Posts Tagged ‘UN Human Rights Council’

Guide to Human Rights Defenders issues at the 41st Human Rights Council starting on 24 June

June 14, 2019

Thanks to the – as always very complete and timely – “Alert to the Human Rights Council’s 41st session” (from 24 June to 12 July 2019) issued by the International Service for Human Rights. I am able to give a short guide to the main items that relate to human rights defenders. To Read the full Alert to the session online click here and stay up-to-date with @ISHRglobal and #HRC41 on Twitter.

Thematic areas of interest:

Sexual orientation and gender identity: The interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) will be held on Monday 24 June at 11:00. The Council will consider the new thematic report of the mandate holder as well as the report of the country visits he made to Georgia and Mozambique. The Council will also consider the renewal of the mandate.

Business and human rights: The Council will hold an interactive dialogue with and consider several reports of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises on 26 June. The Working Group will present a report on the gender dimensions of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the reports of country visits to Thailand and Kenya. The Working Group’s report on the gender dimensions of the Guiding Principles integrates clear recognition that women human rights defenders play a vital role in challenging business-related human rights abuses as well as in promoting and protecting human rights in relation to business activity, including the right to an effective remedy. As a result of this work, women human rights defenders often face gender-specific risks including sexual violence, misogynist public shaming and online harassment. Among its recommendations, the Working Group calls on business enterprises to ensure the meaningful participation of women’s organisations, women human rights defenders and gender experts in all stages of human rights due diligence.

Women human rights defenders and women’s rights: The annual full day discussion on the human rights of women will take place on 27 and  28 June. The discussions will focus this year on violence against women in the world of work, the rights of older women and their economic empowerment. A panel focused on women’s rights and climate change will also be organised, focusing on climate action, best practices and lessons learned. States should place due consideration on the role of women human rights defenders and social movements in this regard, in line with the Human Rights Council resolution focused on environmental human rights defenders adopted in March 2019…
The Council will also hold an interactive dialogue with the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice which focuses on women deprived of liberty (including women human rights defenders in detention, facing travel bans, among other situations), and will consider their reports including a report on the country visits to Honduras and Poland. The Council will hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences on 27 June and will consider her report including the report of her visits to Canada and Nepal.

Reprisals:  In spite of a number of measures, reprisals not only continue, but grow. Item 5 of the Human Rights Council’s agenda provides a key opportunity for States to raise concerns about reprisals, including specific cases, and for relevant governments to provide updates on cases to the Council on any investigation or action taken toward accountability. During the organisational meeting held on 7 June, the President of the Council stressed the importance of ensuring the safety of those participating in the Council’s work, and the obligation of States to prevent intimidation or reprisals. In line with previous calls, ISHR expects the President of the Human Rights Council to publicly identify and denounce specific instances of reprisals by issuing formal statements, conducting press-briefings, corresponding directly with the State concerned, publicly releasing such correspondence, and insisting on undertakings from the State concerned to investigate, hold the perpetrators accountable and report back to the Council on action taken. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/13/ishr-on-reprisals-un-and-states-must-do-more-to-address-reprisals/]

Other key thematic reports: The Council will hold dedicated debates and consider reports of several mandates relating to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, and the role of human rights defenders in that work area, in some instances involving the renewal of the mandate:

  • The Special Rapporteur on independence of judges and lawyers and on the right to health (including country visits report to Canada and Kyrgyzstan) on 24 June
  • The Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association (mandate renewal, reports include country visits to Tunisia and Armenia) on 25 June
  • The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and right to education on 26 June
  • The Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression (including thematic report on surveillance companies and country visit report to Ecuador) on 25 June
  • The Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights (including country visits reports to the UK and Laos) on 28 June

In addition, the Council will hold dedicated debates on rights of specific groups including with:

  • The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants (and country visit report to Niger) on 24 June
  • The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons on 28 June (mandate renewal)
  • The Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons (and country visit to Nigeria) on 27 June
  • The Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members on 24 June

Country-specific developments:

China: For more than a year, the international community has had access to credible reports and first-hand testimony of the harassment, surveillance, and mass detention of more than one million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang. Despite the consistent work of the UN human rights mechanisms to review China, ask questions, and make recommendations, there has been no serious or effective response. The Council should take urgent action to seek access, monitoring and reporting of the situation to inform future actions. ..ISHR urges States to act collectively to advance a resolution calling for China to allow access to the region to independent human rights experts and to end country-wide the arbitrary detention of individuals based on their religious beliefs or political opinions.

Sudan: In response to the gross and systematic human rights violations occurring in Sudan, ISHR andother NGOs have urged Council Member States to urgently hold a Special Session on the human rights situation in Sudan. The Council should urgently establish an international fact-finding mission to document violations, identify perpetrators and push for accountability, in line with calls made by a group of Special Procedures including the Independent Expert on Sudan. Since 3 June, Rapid Security Forces, riot police and national security officers violently dispersed peaceful protesters in Khartoum as well as in different cities across Sudan. The MENA Women Human Rights Defenders’ Coalition reported that at least 113 people have died including women human rights defenders. Civil society documented cases of rape, attacks on hospitals, with hundreds injured and missing.  The Transitional Military Council is enforcing a ban on communication causing an internet black out. The High Commissioner has deplored the killings and proposed ‘the rapid deployment of a UN human rights monitoring team’ to Sudan.

Saudi Arabia: The June session provides an important opportunity for the Council to follow up on the joint statement delivered on behalf of 36 States [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/08/saudi-arabia-for-first-time-openly-criticized-in-un-human-rights-council/] .. Seven women’s rights activists have been provisionally released, but they are still facing trial, and other women human rights defenders are still in detention, with the human rights situation on the ground deteriorating markedly on other fronts, including through increased use of the death penalty and the authorities’ continuing crackdown on freedom of expression.  [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/28/3-saudi-women-human-rights-defenders-released-but-for-how-long-and-what-about-the-others/]
The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions will present her findings of the investigation into the killing of Khashoggi. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/26/other-members-of-the-uns-khashoggi-investigation-team-named/%5D…..ISHR calls on States to advance a Human Rights Council resolution establishing a monitoring mechanism over the human rights violations in the country and calling explicitly for the immediate and unconditional release of all human rights defenders including the detained women human rights defenders and to drop all charges against them, including those provisionally released. ISHR considers the March joint statement as a first step towards more sustained and dedicated review by the Council in its efforts to hold its members accountable.

The Philippines: The Philippines is one of the most dangerous countries for human rights defenders. Several NGOs callied on the Council to advance accountability for human rights violations by adopting a resolution establishing an independent international investigation into extrajudicial killings and this call was strongly endorsed by a group of independent UN experts who condemned a ‘sharp deterioration in the situation of human rights across the country, including sustained attacks on people and institutions defending human rights.’ [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/07/philippines-labour-rights-defender-dennis-sequena-shot-dead-while-meeting-with-workers/]

Egypt: Despite the Egyptian government’s assurances to the African Commission civil society faced restrictions, reprisals and intimidation for engaging or seeking to engage with the Commission. These restrictions and reprisals happened in a context where the Government of Egypt crushes dissent, discourages public participation in public affairs and punishes people who dare to claim basic human rights. Individuals and communities who engaged with the Special Rapporteur on the right to housing during her visit in September 2018 faced systematic reprisals. All other scheduled visits by the Special Procedures have been postponed as a result. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/07/egypt-denounced-for-reprisals-against-human-rights-defenders-who-talked-to-visiting-un-delegation/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/12/reprisal-against-egyptian-human-rights-defender-mohamed-soltan/]. ISHR calls on States to condemn the acts of intimidation and reprisals for civil society engaging with the African Commission and with the Special Procedures, and recall Egypt’s obligations to prevent acts of intimidation and reprisals, investigate the allegations and provide victims with effective remedy.

Burundi: The Commission of Inquiry on Burundi will present its oral briefing on 2 July. The closing of the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is regrettable and worrying. In addition, ISHR remains seriously concerned over the breaches to due process observed in all of human rights defender Germain Rukuki’s legal proceedings since his arrest without warrant on 13 July 2017. [See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/29/ngo-statement-condemns-new-irregularities-in-the-case-of-germain-rukuki-burundi/]. For more information on the situation of human rights defenders in Burundi, check ISHR Briefing Paper for the UPR here.

Other country situations: The High Commissioner will present her oral update to the Council on 24 June. The Council will hear reports on and is expected to consider resolutions addressing a range of country situations, in some instances involving the renewal of the relevant expert mandates. These include:

  • Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus (mandate renewal) on 1 July
  • Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea (mandate renewal) on 2 July
  • Interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi and the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar on 2 July
  • Enhanced interactive dialogue with the government of Sudan and OHCHR on 9 July
  • Enhanced interactive dialogue on the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo and interactive dialogue with the team of experts on the situation in the Kasai region on 9 July
  • Interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner on the situation in Ukraine on 10 July
  • Interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the Central African Republic on 10 July
  • Enhanced interactive dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner on Venezuela on 10 July
  • Interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner on the situation of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar on 10 July
  • First oral update and enhanced interactive dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner on Nicaragua on 11 July
  • Oral update by the High Commissioner on cooperation with Georgia on 11 July

Adoption of Universal Periodic Review (UPR) reports: During this session, the Council will adopt the UPR working group reports on New Zealand, Afghanistan, Chile, Viet Nam, Uruguay, Yemen, Vanuatu, North Macedonia, Comoros, Slovakia, Eritrea, Cyprus, Dominican Republic and Cambodia.

Resolutions to be presented to the Council’s 41st session: At the organisational meeting resolutions were announced (States sponsoring the resolution in brackets); it is possible that more resolutions could be presented at this session. These include:

  • The human rights situation in Belarus (European Union)
  • Human rights of internally displaced persons (Austria, Honduras, Uganda)
  • Human rights and climate change (Bangladesh, Philippines, Viet Nam)
  • Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Uruguay).
  • Elimination of discrimination against women and girls (Colombia, Mexico)
  • Rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association (Czech Republic, Indonesia, Lithuania, Maldives, Mexico)
  • New and emerging and digital technologies and human rights (Republic of Korea, Austria, Brazil, Denmark, Morocco, Singapore)
  • Accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women(Canada)
  • The human rights situation in Syria (France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Netherlands, Qatar, Turkey, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland)

There wil be again many side events at the Council, on which I will report separately.

Read here the three year programme of work of the Council with supplementary information.
Read here ISHR’s recommendations on the the key issues that are or should be on the agenda of the UN Human Rights Council in 2019.

One-day dialogue on Human Rights Council membership on 1 july 2019

June 12, 2019

ISHR, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch organise a meeting on STRENGTHENING AND LEVERAGING HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL MEMBERSHIP on Monday 1 July 2019, 13h00-14h30 Restaurant des Délégués, 8th Floor, Palais des Nations, Geneva.The composition of the HRC has captured significant public attention over the past year – with people around the world rightly asking: how can States accused of gross and systematic human rights violations become members of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council? And what does that mean for the credibility and effectiveness of this body? Clearly, for the HRC to be effective, and to be credible and relevant to the wider human rights community, and the wider public, it needs members committed to the promotion and protection of human rights at home and abroad in its 47 seats, as foreseen by UNGA resolution 60/251. Of course, no State has a perfect human rights record, and a wide and diverse range of States should be encouraged to address their shortcomings and enhance their commitment to human rights through HRC participation and engagement. While the argument does not apply to candidates that are in clear breach of the membership criteria, HRC membership may be an important incentive for national-level change, particularly where States, as candidates, make voluntary pledges and commitments, and are willing and able to implement them. The framing and implementation of those pledges and commitments is, however, rarely discussed at national or international level. Against this backdrop, in February 2019, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) and HRC-net convened a one-day dialogue bringing together national and regional actors – including human rights defenders and NHRIs – with a cross-regional group of State representatives, OHCHR officials and international civil society, to address two important and interlinked questions regarding HRC membership: 1) how can we encourage greater respect and application of the membership criteria clearly set out in GA resolution 60/251; and 2) how can a State’s membership of the HRC be leveraged for positive change on human rights at national level? Drawing on good practices and lessons learned, participants identified a range of challenges, opportunities and practical recommendations. A report of the one-day dialogue will be presented during a lunch time reception at the Restaurant des Délégués on 1 July, in the side-lines of the 41st session of the Human Rights Council. The reception will provide an opportunity for the presentation of some of the key challenges, opportunities and practical recommendations identified in the report, including with regards to good practice relating to candidacy and membership of the HRC.

Speakers:

  • Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan, Permanent Representative of Fiji to the UN
  • Salma El Hosseiny, ISHR’s Human Rights Council Advocate
  • Hilary Power, Amnesty International’s Senior UN Advocate

Please RSVP by clicking here <https://crm.ishr.ch/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=884&qid=111418> by 19 June 2019 to confirm your participation at this event.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/09/02/hrc-elections-how-do-the-candidates-for-2018-rate-11-september-events/

Human rights in the response to HIV: a UN consultation

June 6, 2019

HIV and AIDS used to be a major and controversial topic. It has now moved a bit to the background but is still most relevant. This also shows some of the good work the UN is doing that many people dont know about:

In accordance with Human Rights Council resolution 38/8, a consultation on human rights in the response to HIV was held in Geneva on 12 and 13 February 2019. It was attended by a wide range of stakeholders, including representatives of Member States and of United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, special procedure mandate holders, experts and members of civil society, including persons living with, presumed to be living with, at risk of or affected by HIV. During the consultation, participants examined best practices, evidence, lessons learned and the challenges faced when removing human rights barriers and the promotion of human rights in the response to HIV in regional and subregional strategies. Participants discussed issues and challenges pertaining to the respect for and the promotion of human rights in the response to HIV, with a focus on regional and subregional strategies and best practices. The full report published on 1 May 2019 can be found in the link below. These are the recommendations made at the consultation.

Recommendations

Participants made a number of recommendations during the consultation, particularly with regard to regional and subregional strategies and best practices:

(a)States should remove structural barriers, including discriminatory laws and policies, and apply human rights-based approaches to the response to HIV, putting people living with HIV at the centre of their policies, programmes and practices. In order not to leave anyone behind, States should increase their efforts to reach the most marginalized women and adolescents, key populations vulnerable to HIV, including gay men and other men who have sex with men, sexworkers, people who use drugs, transgender people, and persons in prisons and other closed settings. Communities should be involved in the design, implementation and delivery of policies, programmes and practices.

(b)States should review their laws in accordance with international human rights law. In order to improve the human rights aspect in the response to HIV, States and their parliaments could collaborate at the regional and subregional levels to develop human rights-based normative content to inspire the domestication of laws at the national level. In order to reach Sustainable Development Goal target 3.3 and to leave no one behind, States should adopt legislation, policies and practices that decriminalize sex work, drug use, same-sex relations, and gender identity and expression, and provide access to gender recognition.

(c)In order to improve the effectiveness of the response to HIV, States should strengthen cooperation at the regional, subregional and global levels to support and invest in programmes and services that promote the right to health and the rights of people living with HIV.

(d)Strengthened accountability is vital to ensure that the rights of people living with HIV, including the right to health, are promoted and respected. States should collaborate with regional human rights mechanisms and engage with them in good faith, and follow up on decisions and sentences made by such bodies with a view to effectively implementing them.

(e)National human rights institutions and civil society have an important role to play in strengthening human rights accountability. The shrinking space for civil society is a key driver in leaving behind people living with HIV, particularly key populations. States should respect, protect and promote civil society space, provide an enabling regulatory and funding environment that allows civil society to work at the national, regional and subregional levels, and repeal laws that create barriers to the activities of civil society bodies. Civil society should be empowered to collect data, address human rights violations, participate in policymaking and decision-making, implementation and monitoring, including on issues relating to HIV and the rights of people living with HIV. In order to improve its effectiveness,civil society could cooperate at the regional level on joint advocacy efforts, including with regional mechanisms.

(f)In the current context of shrinking donor funding for HIV and health programmes, including in newly transitioned middle-income States, programmes aimed at removing barriers to human rights can be affected, particularly with regard to the rights of key populations. The retraction of global health funding in States transitioning to middle-income, without corresponding investment by domesticfunds, can lead to the loss of funding for services and rights programmes and advocacy for key populations, making them even more vulnerable. The Human Rights Council could develop guiding principles for health donors, which would be based on human rightsand should be formulated in coordination with UNAIDS and in consultation with States, key populations, communities and donors.

(g)States should review and adopt legislation, programmes and policies to combat stigma and discrimination, violence and abuseagainst people living with or at risk of HIV, with particular attention to key populations. States should work with United Nations agencies, civil society, communities and key populations to invest in programmes, education and other actions to eliminate HIV-related stigma and discrimination in all areas of life, including through the Global Partnership for Action to Eliminate All Forms of HIV-related Stigma and Discrimination. Regional and subregional networks have an important role to play in raising awareness and eliminating stigma and discrimination.

(h)States should ensure that universal health coverage promotes both the health and rights of all persons, including the most marginalized, such as people living with HIV and key populations, and addresseshuman rights barriers to health. States should ensure that human rights, including the right to health of persons living with HIV, are integrated into discussions on universal health coverage, including in the lead-up to the high-level meeting of the General Assembly on universal health coverage and in its outcome document

UN Human Rights Council

Civil Society and human rights NGOs are fighting back but against odds

May 5, 2019

This article by  (IPS) was published on 10 April 2019 in the context of International Civil Society Week (ICSW), which took place  in Belgrade. Under the title “Civil Society, Once the “World’s New Superpower,” is Battling Against Heavy Odds” it describes how human rights NGOs have come under pressure in recent years

Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan once described civil society organizations (CSOs), as “the world’s new superpower” ..but that political glory has continued to diminish over the years against the backdrop of repressive regimes, hard right nationalist governments and far right extremist groups.

Perhaps the most virulent attacks on NGOs are on their attempts to provide protection and security to migrants and refugees in the “dangerous crossings,” from North Africa across the Mediterranean Sea and the Mexico/US border. “There are now serious restrictions in civic space on every continent,” says the annual State of Civil Society Report 2019, released last week by the Johannesburg-based CIVICUS. And it singles out the Italian government’s decision to impose a hefty fine on one of the world’s best-known humanitarian organisations, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), while also freezing their assets, impounding their rescue vessel and investigating their staff for human trafficking…in retaliation for their efforts to save refugees from drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. There were also instances of civil society activists being charged, tried and convicted in the United States for providing water supplies for migrants crossing the deadly Sonoran desert on the US/Mexico border. As these attacks continue, international institutions are “struggling” to help shore up these NGOs because these institutions, including the United Nations, are “hamstrung by the interests and alliances of powerful states.”

The report points out these institutions did little to respond to the great challenges of the day– failing to fight overwhelming inequality and also were largely silent on human rights abuses of states such as Saudi Arabia and Sudan while letting down the people of Syria and the Rohingyas of Myanmar, among many others.

Asked if there is a role either for the United Nations or its member states to protect CSOs under attack, Mandeep Tiwana, Chief Programmes Officer at CIVICUS, told IPS the UN is making some efforts to put the issues of attacks on CSOs and activists in the spotlight. In December last year, he said, the President of the UN General Assembly, in a symbolic event, awarded the UN human rights prize to three civil society activists and an organisation dedicated to the protection of human rights defenders. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/20/human-rights-defenders-receive-their-2018-un-prizes/]

Recently, on March 21, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted a first-of-its-kind resolution on the protection of environmental human rights defenders, said Tiwana. The UN Secretary General has a designated senior official to lead efforts within the UN system to address intimidation and reprisals against those cooperating with the UN system. And, he said, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN Women regularly champion the work of CSOs and women human rights defenders respectively. “However, in light of the growing restrictions on civic space, around the world, and even at the UN itself, these efforts are often not enough,” complained Tiwana. This is in part because the UN itself is also under pressure from (undemocratic) governments that restrict civil society at home, and wish to do so at the UN as well.

He said the CIVICUS Monitor, a participatory platform that measures civic freedoms finds that only 4% of the world’s population live in countries where the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly are adequately protected…

“Our 2019 State of Civil Society Report points out, that the UN is hamstrung by the actions of powerful states that refuse to play by the rules including the US, China and Russia”. Tiwana said a number of rights repressing states are joining international bodies. In 2018, for example, Bahrain, Bangladesh and Eritrea, joined the UN Human Rights Council….

Second, states are withdrawing from international institutions and agreements, with the US withdrawing from the Paris Agreement on Climate and undermining UN resolutions on Palestine and the Occupied Territories. Philippines has pulled out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in a bid to avoid international accountability for widespread human rights violations including attacks on civil society. In 2018, the new Global Compact for Migration also saw a string of states with hardline migration policies pull out between the agreement of the deal and its signing.

Third, rogue leaders are bringing their styles of personal rule into international affairs, ignoring existing institutions, agreements and norms, acting as unilateral strongmen or striking bilateral deals with other hardmen, undermining multilateralism and making it harder to scrutinise their actions, Tiwana noted. Potentially everything seems up for negotiation and nothing can be assured at the international level, even the 70-year-old international human rights norms that underpin civil society action, he warned.

The writer can be contacted at thalifeen@ips.org

http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/04/civil-society-worlds-new-superpower-battling-heavy-odds/

Sri Lanka and the UN Human Rights Council: a Tale of Two Stories

March 18, 2019

One at the political level: On 17 March it was reported that a Sri Lankan parliamentarian – who will be a member of a delegation to be sent to the UN Human Rights Council next week – has slammed the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights report on his island, calling it “an atrocious piece of writing containing lies, half lies and highly contestable statements”. Sarath Amunugama, a senior former minister said the Sri Lankan delegation would be meeting with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to take up their complaints in person.

The report, released last week, said Sri Lanka had made “virtually no progress” on the investigation of war crimes, and also raised several other issues, including concerns over on-going reports of abduction, torture and sexual violence, institutional failures within the criminal justice system, ongoing harassment of human rights defenders since 2015 and the military’s continued occupation of civilian land. Amunugama though claimed the report was “methodologically incorrect” and contained “totally unwarranted statements”.

His comments come after less than a day after Sri Lanka’s ministry of foreign affairs agreed to the co-sponsoring of a roll-over UN resolution, the president Maithripala Sirisena said he wanted it stopped.  Sirisena also said that the delegation he would be sending to Geneva would argue that Sri Lanka should be allowed to ‘solve its own problems’.

—–

And the other more ‘scientific’, fact-based approach of Verité Research which is engaged in a four-part series on government progress in fulfilling commitments in Resolution 30/1.

Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) reports to Human Rights Council on media casualties

March 13, 2019

Press Emblem Campaign (PEC), a nongovernmental organization presented a statement on press freedom and journalist killings duringUnited Nations Human Rights Council 40th session in Geneva on 13 March 2019.

The Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) documented last year the killing of 117 journalists, an increase of 17 percent in media casualties compared to the previous year. In five countries journalists paid an unacceptable toll: Afghanistan with 17 killed, Mexico also with 17 killed, Syria with 11 killed, Yemen and India, with 8 journalists killed in each of those countries. The PEC urged the Members of the Human Rights Council to fight more firmly impunity and to bring the responsible of those crimes to justice.

The PEC is also worried by the large number of arrests among journalists in the recent turmoilin Sudan, the repression of press freedom in Nicaragua and Venezuela, the statement reads. PEC expressed itsspecial concern with the continuous judicial harassment of journalists in Turkey in the statement.

PEC was one of the organizers of the panel discussion on human rights violations in Turkey, which the Turkish government mobilized its entire diplomatic corps to prevent during 40th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council on 5 March. The move prompted an outcry from human rights defenders.[see: https://stockholmcf.org/erdogan-govt-fails-to-cancel-un-human-rights-council-event-on-turkey/%5D

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF (Stockholm Centre for Freedom) show that 211 journalists and media workers were in jail as of March 11, 2019, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 134 were under arrest pending trial while only 77 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 167 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey. The government also closed down some 200 media outlets.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/20/european-parliament-rapporteur-on-turkey-kati-piri-it-makes-no-sense-to-continue-talks-on-eu-membership/

Saudi Arabia for first time openly criticized in UN Human Rights Council

March 8, 2019

Whether by intent or by coincidence, the very critical statement of the UN Human Rights Council on Saudi Arabia came on International Women’s Day 2019. There was considerable media attention. Interesting to note is the difference in emphasis between the NYT and the Washington Post:

By Nick Cumming-Bruce wrote for the NYT on 7 March 2019:

“Dozens of Western countries rebuked Saudi Arabia for its aggressive crackdown on free expression in a landmark initiative on Thursday in the United Nations’ top human rights body. It was the first time states had ever confronted the kingdom over its human rights record in the United Nations Human Rights Council, where Saudi Arabia is one of 47 members. The rebuke came in a statement signed by 36 nations — including every member of the European Union — that condemned Saudi Arabia’s “continuing arrests and arbitrary detentions of human rights defenders” and its use of counterterrorism laws to silence peaceful dissent. The statement pointed in particular to the treatment of Saudi women who have challenged the kingdom’s strict rules. The nations also called on Saudi Arabia to cooperate fully with investigations into the death of Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post columnist who was killed at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. The statement specifically named 10 people, all arrested last year in a crackdown that started shortly before Saudi Arabia introduced reforms allowing women to drive: Loujain Al-Hathloul, Eman Al-Nafjan, Aziza Al-Yousef, Nassima Al-Sadah, Samar Badawi, Nouf Abdelaziz, Hatoon Al-Fassi, Mohammed Al-Bajadi, Amal Al-Harbi and Shadan al-Anezi. The statement drew applause from human rights groups, which said it broke Saudi Arabia’s apparent impunity from condemnation in the council.

“It sends a strong signal that Saudi Arabia is not untouchable, and that council members should be held to a higher level of scrutiny,” said Salma El Hosseiny, an advocate for the Geneva-based International Service for Human Rights.

——-

Ishaan Tharoor wrote for the Washington Post of 8 March 2019 :”The West’s rebuke of Saudi Arabia won’t change its course”


(Anjum Naveed/AP)

The rhetorical attacks keep coming at Saudi Arabia from the West. On Thursday, the European Union signed on to a rare rebuke of the kingdom. …The statement was the first collective reprimand of Riyadh issued at the council since it was founded in 2006…Both the Trump administration and Saudi officials have sought to shield Mohammed from scrutiny, but that hasn’t dimmed the outrage of a host of Western governments and lawmakers. In Washington, Congress is still battling the White House over the latter’s flouting of a legal requirement to report to the Senate on the crown prince’s role in Khashoggi’s death. Though U.S. politicians remain bitterly divided on most issues, they have found an unusual consensus in their antipathy toward Riyadh……..

But the Saudis’ response has so far been categorical and unrepentant. “Interference in domestic affairs under the guise of defending human rights is in fact an attack on our sovereignty,” said Abdul Aziz Alwasil, the kingdom’s permanent representative in Geneva, in reaction to the European Union’s statement. Similar bullish statements came from the Saudi Foreign Ministry this year as members of Congress weighed the passage of a punitive bill.

That Riyadh has endured only the slightest course corrections amid months of controversy speaks, firstly, to the durability of the monarchy’s economic ties with a host of major powers. International political and business elites have shown themselves all too willing to overlook a regime’s record when it suits their interests. But it also speaks to the fact that despite their concerns over Khashoggi’s death, insiders in Washington cheer the Saudi push toward a more “normal” and secular modernity encouraged by Mohammed’s ambitious economic and social reform agenda. Movie theaters have sprung up, and women can now learn to drive — no matter that key female activists who clamored for these rights are still in prison.

Mohammed has championed these reforms by inculcating a new spirit of nationalism. “Saudi Arabia’s undergoing an aggressive nationalist rebranding, downplaying an austere religious doctrine associated abroad with terrorism, and promoting veneration of de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as he pursues an economic overhaul,” noted Bloomberg News this week, exploring the extent to which overt nationalism is supplanting the kingdom’s traditional religious orthodoxy. “Amid efforts to maintain domestic support while redesigning the contract between state and citizen, traitors, not infidels, are the enemy.”

The lecturing from Western capitals, too, plays into this dynamic, deepening national feeling among many patriotic Saudis who have rallied around their prince in the face of “unbalanced” criticism from abroad, said Ali Shihabi, founder of the Arabia Foundation, a Washington think tank with close ties to Riyadh. He added that “inspiring nationalism is an objective” of Mohammed’s reform agenda.

Critics of the crown prince view him as a fundamentally destabilizing leader. Other experts argue that he’s here to stay. “It’s impossible to not see how much the country has changed” under Mohammed’s watch, said former U.S. diplomat Dennis Ross at a panel hosted by the Arabia Foundation last week, saying that though the crown prince may be “reckless,” the United States has much to gain from a “successful transformation” from Wahhabism to nationalism in Saudi Arabia.

—–See also this video clip by OMCT:

https://twitter.com/i/status/1103696655906492417

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/07/world/middleeast/saudi-arabia-human-rights-abuses.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2019/03/08/wests-rebuke-saudi-arabia-wont-change-its-course/?utm_term=.5e411da39e34

New book on Theo van Boven’s crucial role in the development of the UN human rights system

March 7, 2019

cover
The Advent of Universal Protection of Human Rights – Theo van Boven and the Transformation of the UN Role

In this ‘biography’ Bertie Ramcharan tells the story of Theo van Boven’s dynamic and courageous leadership to develop UN protection. Van Boven has been a life-long scholar and practitioner of human rights. He served in the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, represented The Netherlands in the UN Commission on Human Rights, served as an expert in its Sub-Commission on Human Rights, and also on the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. He was the Director of the UN Human Rights secretariat from 1977 to 1982, and later served as Registrar of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, and as UN Special Rapporteur against Torture.

As Director of the UN Human Rights secretariat, Professor van Boven built up the protection capacity of the United Nations piece by piece and thereby transformed the UN’s role. He initiated every protection mechanism in use at the United Nations today. He was thus ‘the father‘ of the contemporary system of United Nations protection.

This book is a study of leadership and strategy. If one is to be able to deepen the protection capacity of the UN in the future, it is crucial to understand how the foundations were laid. This book, based on the personal papers of Professor van Boven and of the author, who was his Special Assistant, tells the story of his remarkable leadership of the UN Human Rights secretariat. Published by Springer – ISBN 978-3-030-02221-1

 

In 1982 Meulenhoff published Theo’s speeches on the occasion of his forced departure from the UN. In the preface I tried to explain the how and why.

https://www.springer.com/gb/book/9783030022204#aboutBook

High Commissioner Bachelet presents her annual report: quite a list of problem areas

March 7, 2019

In the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council, in presenting her annual report and oral update, High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet focused on explaining how inequalities in income, wealth, access to resources, and access to justice constituted fundamental challenges to the principles of equality, dignity and human rights for every human being. Inequalities affected all countries. Even in prosperous States, people felt excluded from the benefits of development and deprived of economic and social rights, leading to alienation, unrest and sometimes violence. To achieve the 2030 Agenda, the world’s States needed to advance on tackling inequalities – inequalities of resources, income, power, access to justice and with respect to the basic conditions for human dignity.

Inequalities were a driver of several of the global trends which were of greatest concern to the Human Rights Council and other inter-governmental bodies, the High Commissioner stressed. Involuntary and precarious migration was a case in point. She underlined that inequalities and the failure to give equal weight and respect to all human rights had the power to erode all three pillars of the United Nations: peace and security, development, and human rights. However, human rights provided hope. They bound humanity together with shared principles and a better future, in sharp contrast to the divisive, destructive forces of repression, exploitation, scapegoating, discrimination and inequalities. She then listed many specific situations:

In Sudan, for the past several months, people protesting harsh economic conditions, and bad governance, have been violently dispersed by security forces, sometimes using live ammunition…

In Zimbabwe, protests against austerity measures have also been met with unacceptable violence by security forces. The Government’s effort to launch a dialogue process in recent days is encouraging, but I am worried by reports of door-to-door raids, as well as intimidation and harassment of activists, human rights defenders, and lawyers representing those arrested.

In Haiti, protests also broke out last month over rising food prices and corruption. At least 41 people were killed and 100 injured. The government has announced measures to curb high prices, raise wages and fight corruption. Ensuring accountability – including for alleged cases of excessive use of force by police – and a constructive dialogue will also be essential.

In France, the “Gilets Jaunes” have been protesting what they see as exclusion from economic rights and participation in public affairs. We encourage the Government to continue dialogue – including follow-up to the national discussions which are currently underway – and urge full investigation of all reported cases of excessive use of force.

She then turned to:

The situation in Venezuela clearly illustrates the way violations of civil and political rights – including failure to uphold fundamental freedoms, and the independence of key institutions – can accentuate a decline of economic and social rights. ..

In the context of Nicaragua‘s very serious social and political crisis, the resumption of national dialogue could constitute a significant step to address the grave problems facing the country. These include increasing restrictions to civic space; persecution of dissenting voices; and crackdowns on press freedom, as well as austerity measures, and unemployment. ..

In the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the devastating impact of the occupation on economic and social rights is closely interlinked with violations of civil and political rights. …

..

I am shocked by the number of killings of human rights defenders around the world – some, reportedly, by State agents, and others, insufficiently protected by the State from attack by economic or other interests. Attacks on journalists, and media freedoms, are becoming increasingly widespread. Sound, independent information is the foundation of public participation in democratic governance. Restrictions on the civic space are being enacted by numerous States, across several regions. I remain very concerned about reprisals against victims, human rights defenders and non-governmental organisations who cooperate with the UN.

Today, allow me to voice my concern at the apparently arbitrary arrest and detention, and alleged ill-treatment or torture, of several women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia. The persecution of peaceful activists would clearly contradict the spirit of the country’s proclaimed new reforms. We urge that these women be released.

In Turkey, I call on the authorities to view critical or dissenting voices – including human rights defenders, academics and journalists – as valuable contributors to social dialogue, rather than destabilizing forces. The recent prosecution of 16 civil society activists for “attempting to overthrow the government,” for their alleged roles during protests in 2013, is emblematic of many other trials lacking international due process standards.

In China, rapid development has lifted millions of people out of poverty – and yet in some areas, communities and individuals have been left behind. My Office seeks to engage on this issue with the Government for full access to carry out an independent assessment of the continuing reports pointing to wide patterns of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions, particularly in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region…

In India, where there has also been significant poverty reduction in overall terms, inequality remains a serious issue. In addition, we are receiving reports that indicate increasing harassment and targeting of minorities – in particular Muslims and people from historically disadvantaged and marginalised groups, such as Dalits and Adivasis. It appears that narrow political agendas are driving the further marginalisation of vulnerable people. I fear that these divisive policies will not only harm many individuals, but also undermine the success of India’s economic growth story.

….The continuing movement of people from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to the United States is a result of failure to ensure that development reaches everyone – with persistent violations of rights leading to profound inequalities. The comprehensive development plan being developed by Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and ECLAC is a welcome response to this challenge, very much in line with the Global Compact for Migration. In Mexico, too, the government is making efforts to move from an approach focused on detention and deportation of migrants to a new focus on protection of the rights of migrants, including opportunities for regularization, and alternatives to detention. In the United States of America, the new Migrant Protection Protocols which restrict access to asylum and other forms of human rights protection – and push migrants back across the border to wait for their proceedings without due process or safeguards– are a source of concern. A recent report by the Inspector General for the United States Department of Health and Human Services indicates that thousands more migrant children have been separated from their families than had been previously reported.

The Office has raised concerns with Australia about the imminent transfer of migrants from Manus Island and Nauru to new detention centres. Those people have been suffering for more than six years; more humane policies could, and should, be implemented….

I commend Germany‘s successful programmes to help migrants integrate into the economy and society, as well as legislation in several countries – including Finland, Portugal and Spain – which enable the entry and stay of migrants in vulnerable situations, based on human rights grounds. I am troubled about other aspects of European migration policies, particularly the number of fatalities in the Mediterranean. Another 226 deaths were recorded in the first two months of this year. With several NGO vessels forced to suspend operations by measures that essentially criminalise solidarity, the ancient responsibility of rescue at sea is increasingly falling on merchant vessels – which are often ill-suited to such a task. In addition, some governments have refused entry to ships.

..

In the Sahel, the Office has been implementing an innovative approach aimed at reducing the risk of harm to civilians during counter-terrorism operations. OHCHR is working with the G5 Sahel Joint Force operating in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger to establish a Compliance Framework to guide military operations. A training programme is underway; standard operating procedures are being developed which aim to reduce civilian harm and ensure sensitivity to gender issues; and a network of legal advisors is being established within the Joint Force to ensure the operational application of international human rights and humanitarian law…I encourage Cameroon to also consider the benefits of such an approach….

In Myanmar, economic interests and activities appear to be a key factor driving both violence and displacement by the Myanmar military, together with the dehumanisation of the Rohingya, and long-term discrimination. I am concerned by the failure to take any meaningful measures towards the safe, dignified, voluntary and sustainable return of the Rohingya and others – in compliance with their rights to citizenship and other rights. …..

……

In Yemen, I am deeply concerned by the suffering of civilians, despite the current ceasefire. This remains the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The conflict has not just killed and injured thousands of civilians.

Amid these negative trends, there are some hopeful areas, in which far-sighted leadership seeks to advance civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, to ensure a convergence of positive and constructive forces.

In Ethiopia, reforms have sought to address a wide spectrum of human rights issues, including benefit to sustainable development. The depth and pace of Prime Minister Abiy’s political and economic reforms, and the appointment of women to senior positions, could open the path to a more inclusive and effective development model, providing hope for Ethiopia’s young population. My Office will continue to assist the Government to devise sound laws, mend grievances, and set up measures to prevent violence in areas of the country.

………

At this session, the Council’s Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders presents a report on the rising attacks on, and repression of, women’s human rights defenders in the context of today’s backlash against women’s human rights. It makes clear that women defenders face the same risks as men, but with additional threats shaped by a view that women should be bound to the service of a male-dominated society. Physical and sexual violence, public shaming – including on the Internet – and attacks on their families and children are among the tactics increasingly used to silence women activists.

Recently a group of 30 women leaders issued an Open Letter emphasising the “urgency and peril” of the current roll-backs to hard-won rights and freedoms. I fully share their concerns, and will continue to work against gender inequalities with all the energy and principle that I can muster.

….. Before closing today, I would like to add a few additional situations of increasing concern.

In Libya, escalating violence since the beginning of the year – in particular, hostilities in the city of Derna and in the south of the country – could spark an even more chaotic situation, given the increasingly fragmented political context and continuing lawlessness. Armed groups which fall outside of effective State command and control structures, but which are integrated into State institutions, continue to commit grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights law throughout the country, in almost complete impunity. The number of civilians killed and injured in 2018, as documented by UNSMIL and OHCHR, was 40% higher than in 2017. Prevention measures should be considered a matter of urgency.

I remain concerned about the ongoing tensions in Kashmir, as shelling and firing on both sides of the Line of Control continue to contribute to loss of life and displacement. I encourage both India and Pakistan to invite my Office to monitor the situation on the ground, and to assist both States to address the human rights issues that must be part of any solution to the conflict.

In the Philippines, …..  I encourage the Philippines to adopt a public health approach, and harm reduction initiatives, that comply with human rights standards, as recommended to the 2016 General Assembly Special Session.  ……. The drug policies in place in the Philippines, and its lack of respect for rule of law and international standards, should not be considered a model by any country.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet takes her place to present her annual report before the UN Human right council members in Geneva. March 6, 2019.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet takes her place to present her annual report before the UN Human right council members in Geneva. March 6, 2019. (AFP)

Many media have picked on one more aspects of her speech. E.g. TRT World focused on:

Bachelet renewed her request to access China‘s Xinjiang region, where large numbers of the Uighur ethnic minority are reportedly being held in re-education camps. She also re-issued her requests for “full access to carry out an independent assessment of the continuing reports pointing to wide patterns of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions, particularly in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.” (A UN panel of independent experts has said there are credible reports that nearly one million Uighurs and other Turkic language-speaking minorities are being held in Xinjiang, known as ‘East Turkistan’ by Uighurs who want a homeland separate from China. Beijing at first denied the allegation, but later admitted putting people into “vocational education centres”) [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/29/three-ngos-urge-you-to-nominate-ilham-tohti-for-the-rafto-prize/]

Bachelet also called on Saudi Arabia to release women activists allegedly tortured in detention after authorities accused them of harming the country’s interests. Human rights defenders have named 10 Saudi women held for their campaigning, voicing fears that they could face harsh sentences. Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor is preparing the trials of detainees, identified by watchdog groups as women’s rights activists, after completing its investigations, state news agency SPA said last Friday. “Today, allow me to voice my concern at the apparently arbitrary arrest and detention, and alleged ill-treatment or torture, of several women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia,” Bachelet said.

(European countries will urge Saudi Arabia on Thursday to release activists and cooperate with a UN-led probe into the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in the first rebuke of the kingdom at the Human Rights Council, diplomats and campaigners told Reuters.) [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/jamal-khashoggi/]

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights also urged the Philippine government to comply with international human rights standard in its brutal drug war, which she said lacks respect for the rule of law. Bachelet encouraged the Duterte administration to “adopt a public health approach, and harm reduction initiatives, that comply with human rights standards.” “The drug policies in place in the Philippines, and its lack of respect for the rule of law and international standards should not be considered a model by any country,” she said.


https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24265&LangID=E

https://www.trtworld.com/europe/un-human-rights-chief-paints-bleak-picture-in-annual-report-24708

https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1092840/un-human-rights-chief-urges-govt-to-respect-rule-of-law-in-drug-war?utm_expid=.XqNwTug2W6nwDVUSgFJXed.1

UN Human Rights Office in Burundi formally closed

March 5, 2019

As foreseen in December 2018 [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/07/final-step-burundi-closes-down-un-office/] the UN office in Burundi was closed formally on Thursday 28 February at the insistence of the Government.

It is with deep regret that we have had to close our office in Burundi after a 23-year presence in the country,” High Commissioner Bachelet said. “Since the UN Human Rights Office in Burundi was established in 1995, for many years we worked with the Government on peacebuilding, security sector reform, justice sector reform and helped build institutional and civil society capacity on a whole host of human rights issues.”..“Unfortunately, many of these human rights gains have been seriously jeopardized since 2015”…

Our reports on the human rights situation in Burundi have always been developed in a constructive spirit, intended to support the promotion and protection of human rights in the country. But I am disappointed by Burundi’s lack of cooperation in recent years with UN human rights mechanisms – which even went so far as to include threats to prosecute members of the independent international Commission of Inquiry established by the UN Human Rights Council,” High Commissioner Bachelet said.

Bachelet paid tribute to the many human rights defenders and civil society actors in Burundi who have worked with inspiring dedication, perseverance, courage and expertise through many political and social crises in the country, while noting with concern that in recent years, many of them have been detained or forced into exile.

https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24254&LangID=E