Posts Tagged ‘Rupert Colville’

NGO Committee of the UN shows its bizarre bias against (human rights) NGOs

June 1, 2016

I have written several times about the worrying trends in the ‘obscure’ “ECOSOC Committee on NGOs”  (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/ecosoc/) which is supposed to consider applications by NGOs for ECOSOC accreditation and, as such, is a key gateway for NGOs to gain access to the UN. The International Service of Human Rights (ISHR) recently came out with a statement that the “practice of the Committee is wholly unacceptable and must change” (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/05/04/ishr-starts-campaign-to-monitor-committee-that-throttles-ngo-access-to-the-un/). As if it was necessary to illustrate the bias of this UN NGO Committee against NGOs here are two recent cases decided on 26 May 2016: Read the rest of this entry »

UN High Commissioner condemns disappearance of Billy in context of retaliation against environmentalist in South East Asia

May 6, 2014

The disappearance of Karen activist “Billy” has prompted the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights UNHCHR to condemn the “pattern of killings and forced disappearances of environmental activists in Southeast Asia” and to urge authorities to conduct thorough and independent investigations. “We are concerned about the lack of progress with an investigation into the disappearance of a prominent human rights defender in Thailand,” UNHCHR spokesman Rupert Colville said in a statement released on Friday 2 May. Read the rest of this entry »

Myanmar/Burma: progress but still along way to go

January 11, 2014

(Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Tomás Ojea Quintana. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine)

On 11 December 2013  Tomás Ojea Quintana, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, welcomed the release of 44 prisoners of conscience in Myanmar, hailing it as an important step towards fulfilling President Thein Sein’s pledge of freedom for all political prisoners by the end of this year. “When I look back to the start of my mandate in 2008, I was referring to figures of over 1,900 persons detained on political grounds. It is important to acknowledge the significance of the progress that has been made: today we are referring to figures of less than 50”. The expert said the practice of arresting those who express views that are different to those of the Government became embedded during 50 years of military rule. “Moving to a culture of democracy, where people are free to express their views, will take time,” he stated. “The releases today are a step towards this, but need to be accompanied by legislative reforms.”  However on 17 December the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of FIDH and OMCT, welcoming the latest release of prisoners of opinion in Burma/Myanmar, deplored the re-arrests of human rights defenders Ko Htin Kyaw and Aye Thein within hours of their “release”.  Front Line reported that on 3 December 2013, Tin Htut Pai was arrested for his involvement in commemorating the one-year anniversary of the protests against the Letpadaung mining project. Tin Htut Pai is currently detained but has not been permitted to see his lawyer. Tin Htut Pai is the founder of Generation Youth, an organisation that advocates for youth empowerment and campaigns against land confiscation.

On 10 January 2014 this was followed by praise from the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, for President Thein Sein’s announcement on 2 January that he would commute death sentences to life imprisonment and reduce some sentences on humanitarian grounds and to mark the 66th anniversary of independence of the country. The move is “very significant” for Myanmar, which has not carried out the death penalty since 1989, the spokesperson noted, as the country assumed the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

https://www.un.org/apps/news//story.asp?NewsID=46718&Cr=myanmar&Cr1=#.UtEULijKzZQ

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46904&Cr=myanmar&Cr1=#.UtEThCjKzZQ

http://www.fidh.org/en/asia/burma/14406-burma-it-is-time-to-free-all-human-rights-defenders-and-stop-ongoing

http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/24414#sthash.HRV7IJe0.dpuf

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: a real human rights actor

January 23, 2013

On  earlier occasions I have expressed my admiration for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs Pillay, and her spokesperson, Rupert Colville, for the forthright manner in which this Office nowadays express itself on on-going human rights issues, including very often on Human Rights Defenders. It may seem tame in the eyes of some activists but one should not forget that (1) the Office remains an intergovernmental institution created and controlled by governments, and (2) not so long ago this was unheard of. Until the late 70’s countries could not be named in the proceedings of the UN Human Rights Commission, in the early 80’s under the leadership of Theo van Boven the first ‘special procedures’ were established but he was forced out of his job in 1982 for too much naming and shaming of Governments.

High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navane...

Navanethem Pillay (credit: Wikipedia)

To illustrate my point here follows a summary of a press statement made on 18 January 2013:

1) Mali

The crisis in Mali has led to various human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, rape and torture. These have been documented in a report requested by the Human Rights Council which was published by our Office on January 14, along with the growing ethnic tensions in the country which raise very serious concerns. Our report (http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session…in French only) presents the findings of a human rights mission deployed to Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger from 11 to 20 November 2012. …….OHCHR stands ready to provide assistance to the Malian Government by supporting the establishment of a transitional justice mechanism to facilitate national reconciliation.

2) Sri Lanka

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay is deeply concerned that the impeachment and removal of Sri Lanka’s Chief Justice has further eroded the rule of law in the country and could also set back efforts for accountability and reconciliation. The removal of the Chief Justice through a flawed process — which has been deemed unconstitutional by the highest courts of the land — is, in the High Commissioner’s view, gross interference in the independence of the judiciary and a calamitous setback for the rule of law in Sri Lanka. Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake was served notice of her dismissal and removed from her chambers and official residence on Tuesday (15 January), in spite of a Supreme Court ruling that the parliamentary procedure to remove her violated the Constitution. Sri Lanka has a long history of abuse of executive power, and this latest step appears to strip away one of the last and most fundamental of the independent checks and balances, and should ring alarm bells for all Sri Lankans.

The jurist sworn in by the President as the new Chief Justice on 15 January, the former Attorney-General and Legal Advisor to the Cabinet, Mr. Mohan Peiris, has been at the forefront of a number of government delegations to Geneva in recent years to vigorously defend the Sri Lankan government’s position before the Human Rights Council and other human rights mechanisms. This raises obvious concerns about his independence and impartiality, especially when handling allegations of serious human rights violations by the authorities……Just this morning we have received alarming reports from the Independent Bar of Sri Lanka of a series of death threats, acts of intimidation and even a couple of reported murder attempts against lawyers who have been supporting Chief Justice Bandaranayake, and the rulings of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal on her case. The High Commissioner will be issuing a report on Sri Lanka at the February-March session of the Human Rights Council, focusing on the engagement of UN mechanisms in support of the accountability and reconciliation processes.

3) Zimbabwe

We condemn recent attacks against human rights defenders in Zimbabwe, including arbitrary arrests, intimidation and harassment. In the latest case, on January 14, the police charged Okay Machisa, the director of Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) and chairperson of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, for allegedly publishing false statements prejudicial to the State, fraud and forgery after allegedly conducting illegal voter registration. Machisa handed himself to the police on January 14, accompanied by his lawyer, and remains in detention. In a previous incident, ZimRights Education Programmes Manager, Leo Chamahwinya, and ZimRights Local Chapter Chairperson, Dorcas Shereni, were arrested by the police on 13 December 2012. They were both denied bail by the High Court and remain in detention. We are concerned about the crackdown on non-governmental organisations and dissenting voices seen as critical of President Robert Mugabe’s rule and apparently politically motivated prosecutions, ahead of the elections which are expected to take place later this year.

4) Iran

We welcome the temporary release of Nasrin Sotoudeh, the well-known lawyer and human rights activist who is serving a six-year sentence in Tehran’s Evin Prison. Ms Sotoudeh was granted a three day temporary leave and it has now been confirmed that she joined her family yesterday. The travel restrictions imposed on her family – the issue that caused her to go on hunger strike in the autumn — were lifted in December, so her temporary release marks a second improvement in her case. We hope that the temporary leave will be extended, and that Ms Sotoudeh will soon be indefinitely released.

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If you  want to be kept informed yourself, you can follow the UN Human Rights work on the following social media:

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YouTube:http://www.youtube.com/UNOHCHR S

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UN High Commissioner Pillay speaks out against harassment of Sri Lankan HRDs during Council in Geneva

March 23, 2012

The man pictured here is Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who has tremendous helped the OHCHR during the last years to have a more penetrating presence in the media. On this occasion on 23 March 2012, it was to  warn that there must be no reprisals against Sri Lankan human rights defenders in the wake of a resolution calling on its Government to probe alleged abuses during the country’s civil war. The warning from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, follows the adoption of a resolution yesterday by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, calling on Sri Lanka to take “credible” steps to ensure accountability for alleged serious violations committed in 2009 during the final stages of the conflict between the Government and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and to ensure accountability.

“During this Human Rights Council session, there has been an unprecedented and totally unacceptable level of threats, harassment and intimidation directed at Sri Lankan activists who had travelled to Geneva to engage in the debate, including by members of the 71-member official Sri Lankan government delegation,” said Rupert Colville, at a press briefing in Geneva. Mr. Colville said that intimidation and harassment of Sri Lankan civil society activists have also been reported in other locations around Geneva. Also, the Sri Lankan ambassador in Geneva received an anonymous threatening letter which is being followed up by the police and UN security.

At the same time, newspapers, news websites and TV and radio stations in Sri Lanka have been running, since January, a “continuous campaign of vilification,” including naming and in many cases showing images of activists, describing them as an ‘NGO gang’ and repeatedly accusing them of treason, mercenary activities and association with terrorism. “Some of these reports have contained barely veiled incitement and threats of retaliation,” Mr. Colville said. “At least two comments posted by readers of articles of this type have called for burning down of the houses of the civil society activists named in the articles, and at least one such comment called openly for them to be killed.”

The spokesperson said the High Commissioner had noted that some of the attacks on human rights defenders were carried in Sri Lankan state media and Government websites or were filed by journalists who had been officially accredited to the Council session by the Sri Lankan permanent mission.  “She is calling on the Government to ensure the protection of human rights defenders, to publicly disassociate itself from such statements, and to clearly uphold the right of Sri Lankan citizens to freely engage in international debate of this kind,” Mr. Colville said.

from: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=41617&Cr=Sri%20Lanka&Cr1=