Posts Tagged ‘SG’

20th anniversary of UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders starts with crucial draft resolution in the GA

November 1, 2017

9 December 2018 will mark the 20th anniversary of the ‘UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms‘ (in short the UN Declaration on HRDs).  The General Assembly and the Human Rights Council have over the years adopted annual resolutions, informed by reports by the Secretary-General and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. However, as this blog and many others can testify, human rights defenders continue to face severe risks and are increasingly targets of actions taken by state and/or non-state actors in violation of the Declaration.  As we approach the 20th anniversary of the Declaration, the Norwegian delegation has just now tabled a draft resolution at the 72nd session of the General Assembly. The text is not officially out yet but the main new elements in the draft resolution are:

  • a high level meeting on HRDs in the General Assembly in New York next year, and
  • a request to the UN Secretary General/OHCHR to put together a comprehensive report on what UN can do to assist States.

Secretary-General Guterres should have no problem accepting such a request as he stated in the Human Rights Council on 27 February this year: “…To human rights defenders, I say: thank you for your courage. The United Nations is on your side. And I am on your side. I remind Member States of their responsibility to ensure that human rights defenders can operate without fear of intimidation.” [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/28/new-secretary-general-at-human-rights-council-tells-human-rights-defenders-and-i-am-on-your-side/]

The UN Mission of Norway is as usual in the lead in getting this resolution adopted, while facing the danger of hostile amendments. [see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/03/23/norwegian-resolution-un-human-rights-council-defenders-amendments/]. They have their work cut out and any help in lobbying for this new draft would be most welcome. The text of the draft resolution as tabled follows below (it should be issued soon as an “L” document) in which I have highlighted operative paragraphs 14-17.

Draft resolution – version for tabling Read the rest of this entry »

Bahrain shows again how important it is to contribute to the Secretary-General’s reprisals report

April 28, 2017

NGOs and human rights defenders have until the end of May to submit cases of reprisals to the UN Secretary-General’s report, covering the period June 2016 to May 2017. The Call for submissions to the Secretary General’s annual report on cooperation with the United Nations, its mechanisms and representatives in the field of human rights – more frequently referred to as the ‘reprisals report’ – will be made public soon. Please send your submission to reprisals@ohchr.org.  For some of my earlier posts on reprisals see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/

The report consists of a compilation of cases of intimidation and reprisals due to cooperation with the United Nations organisations and its specialised agencies in the field of human rights, including cases in relation to the Human Rights Council, its Universal Periodic Review and Special Procedures; Human Rights Treaty Bodies; the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, its field presences and Human Rights Advisers; United Nations Country Teams; human rights components of peacekeeping missions and other parts of the Secretariat or specialized agencies working in the field of human rights.

When submitting cases please ensure consent has been obtained from the alleged victim or his/her family and this is clearly indicated in your email; meaning 1) the victim or his/her family has been informed and has understood the possible security risks, and 2) the victim or his/her family has agreed to have his/her case included in the reprisals report;   Mention is made of whether or not the alleged act of reprisal has been referred to in any official UN publication (UN report, press release, public statement, video of UN conference etc.) and, if so, the reference to this publication, including document symbol number where relevant, is provided.  The report also contains a section on follow-up. Hence information in follow-up to cases included in the 2014 (A/HRC/27/38), 2015 (A/HRC/30/29) and 2016 (A/HRC/33/19) reports is also welcome. This information could for instance concern continued acts of reprisal or indicate measures that have been taken by the relevant State to investigate or prevent future reprisals from occurring. Please note that also for follow-up information the three requirements mentioned above must be adhered to.

Bahrain shows again how important this exercise is: According to Front Line Defenders there is a clear pattern of preventing HRDs to attend to the human rights sessions: From 24 to 25 April 2017, twenty-two human rights defenders in Bahrain were interrogated by the Bahraini authorities. All defenders received police summonses on 21 April 2017 to appear before the office of the General Prosecutor. Most of the human rights defenders who were summoned for interrogation received confirmation that the Public Prosecutor has issued travel bans against them. The interrogations, which lasted on average 3 to 7 minutes, were in relation to allegations that the human rights defenders had attended an illegal gathering in Diraz village sometime between 2016 and 2017. Ebtisam Al-Saegh and Hussain Radhi were among the twenty-two human rights defenders who were summoned, interrogated and later received confirmation that they were subject to a travel ban. In a separate case on 20 April 2017, Sharaf Al-Mousawi was prevented from traveling to attend a meeting on development in Lebanon. The  interrogations precede the upcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session which will take place in Geneva, Switzerland, on 1 May 2017. 

 Ebtisam Al-Saegh   is a Bahraini human rights defender who works for the organisation Salam for Human Rights and Democracy. Hussain Radhi   is a human rights defender who works for the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and Sharaf Al-Mousawi   is President of the Bahrain Transparency Society, a non-governmental organisation  promoting transparency and the elimination of corruption in Bahrain. The organisation is also a partner organisation of Transparency International.

 On 25 April 2017, the Public Prosecution interrogated Hussain Radhi after he received a summons on 21 April 2017 by the Bahraini security forces. He was interrogated for three or four minutes and accused of participating in an illegal gathering; allegations which he denies. While returning from a trip on 20 April 2017, Hussain Radhi  was informed upon his arrival at the airport in Bahrain that on 14 April 2017, a travel ban had been issued against him by the Public Prosecution. 

 Twenty-one other human rights defenders faced the same situation between 21 and 25 April 2017. On 24 April, Ebtisam Al-Saegh was also interrogated for three minutes after waiting for a couple of hours at the office of the Public Prosecutor. A Police force made up of six vehicles came to her home on 21 April and delivered a summons for interrogation at the Public Prosecutor’s office. The human rights defender then inquired with  the Bahraini Immigration and Visas Office about her ability to travel and was informed that she faced a travel ban by order of the Public Prosecutor. Among the other human rights defenders who were  interrogated, and informed that they are banned from travel, are Abdulnabi Al-Ekri , Mohammad Al-Tajer , Enas Oun , Rula Al-Safar , Jalila Al-Salman , Zainab Al-Khamis , and Ahmed Al-Saffar . All 22 human rights defenders were accused of participating in illegal gatherings between October 2016 and January 2017 in the village of Diraz. All denied the charges and several noted that it would be impossible for them to even enter Diraz as it is blocked by checkpoints manned by security forces. The human rights defenders seem to believe that the summonses and interrogations were used to justify the travel bans  ahead of the upcoming UPR session in Geneva, Switzerland, in an attempt to deter their legitimate and peaceful work to protect and promote human rights in Bahrain and participate in international human rights mechanisms as is their right. 

In November 2016 <https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/ebtisam-al-saegh-summoned-interrogation&gt; , several human rights defenders, including Ebtisam Al-Saegh and Hussain Al-Radhi, were interrogated and prevented from traveling ahead of that month’s Human Rights Council session.

See also: http://www.omct.org/human-rights-defenders/urgent-interventions/bahrain/2017/04/d24314/ which contains a Joint appeal (of 25 April 2017) signed by 60 organisations around the world to release human rights defenders Nabeel Rajab and Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja who both require adequate medical care.

Source: Call for contributions to Secretary-General’s reprisals report | ISHR

Interview with Hina Jilani, first UN Special Representative for Human Rights Defenders

November 9, 2016

hina-jilani-biography-1_940x430The Diplomatic Courier of 9 November 2016 carries a long and serious interview with Hina Jilani, First UN Special Representative for Human Rights Defenders (2000-2008). In 2006, she was appointed to the UN International Fact-Finding Commission on Darfur, Sudan.  In 2009, she served on the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict. In 2013, she joined The Elders, a group of world leaders and human rights leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela. A preeminent lawyer, Hina Jilani co-founded the first all women law firm in Pakistan and the National Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Hina Jilani has been in the forefront of human rights in Pakistan beginning from Zia Ul-Haq’s dictatorship in the 1970s.

 You served as the first mandate holder of the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Human Rights Defenders from 2000 to 2008 and shaped that seminal mandate. Please tell us some of the key aspects of that mandate?
Photo by The Elders.

HJ: Respect for human rights necessarily includes recognition of the legitimacy of the work of defenders. As a response to the deteriorating situation of human rights defenders, the United Nations adopted the Declaration on human rights defenders in 1998. On the one hand this was recognition of the dangers that human rights defenders confront and, on the other, a step taken by the international community to create norms for the protection of human rights activity. The Declaration makes it the primary responsibility of the State not only to guarantee the safety of human rights defenders, but also to ensure that conditions exist in which they can carry out their activities.  The mandate to oversee the implementation of the Declaration was established by the UN Secretary General in 2000. The mandate required the SRSG seek, receive examine and respond to information on the situation of human rights defenders and to establish cooperation and conduct dialogue with Governments and other interested actors on the promotion and effective implementation of the Declaration as well as on improving the protection of human rights defenders.

In a world where there is rising violent extremism and heightened crackdown on human rights defenders, please share some key challengers of human rights defenders around the world?

HJ: Establishing promoting and sustaining democracy, maintaining international peace and security and providing or advancing a people oriented agenda for development cannot be accomplished without the contributions that human rights defenders make. Defenders bring to the fore information on the realities of situations to be addressed without which national and international efforts would be ineffective. They contribute to poverty alleviation, humanitarian assistance, post-conflict reconstruction, and to improving individual indicators of development such as access to health care and adult literacy, among many other activities. In situations of crises, defenders can monitor an overall situation, rapidly investigate allegations of possible violations and report their conclusions, providing a measure of accountability. They also provide the international community with some independent verification of what is actually happening within an emergency situation, informing the process of taking decisions on possible actions. This was not easily done. Human rights defenders have suffered harm and face grievous threats to their life, liberty, security, independence and credibility. State apparatus, oppressive laws and other tools of repression continue to be used against defenders in attempts to deter them from the valuable work they contribute to the promotion of human rights. Human rights defenders all over the world continue to be subjected to assassinations, disappearances, illegal arrest and detention, torture, harassment and even exile.

 

……Can you speak of Blasphemy laws that target minority Muslim populations in Pakistan?  How did you face death threats and attacks on your family because of your struggles against Blasphemy laws and other human rights atrocities in an environment of impunity?

What are called “blasphemy laws” in Pakistan are provisions introduced in the Pakistan Penal Code by Zia’s regime, ostensibly to enforce respect for Islamic personalities and the Holy Quran. In reality this was a ploy to instill fear in the population. One particular provision disregards fundamental principles of criminal justice and makes mens rea irrelevant to a finding of guilt. It also prescribes a mandatory death sentence upon conviction. The law is not only flawed in legal aspects it has been used for malicious prosecution and has targeted religious minorities – not just non-Muslims, but also different minority sects of Muslims in Pakistan. Special laws were promulgated to restrict the freedom of religion of the Ahmediya community in Pakistan, that still remains a persecuted and threatened community in Pakistan. Any one raising their voice against this law is exposed to extreme violence at the hands of organized religious terrorists, who operate with impunity in Pakistan. The State has been both unwilling and unable to perform its duty to protect in cases where people are either threatened or have actually been harmed by these groups. Lawyers defending those who are accused of blasphemy, judges who have acquitted the accused persons and public figures who have pointed out the flaws in the law or the political and malicious use of the law have been killed. There is an apparent policy of silencing criticism through fear. There are, therefore, only a few voices that continue to be raised and these are people who remain extremely vulnerable to harm.

…….What is your advice to the new Secretary General of the United Nations?

HJ: The work of the United Nations for promoting peace and improving security of people living in different parts of the world can not be completed without due attention to the respect for human rights, the UN must ensure better coordination of its political and human rights policies and strategies. I would also strongly recommend that the UN Security Council and the UN Human Rights Council seriously consider making reference to the protection of human rights defenders and to the importance and legitimacy of their work in all their resolutions relating to the maintenance of peace and security. None such resolution so far mentions this very critical aspect of the protection and promotion of human rights…

For earlier posts on Jina Jilani: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/hina-jilani/

Source: Interview with Hina Jilani, First UN Special Representative for Human Rights Defenders – Diplomatic Courier

13 September starts the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council: reprisals high on the agenda

September 9, 2016

As usual, the Geneva-based International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) has published a preview of the main items coming up in the next (33rd) session of the Human Rights Council‘s starting on Tuesday 13 September 2016. It will finish on 30 September. For human rights defenders the focus on the question of reprisals is of great importance.ISHR-logo-colour-high

Other thematic issues are: enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention and National Human Rights Institutions.

Reprisals

A highlight this session will be the opportunity for States to respond to the Secretary-General’s latest report documenting serious cases of intimidation and reprisals against human rights defenders, and contribute to finding concrete solutions at panel discussion to be hosted by the core group of States on this topic (Hungary, Uruguay, Ghana, Ireland and Fiji). The Secretary General’s annual report on cooperation with the UN, its mechanisms and representatives in the field of human rights – more frequently referred to as the “reprisals report” – will be presented at this session of the Council. The report covers the period from 1 June 2015 onwards.

Particular attention during HRC33 will be paid to Bahrain. According to allegations of travel bans against human rights defenders  documented by the President of the Human Rights Council, and communicated via the minutes of a recent meeting of the HRC Bureau [LINK], in which the President expressed concern about “the lack of appropriate action or adequate explanatory information from the concerned State” to the allegations.

The Secretary-General’s report consists of a compilation of cases of intimidation and reprisals due to cooperation with the UN organisations and its specialised agencies in the field of human rights, including cases in relation to the Council, its UPR and Special Procedures; Human Rights Treaty Bodies; the OHCHR, its field presences and Human Rights Advisers; United Nations Country Teams; human rights components of peacekeeping missions and other parts of the Secretariat or specialized agencies working in the field of human rights.

The Secretary General’s last report documented a significant number of cases in which people have been threatened, stigmatised, censored, restricted from travelling, detained, beaten, held in solitary confinement, disappeared, and tortured for their work to expose and pursue accountability for human rights violations at the UN. In many of the cases the threats and attacks have not been properly investigated nor have perpetrators been held to account. However, the report did note a range of positive developments aimed at preventing and promoting accountability for reprisals highlighting that:

In line with previous recommendations of the Secretary-General, States are encouraged to use the General Debate under Item 5 to address the cases documented. This should include in particular the States concerned, i.e. those mentioned in the report, who are expected by civil society to respond to the allegations and set out the steps taken to investigate them, hold the perpetrators to account and provide remedies to the victims.

Many of my earlier posts relate to reprisals: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/reprisals/, including: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/zero-tolerance-for-states-that-take-reprisals-against-hrds-lets-up-the-ante/

Working Group on Enforced Disappearances

The Working Group on Enforced Disappearances will present its report, summarising its activities over the last year and previewing its thematic study on enforced disappearances in the context of migration. Included in this is a short discussion of ‘individuals [who] migrate due to the disappearances of their relatives or loved ones or to avoid reprisals due to their work in searching and pursuing justice… and human rights defenders who are forced to migrate due to their work fighting enforced disappearances.’ The Working Group’s report also expresses serious concern as to ‘a pattern of threats, intimidation and reprisals against victims of enforced disappearance, including family members, witnesses and human rights defenders working on such cases. It calls upon States to take specific measures to prevent such acts and re-iterates the call for the UN to appoint a high-level official to combat reprisals as a matter of urgency and priority.

Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

The mandate of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention will be renewed at this session. Among the likely ‘asks’ of the resolution are more resources to support their ability to respond to victims of arbitrary detention, the ability to raise awareness through reporting to the UN General Assembly and the mandate from the Council to embark on a thematic study.

National human rights institutions

National human rights institutions have a vital role to play in contributing to the national implementation of international human rights obligations. The annual report of the Secretary-General and High Commissioner sets out a range of steps and measures that both States and NHRIs should take in this regard. For States, such steps should include ensuring that the NHRI is broadly mandated (including in respect of economic, social and cultural rights), that it is adequately resourced, authorised to inspect places of detention, and protected from interference, intimidation and reprisals. For NHRIs, the report emphasises the importance of engaging and consulting closely with civil society, contributing to the protection of human rights defenders, and enhancing cooperation with international human rights mechanisms as a means of bridging the ‘implementation gap’.

Of special relevance for human rights defenders are also the country situations on the agenda of the 33rd Session:

Following the special session of the Human Rights Council on Burundi in December 2015, an interactive dialogue on the situation in Burundi is scheduled to take place on 27 September. From 13 to 17 June three human rights experts of the United Nations Independent Investigation on Burundi conducted their second visit to Burundi to address the human rights concerns raised in the special session Human Rights Council resolution. The experts will present their final report to the Human Rights Council this session. The gravity of human rights violations and the level of State responsibility in Burundi is unacceptable. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/02/08/what-is-burundi-doing-in-the-un-human-rights-council/]

Given the deteriorating situation of human rights in Cambodia, and the impunity with which intimidation and violence against human rights defenders occur, a range of national and international organisations calls on the Council to adopt a resolution on the country. This step would acknowledge the backsliding over the last year; reiterate the Council’s expectations for meaningful cooperation, with the Special Rapporteur and the OHCHR; and lay out benchmarks for the coming year, in light of the 2017 elections and the anniversary of the Paris Peace agreement, that would indicate clear progress achieved through the technical assistance and capacity-building mandate The interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia, scheduled for 28 September, is a chance for the international community to hear from, and respond to, Special Rapporteur Rhona Smith following her visits to the country and the communications she and other UN experts sent related to harassment and detention of NGO workers and the killing of well-known public figure Kem Ley. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/05/04/civil-society-condemns-charges-human-rights-defenders-cambodia/]

Individual interactive dialogues with mandate holders will be held in relation to Sudan, Central African Republic and Somalia. Interactive dialogues on the High Commissioner’s reports and oral updates will be held on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Libya, and Ukraine. The High Commissioner will present his reports on Cambodia and Yemen in a General Debate under Item 10. There will also be an interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria.

The Council will adopt the UPR reports of 14 countries.

#HRC33 / Thematic areas of interest | ISHR

https://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc33-country-specific-developments

25th UN Human Rights Council opens with calls to protect Human Rights Defenders

March 4, 2014


(High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay at the 25th session of the Human Rights Council. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré)

 

 

Yesterday, 3 March 2014, the top UN functionaries opened the 25th session of the UN Human Rights Council with calls for the protection of members of civil society who pursue justice in their countries (a long euphemism for Human Rights Defenders).

 

Streets, airwaves, entire countries are buzzing with demands for economic, social and political justice,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said. Setting out this agenda and acknowledging the hard work that lay ahead in ensuring that all people enjoyed equal rights, Ms. Pillay emphasized the important role of civil society in those efforts. “We need to work together to ensure that the space, voice and knowledge of civil society is nurtured in all our countries,” she stressed. Recalling reports of what she labelled “intolerable” reprisals against people who coöperate with the UN’s human rights activities, she called for more action to protect them. “The UN itself is required to protect and support those who contribute to its work, often at great personal risk,” she said.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon added on this point that, “No one should have to risk their life for standing up and speaking out on violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.” Civil society was the representative of “We the Peoples,” as cited in the opening of the UN Charter, and that it must be able to carry out its vital work, “free of reprisals and intimidation.” In that context, the Secretary-General highlighted the “Rights Up Front” action plan that he launched last year to ensure that human rights considerations were the top priority in all UN activities. “This initiative seeks to ensure that the United Nations system leverages the full breadth of its mandates to protect people at risk,” he said. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/12/26/rights-up-front-presented-by-jan-eliason-it-is-irrefutable-that-serious-human-rights-violations-are-the-best-early-warning-of-atrocities/]

Interesting to note that while in Geneva, the Secretary-General met 4 NGOs: the International Service for Human Rights, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists. Their discussion certainly stressed human rights defenders and the importance of protecting them from attacks.

via United Nations News Centre – UN Human Rights Council opens with calls to protect, support civil society activism.