Posts Tagged ‘UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’

Bound to happen but still…High Commissioner Zeid announces he will not seek second term

December 22, 2017

The United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, left, is not seeking a second term. CreditSalvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone, via Associated Press

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, has made the unusual decision to not seek a second four-year term. The decision was conveyed in a short statement that was emailed to his staff early this Wednesday and shared with some media. “Next year will be the last of my mandate”..  “After reflection, I have decided not to seek a second four-year term. To do so, in the current geopolitical context, might involve bending a knee in supplication; muting a statement of advocacy; lessening the independence and integrity of my voice — which is your voice.” “There are many months ahead of us: months of struggle, perhaps, and even grief — because although the past year has been arduous for us, it has been appalling for many of the people we serve” .

This is very much in line with his courageous statements and actions over the years often referred to in this blog [e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/14/un-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-states-may-shut-my-office-out-but-they-will-not-shut-us-up/]. Still, a blow to the international human rights movement.

While most high level United Nations officials serve as long as their mandate allows, no single Human Rights Commissioner has served a full four-year second term. Zeid’s four-year term expires next September. It has been clear for months that some of the five veto-wielding permanent members of the United Nations Security Council would use their influence to block it. Mr. Zeid al-Hussein – to his credit – has been critical of all of them.

He has been outspoken about the Russian-backed government of Syria. He has warned of the prospects of genocide by the Chinese-backed government of Myanmar. And he has called out the Trump administration several times, most pointedly on the travel ban against citizens of Muslim-majority countries and after the demonstrations by white supremacists in Charlottesville. Mr. al-Hussein’s willingness to take on the powerful by name, along with what he has described as the “eye-watering stupidity” of abusive governments, made him few friends. Mr. al-Hussein proved confounding to many by defying classification: the first human rights chief from the Middle East but a sharp critic of violations by Arab governments; a Muslim who condemned Islamic militants; and a Jordanian prince who discarded his title to take the job and become an advocate for victims.

[see also e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/15/martin-ennals-award-2016-relive-the-ceremony-in-13-minutes-or-in-full/]

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https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/12/21/2017-the-year-even-the-u-n-human-rights-commissioner-gave-up-on-human-rights/?utm_term=.00b8792d71f7

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/12/20/world/un-human-rights-al-hussein.html

 

US pushes for ‘historic’ human rights debate at Security Council but achieves little

April 20, 2017

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, with Liu Jieyi, China’s ambassador, before the April 18 Security Council meeting. Rick Bajornas/UN Photo

The United States led on Tuesday 18 April what it (and not many others) dubbed a ‘historicU.N. Security Council meeting on the link between rights abuses and conflict, but it had to drop a push for the broad issue of human rights to become a fixed item of the Security Council’s agenda when it appeared that at least six members would oppose it [Russia, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan and Bolivia were against the move and Senegal’s support was uncertain]. The United States, council president for April, did not risk the measure being put to a rare procedural vote, which requires nine in favour, and vetoes cannot be used. The opposing council members say rights discussion should be confined to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council – which Washington accuses of being anti-Israel and has threatened to quit – and the 193-member U.N. General Assembly third committee. Here is some of the analysis:

Read the rest of this entry »

Martin Ennals Award 2016: relive the ceremony in 13 minutes or in full

October 15, 2016

For those who missed the amazing Martin Ennals Award ceremony in Geneva on 11 October here is the 13-minute summary

For those who would like to relive the whole event please go to: new MEA_logo with text

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/ueCvkmTf59u

Summary and streaming are courtesy of THF

Emirates response to UN High Commissioner’s could do more than calling for more dialogue

September 16, 2016

The UN High Commissioner’s opening speech at the 33rd session of the UN Human Rights Council [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/09/14/un-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-states-may-shut-my-office-out-but-they-will-not-shut-us-up/] continues to makes waves and has led to interesting reactions. Here the one from the Emirates as reported by ArabianBusiness.com on 15 September 2016 under the heading: “UAE calls for open, transparent dialogue on human rights

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in his statement at the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council, said he was “concerned by harassment and arrests of human rights defenders and political activists, and legislation which enables revocation of citizenship without due process” in Bahrain. The UAE’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Obaid Salem Al Zaabi said that the emirates shares the high commissioner’s concerns about several human rights issues in different parts of the world. He even gave careful endorsement of the HC’s statement on interference by saying: “The current experience shows that there is still a misunderstanding in the areas related to enhancing human rights at the national levels, which led the nations to deem them as interference in their respective internal affairs and a violation of their sovereignty,” Al Zaabi said, according to news agency WAM.

But then he had to add that he regretted that the High Commissioner ignored in his update the efforts made by Bahrain to provide a rapprochement ground for all parties to overcome this difficult stage. “Concentrating only on the negative aspects can create a wrong impression that others may exploit to further complicate the situation in Bahrain,” Al Zaabi said. He said the only way to resolve the situation in Bahrain is through objective and constructive dialogue, not confrontational and tense language.

Al Zaabi also renewed the UAE’s readiness to co-operate with the High Commissioner, through its continuous contributions to the relevant UN funds. This is fine of course but, more convincing would be if the Emirates would lift the travel ban on their most prominent human rights defender: Ahmed Mansoor: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/10/06/ahmed-mansoor-leading-human-rights-defender-in-the-emirates-is-2015-laureate-mea/ and https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/09/15/fly-emirates-if-the-emirs-let-you/

Source: UAE calls for open, transparent dialogue on human rights – ArabianBusiness.com

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: “States may shut my Office out – but they will not shut us up”

September 14, 2016

Readers are forgiven for not remembering that in the 1980’s it was forbidden for UN officials to name and shame countries by name (with a few exceptions) and those that did usually paid a price for that (e.g. Theo van Boven in 1982 and the curtailing of terms for some High Commissioners). Now, in the span of one week the current High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has first named and shamed some politicians as dangerous demagogues (6 September 2016 in the Hague): Mr. Wilders. Mr. Trump, Mr. Orban, Mr. Zeman, Mr. Hofer, Mr. Fico, Madame Le Pen, and Mr. Farage. He followed this up in his opening statement at the 33rd session of the UN Human Rights Council on 13 September 2016 with a forceful attack on countries that refuses to cooperate with his Office or other UN procedures: foremost Syria but also Venezuela, Turkey, Ethiopia, Israel, North Korea, India, Pakistan, Mozambique, USA, Gambia, China, Nepal, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Dominican Republic, Belarus, Eritrea, Iran, and Burundi. The non-cooperation by those in control of areas such as Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Crimea, and Nagorno-Karabakh was also singled out.

The part that underpins the ‘legitimacy’ of his interference is of special relevance: “Under international law, wrongful “intervention” – as prohibited in Article 2(7) of the UN Charter – is by nature coercive. And it should be obvious that my Office has no coercive power. No activity that we undertake can possibly be considered constitutive of a prohibited “intervention”. …We request access so we can better work to help bring your laws and practices in line with international agreements which you, the States drafted and ratified – and to assist you to comply with recommendations which you have publicly, and often fulsomely, accepted….Are human rights exclusively a national issue? Governments have the responsibility to uphold their human rights obligations and to respect the standards. But the human rights of all people, in all countries, also require – unquestionably ­– our collective attention. The Vienna Declaration, adopted unanimously 23 years ago, confirmed this..”

“Human rights violations will not disappear if a government blocks access to international observers and then invests in a public relations campaign to offset any unwanted publicity. On the contrary, efforts to duck or refuse legitimate scrutiny raise an obvious question: what, precisely, are you hiding from us? I classify as refusals of access all unreasonable delays, elaborately ritualised and unreasonably prolonged negotiations, and responses to specific requests which seem to seek to fob us off with inadequate alternatives to real, fact-based assessment. Access delayed is access denied: two weeks is surely amply sufficient to secure a decision from all relevant officials. Claims that insecure conditions make it impossible to give my staff access are also less than acceptable. My staff work with great courage in some of the world’s most severely threatened communities, and will continue to do so when called upon – or at least, we could be the judge of that.

States may shut my Office out – but they will not shut us up; neither will they blind us. If access is refused, we will assume the worst, and yet do our utmost to nonetheless report as accurately as we can on serious allegations. Our remote monitoring is likely to involve witness testimony, credible third-party reports and use of satellite imagery, among other techniques. Certainly, remote monitoring is a poor substitute for in-person observation by expert analysts. It makes it more difficult to verify and confirm the competing allegations of any party – including the Government. I regret that imprecision, and encourage all States to assist us to correct it, by permitting my teams unhindered access to events on the ground when requested.

The two texts follow below in toto; summarizing them would not do justice to the elaborate and courageous words of this High Commissioner, who seems not to be concerned about securing a second term. Moreover, the one in the Hague stands out by its eloquence!

Read the rest of this entry »

On 2-3 September SIM hosts annual Association of Human Rights Insitutes Conference

September 1, 2016

On 2-3 September 2016, the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights (SIM) hosts the 2016 Association of Human Rights Institutes Conference. The conference is entitled “50 Years of the Two UN Human Rights Covenants: Legacies and Prospects” and will be attended by many human rights scholars from around the world. There will be nearly 100 speakers, a number of them SIM researchers, presenting on six major themes:

(i) the indivisibility and interactions of norms and regimes;

(ii) citizenship, migrants and refugees;

(iii) non-state actors and human rights;

(iv) the EU and human rights;

(v) the global economy and human rights; and

(vi) new avenues in human rights research.The United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights, Zeid Ra’adAl Hussein, will close the conference by giving the 2016 SIM Peter Baehr lecture.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights warns of ‘preventable calamities’ worldwide

June 14, 2016

In a wide-ranging opening speech to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, on 13 June 2016, the UN rights chief sheds a light on “ calamities” and worrying trends around the world, including detailed concerns about the situation in more than 50 countries.

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. UN Photo/Pierre Albouy

Hate is becoming mainstreamed,” warned the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, speaking at the opening of the Council’s 32nd session.

Walls – which tormented previous generations, and have never yielded any sustainable solution to any problem – are returning. Barriers of suspicion are rising, snaking through and between our societies – and they are killers. Clampdowns on public freedoms, and crackdowns on civil society activists and human rights defenders, are hacking away at the forces which uphold the healthy functioning of societies. Judicial institutions which act as checks on executive power are being dismantled. Towering inequalities are hollowing out the sense that there are common goods,” Mr. Zeid stressed. He said these trends “bleed nations of their innate resilience,” and do not make them safe; instead, they make them weaker. “Piece by piece, these mutually reinforcing trends are shearing off the protections that maintain respect, enable development, and provide the only fragile basis for world peace. They are attacks on sanity. And they can be reversed”

Meanwhile, he told Member States that he very much regrets the refusal by some countries to permit the staff of the his Office (OHCHR) to have access in order to monitor and report on events. “I must emphasise that non-cooperation by Governments will not result in my Office remaining silent. On the contrary, it creates a presumption of major violations, and may deprive local and national actors of the opportunity to explain and provide information about events,” he stressed, adding that when he updates the Council at the September session, he may list a number of countries where engagement with or access for his Office is impeded.

‘Very pressing human rights concerns’ around the globe

Today, Mr. Zeid said his goal was to outline “some very pressing human rights concerns, which could have been prevented – and must now be redressed.”

Speaking of the situation in Europe, Mr. Zeid underlined that globally, many countries have distinguished themselves “by their principled welcome to large numbers of desperate, often terrified and poverty-stricken migrants and refugees.” However, he said many other countries have not done so, and their failure to take in a fair share of the world’s most vulnerable is undermining the efforts of more responsible States.

Turning to the Middle East and North Africa, he warned that “the life-forces of society – which are the freedom and hopes of the people – are crushed by repression, conflict or violent anarchy.” The antidote to the savagery of violent extremism is greater rule of law,” he stressed. “The best way to fight terrorism, and to stabilize the region, is to push back against discrimination; corruption; poor governance; failures of policing and justice; inequality; the denial of public freedoms, and other drivers of radicalization.”

In relation to other challenges on the African continent, Mr. Zeid’s remarks included concerns about new waves of attacks by violent extremists; killings, disappearances and arbitrary arrests by agents of the State or associated militia; some signs of stable countries “backsliding into violence; and some showing a reduction in “democratic space.

Similarly in Asia, terrorist groups are claiming responsibility for many deadly incidents against men, women, and children; there has reportedly been a dramatic increase in the number of brutal murders against freethinkers, liberals, religious minorities and activists for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights; longstanding protests have also continued and escalated with police using excessive force.

Meanwhile, the UN rights chief shared his concern about the situation across the Americas regarding the very high incidence of gun violence and gun-related deaths. According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the Americas have by far the highest rate of intentional homicide of any region in the world.


Source: United Nations News Centre – UN rights chief warns of ‘preventable calamities’ and ‘worrying’ trends in more than 50 countries

Preview of the upcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council

February 25, 2016

The UN Human Rights Council will hold its 31st regular session at Palais des Nations in Geneva from 29 February to 24 March 2016 (it also marks the 10th anniversary of the Human Rights Council). The International Service for Human Rights (see link at the bottom of the post) has published an Alert full of details, but I highlight here the elements that concern human rights defenders most directly:ISHR-logo-colour-high

Human rights defenders:  The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, will present his annual report to the Council on 3 March. The report focuses on good practices to promote and protect the rights of human rights defenders. Presentation of the report will be followed by a dialogue. Of significance this session is a substantive resolution that will be presented by Norway on the situation of human rights defenders. The resolution at this session of the Council follows on the heels of the resolution on human rights defenders presented at the General Assembly in November 2015. The General Assembly resolution included a number of new, important and substantive provisions, including on the vital role of advocacy and the work of defenders in contributing to sustainable development and the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights, and the responsibilities of business enterprises with respect to engaging, consulting and protecting defenders. [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/12/18/un-general-assembly-adopts-resolution-on-human-rights-defenders-with-increased-majority/] This latest resolution provides an opportunity to recognise the critically important work of economic, social and cultural rights defenders, and the cross-cutting challenges they face, including restrictions not only on their rights to health, food, housing, social security and work, but also on their rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly and life itself. Economic, social and cultural rights activists have been identified by current and previous Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights defenders as among the most isolated and stigmatised defenders. It is integral that the resolution recognises the role of both State and non-State actors in the protection of human rights defenders, and enjoys broad State support for strong language demanding their protection.  (On 7 March, ISHR will facilitate a side event on this topic which will be the subject of a separate post) Read the rest of this entry »

Reprisals against Human Rights Defenders continue says UN report

September 17, 2015

Reprisals against human rights defenders continue and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (fortunately) continues to give it prominence. A newly released United Nations report names 20 nations that have taken action against rights defenders and activists over the past year. Here the version of the New York Times (Nick Cumming) of 15 September 2015:

Those who give evidence to United Nations human rights investigators are facing increasingly severe reprisals, the United Nations Human Rights Council said Tuesday in a report naming 20 countries that took action against rights defenders and activists in the past year. The instances included intimidation and reprisals against the council’s commissions of inquiry on Eritrea and the 2014 war in Gaza, as well as people cooperating with United Nations investigators and staff monitoring human rights developments, the council’s president, Joachim Rücker, reported. “The types of acts reported seem to have become more varied and severe over time, targeting not only the individuals or groups concerned, but also their families, legal representatives, nongovernmental organizations and anyone linked to them,” he said in the report, which covers events in the year up to the end of May. The penalties it cited ranged from threats and travel bans to imprisonment, torture, sexual violence and disappearance. The list was not exhaustive, leaving out cases where naming individuals might endanger them.

In a statement to the council, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the United Nations’ High Commissioner for human rights, expressed concern on Monday about China’s detention of more than 100 lawyers and Russia’s stigmatization of nongovernment organizations getting overseas funding, but the report includes only one example of intimidation in each country.

It describes the torture of Sadriddin Toshev, a prisoner in Tajikistan, beaten in front of other inmates by prison officials who cited his interaction with a United Nations investigator on torture. Mr. Toshev was later charged with fraud, accused of deliberately wounding himself to discredit prison officials and of distributing false information, the report said.

Among other cases, the report cites a five-year prison sentence which it says was imposed in Iran on Mohammad Ali Taheri for cooperating with the United Nations expert monitoring human rights there. It also describes the violent arrest of a human rights defender in Myanmar by 10 plainclothes security men as he was on his way to provide evidence to the council-appointed expert assessing developments there.

“Such acts not only show a complete disregard for the functioning of the United Nations as a whole but also highlight the fact that, despite repeated calls for action by states to end all such violations, impunity continues to surround them,” the report said.

Having written so often about this topic, a link to previous posts is all this is needed: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/reprisals/ 

Source: Retribution Increases Against Those Aiding Human Rights Inquiries – The New York Times

Human Rights Defenders in Azerbaijan: Human Rights Council last hope?

September 15, 2015

 

In Azerbaijan, space for independent civil society has disappeared, following a crackdown since the presidential election in October 2013. Ahead of the parliamentary elections in November 2015, all leading civil society actors are either in prison or have fled the country. On 8 September 2015, the UN High Commissioner condemned the ongoing crackdown on civil society and independent voices in Azerbaijan. On 20 August 2015, six UN Special Rapporteurs issued a joint statement condemning the conviction of human rights defenders as “manifestly politically motivated” in a trial that “fell short of international norms and standards.” On 11 September 2015, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) cancelled its election monitoring in the country due to restrictions imposed by the Azerbaijani authorities. See also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/azerbaijan/

Clearly time for the Human Rights Council to step in!

Several NGOs, led by the Human Rights House Foundation, are organizing a side event in Geneva on Wednesday 16 September, from 17:00 – 18:00. Palais des Nations Room XXIV. English / Russian translation is provided.HRHFlogo

SPEAKERS

DINARA YUNUS Institute for Peace and Democracy & Daughter of political prisoners Leyla Yunus and Arif Yunus

SERGHEI OSTAF Resource Centre for Human Rights Moldova; Observer of many of the hearings this summer of various human rights defenders imprisoned in Azerbaijan

EMIN HUSEYNOV Institute for Reporter’s Freedom and Safety

Moderation: FLORIAN IRMINGER