Posts Tagged ‘right to speak in UN’

Human Rights Council in throwback to muzzling NGOs

September 24, 2014

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

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

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How China cut short Cao Shunli’s remembrance in the UN

March 24, 2014

This is the UN footage from the dramatic session in the UN Human Rights Council of 20 March 2014 where the ISHR asked for a moment of silence to remember Cao Shunli the Chinese HRD who recently died in detention. What happened next I described in my post: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/china-in-the-un-human-rights-council-manages-to-silence-cao-shunli-as-well-as-ngos/ followed by recalling the precedent setting: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/03/21/who-can-speak-for-ngos-in-the-un-a-precedent-set-in-1982/

 

Who can speak for NGOs in the UN? A precedent set in 1982

March 21, 2014

Yesterday, 20 March 2014, there was a fierce debate in the UN Council of Human Rights where the issue of the right of NGOs to speak came up, more precisely whether accredited NGOs had the right to let speakers mention other NGOs who do not have such accreditation. In this case it was China taking exemption to the FIDH letting its member NGOs (including a pro Tibetan group) take the floor in its name. For more context see my post of yesterday: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/china-in-the-un-human-rights-council-manages-to-silence-cao-shunli-as-well-as-ngos/.

The Chair and Secretariat rightly spoke of a standing practice in this regards. One such precedent is 30 years old and probably lost to most observers, so I give here my own recollection of this story in the hope that someone with access to the UN files or a better memory can confirm or correct the details.

It is 1982 and the Working group on Disappearances (created in 1980 after a long struggle and with the active support from the then Director Theo van Boven)) is reporting to the Commission on Human Rights (the predecessor of the Council). The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), of which I was the Executive Secretary at the time, has lined up to speak. Read the rest of this entry »