Posts Tagged ‘Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders’

Two more side events on Human Rights Defenders on 10 and 12 March

March 5, 2014

In a post earlier in the day I mentioned that I would restrict myself to announcing Side Events to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that are specially focused on Human Rights Defenders, but that seems not be much of a restriction with two more interesting events scheduled for next week:

1.Human Rights Defenders and the Shrinking Space for Civil Society” on Monday 10 March 2014 from 14 to 15h00 in Room XX Palais des Nations. Speakers:

  • Navi Pillay UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • Halah Eldoseri – Saudi Arabia [researcher on women’s health services; blogs (Saudi women’s rights) to educate women about the country’s  international obligations towards women; writes and organises lectures and workshops in Saudi Arabia for activists and the public]
  • Maksym Butkevych – Ukraine [radio and TV journalist working with “Hromadske Radio” (“Public Radio”) in Kiev; Co-Founder of “No Borders” project of the NGO “Social Action Centre”, which works on anti-discrimination issues;  organised an independent radio station to directly cover the events in Ukraine; Co-Ordinator of the Independent Civic human rights violations Investigation Commission]
  • Mary Lawlor Director of Front Line Defenders [Chair]Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped

Co sponsors: Troicare, International Commission of Jurists, Permanent Mission of Ireland.


2. “Global Trends for Human Rights Defenders” on Wednesday 12 March from 09h30 -12h00 in the office of International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), Rue de Varembé 1.  This Roundtable brings together human rights defenders, practitioners, academic scholars, intergovernmental officials, government representatives, and donors to discuss innovation and the way forward to improve understanding and protection of HRDs, specially to foster an enabling environments for human rights defenders. This discussion will draw upon:

  1. Recommendations made in the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders  to the Human Rights Council on 10 March 2014,
  2. Ideas shared in the Side Eventof the Human Rights Council on ‘Creating a Safe and Enabling Environment for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders’ on 11 March 2014 (see my post:
  3. Issues in the Special Issue on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in the Journal of Human Rights Practice (

To attend this event, please register by Friday March 7 at 12:00 noon by completing this on-line form:

Important Human Rights Council side event on 11 March (to be followed on internet)

February 14, 2014

The Geneva-based International Service for Human Rights organises an important side event during the upcoming UN Human Rights Council. Under the title “Creating a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders” the event will take place on 11 March 2014, from 12h00 – 14h00 in the Palais des Nations, Geneva (exact room to be determined later). Those who cannot attend in person, can follow the event through a live webcast and ask questions or share comments via Twitter using #HRDs before and during the event. Photos and further details will also be available on Facebook following the event, Read the rest of this entry »

Defending human rights is increasingly dangerous activity in many parts of the world, states latest UN report

January 19, 2014

The most recent report by the UN Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, has been made public and will be officially presented to the Human Rights Council in March 2014. It is the last report by this Rapporteur whose mandate will terminate. The report finds that human rights defenders – especially journalists, lawyers, trade unionists and those who work to promote women’s rights and the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons – face ‘extraordinary risks’. It highlights cases of defamation, attacks, detention, torture and even killings. The report also documents an increased incidence of violations against people and communities opposed to mining, construction and development projects, with protesters attacked both by State and private security forces. Human rights defenders play a crucial role in exposing and seeking accountability for violations by both governments and corporations. Their work is crucial to transparency, good governance and justice for victims,’ commented Phil Lynch of the International Service for Human Rights in Geneva.ISHR-logo-colour-high

The report also documents the worsening ‘use of legislation in a number of countries to refrain the activities of human rights defenders and to criminalise them’, with cited examples including laws to ‘curb the promotion of homosexuality’ and to restrict NGO access to foreign funds. In the last four weeks alone, Nigeria, Russia, Uganda, Malaysia and the Ukraine have enacted or applied laws to criminalise human rights defenders and to silence their critical voice,’ Mr Lynch added.

In addition to documenting violations, the report makes a wide range of recommendations to ensure that human rights defenders are protected and can operate in a ‘safe and enabling environment.

For those too busy to read the whole new UN report [PDF]  here are the

V.    Conclusions and recommendations: Read the rest of this entry »

Deadline for candidatures Special Rapporteur extended to 14 November

October 29, 2013

On 28 September I shared a message concerning criteria to help select the best possible successor as Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders. It mentioned 31 October as deadline, but the UN now informs us that the deadline for applications for special rapporteurs – to be appointed at the 25th session of the Human Rights Council (March 2014) – has been extended to Thursday 14 November 2013 (Midnight, GMT). If encountering technical difficulties, the Secretariat may be contacted by email:


Special Rapporteur ends visit to South Korea and makes recommendations

June 7, 2013

At the end of a 10-day fact-finding mission to South Korea UN special rapporteur on human rights Defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, said Friday that South Korea’s 65-year-old national security act posed a “seriously problematic” challenge to freedom of expression.  It prohibits the printing, distribution and ownership of any material deemed “anti-state” and outlaws any organisation advocating overthrow of the government.Flag of South Korea
I have been acquainted with the national security act which, despite the fact that it has been amended on several occasions, still appears seriously problematic for the exercise of freedom of expression,Sekaggya said.   Read the rest of this entry »

Malaysian NGO uses UN review to accuse government of harassing human rights defenders

March 17, 2013


In the lead up to the Malaysia’s Universal Periodic Review, a delegation from Suaram (Suara Inisiatif Sdn Bhd) under the accreditation of Aliran (Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara) attended the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva last week.  The group submitted an oral statement as part of the Interactive Dialogue on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders urging the Malaysian Government to allow the Special Rapporteur Ms Margaret Sekaggya to carry out an independent inquiry. The statement touched on the intensified threats against Bersih steering committee members, native rights defenders in East Malaysia, Lynas activists and the ongoing harassment and intimidation against Suaram.

The group also submitted an oral statement as part of the Interactive Dialogue on Freedom of Religion or Belief.  The statement highlighted a number of cases where freedom of religion was not respected, in relation to the ability of individuals to decide which faith they wished to practice. It highlighted how children in Malaysia are often exposed to religious instruction against their will, citing the example of the Orang Asli children who were slapped by a teacher at a school in 2012 for not reciting the doa (Islamic prayer). It also covered the controversial “Allah” issue and the bureaucratic obstructions that non-Muslims often face when constructing a place of worship in Malaysia.

The ongoing persecution and harassment of Malaysia’s human rights defenders is a blatantly obvious example as is ignoring the rights of minorities and indigenous people stated Suaram.

Russian “homosexual propaganda” law risks to target human rights defenders

February 7, 2013

A draft law to criminalise “homosexual propaganda”, currently being considered by the Russian parliament, flagrantly violates international human rights laws and standards, says the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR). The ISHR is particularly concerned that the law will be used to target, intimidate or harass human rights defenders and those who speak out on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people. “States have an obligation not only to respect and protect human rights, but also to respect and protect those who stand up and speak out for human rights. Russia’s draft law is manifestly incompatible with this obligation,” said Ms Collister of the ISHR.ISHR-logo-colour-high

ISHR’s statement comes as three United Nations Independent human rights experts have also called on Russian parliament to scrap the draft Bill. In a joint statement issued by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and the Special Rapporteur on the right to health, the experts state, “The draft legislation could further contribute to the already difficult environment in which these defenders operate, stigmatizing their work and making them the target of acts of intimidation and violence, as has recently happened in Moscow.”

For further comment, contact Heather Collister, International Service for Human Rights, on + 41 79 920 3805 or


Women’s Rights Group analyses UN report on Human Rights Defenders

November 26, 2012

Under the title: “When States Use Legislation Against Women Human Rights Defenders” AWID  discusses the recent report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders (UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders’ 2012 report).

In her report, the Special Rapporteur reviews the types of legislation affecting the work of HRDs, including laws relating to: anti-terrorism and national security; public morals; the registration, functioning and funding of associations; access to information and official-secrets; defamation and blasphemy; and  Internet access. While all of these categories are relevant, the AWID document looks at how four of these practices affect Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs).

Anti-terrorism and national security WHRDs in Zimbabwe have continually denounced arbitrary arrests and violations of the right to peaceful assembly. The increase in Governments that use anti-terrorism and/or national security laws to detain, prosecute, convict, and harass WHRDs is a worldwide concern. According to the Special Rapporteur, this type of legislation is “so broad that any peaceful act expressing views of dissent would fall under the definition of a terrorist act, or an act facilitating, supporting or promoting terrorism”.

Public morals In Meso-America, WHRDs working to promote women’s sexual and reproductive rights and the decriminalization of abortion[3] are the ones who most often experience criminalization and defamation by the State, private groups and the media. The Special Rapporteur’s report strongly emphasises how vital sexual health and reproductive rights (SHRR) defenders are for the promotion, protection and respect of women’s human rights, highlighting that “ these activities should not be subject to criminal sanction”. Zero tolerance for judicial harassment against SHRR defenders is called for, and States with legal frameworks guaranteeing SHRR should “ensure that such legislation is enforced without discrimination”.

Legal restrictions on operations Increasingly, States are issuing special regulations that affect the legal operation of women’s organizations in ways that are intended to inhibit their work. The 2005 report Written Out: How Sexuality is Used to Attack Women’s Organizing states that “after the attacks of 9/11, the US government put into place a set of supposedly terrorism-related legal and financial restrictions for any organization that funds groups outside the US. Under these policies, such funding organizations now have to prove that the groups receiving funds are not in any way engaging in terrorist activities”.

Defamation Although defamation legislation is intended to protect a person’s reputation from false and malicious attacks, legal frameworks under the umbrella of defamation tend to hide political or economic interests in order to retaliate against criticism and public denouncement of corruption. While defamation laws rarely protect WHRDs from defamation, they are often used to limit the freedom of expression of WHRDs. The Meso-American Assessment of Violence against WHRDs states that defamation is “one of the most repeated forms of violence against WHRDs in the region, either by the state, private groups and the media”. The Special Rapporteur’s report highlights that penalties are imposed on WHRDs who criticize Government representatives or religious laws.  Under penal codes for defamation or blasphemy penalties vary from fines to months of imprisonment.  These provisions prevent WHRDs from holding public officials or religious leaders accountable.

The Special Rapporteur raises concern about the development of legislation that allows authorities to supervise the activities of civil society organizations (CSOs). The report refers to confidential information received by the Special Rapporteur that points to how reporting requirements have been imposed on CSOs to retain their licence to operate, placing surveillance on CSOs, demanding documentation without prior notice, and restricting access to foreign funding and limiting this to up to 10% of their total annual income. Similarly, restrictions on certain areas of work have been imposed on women’s rights organizations, in particular those related to defending political rights and those that use human rights language in their organizations’ objectives. Excessive requirements for operating legally make it difficult for WHRDs to comply, and in some instances the required documentation puts WHRDs at risk. This trend of legal control and restriction undermines and delegitimizes the work of WHRDs and their organizations, as the resources and time required to respond to such demands deter women’s rights advocates from forming organizations.

Recommendations The 26 recommendations presented in the Special Rapporteur’s report aim at ensuring that national legislations comply with basic human rights enshrined in their constitutions – and consistent with the Declaration on HRDs – to create favourable working environments for HRDs. Special attention is needed regarding legislation that responds to the needs and situations of WHRDs, in particular those working on SHRR. The report makes an important call for States to “repeal all legislation that, with the declared objective of preserving public morals, criminalizes the activities of HRDs working on sexual orientation and gender identity issues”. Importantly, the Special Rapporteur’s recommendation to “ensure that civil society, national human rights institutions and other stakeholders are involved in a broad consultative process to ensure that the drafting of new legislation is in compliance with the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and other applicable international human rights instruments”, is critical to guarantee the inclusion and full participation of WHRDs in civil society.

for details see:

Margaret Sekaggya, Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, does interview with Protection International.

January 13, 2012


United Nations Human Rights Council logo.

Image via Wikipedia

On the occasion of the 13th anniversary of the UN Declaration on human rights defenders (HRDs) on December last year Protection International issued a video interview with the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Ms Margaret Sekaggya. In 1998, after 14 years of negotiations with governments and under continuous pressure of human rights NGOs, the international community finally recognized the need of human rights defenders for a better protection. To support the implementation of the Declaration, the UN created a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, at present Mrs. Margaret Sekaggya.
The interview can be seen on:, in which Ms Sekaggya explains her motivations for promoting defenders rights, the difficulties defenders are currently facing and how they can rely on her mandate.
For more information on Protection International