechanism in order to  investigate and publicly report on the most serious violations and abuses of international law committed in Yemen.

Other country situations These include: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan and Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on the human rights situation of women and girls in Afghanistan Interactive Dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner on Nicaragua Interactive Dialogue on the report of the OHCHR on Sri Lanka Interactive Dialogue on the report of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, Interactive Dialogue with the SR on Myanmar, Interactive Dialogue on the OHCHR report on Myanmar, Acting High Commissioner oral update on the human rights situation in Myanmar Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia Interactive Dialogue on the oral update of OHCHR on technical assistance and capacity-building for South Sudan Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic  Interactive Dialogue on the interim oral update of the Acting High Commissioner on the situation of human rights in Belarus  Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine and Interactive Dialogue on the Acting High Commissioner oral update on Ukraine Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner and experts on the Democratic Republic of Congo Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia and presentation of the Secretary-General’s report  Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on Somalia Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on the Central African Republic  Presentation of the High Commissioner’s report on cooperation with Georgia  Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner on the Philippines

Council programme, appointments and resolutions

States announced at least 29 proposed resolutions. Read here the reports presented this session. Appointment of mandate holders: The President of the Human Rights Council will propose candidates for:  Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons; Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, member from Eastern European States; Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

Read here the three year programme of work of the Council with supplementary information. Read here ISHR’s recommendations on the key issues that are or should be on the agenda of the UN Human Rights Council in 2022.

Concerning side events, the Secretariat informed the Bureau that it had developed a way to organise the time slots for the three meeting rooms in order to allow for side events to take place in the Palais des Nations during the 51st session of the Council. The time slots for side events will be allocated according to availability and on a first-come, first-served basis. In order to accommodate as many requests as possible, only one side event per requesting organiser will be accommodated and each side event would be limited to one hour in duration. Organisers are requested to strictly respect the allotted time and to leave the room on time in order to ensure the smooth organisation of the following side event. NGOs will find additional information on the modalities and the criteria at the OHCHR NGO participation web page. The Secretariat underscored that these measures will be implemented during the 51st session on a pilot basis.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/09/20/report-on-the-50th-session-of-the-un-hrc/

https://ishr.ch/latest-updates/hrc51-key-issues-on-agenda-of-september-2022-session/

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

Stop Reprisals Against Mongolian Human Rights Defender Sukhgerel Dugersuren

August 22, 2022

An astonishing 128 organisations joined Forum Asia on 18 August 2022 in signing the joint letter in support of the Mongolian human rights defender Sukhgerel Dugersuren which strongly condemns the criminalization and smear campaigns against her,

They call on all the international institutions and actors active in the country – including development banks, UN bodies and experts, EU member states and institutions, international embassies, international investors or private companies – to publicly speak out in support of Sukhgerel, use their leverage to strongly condemn reprisals, and take any action they can to ensure Sukhgerel can continue to safely carry out her work.

Who is Sukhgerel Dugersuren?

Sukhgerel Dugersuren is an internationally renowned human rights defender and the Executive Director of the Mongolian organizations Oyu Tolgoi Watch and Rivers without Boundaries Mongolia. She has a long trajectory of exposing human rights abuses and defending the rights of herder and rural communities in Mongolia. Her courageous and inspirational work is admired by scores of international and local civil society organizations, as well as UN Special Rapporteurs and experts, who have closely worked with her.

In the past decades, Sukhgerel has supported dozens of communities negatively affected by large-scale projects, such as mines and hydropower dams. She has helped these communities in denouncing the harmful impacts of these activities and bringing their grievances to the attention of the Mongolian government, development banks, and international organizations. For example, she supported complaints to the independent accountability mechanisms of the World Bank, International Finance Corporation, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Asian Development Bank.

What happened and why is she being criminalized?

According to Front Line Defenders, on 2 August 2022, Mongolia’s General Intelligence Agency informed Sukhgerel that she is under investigation for committing crimes under the Mongolian Criminal Code Article 19.4, which prohibits the “illegal cooperation with foreign intelligence agency, agent.” Although no other details around the investigations have been shared, we fear Sukhgerel might be at risk of imminent arrest and we are deeply concerned for her safety.

Sukhgerel is being subject to a clear criminalisation process, where the law is used to limit civic freedoms and punish human rights defenders. The undersigned human rights organizations consider these accusations false and baseless, as they appear to be related to Sukhgerel’s support to the communities impacted by the Erdeneburen hydropower plant, funded by China’s EXIM Bank, and her legitimate requests for access to environmental information, public participation in environmental decision-making and transparency.

On 3 August 2022, during a government briefing, Mongolia’s Minister of Justice and Internal Affairs, H. Nyambaatar, stated that the construction of the Erdeneburen hydro plant had been suspended for two years, as a result of a letter from the local communities to the Chinese authorities. He also said that when development projects are interrupted by a civil society organization or person, then a task force should be established to investigate these cases as ‘sabotage’ under Criminal Code Article 19.6 and that the government could claim compensation for the lost economic opportunity. This concerning statement was shared just a few days before the visit by China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, to Ulan Bator on 7 and 8 August to discuss economic cooperation between the two countries and who specifically mentioned the Erdeneburen hydropower plant in his remarks.

The Mongolian Minister’s statement could be construed as a direct threat of reprisal against human rights defenders like Sukhgerel. It also sends a very chilling message to all individuals and communities peacefully raising concerns or opposing harmful projects, especially in a context where several environmental activists have already been threatened and criminalized.

Sukhgerel is also facing a worrying and orchestrated smear campaign in online media and social media. We are deeply worried about the criminalization and smear campaign against Sukhgerel, which puts her at additional risk and constitutes a threat to all human rights defenders and civil society groups in the country.

They call on the government and other relevant authorities in Mongolia to:

  1. Immediately investigate and unconditionally cease all attempts to target and criminalize Sukhgerel Dugersuren, as well as other human rights defenders and individuals expressing their opinion or raising concerns about development projects in the country;
  2. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Mongolia are able to carry out their human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions, in line with Mongolia’s international human rights obligations and commitments, including its recently approved law on human rights defenders;
  3. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Publicly recognise the importance of freedom of expression, meaningful participation, unimpeded access to information on development projects and environmental impacts, and a safe environment for human rights defenders, to help ensure development projects are truly sustainable for Mongolia.

https://www.forum-asia.org/

Webinar to introduce ISHR’s #EndReprisals database

July 12, 2022

Join the International Service for Human Rights on 13 July 2022 for a webinar to introduce ISHR’s #EndReprisals database. In follow up to ISHR’s 2021 study on the impact of the UN Secretary-General’s reports on reprisals, the ISHR’s #EndReprisals Database compiles cases or situations of intimidation and reprisals documented by the United Nations Secretary-General since 2010. [ See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/09/30/reprisals-on-the-agenda-of-the-un-and-the-new-ishr-campaign-to-endreprisals/]

Each year the Secretary-General prepares a report that documents acts of intimidation and reprisals aimed at creating fear or blocking access to the United Nations of people who defend human rights. With ISHR’s #EndReprisals Database, users can more easily navigate the information contained in those reports, and research, analyse, and take action on the cases or situations so that together we can #EndReprisals. The webinar will introduce users to the database and its functionalities.

Register now for Webinar on 13 July 2022 15:00-16.00 pm CEST

https://mailchi.mp/ishr/749qlxejj6-33545?e=d1945ebb90

50th session Human Rights Council: issues directly affecting Human Rights Defenders

June 22, 2022

A bit belatedly this overview for the 50th session:

The 50th session of the UN Human Rights Council, from 13 June to 8 July 2022, will consider issues including sexual orientation and gender identity, violence and discrimination against women and girls, poverty, peaceful assembly and association, and freedom of expression, among others. It will also present an opportunity to address grave human rights situations including in Afghanistan, Belarus, China, Eritrea, Israel and OPT, Russia, Sudan, Syria and Venezuela, among many others. With “HRC50 | Key issues on agenda of June 2022 session” the ISHR provided again its indispensable guide. Here’s an overview of some of the key issues on the agenda that are the most relevant to HRDs [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/02/21/guide-to-49th-session-of-human-rights-council-with-human-rights-defenders-focus/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/04/15/results-49th-session-human-rights-council-as-seen-by-ngos/

Thematic areas of interest

Here are some highlights of the session’s thematic discussions

Business and human rights

Despite their vital work to protect the environment and combat climate change, Indigenous peoples as well as land and environmental defenders continue to be attacked. New data shows an alarming pattern of violence and harassment as a precursor to lethal attacks against defenders. 

In 2020, Global Witness registered the killings of 137 land and environmental defenders in just five of the most dangerous countries for them: Colombia, Guatemala, Kenya, Mexico and the Philippines. However, a new dataset from the ALLIED Data Working Group, a coalition in which ISHR takes part, focused on these countries has for the first time documented what is often hidden – the non-lethal attacks, including threats, harassment, smear campaigns and stigmatisation that are a precursor to the shocking number of deaths we see each year.

The findings highlight the urgent need for States to monitor, collect data, report on the situation of these defenders, and address the root causes of attacks against them. ISHR urges all States to make a commitment to the systematic monitoring of attacks on indigenous, land and environmental defenders in their countries, and to take stronger action, together with civil society and relevant UN Special Procedures, to address the root causes of attacks in the debate with the Working Group due to take place on 21 June 2022. 

Reprisals

Reports of cases of intimidation and reprisal against those cooperating or seeking to cooperate with the UN not only continue, but grow. Intimidation and reprisals violate the rights of the individuals concerned, they constitute violations of international human rights law, and they undermine the UN human rights system.

The UN has taken action towards addressing this critical issue, including:

  • Requesting that the Secretary General prepare an annual report on cases and trends of reprisals;
  • Establishing a dedicated dialogue under item 5 to take place every September;
  • Affirmation by the Council of the particular responsibilities of its Members, President and Vice-Presidents to investigate and promote accountability for reprisals and intimidation; and
  • The appointment of the UN Assistant Secretary General on Human Rights as the Senior Official on addressing reprisals.

Despite this, ISHR remains deeply concerned about reprisals against civil society actors who try to engage with UN mechanisms, and consistent in its calls for all States and the Council to do more to address the situation.

During the 48th session, the Council adopted a resolution on reprisals. The text was adopted by consensus for the first time since 2009 and invites the UN Secretary General to submit his annual report on reprisals and intimidation to the UN General Assembly. Once again the resolution listed key trends, including that acts of intimidation and reprisals can signal patterns, increasing self-censorship, and the use of national security arguments and counter-terrorism strategies by States as justification for blocking access to the UN. The resolution also acknowledged the specific risks to individuals in vulnerable situations or belonging to marginalised groups, and called on the UN to implement gender-responsive policies to end reprisals. The Council called on States to combat impunity by conducting prompt, impartial and independent investigations and ensuring accountability for all acts of intimidation or reprisal, both online and offline, by condemning all such acts publicly, providing access to effective remedies for victims, and preventing any recurrence.

Item 5 of the Human Rights Council’s agenda provides a key opportunity for States to raise concerns about specific cases of reprisals, and for governments involved in existing cases to provide an update to the Council on any investigation or action taken toward accountability. The President should also update the Council on actions taken by the President and Bureau to follow up on cases and promote accountability under this item.

Due to the lack of a general debate under item 5 at HRC 50, ISHR encourages States to raise concerns about specific cases of reprisals during the interactive dialogues on the relevant countries on the agenda at this session or in the context of thematic interactive dialogues where relevant.

During the organisational meeting held on 30 May, the President of the Council stressed the importance of ensuring the safety of those participating in the Council’s work, and the obligation of States to prevent intimidation or reprisals.

In line with previous calls, ISHR expects the President of the Human Rights Council to publicly identify and denounce specific instances of reprisals by issuing formal statements, conducting press-briefings, corresponding directly with the State concerned, publicly releasing such correspondence with States involved, and insisting on undertakings from the State concerned to investigate, hold perpetrators accountable and report back to the Council on action taken.

Sexual orientation and gender identity

The mandate of the Independent Expert on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is up for renewal for the second time at this session. We will be following this closely and call on all States to support the mandate and contribute to the Council’s efforts to combat violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Other thematic reports

At this 50th session, the Council will discuss a range of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights through dedicated debates with the mandate holders and the High Commissioner, including interactive dialogues with:

  • The Special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association
  • The Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
  • The Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health
  • The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
  • The Special Rapporteur on the right to education
  • The Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity
  • The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary of arbitrary executions
  • The Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights
  • The Special Rapporteur on promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change
  • The Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises
  • The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance
  • The High Commissioner on State responses to pandemics 

In addition, the Council will hold dedicated debates on the rights of specific groups including;

  • The Special Rapporteur on the rights of internally displaced persons
  • The Working Group on discrimination against women and girls
  • The Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, its causes and consequences
  • The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants
  • The Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children
  • The Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members
  • The Special Rapporteur on independence of judges and lawyers

Country-specific developments

Afghanistan

Together with WHRDs from the country and civil society organisations from all regions, ISHR calls on States to lead and support an Urgent Debate at HRC50 on women’s rights in Afghanistan.

Since August 2021, when the Taliban took control of the country, there has been an enormous deterioration in the recognition and protection of the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan, including with respect to the rights to non-discrimination, education, work, public participation, health, and sexual and reproductive health. The Taliban has also imposed sweeping restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly and movement for women and girls. Afghanistan is now the only country in the world to expressly prohibit girls’ education.

The world’s worst women’s rights crisis demands a response and it would be unacceptable for the June session of the HRC, traditionally the session focused on gender-related issues, to pass without some meaningful action on the issue. I

The Council will hold an interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner on the update on Afghanistan on 15 June 2022. 

China 

The High Commissioner’s visit to China failed to adequately address widespread and systematic violations in the country, express solidarity with victims and defenders, or pave the way for meaningful monitoring of China’s human rights crisis across the Uyghur and Tibetan regions, Hong Kong and mainland China. The High Commissioner’s end of mission statement failed to address strong, specific concerns or make substantive, concrete recommendations to the governmen. The broad concerns issued in a light language do not match the scope and gravity of human rights violations across the country that have been thoroughly documented by UN experts and civil society and that could amount to crimes against humanity and genocide.

States should call on the High Commissioner to immediately publish her OHCHR report on the Uyghur region, with clear, compelling recommendations to the government, and present her findings in a briefing to the Human Rights Council. The High Commissioner should also ensure that the established annual meeting and working group for dialogue with the authorities are of public nature, include specific substantive recommendations to the government, and involve substantial consultation with a diverse set of independent civil society groups. China should also follow suit on promises for subsequent visits by the OHCHR by granting prompt unfettered access to Hong Kong and the Tibetan region. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/06/09/disappointment-with-un-high-commissioners-visit-to-xinjiang-boils-over/

Burundi

The Commission of Inquiry on Burundi (CoI) concluded its work at the 48th HRC session in October 2021 while a new resolution establishing a mandate of UN Special Rapporteur on Burundi was adopted, resolution 48/16. The resolution tasks the mandate with monitoring the human rights situation in the country, making recommendations for its imp­ro­ve­ment, and re­por­ting to the Human Rights Council. During the 50th HRC session, the newly nominated Special Rapporteur on Burundi will present their first oral update on 29 June 2022.

Egypt

Notwithstanding the launch of a national human rights strategy, the fundamental purpose of which is to deflect international scrutiny rather than advance human rights, there has been no significant improvement in the human rights situation in Egypt since the joint statement delivered by States in March 2021 at HRC46. Emblematic recent examples include: Ayman Hadhoud’s death in the custody of Egyptian security forces following his enforced disappearance over two months ago and the execution of seven people in Egypt on 8 and 10 March 2022 following trials in which the defendants were forcibly disappeared, tortured, and denied their right to a lawyer.

In response to the Egyptian President’s announcement of “reactivating the work of the Presidential Pardon Committee” on 26 April 2022, Egyptian human rights organisations submitted a proposal for a fair and transparent process to release political prisoners in Egypt. Yet, recent harsh sentences in unfair trials against peaceful critics demonstrate further the lack of political will of the Egyptian authorities to address the crisis of arbitrary detention in Egypt. ISHR joined more than 100 NGOs from around the world in urging the HRC to create a monitoring and reporting mechanism on the ever-deteriorating human rights situation in Egypt. 

Israel and oPT

This session, the COI on the oPt and Israel established in 2021 will present its first report to the HRC. Civil society from around the world had welcomed the historic resolution establishing the standing Commission of Inquiry to address Israel’s latest and ongoing violations against the Palestinian people on both sides of the Green Line, while also addressing the root causes of Israel’s settler colonialism and apartheid. The interactive dialogue with the CoI comes in the context of mounting recognition of Israel’s establishment and maintenance of an apartheid regime by Israel over the Palestinian people as a whole. During HRC49, the SR on the oPT called on the international community to accept and adopt his findings as well as the “findings by Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights organisations that apartheid is being practised by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territory and beyond.” In its 2019 concluding observations, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination found that Israel’s policies violated Article 3 of ICERD pertaining to segregation and apartheid on both sides of the Green Line. In 2022, the Human Rights Committee concluding observations on Israel emphasized the “pre-existing systematic and structural discrimination against non-Jews”.

While some States continue to seek to undermine the mandate of the CoI and effective accountability mechanisms to put an end to Israel’s apartheid regime, CSOs support the CoI’s methodological approach to fulfill its vital mandate. We call on States to engage with the substance of the mandate of the CoI during the interactive dialogue, express support for this important accountability mechanism and ensure it has sufficient resources to discharge its mandate.

Russia 

Together with a coalition of international and regional NGOs, as well as numerous Russian civil society organisations, ISHR urges the Council to establish an independent international monitoring and reporting mechanism on Russia. In the context of the systematic repression of civil society organisations, severe restrictions on press freedoms and independent media, severe restrictions and criminalisation of many forms of free expression, association, assembly and peaceful protest, and the propagation of huge volumes of misinformation, a Special Rapporteur is necessary to ensure that the international community receives vital information about the human rights situation on the ground. 

Sudan

The Council will hold a debate with the High Commissioner and Expert on Sudan on 15 June 2022.

The Sudanese Women Rights Action documented from March to April 2022 the violations against women protesters, including arrests, injuries, and sexual violence. Their report also highlighted the economic and humanitarian situation in conflict areas and in the country in general. The report shows that “the coup leaders are using increasing violence against women protesters, including arrests, fabricated charges, direct lethal violence in protests, and sexual violence. The civic space is shrinking across Sudan, where human rights groups and WHRDs are not able to work freely and safely. Surveillance on internet, communication, movement, and offices of many groups led them to work from underground. The economic conditions and the fragile political situation is increasing women insecurity, as the peace process failed to end violence conflict areas. Women in Sudan are living in constant fear of violence with growing threats of the collapse of the state.”

In light of this context, ISHR urges all States to support the adoption of a resolution that ensures continued attention to Sudan’s human rights situation through enhanced interactive dia­logues at the Council’s 52nd and 53rd regular sessions. While the Expert’s mandate is ongoing, a resolution is required for the Council to hold public de­bates and continue to formally discuss the situation. A resolution at the Council’s 50th session would ope­ra­tio­nalise resolution S-32/1, which in its operative paragraph 19 called upon “the High Commis­sioner and the designated Expert to monitor human rights violations and abu­ses and to continue to bring information thereon to the attention of the Human Rights Council, and to advise on the further steps that may be needed if the situation continues to deteriorate.”

Venezuela

On 29 June, the Council will hold an interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner on her report on the situation of human rights in Venezuela. The Council requested her to provide in this report a detailed assessment of the implementation of the recommendations made in her previous reports. Implementation of recommendations and improvements in the human rights situation on the ground remains a critical question as HRC mandates for OHCHR and the international investigative body for Venezuela expire in September. Venezuelan civil society groups continue to show evidence of a lack of any substantive human rights reform in the country, of a lack of meaningful cooperation by the State and – in fact – of regression in key areas such as judicial independence and civic space. ISHR urges States at the upcoming session to express support for the work of OHCHR in the country, and encourage the Office to speak clearly to realities on the ground. In addition, States should signal their support for the continuance of the work of the HRC’s fact-finding mission to the country through an extension of the Mission’s mandate at HRC51. 

The adoption of the report of the third cycle UPR on Venezuela will also take place on the 29 June or 1 July.  

Other country situations

The Council will hold an interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s annual report on 14 June 2022. The Council will hold debates on and is expected to consider resolutions addressing a range of country situations, in some instances involving the renewal of the relevant expert mandates. These include:

  • Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea
  • Interactive Dialogues with the High Commissioner and Special Rapporteur on Myanmar
  • Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner on Nicaragua
  • Interactive Dialogues with the High Commissioner on Ukraine
  • Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria
  • Interactive Dialogue with the International commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia 
  • Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Belarus
  • Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya
  • Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on Central African Republic 

Council programme, appointments and resolutions

The President of the Human Rights Council will propose candidates for the following mandates: 

  1. Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief
  2. Special Rapporteur on the right to education
  3. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
  4. Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, member from African States
  5. Expert Mechanism on the Right to Development, member from Latin American and Caribbean States
  6. Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
  7. Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, member from Eastern European States
  8. Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, member from Western European and other States

Resolutions to be presented to the Council’s 50th session

At the organizational meeting on 30 May the following resolutions were announced (States leading the resolution in brackets):

  1. Elimination of discrimination against women (Mexico), mandate renewal 
  2. Freedom of expression (Brazil, Canada, Fiji, Sweden, Namibia, Netherlands) 
  3. Elimination of female genital mutilation (Africa Group)
  4. Rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association (Czech Republic, Indonesia, Lithuania, Maldives, Mexico), mandate renewal 
  5. Human rights situation in Sudan (United Kingdom, Germany, Norway, United States)
  6. Human rights situation in Syria (Germany, France, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Netherlands, Qatar, Turkey, United States, United Kingdom)
  7. Mandate of the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity  (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Uruguay), mandate renewal 
  8. Casualty recording and the promotion and protection of human rights (Liechtenstein, Croatia, Costa Rica, Sierra Leone) 
  9. Human rights and climate change (Bangladesh, Philippines, Viet Nam)
  10. Access to medicines and vaccines in the context of the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Senegal, South Africa, Thailand)
  11. Enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights (NAM)
  12. Independence and impartiality of the judiciary, jurors and assessors, and the independence of lawyers (Hungary, Australia, Botswana, Maldives, Mexico, Thailand)
  13. Human rights and the regulation of civilian acquisition, possession and use of firearms (Ecuador, Peru)
  14. Human rights in Belarus, mandate renewal (European Union)
  15. Human rights in Eritrea, mandate renewal (European Union) 
  16. The promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protest (Switzerland, Costa Rica)
  17. Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar (OIC) 
  18. Accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women (Canada), mandate renewal 
  19. Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (Austria, Honduras, Uganda), mandate renewal
  20. Human rights and international solidarity (Cuba)
  21. Social Forum (Cuba)

Read the calendar here

Adoption of Universal Periodic Review (UPR) reports

During this session, the Council will adopt the UPR working group reports on Myanmar, Togo, Syrian Arab Republic, Iceland, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Lithuania, Uganda, Timor-Leste, Republic of Moldova, South Sudan, Haiti and Sudan.

Panel discussions

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

  1. Panel discussion on the root causes of human rights violations and abuses against Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar 
  2. Panel discussion on menstrual hygiene management, human rights and gender equality
  3. Panel discussion on good governance in the promotion and protection of human rights during and after the COVID-19 pandemic
  4. Annual full-day discussion on the human rights of women
  5. Panel discussion on the adverse impact of climate change on the full and effective enjoyment of human rights by people in vulnerable situations
  6. High-level panel discussion on countering the negative impact of disinformation on the enjoyment and realization of human rights
  7. Annual thematic panel discussion on technical cooperation and capacity-building

Stay up-to-date: Follow @ISHRglobal and #HRC50 on Twitter, and look out for its Human Rights Council Monitor. During the session, follow the live-updated programme of work on Sched. 

https://ishr.ch/latest-updates/hrc50-key-issues-on-agenda-of-june-2022-session/

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

Sudan: providing information against sexual violence to the UN equals “leaking state secrets”

April 26, 2022

Mat Nashed in Al-Jazeera of 18 April 2022 reports how Sulima Ishaq’s work against sexual violence is now being used against her.

On March 28, Volker Perthes told the United Nations’ Security Council that Sudanese government forces had raped 16 female protesters since last December’s anti-coup protests. He added that as UN envoy for Sudan, he was working with the Combating Violence Against Women (CVAW) Unit under the Ministry of Social Affairs and civil society to mitigate sexual violence in the country.

The next week, Sulima Ishaq, head of the unit, was interrogated by security services. Her lawyers say she is being investigated for accusations of “leaking state secrets” to the UN envoy under Article 47 of the country’s criminal act.

The information I gave to the [UN] had already been broadcasted on television channels and media outlets,” Ishaq, who is now worried that she’ll go to prison on trumped-up charges, told Al Jazeera over the phone. “But because the information was presented to the Security Council and the [coup forces] are afraid of getting sanctioned, they are [targeting] me now.”

In March, a Khartoum office – belonging to a commission investigating a June 3, 2019 incident in which security forces reportedly murdered at least 120 people to break up a sit-in – was raided by security forces.

According to Emma DiNapoli, a legal officer focusing on Sudan for Redress, a London-based non-profit advocating an end to torture worldwide, activists cooperating with the organisation have recently reported more security officers stalking them outside their homes. In some cases, this has resulted in unlawful arrests.

None of our partners has had arrest warrants issued against them, but I think there is a general sentiment that there is higher surveillance,” DiNapoli told Al Jazeera. “Even if they are not really being surveilled, [the arrests] are having a chilling effect.”

However, experts and rights groups say Ishaq’s case represents an escalation of a broader campaign to intimidate activists and put human rights defenders on high alert.

Kholood Khair, manager of Khartoum-based think-tank Insight Strategy Partners, told Al Jazeera that the coup government is trying to make an example out of Ishaq. The authorities, she said, are particularly irked since Ishaq is a civil servant, which gives her allegations more credibility in the eyes of the international community.

In Sudan, rape victims are traditionally harassed by the public and even punished by the police, so the number of people coming forward to Ishaq was seen as a big deal, Khair explained.

“Sulima was trying to highlight that rape is a weapon of war and a weapon of repression and the number of cases [documented] shows that it is a state tactic … not a case of just individual rapists,” she said.

Mohamed Osman, Sudan researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said activists have always feared that they could be targeted for documenting human rights violations against protesters. He cited the recent arrests of journalists, lawyers and doctors who appear to have been targeted for tracking unlawful arrests and killings in the country.

But the targeting of a high-profile person like Ishaq suggests that security forces are even more sensitive to scrutiny following the United States’ decision to impose sanctions on the Central Reserve Police last month, said Osman. The US cited the unit’s excessive force against protesters – including the use of live ammunition – as the reason for the decision.

Ishaq told Al Jazeera that she wished the UN envoy had been more subtle by not mentioning her unit at the Security Council meeting, given the level of repression in Sudan. “I feel that the way [the information] was stated was a little bit insensitive,” she said.

In response, Fadi Al Qadi, the spokesperson for the UN envoy, told Al Jazeera that “the special representative to the secretary-general did not name any individual in the Security Council as a source”.

And now, an atmosphere of fear is slowly enveloping the country, causing dissidents, activists and civil society to beef up personal security and take more precautions to protect themselves and sources from the eye of the authorities.

One of them is Nabil Adeeb, the septuagenarian human rights lawyer heading the investigation into the June 2019 massacre.

After government forces stormed the tribunal’s office, there were fears that evidence could be compromised and that the names of witnesses – who provided testimonies that possibly implicated specific security branches in the massacre – could be exposed.

“Our records are secure and we know that nobody would be able to access them, but we are concerned that if we resume our activities in the same place then we might expose the investigation to unwanted people since the office could be bugged,” he said.

Adeeb  – who is also Ishaq’s lawyer – told Al Jazeera that she is currently being charged for defaming the security forces under Sudan’s cybercrime law, an accusation he believes has little merit.

He is concerned that Ishaq could still face more harassment and graver accusations for simply doing her job from the state, which should naturally be helping her instead. Ishaq too fears that the worst is yet to come.

”I think that I will be scapegoated to kick out Volker [from Sudan],” she said.  “I will then be charged for jeopardising national security for providing [him] with sensitive information.”

https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2022/4/18/sudan-investigates-social-worker-fo-leaking-state-secrets-to-un

Clean energy will not automatically be good for indigenous land defenders

April 7, 2022

Emily Pontecorvo a reporter for GRIST published on 6 April 2022 a piece about a new report by the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre which states that the renewable energy sector is unprepared for the protection of land rights defenders.

In April of last year, José de Jesús Robledo Cruz and his wife Maria de Jesús Gomez Vega were found dead in the desert in Sonora, Mexico. In July, Fernando Vela, a doctor in Coqueta, Columbia, was shot to death by two men on a motorcycle while he was in his truck. In September, Juan Macababbad, an attorney in the Philippines was shot dead outside his home.

In each case, the victims were prominent human rights defenders, known in particular for defending their communities’ natural resources from mining, deforestation, water contamination, and other threats. These were just three of at least 76 such murders that occured in 2021. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/03/02/human-rights-high-commissioner-bachelet-urges-support-for-environmental-defenders/]

Business and Human Rights Resource Centre tracks attacks on people who protest or otherwise raise concerns about business-related human rights abuses. It has documented more than 3,800 attacks, including killings, death threats, beatings, arbitrary arrests and detention, and lawsuits, since January 2015, with 615 occurring in 2021 alone.  [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/09/13/global-witness-2020-the-worst-year-on-record-for-environmental-human-rights-defenders/ as well as: https://news.mongabay.com/2022/04/more-than-half-of-activists-killed-in-2021-were-land-environment-defenders/]

Our data shows almost the tip of the iceberg,” Christen Dobson, senior program manager for the BHRRC and an author of the new report. “Many attacks are not publicly reported. And so we know the problem is much more severe than these figures indicate.”

According to the report, human rights defenders who spoke out against mining projects consistently experienced the greatest number of attacks over the past seven years. The authors say this is especially concerning considering the expansion of mineral production required by a transition to clean energy. All those batteries, solar panels, and wind turbines are going to require a lot of cobalt, nickel, zinc, lithium, and other minerals.

We’re already seeing this level of attack, and we’re not seeing major producers of transition minerals have strong policies or practices in place about protecting defenders,” said Dobson. “There’s a real risk there and I think it’s an area that we’re very concerned about.

The report urges investors to publish a human rights policy and require that companies begin disclosing human rights and environmental-related risks. But Dobson said that voluntary actions from companies and investors was not enough. She said there was some momentum building behind mandating that companies report on measures they are taking to respect human rights, including legislation proposed in the European Union and Canada.

“It is concerning to see a vast majority of companies and investors, including major renewable energy companies, do not have policies expressing zero-tolerance against reprisals in their operations, supply chains and business relationships,” said Dobson in a statement. “It’s time for companies and investors to recognise the energy transition cannot be effective if it is not also rights-respecting.”

https://grist.org/international/land-defenders-face-violence-and-repression-clean-energy-could-make-it-worse