Posts Tagged ‘UN Human Rights Council’

Reprisals at the UN: more calls for action – no action

June 23, 2017

The UN and States must take visible and sustained action against acts of intimidation and reprisal against those engaging or seeking to engage with the UN“, says the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) in two reports issued on 22 June 2017.  Unfortunately, the NGO community (the main victims of the practice of reprisals) finds it difficult to come up with new ideas on how counter the trend while States continue to block the participation and input by human rights defenders. [ see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/03/13/zero-tolerance-for-states-that-take-reprisals-against-hrds-lets-up-the-ante/and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/]

ISHR’s latest report to the UN Secretary-General demonstrates again the need for the UN and States to act to prevent and ensure accountability for intimidation and reprisals against those cooperating or seeking to cooperate with the UN, and lays out a series of recommendations in that regard. The report documents a disturbing pattern of reprisals against human rights defenders seeking to cooperate with the UN. It includes alleged cases of travel bans in Bahrain in the context of the Universal Period Review this May; disappearances and detention of defenders and lawyers, as well as intimidation of their families in China; and restrictions imposed on NGOs in Egypt.The report welcomes recent positive steps such as the appointment of Assistant Secretary General Andrew Gilmour as the first high-level official on reprisals against those cooperating with the UN on human rights, but highlights that more needs to be done. ‘In the overwhelming majority of cases, steps taken by the State to prevent, investigate or ensure accountability for reprisals have been inadequate or non-existent, and in many States there has been a high-level of impunity’ said ISHR’s Programme Coordinator and Legal Counsel, Tess McEvoy. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/05/assistant-secretary-general-andrew-gilmour-appointed-as-the-uns-focal-point-to-combat-reprisals-against-human-rights-defenders/]

The primary duty to prevent and remedy reprisals lies with States. However the UN itself also has a duty to step up. ‘Where States fail to adequately investigate and ensure accountability in relation to credible allegations of intimidation and reprisals, the UN should ensure an international, independent investigation into the case‘, said McEvoy. In the report ISHR called on UN bodies to take a more proactive role in combating reprisals and intimidation, and among other things, urged:

  • The Human Rights Council President and Bureau to clearly outlines steps the Council will take on receipt of information about credible risks of reprisals.
  • Treaty bodies to fully adopt and implement the San Jose guidelines.
  • The Assistant Secretary-General to ensure that rights holders and victims are kept regularly appraised of the status of their case.

     

    On the same day ISHR published a statement to the 35th session of the Human Rights Council, ISHR calling for a stronger focus on the implementation of Universal Periodic Review recommendations and the development of processes to ensure civil society can freely engage without fear of intimidation and reprisal. ‘Civil society is not only necessary for developing recommendations, but is essential for the working towards the implementation of these recommendations. The role of civil society must therefore be protected and enhanced’, said ISHR.

    While recommendations received are often accepted at ‘Geneva level’, implementation of these recommendations on the ground remains patchy. Item 6 on the agenda of the UN Human Rights Council provides a opportunity for dialogue on implementation.

    Alleged cases of intimidation and reprisals of human rights defenders engaging or seeking to engage in the UPR have escalated. ISHR received reports of cases in Egypt, India and Venezuela in the past year. Ongoing reprisals in Bahrain  are particularly concerning, including the imposition of travel bans on 27 defenders during the 27th UPR pre-session – including Sayed Hadi Al Musawi – as well as the interrogation of Abtisam Alsayegh in relation to her UN engagement. ISHR’s statement reiterated calls for States to ask advance questions, and make recommendations about the prevention, investigation, prosecution and remediation of reprisals.

    Reprisals against human rights defenders for their engagement with the UPR remain worryingly prevalent,’ said McEvoy. Given civil socity’s fundamental role in the UPR, we call on the President, Bureau and Secretariat to establish an institutionalised reprisals mechanism to prevent, investigate, remedy and promote accountability for reprisals associated with the UPR’, McEvoy continued. These calls form part of ISHR’s broader strategy to strengthen the UPR  which can be accessed hereContact: Tess McEvoy, Programme Coordinator and Legal Counsel, and focal point for ISHR’s UPR advocacy, on: t.mcevoy@ishr.ch.

    http://www.ishr.ch/news/report-sg-un-and-states-must-do-more-prevent-and-ensure-accountability-reprisals-0

Greece prevents EU criticism of human rights in China

June 20, 2017

The European Union – when criticizing countries by name in the UN Human Rights Council – does so with unanimity. It was the first time that the European Union did not make a statement in the Human Rights Council regarding rights violations in specific countries, including China as it was blocked by one of its member countries: Greece! A spokesman for the Greek Foreign Ministry in Athens called it “unproductive criticism.” The NYT reports that a spokesman for the Greek Foreign Ministry (who requested anonymity) said in a telephone interview:  “When the stability of a country is at stake, we need to be more constructive in the way we express our criticism” …“because if the country collapses, there will be no human rights to protect.” It was an odd explanation, commented the NYT, considering that China’s stability does not appear to be at risk. Unless the stability at stake was referring to Greece?!

In its struggle for economic recovery, Greece is indeed increasingly courting Chinese trade and investment. China’s largest shipping company, known as China COSCO Shipping, bought a majority stake last year in the Greek port of Piraeus. The Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, has visited China twice in two years. And China will be the “country of honor” at Greece’s annual international business fair in September in the port of Thessaloniki.

In the previous Human Rights Council session in March, the European Union statement pointed to China’s detention of lawyers and human rights defenders [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/19/letter-from-legal-experts-on-detained-lawyers-in-china/]. Human Rights Watch said it was “shameful that Greece sought to hold the E.U. hostage to prevent much-needed attention to China’s human rights crackdown.”

 

Putting the ‘record straight’ on the UN Human Rights Council

June 19, 2017

Earlier this month I referred to a speech by Ms Haley about the USA considering withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/07/us-ambassador-nikki-haley-on-what-has-to-change-in-the-un-human-rights-council/]. A lot has been written about this but a good, concise piece was in the Economist of 3 June 2017. In particular getting the ‘facts’ right about the relative improvements in recent years:

..Yet the council is a lot better than the commission was, and is still improving. The most important difference is the system of “universal periodic reviews” that all members of the UN are subjected to, at a rate of about 40 a year. The number of special rapporteurs, most of them truly independent, has risen, too. Since 2011 there have been investigations into human-rights abuses in Burundi, the Central African Republic, Eritrea, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Libya and North Korea, as well as Gaza. The council has steadfastly monitored the horrors in Syria and played a helpful role in Myanmar, Colombia and (after a poor start) Sri Lanka.

The disproportionate focus on Israel is lessening. From 2010 to 2016 only one special session was held on Israel/Palestine, down from six in the previous four years, says the council’s spokesman. The share of time spent on Item 7 has halved, to 8%.

The quality of members may improve, too, as regional groups are a bit less willing to shield their own. Last year Russia lost its seat, receiving 32 votes fewer than Hungary, and two fewer than Croatia. In the past few years Belarus, Iran, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Syria have failed to be elected or have withdrawn their candidacies. None of the nine worst human-rights offenders, as ranked by Freedom House, a Washington-based NGO, (Syria, Eritrea, North Korea, Uzbekistan, South Sudan, Turkmenistan, Somalia, Sudan and Equatorial Guinea) has ever been elected to the council. In a telling moment in 2014, a forcefully critical resolution on Sri Lanka was passed.

Things started to change in 2010, says Marc Limon, a British former official in the council, who now heads the Universal Rights Group, a Geneva-based think-tank, when a clutch of independent-minded countries, including Mauritius, Mexico and Morocco, began to vote more freely, often for American-backed resolutions. Before then, members of the 57-strong Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) and the African Group (whose members often overlapped and later reconfigured as the Like-Minded Group) “virtually controlled the council”, he says. Anti-Westerners have recently been defeated or forced to compromise on several issues. A resolution to exempt blasphemy from free-speech protections was fended off against the wishes of the Like-Minded. The same group failed to block a resolution to appoint an independent expert to investigate discrimination against gay and transgender people.

American diplomacy under Barack Obama was a big reason for the shift….

Source: The UN Human Rights Council will be weaker if America leaves

News from the HRC34: Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders extended

June 8, 2017

The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Human Right Defenders – Michael Forst – was extended for a period of three years. The draft of this resolution was submitted by Norway and adopted without a vote.  Hostile amendments to the resolution were submitted by the Russian Federation and China. All of these amendments were rejected.

  • Amendment L.43 sought to have the term Human Rights Defenders removed from the text. Such a motion undermines the importance of the work of Human Right Defenders and seeks to remove a well established term that has been mainstreamed within UN resolutions.
  • Amendment L.44 proposed the removal of the term Women Human Rights Defenders. In response several delegations emphasized the double violence that Women Human Right Defenders face due to their gender and their work and thus the importance of this term. They also recalled that part of the Special Rapporteur’s mandates is to focus on the violence specifically directed to Women Human Right Defenders and as such the term is key to the completion of the mandate.

Download the resolution

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/03/23/norwegian-resolution-un-human-rights-council-defenders-amendments/

Source: HRC34: Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders extended | AWID

US Ambassador Nikki Haley on what has to change in the UN Human Rights Council

June 7, 2017

On 6 June 2017 the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations,  Nikki Haley, made a speech at the the Graduate Institute of Geneva on “A Place for Conscience: the Future of the United States in the Human Rights Council”.  The full text you can find in the link below. Here some of the most relevant parts concerning changes desired by the USA ……
When the Human Rights Council has acted with clarity and integrity, it has advanced the cause of human rights. It has brought the names of prisoners of conscience to international prominence and given voice to the voiceless. At times, the Council has placed a spotlight on individual country violators and spurred action, including convening emergency sessions to address the war crimes being committed by the Assad regime in Syria. The Council’s Commission of Inquiry on North Korea led to the Security Council action on human rights abuses there. The Council is at its best when it is calling out human rights violators and abuses, and provoking positive action. It changes lives. It pushes back against the tide of cynicism that is building in our world. And it reassures us that it deserves our continued investment of time and treasure.

But there is a truth that must be acknowledged by anyone who cares about human rights: When the Council fails to act properly – when it fails to act at all – it undermines its own credibility and the cause of human rights. ……These problems were supposed to have been fixed when the new Council was formed. Sadly, the case against the Human Rights Council today looks an awful lot like the case against the discredited Human Rights Commission over a decade ago. Once again, over half the current member countries fail to meet basic human rights standards as measured by Freedom House. Countries like Venezuela, Cuba, China, Burundi, and Saudi Arabia occupy positions that obligate them to, in the words of the resolution that created the Human Rights Council, “uphold the highest standards” of human rights. They clearly do not uphold those highest standards.

…….

I dedicated the U.S. presidency of the Security Council in April to making the connection between human rights and peace and security. [see also https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/20/us-pushes-for-historic-human-rights-debate-at-security-council-but-achieves-little/]

This is a cause that is bigger than any one organization. If the Human Rights Council is going to be an organization we entrust to protect and promote human rights, it must change. If it fails to change, then we must pursue the advancement of human rights outside of the Council.America does not seek to leave the Human Rights Council. We seek to reestablish the Council’s legitimacy.

There are a couple of critically necessary changes.

First, the UN must act to keep the worst human rights abusers from obtaining seats on the Council. As it stands, elections for membership to the Council are over before the voting even begins. Regional blocs nominate slates of pre-determined candidates that never face any competition for votes……Selection of members must occur out in the open for all to see. The secret ballot must be replaced with open voting. Countries that are willing to support human rights violators to serve on the Human Rights Council must be willing to show their faces. They know who they are. It’s time for the world to know who they are.

Second, the Council’s Agenda Item Seven must be removed. This, of course, is the scandalous provision that singles out Israel for automatic criticism. There is no legitimate human rights reason for this agenda item to exist….Since its creation, the Council has passed more than 70 resolutions targeting Israel. It has passed just seven on Iran. ….Getting rid of Agenda Item Seven would not give Israel preferential treatment. Claims against Israel could still be brought under Agenda Item Four, just as claims can be brought there against any other country. Rather, removal of Item Seven would put all countries on equal footing.

These changes are the minimum necessary to resuscitate the Council as a respected advocate of universal human rights……

Source: Ambassador Nikki Haley: Remarks at the Graduate Institute of Geneva » US Mission Geneva

“RightDocs” the information gateway for official documentation of HRC35

June 7, 2017

 

HURIDOCS developed RightDocs to improve the accessibility and effectiveness of these resources for human rights advocates and others around the world, as well as to support the transparency and accountability of the Human Rights Council. With the 35th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council, it has updated the information on RightDocs with the most recent final Council resolutions and reports – now including all past sessions other than HRC34. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/03/07/human-rights-resolutions-count-at-rightdocs/]

RightDocs is the complete, searchable, and filterable collection of official Human Rights Council resolutions, amendments, presidential statements, decisions and reports. This platform allows users to:

  • Search full-text resolutions, amendments and reports
  • Filter by topic, agenda item, session, (co)sponsor States, voting results and dates
  • Discover voting patterns on topics over time, and compare those patterns
  • Identify prospective co-sponsors or supporters to approach

To access the RightDocs site, go to: www.right-docs.org 

Developed by HURIDOCS and Ketse with generous support from Permanent Mission of Denmark to the UN in Geneva.

Source: [RightDocs] Your information gateway for HRC35

Side event on civil society and the promotion of economic, social and cultural rights – 9 June 2017

June 2, 2017

Among the many side events expected to be organized in the margin of the next session of the UN Human Rights Council will be “The role of civil society participation in the promotion of economic, social and cultural rights and poverty alleviation“, on Friday 9 June 2017, from 13.00-14.30 PM in Room IX, Palais des Nations, Geneva.
Respect for economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights is a fundamental element of effective and sustainable poverty alleviation; it is also intimately linked with respect for civil and political rights, progress in sustainable development and the construction of peaceful, cohesive and stable communities. The goal of this panel is to discuss among different stakeholders the crucial principle of participation by NGOs, human rights defenders, and other civil society actors in rights-based approaches to poverty alleviation at the national level. In particular, UN experts on economic, social and cultural rights will reflect on how the experiences and resources of civil society assist them in their work to promote and protect ESC rights, including the development and monitoring of recommendations arising from both reports and country visits. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/03/25/human-rights-council-adoption-landmark-resolution-protection-defenders-economic-social-cultural-rights/]
Opening remarks by Marta Maurás Perez, Ambassador of Chile to the UN in Geneva
Panelists:
  • Prof Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights
  • Prof Sandra Liebenberg, Member of UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  • Stefan Luca, lawyer and Roma rights advocate
  • Sophie Richardson, Human Rights Watch
Moderator: Lucy McKernan, Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
The side event is co-sponsored by Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, OHCHR and the International Service for Human Rights. You can follow the event on Twitter: @ISHRglobal #HRDs

Source: The role of civil society participation in the promotion of economic, social and cultural rights and poverty alleviation | ISHR

Human Rights Defenders issues on the agenda of the next 35th Human Rights Council

June 1, 2017

The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) in Geneva has published again its timely alert to the next Session of the UN Human Rights Council, from 6 to 23 June 2017. 

It is a rich document [https://www.ishr.ch/news/human-rights-council-key-issues-agenda-35th-session-june] and I list here only the items most directly related to Human Rights Defenders:

Thematic areas of interest:

Sexual orientation and gender identity

The first annual report of the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity will be presented between 9:00 and 12:00am on Tuesday 6 June. Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Uruguay will organise an event on Advancing human rights protection and ending violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity on 9 June from 11:30-13:00 in Room IX.

Reprisals

In a recent letter to the President of the Human Rights Council, ISHR called for urgent attention to be given to cases of reprisals which have not been followed up by the Human Rights Council. One of the most serious instances of reprisal is against Chinese human rights defender Cao Shunli, who died in detention on 14 March 2014 after being detained for her engagement in UN human rights mechanisms. Despite her case being communicated with the Bureau during the three years following her death, there has been no independent investigation or adequate response. ISHR looks forward to consolidating the advances made by the recent appointment of Assistant Secretary General Andrew Gilmour to receive, consider and respond to allegations of reprisals. Acts of intimidation and reprisal against human rights defenders seeking to cooperate with the UN constitute violations of international human rights law and undermine the human rights system. The Human Rights Council should respond with appropriate gravity to reprisals and follow-up past cases during its 35th session. [for my many posts on reprisals see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/]

Business and human rights

The mandate of the Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises will be up for renewal during the session. The report of the Working Group will be considered by the Council, in addition to reports of country missions to Mexico and the Republic of Korea.

The Working Group will also present a study on best practices and how to improve the effectiveness of cross-border cooperation between States with respect to law enforcement on the issue of business and human rights, and a report on public procurement (not yet available at time of writing). Over the past three years, the Working Group has increasingly recognised the role of human rights defenders in ensuring business respect for human rights, and the specific challenges faced by defenders working on business and human rights issues, as exemplified by a dedicated workshop on this topic during its last session in May 2017. Since the last renewal of the mandate in 2014, the Working Group has also made increasing use of its ability to confront States and companies with allegations of human rights violations. From just 16 such communications in 2014 the Working Group has increased to 21 in 2015 and 42 in 2016. Both of these trends should be recognised and encouraged by the resolution renewing the mandate of the Working Group.

Women human rights defenders and women’s rights

The annual full day discussion on the human rights of women will take place on Tuesday 13 June from 9:00 to 12:00 and from 15:00 to 18:00. It will focus on engaging men and boys in responding to and preventing violence against women and girls. Engaging with men and boys to combat violence and discrimination against women and girls is essential to efforts to prevent and eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence against them. This should include challenging the harmful gender stereotypes and negative social norms, attitudes and behaviours that underlie and perpetuate such violence.  Equally, it is important that the Council’s discussions and resolutions in this area  recognise the critical role of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) and organisations led by women and girls as rights holders and agents of change. They should be involved and consulted in the planning, design, implementation and monitoring of legislation, policies and programmes, including programs aimed at engaging men and boys.

ISHR will support joint advocacy on the resolutions on violence against women and discrimination against women, and on the ‘protection of the family’. The latter resolution will focus on ‘the rights of older persons in the context of family.’ States must ensure that this resolution upholds universal principles of human rights based on equality and non-discrimination. Many household structures and family forms exist across the world, facing particular situations and challenges that require tailored policy responses…

Cooperation of States with Special Procedures

There remains a consistent lack of State cooperation with Special Procedures, as demonstrated by the number of communications sent by the experts that have not received a State response, recorded in the Joint Communications Report published at every session of the Human Rights Council. ISHR welcomes recent developments in making communications more accessible, including the searchable database of communications, but continues to express concern that access to information regarding specific cases and State replies is still hard to find for victims and authors. [see my post from many years ago: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140603192912-22083774–crime-should-not-pay-in-the-area-of-international-human-rights]

Country specific developments

China: The Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Prof Philip Alston, will present the report from his country visit to China. Prof Alston was tailed by State security and was prevented from meeting with civil society during his visit. As a result, the country report stresses the necessity of civil society in holding the Chinese Government accountable to human rights standards. The country visit was further undermined by reprisals. Following a meeting with Prof Alston, disbarred human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong disappeared. His family was informed of his detention nearly one month later. Despite UN experts calling for an investigation into his disappearance, Jiang remains in ‘residential surveillance in a designated location’. Prof Alston’s report will be a key opportunity to discuss the ongoing crackdown on human rights defenders and concerns the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for civil society in China.  [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/jiang-tianyong/]

Burundi The commission of inquiry on Burundi will present an oral update on 14 and 15 June. ISHR remains concerned by consistent and deliberate lack of cooperation with human rights mechanisms in Burundi. The country continues to refuse to cooperate with UN Human Rights Council’s Independent Experts and despite the international community’s efforts to mitigate a human rights crisis, the situation continues to deteriorate. ISHR calls on the Burundian authorities to cease attacks against journalists and defenders and to cooperate with the UN commission of inquiry and implement the recommendations from both UN and African Commission reports.  [see inter alia: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/02/08/what-is-burundi-doing-in-the-un-human-rights-council/]

Other country situations where human rights defenders will surely come up: 

  • The interactive dialogue on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), from 12:00 to 15:00 on Tuesday 20 June.
  • The interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on Côte d’Ivoire will take place from 9:00 to 12:00 on Tuesday 20 June.
  • ISHR has joined a coalition of civil society organisations in urging State delegations to the Human Rights Council to express concern about the ongoing human rights crisis in Ethiopia.

Council programme, appointments and resolutions

Organisational meeting. The President of the Human Rights Council once again urged States to combat reprisals during the session. ‘As part of a constructive working atmosphere, it is in our common interest to have a climate of trust and security, whereby States ensure the appropriate protection against any acts of intimidation or reprisals against individuals and groups that cooperate or have cooperated with the United Nations, their representative and human rights mechanisms,’ he stated.

Appointment of mandate holders The President of the Human Rights Council has proposed candidates for the following four vacancies of mandate holders to be filled at this session:

  1. Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity [HRC resolution 26/6]
  2. Special Rapporteur on minority issues [HRC resolutions 25/5 and 34/6]
  3. Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants [HRC resolution 26/19]
  4. Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism [HRC resolution 31/3]

Panel discussions

During each Council session, panel discussions are held to provide member States and NGOs opportunities to hear from subject-matter experts and raise questions. Among the 4 panel discussions scheduled for this session:

Resolutions to be presented to the Council’s 35th session

At the organisational meeting on 22 May 2017 the following resolutions were announced (States sponsoring the resolution in brackets):

  • Resolution for the extension of the mandate on the Working Group on business and human rights (Norway and core group of Russia, Argentina and Ghana)
  • Resolution on accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women (Canada)
  • Resolution on discrimination against women (Colombia, Mexico)
  • Resolution on the protection of the human rights of migrants (Mexico)
  • Resolution on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism (Mexico)
  • Resolution on the human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic (France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, UK and USA )
  • Resolution on the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, jurors and assessors, and the independence of lawyers (Australia, Botswana, the Maldives, Mexico, Thailand, Hungary)
  • Resolution for renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Independence and impartiality of the judiciary, jurors and assessors, and the independence of lawyers (Hungary)
  • Resolution for the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (Sweden)
  • Resolution for the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus(EU)
  • Resolution for the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights (France, Albania, Chile, Morocco, Senegal, Romania, Philippines, Peru)

For the the guide to the 34th session see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/24/34th-human-rights-council-ishr-guide-to-key-issues-for-human-rights-defenders/

 

ISHR’s Human Rights Defenders Advocacy Programme 2017 starts on Monday

May 27, 2017

ISHR‘s Human Rights Defenders Advocacy Programme begins on Monday 29 May, with 17 human rights defenders from around the globe travelling to Geneva to learn about strategic engagement with the UN mechanisms.

HRDAP 2016 Participants

The programme equips defenders with the knowledge and skills to make strategic use of the international human rights system. It also provides an opportunity for participants to directly engage in lobbying and advocacy activities at the UN level to effect change on the ground back home. ISHR’s Training and Advocacy Support Manager, Helen Nolan, explains that this year’s HRDAP participants were selected from a pool of 380 applicants – the highest number yet.

We’re incredibly excited to be collaborating with 17 committed human rights defenders working on women’s rights, business and human rights, the rights of LGBTI persons, and human rights defender protection,’ said Nolan. ‘These defenders are travelling from around the globe – including Argentina, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ecuador, Egypt, Fiji, India, Nigeria, Peru, Russia and Sierra Leone – to spend two highly intense weeks gaining practical advocacy experience in Geneva.’

HRDAP coincides with the 35th Session of the Human Rights Council, and well as receiving training modules on all the UN human rights mechanisms from a range of experts, participants will have the opportunity to build networks in Geneva and around the world, carry out lobbying of UN member States and UN staff, and learn from peers from a range of regions working on a range of human rights issues.

Crucially, we know the programme works,’ said Nolan. ‘Last year, 100% of our participants were either very satisfied or satisfied with the programme, with 96% of them having at least partially achieved their key advocacy and learning objectives.’ In 2016, HRDAP enabled:

  • corporate accountability activist Alexandra Montgomery to provide frst hand testimony to state representatives and experts about the violence faced by land rights defenders in Brazil
  • Tehmina Zafar to sound the alarm in the UN Human Rights Council about proposed laws which could dramatically restrict the operation and independence of NGOs in Pakistan
  • Karen Mejía to inform a UN expert body about the need to defend women’s rights activists and decriminalise abortion in Honduras.
  • several participants to contribute substantially to the historic campaign to appoint the first ever UN expert on LGBTI rights

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/11/12/ishr-2017-training-course-for-human-rights-defenders-now-open-for-applications/

http://www.ishr.ch/news/supporting-defenders-ishrs-human-rights-defender-advocacy-programme-kicks

NGOs jointly address (again) the human rights crisis in Ethiopia

May 26, 2017

preview
They draw attention to persistent and grave violations of human rights in Ethiopia and the pressing need to support the establishment of an independent, impartial and international investigation into atrocities committed by security forces to suppress peaceful protests and independent dissent. And they ask countries to prioritise and address through joint statements the ongoing human rights crisis in Ethiopia at the upcoming UN Human Rights Council from 6 – 23 June 2017. [for last year’s call see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/09/un-human-rights-council-urged-to-address-situation-in-ethiopia/]

In the wake of unprecedented, mass protests that erupted in November 2015 in Oromia, Amhara, and the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples (SNNPR) regional states, Ethiopian authorities routinely responded to legitimate and largely peaceful expressions of dissent with excessive and unnecessary force. As a result, over 800 protesters have been killed, thousands of political activists, human rights defenders, journalists and protesters have been arrested, and in October 2016, the Ethiopian Government declared a six-month nationwide State of Emergency, that was extended for an additional four months on 30 March 2017 after some restrictions were lifted.

The State of Emergency directives give sweeping powers to a Command Post, which has been appointed by the House of People’s Representatives to enforce the decree, including the suspension of fundamental and non-derogable rights protected by the Ethiopian Constitution, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and other international human rights treaties to which Ethiopia is party. More information on the human rights violations occurring under the current State of Emergency is included in the Annex at the end of this letter.

Lack of independent investigations

Few effective avenues to pursue accountability for abuses exist in Ethiopia, given the lack of independence of the judiciary – the ruling EPRDF coalition and allied parties control all 547 seats in Parliament.

Ethiopia’s National Human Rights Commission, which has a mandate to investigate rights violations, concluded in its June 2016 oral report to Parliament that the lethal force used by security forces in Oromia was proportionate to the risk they faced from the protesters. The written Amharic version of the report was only recently made public, and there are long-standing concerns about the impartiality and research methodology of the Commission. On 18 April 2017, the Commission submitted its second oral report to Parliament on the protests, which found that 669 people were killed, including 63 members of the security forces, and concluded that security forces had taken “proportionate measures in most areas.” Both reports are in stark contrast with the findings of other national and international organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions has rated the Commission as B, meaning the latter has failed to meet fully the Paris Principles.

Refusal to cooperate with regional and international mechanisms

In response to the recent crackdown, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has called for “access for independent observers to the country to assess the human rights situation”, and recently renewed his call for access to the country during a visit to the capital, Addis Ababa. Ethiopia’s government, however, has rejected the call, citing its own investigation conducted by its Commission. UN Special Procedures have also made similar calls.

In November 2016, the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights adopted a resolution calling for an international, independent, and impartial investigation into allegations of the use of excessive and unnecessary lethal force by security forces to disperse and suppress peaceful protests. Recent European parliament and US Congressional resolutions have also called for independent investigations. The Ethiopian embassy in Belgium dismissed the European Parliament’s resolution citing its own Commission’s investigations into the protests.

As a member of the UN HRC, Ethiopia has an obligation to “uphold the highest standards” of human rights, and “fully cooperate” with the Council and its mechanisms (GA Resolution 60/251, OP 9), yet there are outstanding requests for access from Special Procedures, including from the special rapporteurs on torture, freedom of opinion and expression, and peaceful assembly, among others.

The letter urges Ethiopia to:

  1. urgently allow access to an international, thorough, independent, impartial and transparent investigation into all of the deaths resulting from alleged excessive use of force by the security forces, and other violations of human rights in the context of the protests;
  2. respond favourably to country visit requests by UN Special Procedures,
  3. immediately and unconditionally release journalists, human rights defenders, political opposition leaders and members as well as protesters arbitrarily detained during and in the aftermath of the protests;
  4. ensure that those responsible for human rights violations are prosecuted in proceedings which comply with international law and standards on fair trials; and
  5. fully comply with its international legal obligations and commitments including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and its own Constitution.

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The Ethiopian Zone 9 bloggers were finalists for the 2016 MEA, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/15/martin-ennals-award-2016-relive-the-ceremony-in-13-minutes-or-in-full/ 

Source: Joint NGO Letter Addressing the Pervasive Human Rights Crisis in Ethiopia – Ethiopia | ReliefWeb