Posts Tagged ‘UN Human Rights Council’

The assault on human rights in the UN is starting to hurt

April 1, 2018

Success in passing the “win-win resolution” in the UN Human Rights Council [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/26/chinas-win-win-resolution-gets-the-votes-in-the-un-council/], is just the visible part of a larger and more ominous assault on the human rights system as it has been built up (however incomplete and painstaking) over the last decades. Julian Borger in the Guardian of 27 March 2018 (“China and Russia accused of waging ‘war on human rights’ at UN”) describes how the two countries lobbied to cut funding for human rights monitors and for a senior post dedicated to human rights work. This all seems to fit very well with the trend started in 2016 and which I tried to describe in early 2017 in a series of posts, of which the last one was: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/24/2017-10-need-to-reset-for-human-rights-movement/.

The funding of the office of the high commissioner for human rights in Geneva has also been cut. The current high commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad Hussein, has announced that he will be stepping down this year and not seeking another term in the post, explaining to his staff that the lack of global support for protecting human rights made his job untenable. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/22/bound-to-happen-but-still-high-commissioner-zeid-announces-he-will-not-seek-second-term/]

Last week, Zeid was due to address the UN security council on plight of civilians in Syria but before he began, Russia called a procedural vote to stop him speaking on the grounds that the council was not the proper forum for discussing human rights. “The fifth committee has become a battleground for human rights,” Louis Charbonneau, the UN director for Human Rights Watch, was quoted in the Guardian. “Russia and China and others have launched a war on things that have human rights in their name.”

China has real political momentum at the UN now,” Richard Gowan, a UN expert at the European Council for Foreign Relations, said. “It is now the second biggest contributor the UN budget after the US, and is increasingly confident in its efforts to roll back UN human rights activities. It is also pushing its own agenda – with an emphasis on ‘harmony’ rather than individual rights in UN forums. And a lot of countries like what they hear.”

A western diplomat at the UN conceded that human rights were losing ground at the UN, in part because China had become a more assertive voice, prepared to lead lobbying campaigns, and because Beijing is increasingly leveraging its vast and growing investments in the developing world to win votes for its agenda at the UN.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/27/china-and-russia-accused-of-waging-war-on-human-rights-at-un

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/03/a-new-low-for-the-un-security-council-as-russia-takes-syrian-human-rights-off-the-table/

Freedom from religion: Vatican legally and morally wrong

March 29, 2018

In response IHEU’s Director of Advocacy, Elizabeth O’Casey, corrected the Holy See listing the established rights which constitute freedom from religion, and highlighted why freedom from religion is so necessary for those professing no religious beliefs around the world: “freedom from coercion to adopt a religion is protected by law; freedom to have no religion is protected by law; freedom to leave a religion is protected by law; and freedom to criticise a religion is protected by law.”

She also noted that in his own comments to the Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion of Belief, Dr Ahmed Shaheed, also corrected the Holy See. Shaheed stated categorically that freedom from religion is protected by the right to freedom of religion or belief. Dr Shaheed mentioned specifically how humanist, atheist and secular bloggers are under attack, and that the right to freedom of religion or belief protects the individual, not the religion or belief itself.

In her statement, O’Casey went on to highlight just why statements such as those made by the Holy See are so objectionable and dangerous; especially in the context of state-based hate and a culture of impunity allowing for violence against those who have no religious beliefs. O’casey reminded the Council that 85 countries severely discriminate against non-religious individuals whilst seven countries were found to actively persecute the non-religious during last year. She also reminded the Council of the situation of those jailed in states such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran for being atheist or humanist, and the brutal murder of so many secularists and rationalists with impunity in Bangladesh, India and the Maldives. O’Casey also mentioned Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Malaysia and Cyprus in their promoting state hatred against atheists and humanists.

In the light of this situation, O’Casey asked how many more humanists, atheists and secularists need to be killed, imprisoned, persecuted and disproportionately targeted for the international community to begin to understand the absolute importance of freedom of religion or belief for those with no religion? She concluded, “so long as the rest of the international community stay silent, the rights of the invisible minority of non-believers across the world will continue to be trampled upon, including by members of this Council.” The full text of O’Casey’s statement can be seen through the link below.

In this context it was interesting to see that in the UK a Burnley vicar, who has campaigned to expose sexual abuse and its cover-up in the Church of England, has been named Secularist of the Year! The Rev Graham Sawyer, who is the vicar of St James’ Church, was one of two joint winners presented with a £5,000 prize at a lunch hosted by the National Secular Society. Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who won the award in 2012, presented the prize at the event in central London.

China’s ‘win-win’ resolution gets the votes in the UN Council

March 26, 2018

Frédéric Burnand for Swissinfo reported on 26 March 2018 that the UN Human Rights Council in the end adopted the Chinese draft resolution that I referred to earlier: [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/07/china-and-the-un-human-rights-council-really-win-win/].

Conseil des droits de l'homme
Diplomats gathered on Friday to vote on resolutions presented at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva (swissinfo.ch)

The Chinese resolution calling for “mutually beneficial cooperation” on human rights issues was adopted at the United Nations Human Rights Council last week, but human rights defenders and several countries say it actually weakens human rights principles.

The Chinese resolution is the first stage of a major step backwards,” Geneva-based human rights specialist Adrien Claude Zoller told swissinfo.ch, calling it “THE major event” of the Human Rights Council’s 37th sessionexternal link.

At first glance, Beijing’s resolution at the Human Rights Council – only its second-ever in nearly a dozen years ! – seems relatively innocent. The text, full of diplomatic language such as “universality” and “international constructive dialogue”, was adopted on Friday evening by 28 votes to one, with 17 abstentions.

But it nonetheless upset many diplomats and human rights campaigners in Geneva. Australia, Britain, Japan, and Switzerland were among those abstaining, though many envoys spoke out against the text.  Ahead of Friday’s vote, Switzerland said the resolution contained “vague and ambiguous language that weakens fundamental human rights principles”. [see also in this context: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/22/unfortunately-europe-is-not-stepping-up-its-human-rights-policy-in-us-absence/]

While welcoming “constructive international cooperation as a means of promoting and protecting human rights”, Switzerland’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Valentin Zellweger, stressed that human rights-related mandates need to be able to act quickly and work efficiently to prevent crises. Civil society, he added, must be able to play a crucial role in protecting against and addressing violations.

Zoller said the resolution recalled certain language and concepts heard during the Cold War when the Soviet Union also invoked the idea of “mutually beneficial cooperation”. “The procedure put in place by the Chinese resolution involves putting an extra layer around the system of special procedures [such as independent investigations] and increasing pressure on them,” Zoller declared.  It amounts, he said, to an attempt to “kill the messenger” and complicate the work of the special rapporteurs who carry it.   “It attempts to do this by ignoring the monitoring bodies of human rights conventions [and returning] to the principle of non-interference.”

John Fisher, the Geneva-based director of Human Rights Watch, also criticised China’s strategy. His organisation last year issued a reportexternal link warning of Chinese interference in UN human rights mechanisms.

The United States cast the only “no” vote on the resolution, co-sponsored by states including Pakistan and Egypt. US diplomat Jason Mack said China was using its resolution to try to weaken the UN human rights system and norms.  “The ‘feel-good’ language about mutually beneficial cooperation is intended to benefit autocratic states at the expense of people whose human rights and fundamental freedoms we are all obligated as states to respect,” he said.

He added that Chinese spokespeople had clearly been trying to “glorify their head of state by inserting his thoughts into the international human rights lexicon”.

On Monday, China accused the Americans of arrogance for rejecting the Chinese resolution. “I think the comments by this US official in Geneva…were extremely unreasonable, and also reflect the consistent ignorance and haughtiness of the US side,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing.

Many countries expressed at the meeting that the Chinese resolution reflected the common wishes of the international community and helped raise the ability of developing nations to speak for themselves on human rights issues, Hua added.

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/un-human-rights-council-_china-s–win-win–rights-initiative-makes-waves-in-geneva/44000588?&ns_mchannel=rss&srg_evsource=gn

Human Rights Council 2018 on the annual report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

March 23, 2018

The Human Rights Council concluded on 22 March 2018  its general debate on the annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and reports of the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General. The Council started the general debate on Wednesday, 21 March after hearing the presentation of reports on Burundi, Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Cyprus and Iran, and a summary can be seen here.

In the general discussion, delegations noted that some progress was being made to improve the human rights situations in those countries, but much remained to be done. Speakers stressed the relevance of protecting civil society actors and human rights defenders, including in the context of implementing peace agreements and pursuing reconciliation plans. States were commended for cooperating with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other United Nations mechanisms, and were urged to prioritize efforts to combat impunity and to prosecute perpetrators of rights violations.

Speaking were the delegations of the United States; Australia; Georgia; Belgium; Israel; Norway; United Nations Children’s Fund; Canada; Denmark; Morocco; Greece; Algeria; Turkey; Ireland; and Netherlands as well as a large number of NGOs.

For those interested to know more of this General Debate on the Annual Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, I refer to Reliefweb which carries regularly summaries of what happens at the Council.

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/human-rights-council-concludes-general-debate-annual-report-high-commissioner-human

There seems to be no limit to what Duterte is willing to say – and may get away with

March 10, 2018

Most likely you have seen the reports about the UN High Commissioner of Human Right suggesting that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterteneeds to submit himself to some sort of psychiatric evaluation” over his “unacceptable” remarks about some Special Rapporteurs. Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein demanded – rightly – that the Human Rights Council, of which the Philippines is a member, “must take a strong position” on the issue and that “these attacks cannot go unanswered.”

Speaking to reporters in Geneva, the rights chief referred to a court petition filed last month by Duterte’s government accusing the U.N. rapporteur on indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, and others of being members of a key communist rebel group. The Filipino President had repeatedly insulted the U.N. expert on extrajudicial killings, Agnes Callamard, lashing out at her for raising alarm over the thousands of suspects killed under his anti-drug crackdown. He has also taken aim at International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who announced last month that she was opening a preliminary examination into alleged extrajudicial drug killings. In a speech Wednesday, Duterte insulted the international court’s justices as “dumb” and “evil,” and said Callamard was “thin” and “undernourished.” Using an expletive, he warned, “Don’t (mess) with me, girls.

Almost laughably “deaf’ to the language used his own President, the Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano blasted Zeid’s remarks as “irresponsible and disrespectful” and said the “unmeasured outburst” demeaned the Philippine president and should not be repeated.

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, was listed as a member of the Maoist rebel group. She has denied the allegations. “The charges are entirely baseless and malicious,” Tauli-Corpuz told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview. “The government sees this as an opportunity to pursue people they don’t like. I am worried for my safety and the safety of others on the list, including several rights activists.” Local and international organizations have slammed the Philippine government’s action, with New York-based Human Rights Watch calling the petition “a virtual government hit list”. Two other U.N. special rapporteurs expressed “grave concern” about Tauli-Corpuz being on the list, and said she was being punished by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte for speaking out against some of his policies.

China and the UN Human Rights Council: really Win-Win?

March 7, 2018

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated on Wednesday 7 March that China’s actions on human rights did not match its words and the level of respect for basic liberties remained low in the country. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein did so in his annual report on human rights in the world to the UN Human Rights Council, “President Xi Jinping has called for ‘people-centred development for win-win outcomes as part of a community of shared future for mankind’, a commendable ambition. Sadly, China’s global ambitions on are seemingly not mirrored by its record at home,” he said.

My office continues to receive urgent appeals regarding arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, ill-treatment and discrimination, emanating from defenders, lawyers, legislators, booksellers, and members of communities such as Tibetans and Uyghurs,” he added. Hussein said many of the cases involved people fighting against economic, social and cultural injustices such as corruption, illegal seizure of land and forced evictions or destruction of cultural sites.

Before the start of  the current session of the UN Human Rights Council twenty NGOs had called on all member states to hold China accountable at the UN Human Rights Council, appears from a piece by the ISHR on 26 February 2018

In a private letter sent to select UN Member States, the NGOs called for clear and concrete actions to denounce China’s current rollback in respect for human rights at the UN Human Rights Council.

The organisations highlight five cases of human rights defenders that would benefit from further pressure being brought to bear on the Chinese government. They include:

  • Liu Xia, a poet kept under house arrest after the death of her husband, Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, in July 2017
  • Wang Quanzhang, a rights lawyer held incommunicado since 9 July 2015
  • Gui Minhai, a Swedish citizen arbitrarily detained in China since he vanished from Thailand in October 2015
  • Tashi Wangchuk, a Tibetan cultural rights and education advocate who has been detained more than two years on charges of inciting separatism (a press release by a group of UN experts on 21 February)
  • Yu Wensheng, a prominent human rights lawyer disbarred, then arbitrarily detained, in January 2018.

The organisations urge the governments to:

….This year is particularly important, as human rights defenders inside and outside China prepare for the country’s next Universal Periodic Review, scheduled for November 2018. The letter to governments concludes: ‘For human rights defenders to have the courage to engage in this important process, with all the risks that it entails, it’s critical that they know that they are not alone’.

(Amnesty International, China Labour Bulletin, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Human Rights in China, Human Rights Watch, the International Campaign for Tibet, the International Commission of Jurists,  the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, the International Service for Human Rights, Lawyers for Lawyers, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, PEN America, Swedish PEN, the Tibet Advocacy Coalition (comprised of the International Tibet Network Secretariat, Students for a Free Tibet, Tibet Initiative Deutschland, Tibet Justice Center, and Tibetan Youth Association in Europe), and the World Uyghur Congress.)

https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/03/05/chinas-win-win-resolution-anything

http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ians/china-shows-little-respect-for-human-rights-un-high-commissioner-118030701132_1.html

https://www.ishr.ch/news/china-ngos-call-states-hold-china-accountable-un-human-rights-council

UDHR at 70: human rights defenders are the key to celebration

March 6, 2018

The ISHR on 28 February 2018 made the following statement which seem obvious to the readers of this blog but it cannot be stressed enough: Human rights defenders risk their freedom and sometimes their lives to advocate for the rights of fellow human beings. On the occasion of the Human Rights Council’s High-Level panel commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) and the 25th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, ISHR stressed that the realisation of the UDHR depends on the work of human rights defenders and that States who restrict the work of defenders are in turn violating their obligations under the UDHR. 

2018 is not only the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the 25th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (VDPA), it also marks the 20th anniversary of the Declaration on human rights defenders which was adopted by consensus by the General Assembly in 1998.

The rights enshrined in the UDHR cannot be guaranteed without a safe and enabling environment for the people exercising and fighting to defend those rights. States who commit to guarantee the UDHR cannot restrict the work of defenders, nor fail to act upon their obligation to protect them.

20 years after the adoption of the Declaration, human rights defenders have perhaps never been more under threat. They are subjected to judicial harassment, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, enforced disappearance, physical violence and even murder.

Defenders are also attacked when they bring their voices to the international community. Last year, a report by the Secretary-General found evidence of a strategy on the part of some States to prevent the activities of individuals cooperating with the UN. The report also highlights that the incidence of reprisals is becoming broader and that the means used are increasingly blunt…

The realisation of the UDHR depends on the work of defenders, who risk their lives and their freedom to advocate for the rights of others,” said Salma El Hosseiny, ISHR’s Human Rights Council Advocate. “It is alarming that States are increasingly shrinking civil society space on one hand, and professing their commitment to guarantee the UDHR on the other hand“.  These unprecedented attacks against civil society and defenders amount to violations of the same rights to which they are advocating for.

States must translate their commitment to the UDHR by taking immediate and effective measures to ensure that defenders are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without any hindrance, to ensure accountability for all perpetrators, and access to remedies for victims.

The Human Rights Council plays an important role in contributing to the realisation of the UDHR on the ground. Accordingly, any proposals to strengthen or enhance the efficiency of the Council should be measured through the lens of increasing its impact, rather than the relatively insignificant time or money it may save. Finally, it is imperative that any legitimate process to strengthen the Council include the meaningful participation of civil society in all stages.

https://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc37-defenders-are-key-realise-universal-declaration-human-rights

see also: https://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc-consultation-civil-society-key-if-council-be-reformed-fit-purpose

Egypt ‘blessed’ with two side event at Human Rights Council in March 2018

March 6, 2018

On 13 February 2018 fourteen international and regional rights organizations stated that the Egyptian government has trampled over even the minimum requirements for free and fair presidential elections (planned 26-28 March). The government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has relentlessly stifled basic freedoms and arrested potential candidates and rounded up their supporters. “Egypt’s allies should speak out publicly now to denounce these farcical elections, rather than continue with largely unquestioning support for a government presiding over the country’s worst human rights crisis in decades,” the groups said.

The authorities have successively eliminated key challengers who announced their intention to run for president….The current atmosphere of retaliation against dissenting voices and the increasing crackdown against human rights defenders and independent rights organizations have made effective monitoring of the elections extremely difficult for domestic and foreign organizations. Media reports have said that the number of organizations that were granted permission to monitor the elections was 44 percent fewer than in the last presidential election in 2014 and that the number of requests, in general, has gone down. Several opposition parties called for boycotting the elections. A day later al-Sisi threatened to use force, including the army, against those who undermine “Egypt’s stability and security.” On February 6, the Prosecutor-General’s Office ordered an investigation against 13 of the leading opposition figures who called for a boycott, accusing them of calling for “overthrowing the ruling regime.” Seven years after Egypt’s 2011 uprising, the government has made a mockery of the basic rights for which protesters fought,” the groups said. “Egypt’s government claims to be in a ‘democratic transition’ but move further away with every election.

So, the two side events that are coming up are extremely valuable as the national space for dissent is nihil:

  • The Situation of Human Rights and Upcoming Elections in Egypt: Facilitating Radicalisation is an event organised by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) and co-sponsored by ISHR, that will take place on 9 March at 13:30 to 15:00 in Room XXIII. The event will address the deterioration of the human rights situation in Egypt and the dangers of the international community’s failure to respond.
  • Human rights violations in Egypt and in the Gulf States is an event organised by FIDH, CIVICUS, the Gulf Center for Human Rights. It will take place on 15 March 2018 at 15:00 till 16:00 in Room XXIII. The event will focus on the interlinked plight of human rights defenders in Egypt and the Gulf States as both are facing ongoing targeting by their own governments as well as explore measures for coordination and advocacy at the international level.

In the same context there is the press release of Friday 2 February 2018 in which a number of organisations, under the umbrella Committee for Justice (CFJ), condemned Tuesday’s execution of Egyptian Tayseer Odeh Suleiman after he was convicted in Ismalia’s military court in what they said was a flawed trial inconsistent with international legal and human rights standards. Suleiman, 25, was hanged after the Supreme Military Court of Appeals rejected the defence put foward by his lawyer without explaining the reasons behind the rejection….CFJ confirmed that there had been an unprecedented increase in the implementation of death sentences in Egypt, based on illegal proceedings, with 26 people executed between the end of December last year and the present. CFJ further asserted that the reason for the death penalties “under the guise of combating terrorism” were misleading and in violation of basic standards of a fair trial indicating significant flaws in Egypt’s judicial process.

On only a few days ago (2 March 2018), responding to reports from his family and colleagues that Ezzat Ghonim – a prominent Egyptian human rights lawyer and director of the NGO, Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms – failed to return home from work yesterday, Najia Bounaim, Amnesty International’s North Africa Campaigns Director, said:  “Given the highly-charged political climate in Egypt and the clampdown on dissent in the lead-up to the presidential elections, we are deeply concerned that Ezzat Ghonim may have been forcibly disappeared. ”

For some of my earlier posts on Egypt, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/egypt/

https://www.iol.co.za/news/africa/rights-groups-condemn-egyptian-executions-done-by-military-13069428

https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/02/13/egypt-planned-presidential-vote-neither-free-nor-fair

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/egypt-fears-lawyer-ezzat-ghonim-latest-human-rights-activist-be-disappeared

Bangladesh Government depicted as “against human rights defenders”

March 5, 2018

Among the many (written) NGO statements issued during the current session of the UN Council on Human Rights in Geneva, this one by the Asian Legal Resource Centre stands out by describing a whole government apparatus as standing against independent human rights defenders. It was dated 26 

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) wants to bring the situation of human rights defenders of Bangladesh to the attention of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The Government of Bangladesh stands against the human rights defenders with draconian legislations and various institutions and agencies of the State. Independent dissenting voices face systemic harassments. Given the circumstances, the human rights defenders have to work without any notion of protection while defending rights in the country. The threats against the human rights defenders are increasing as the 3rd Cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is approaching.

The Government of Bangladesh has amended the existing laws and has adopted new laws with vague definitions and harsher provisions to stifle the human rights organisations and individual defenders along with other dissenting voices.

The incumbent government made the Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Act 2016. This law not only intimidates the civil society actors but also prevents the expected outcome that the human rights organisations strive for achieving for the society. The law provides the NGO Affairs Bureau (NGOAB), a wing under the Office of Prime Minister, the power to review and cancel proposed projects by NGOs. A persons’ travelling out of Bangladesh in relation to the projects requires prior governmental approval. The NGO Affairs Bureau is authorised to scrutinise the activities through inspections and monthly coordination meetings by the representatives of the NGOAB while prior approval is also required for planned activities before receiving the grants. Without any judicial process the NGOAB is empowered to impose sanctions for alleged ‘non-compliance’ against any organisation or individual receiving foreign funds for voluntary activities. Such actions also include fines, disciplinary actions, and cancellation of registration of the NGO even for ‘derogatory’ remarks. The decisions of the NGOAB can only be brought before the Secretary of Office of the Prime Minister as an ‘appeal’. The law establishes the bureaucrats’ control over voluntary activities while Bangladesh’s bureaucracy has reputation for systemic corruption and abuse of power.

Bangladesh’s Cabinet has approved the Digital Security Bill-2018 on 29 January 2018. This Bill may be enacted in any day during the ongoing Session of the national parliament. This proposed law curtails both the freedom of press and the writ of human rights organisations. The police is authorised to arrest any person without a warrant of arrest issued by a Court of the country if the police officer believes that an offence is committed under this law. A person can be imprisoned for 14 years, with or without a fine of BDT 10 million for publishing any material online for ‘spreading negative propaganda against Liberation War or the Father of the Nation’ while there is no definition of ‘negative propaganda’ provided in the law. Publishing ‘false’ and ‘distorted’ information to tarnish the image of the State is punishable with three years’ imprisonment and with or without a penalty of BDT three hundred thousand. If a person is held for the second time for the same crime he or she will be imprisoned for five years with or without a penalty of BDT one million. Such provision will put the human rights defenders in grave danger, as they have to contest the official version of the State, which always denies allegation of human rights abuses and accuses the rights groups for ‘tarnishing the image of the State’. For example, the government and the law-enforcement agencies of Bangladesh deny every incident of enforced disappearances and each of extrajudicial executions while the human rights defenders and media explore and expose the truth.

Bangladesh Government, by default, protects the perpetrators of human rights abuses in a deeply rooted culture of impunity. The State prevents the basic institutions from functioning and serving the people with fairness. Instead, the incumbent government uses all the institutions, including the judiciary, as tools to secure its power at the cost of the lives and liberties of the ordinary people.

The participation of independent human rights organisations in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism of the UN Human Rights Council makes them governmental targets for exposing the human rights realities. For example, Odhikar, a locally based human rights organisation, contributed to the UPR process during the first and second cycles in 2009 and in 2013. This rights group consistently documented the cases and pattern of extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, custodial torture, curtailing the freedom of expression and opinion, and denial of justice to the victims of gross human rights abuses in Bangladesh. The government started harassing this organisation for publishing a fact-finding report on a massive crackdown in May 2013. Its leaders were made the victims of the country’s first ever cyber crime case, which is still pending before a special tribunal incepted for holding trial of such cases. Their bank accounts are frozen and NGO registration’s renewal has been halted since mid 2014. The activists who are engaged in standing beside the victims of human rights violations remain under active surveillance by the intelligence and law-enforcement agencies.

Bangladesh is moving toward another general election by the end of 2018. The incidents of gross human rights abuses are also on the rise. The incumbent government is using the State’s law-enforcement agencies and judiciary to drive away the political opposition. The government has already started arresting the opposition activists arbitrarily as the main opposition leader is afraid to be convicted in controversial corruption cases. As days pass on more violation of human rights would deteriorate the situation requiring the human rights defenders to assist the victims. The activities of the rights groups would invite more reprisals against the human rights defenders, except those who directly or indirectly align with the incumbent government for their financial and political benefits.

Bangladesh’s system of governance is authoritarian and coercive by nature. The institutions – be it a constitutional body or a statutory entity – function according to the wish of the Prime Minister, as a supreme controller of everything. The universal normative principles of justice and good governance do not exist or work in this country. As a result, all the basic institutions constantly fail to act for the actual purpose of upholding the rule of law and facilitate functional democracy. The judiciary and the entire criminal justice apparatus, survive as mere facades. These facades facilitate the process of silencing the society’s vibrant voices.

The ALRC urges the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders to request Bangladesh for sending invitation to the mandate for country visit. The Human Rights Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to focus on Bangladesh’s domestic human rights realities and intervene for the protection of victims from gross violation of rights.

For some of my other posts on Bangladesh see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/bangladesh/

http://alrc.asia/bangladesh-government-stands-against-independent-human-rights-defenders/

“Crazy nurses” from Canada stress importance of recognizing non-state torture

March 1, 2018

With all the high-level segment statements by political figures in the first week of the UN Human Rights Council one tends to overlook more down to earth work such as this – proudly reported by the CBC on 28 February 2018: Once dismissed as ‘crazy nurses,’ Jeanne Sarson, Linda MacDonald from Canada travel to Switzerland to address UN Human Rights Council:

Jeanne Sarson and Linda MacDonald travelled to Switzerland where they were one of four so-called “civil society representatives” selected to address the UN Human Rights Council.

Jeanne Sarson reading statement at UN

Jeanne Sarson reading a statement written by her and Linda MacDonald at the UN 37th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. (UN Web TV screen capture)

Their long-repeated message has been that torture isn’t just meted out by government officials and agents. Women and girls can be tortured by parents and family members, with atrocities including human trafficking, prostitution, enslavement or pornographic victimization. Naming it torture gives continuing crimes against family members the attention and weight it deserves, they believe. “Non-State Torture is identified as a distinct and specific crime and human rights offence which must not be misnamed as being another form of crime such as an assault causing bodily harm or abuse,” their website nonstatetorture.org says.

MacDonald said it felt “very affirming” for her and Sarson to make the joint statement to the council. Their story of activism began in 1993 when they met a woman who revealed she had been tortured and trafficked since she was a toddler. The nurses turned human rights defenders have now been in touch with 5,000 women around the world who say they are victims of domestic torture. .

But Sarson said she felt nervous reading the statement before the council as “non-state torture was probably a new concept for many of them.” She thought that many would be closing their ears to their message. Sarson and MacDonald’s statement urged the UN Human Rights Council’s countries to recognize non-state torture against women and girls as a gender-based human rights violation and crime. Their message received encouragement from the UN deputy high commission of the human rights council. “She said: ‘Keep pushing. We need civil society to campaign like you’re doing so society will transform,'” said MacDonald. There’s still work to be done at home. The pair have been pushing the federal government for years to include non-state as a human rights violation, but to date there has been no commitment.

MacDonald acknowledged that some members of the UN human rights council have poor records in upholding human rights, but that wasn’t her focus. She said until Canada recognizes non-state torture in its Criminal Code, “we have no room to criticize other countries.”

 

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/truro-nurses-non-state-torture-1.4555659