Posts Tagged ‘UN Human Rights Council’

Michel Forst: “Empowering defenders on the move is crucial to the prevention of further tragedy”

February 20, 2018

The ISHR in a piece of 16 February 2018 draws attention to tow complementary reports on the situation of human rights defenders in a migration context. They fit admirably with the outcry of 250 NGOs concerning Hungary referred to in my earlier post of today [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/20/250-ngos-address-letter-to-hungarian-parliament-regarding-restriction-on-the-work-of-human-rights-defenders/].

The first is the report, by UN Special Rapporteur Michel Forst, which examines the many ways in which human rights defenders are impacted by the current environment related to migrant and refugee flows. For example, defenders may become migrants or refugees as a result of the harassment and violence they face in their own communities or countries. ‘Empowering defenders on the move is crucial to the prevention of further tragedy‘.

The second is the OHCHR Principles and Practical Guidance for the protection of the Human Rights of Migrants in Vulnerable Situations, especially Principle 18 which states that ‘States must respect and support the activities of human rights defenders who promote and protect the human rights of migrants’.

Both document will be considered at the upcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council.

The two documents are fully complementary’, Sarah Brooks of the ISHR says. ‘The recommendations of the OHCHR and the UN expert have no daylight between them – their message is quite simple. In order for lives to be saved, States must ensure that human rights defenders and civil society can operate safely and without hindrance.’

Migrants – including migrant workers – who seek to stand up for their rights and those of others face unique threats, including deportation.  The case of Sujana Rana and Rose Limu Jee, two migrant domestic workers from Nepal who were detained and deported after advocating for freedom of association in Lebanon, is a prime example. And defenders in countries of destination – whether the Gulf, the United States, or many Member States of the European Union (e.g. Hungary) – find that their own governments may rollback protections or even funding for civil society and defenders when migration-related issues are the focus, or in the worst cases criminalise assistance to migrants and refugees.

Main challenges

  • Limits on access to migrant and refugee populations. This can appear as overt limits on physical presence in border areas or due to the remote nature of some areas where populations on the move are concentrated. This includes securitised border zones and offshore facilities.  In both cases, the real impact is to increase physical and financial barriers to access, preventing people on the move from accessing independent services and much-needed legal counsel.
  • Criminalisation. Some defenders struggle against risks of criminal prosecution both nationally and as a result of local bylaws, particularly registration requirements (based on geographic areas of work, for example). The overzealous application of existing law has also been sued to accuse people of harbouring or smuggling, when in reality the individual was engaged in humanitarian activity. This threat of criminal charges has a chilling effect, as does the decrease in funding for organisations working in this area (both anti-racism work and traditional legal aid centres).
  • The growing role of non-state actors.  Especially in some parts of Latin America, organised crime poses significant threats to defenders, as well as to States should they try to protect them. Businesses are also implicated, as the report notes particular types of private employment contracts which ‘gag’ service providers and impose outsized fines or criminal penalties for discussing the situation.  Finally, in cases where governments have outsourced certain services, tools like access to information requests (normally directed at public authorities) are no longer available.

http://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc37-global-community-must-recognise-defenders-people-move-says-un-expert

http://www.ishr.ch/sites/default/files/article/files/201802_ohchr_principles_and_practical_guidance.pdf

Prominent UK lawyers: Suspend Saudi Arabia from UN Human Rights Council

February 2, 2018

In July 2016 two major NGOs (HRW and AI) teamed up to try and get Saudi Arabia suspended from the UN Human Rights Council (https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/07/05/amnesty-and-hrw-trying-to-get-saudi-arabia-suspended-from-the-un-human-rights-council/). Now Al-Jazeera reports that British lawyers have called for Saudi Arabia to be removed from the United Nations Human Rights Council, stating that the kingdom detains political and free speech activists without charge.

In a report released on Wednesday 31 January 2018 in London, Rodney Dixon QC and Lord Kenneth Donald John Macdonald said more than 60 individuals were detained in September last year, “many of whom are believed to be human rights defenders or political activists”.

“Our main recommendation is that steps should be taken by the General Assembly to suspend the government of Saudi Arabia from the [UN] Human Rights Council,” Dixon told Al Jazeera. It is “completely contradictory and ironic for a government with systemic patterns of abuse – as we have highlighted in the report – to be sitting on the council, and in fact previously to have chaired the council….That suspension will act as a major lever for the government to clean up their act and make a proper new start.”

The report, titled Shrouded in secrecy: the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia following arrests in September 2017, was commissioned by the relatives of detainees and will be forwarded to Saudi authorities. “Those detained have not been charged with any offence, and the information about the reasons for their arrests and circumstances of their imprisonment are very limited,” the report said. “There is cause for serious concern about the treatment of many of those detained, including Mr Salman Al-Awda who has recently been hospitalised and others who are, effectively, disappeared.” Awda is one of Saudi’s most popular Muslim leaders with almost 150 million followers on Twitter. He was recently hospitalised after five months of solitary confinement. It remains unclear why he was arrested..

Saudi Arabia’s membership in the United Nations Human Rights Council expires in 2019. “The suspension of membership rights is not simply a hypothetical possibility,” the report said.In February 2011, the council called for Libya to be suspended as the government of Muammar Gaddafi was being accused of human rights violations against civilians during the uprising. A month later, the General Assembly voted for the suspension of Libya’s membership – marking the first time it has used its power to revoke a country’s membership.

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/01/uk-lawyers-remove-saudi-human-rights-council-180131114753148.html

NGOs in Geneva preparing for the 2018 Human Rights Council sessions

January 19, 2018

– in collaboration with the members of HRCnet – is hosting a welcome reception for Vojislav Šuc, the new President of the Human Rights Council on Wednesday 31 January 2018. This is a regular opportunity for civil society staff, human rights experts and diplomats to meet and greet the new President and Vice-Presidents of the Council in a relaxed atmosphere. Those who won’t be in Geneva that evening, can give their thoughts about what the Human Rights Council’s priorities for 2018 should be. Share them on Twitter using #HRC2018 and Michael Ineichen, Human Rights Council Advocacy Director of the ISHR, will share a selection with the HRC President.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/31/ishr-2018-training-for-human-rights-defenders-is-now-open-for-application/for 

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

Last straw?: U.N. Human Rights Rapporteur Barred By Myanmar

December 21, 2017

 Yanghee Lee, U.N. human rights special rapporteur to Myanmar, talks to journalists during a news briefing in Yangon, Myanmar, in July 2017.

Yanghee Lee, the U.N. special rapporteur on Myanmar, says she has been told that the Myanmar government will neither cooperate with her nor grant her access to the country for the remainder of her tenure. Lee was scheduled to visit Myanmar in January to assess human rights in the country, particularly in western Rakhine state, where the Rohingya are concentrated.

I am puzzled and disappointed by this decision by the Myanmar Government,she said in a statement.This declaration of non-cooperation with my mandate can only be viewed as a strong indication that there must be something terribly awful happening in Rakhine, as well as in the rest of the country.” “Only two weeks ago, Myanmar’s Permanent Representative informed the Human Rights Council of its continuing cooperation with the UN, referencing the relationship with my role as Special Rapporteur,” Lee said. Amnesty International called Myanmar’s decision to bar Ms Lee “outrageous”. James Gomez, the group’s director for Asia and the Pacific, said: “It is a further indication that authorities will do anything they can to avoid international scrutiny of their human rights record.”  [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/01/murder-of-human-rights-defender-ko-ni-in-myanmar/]

The U.N. says more than 630,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar since ongoing military attacks that began in August. Doctors Without Borders estimates that 6,700 Rohingya were killed in the first month of the crackdown. Refugees streaming into neighboring Bangladesh have brought with them tales of rape and murder at the hands of Myanmar’s soldiers.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussain told the BBC this week that Myanmar’s nominal leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and the head of the country’s armed forces could potentially face charges of genocide for their role in the crackdown. “Given the scale of the military operation, clearly these would have to be decisions taken at a high enough level,” he told the BBC. “And then there’s the crime of omission. That if it came to your knowledge that this was being committed, and you did nothing to stop it, then you could be culpable as well for that.” [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/09/03/myanmar-time-for-aung-san-suu-kyi-to-return-at-least-some-of-her-many-human-rights-awards/]

Myanmar’s refusal to cooperate with the U.N. comes as the country set up a joint working committee for the return of Rohingya refugees with Bangladesh — where hundreds of thousands are housed in squalid border camps. Under an agreement signed last month in Dhaka, a 30-member working group is to be set up for the voluntary repatriation of Rohingya.

The authorities last week arrested Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, Reuters journalists who have been covering the Rohingya crisis, and the men are being held incommunicado at an undisclosed location. They were arrested after being invited to dine with police officers on the outskirts of Yangon, the commercial capital.  After the arrests, the ministry of information released a picture of the men in handcuffs and alleged they had “illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media”.

https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/12/20/572197324/u-n-human-rights-investigator-barred-by-myanmar

https://www.ft.com/content/6f0674ec-e57d-11e7-97e2-916d4fbac0da

20th anniversary of UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders starts with crucial draft resolution in the GA

November 1, 2017

9 December 2018 will mark the 20th anniversary of the ‘UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms‘ (in short the UN Declaration on HRDs).  The General Assembly and the Human Rights Council have over the years adopted annual resolutions, informed by reports by the Secretary-General and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. However, as this blog and many others can testify, human rights defenders continue to face severe risks and are increasingly targets of actions taken by state and/or non-state actors in violation of the Declaration.  As we approach the 20th anniversary of the Declaration, the Norwegian delegation has just now tabled a draft resolution at the 72nd session of the General Assembly. The text is not officially out yet but the main new elements in the draft resolution are:

  • a high level meeting on HRDs in the General Assembly in New York next year, and
  • a request to the UN Secretary General/OHCHR to put together a comprehensive report on what UN can do to assist States.

Secretary-General Guterres should have no problem accepting such a request as he stated in the Human Rights Council on 27 February this year: “…To human rights defenders, I say: thank you for your courage. The United Nations is on your side. And I am on your side. I remind Member States of their responsibility to ensure that human rights defenders can operate without fear of intimidation.” [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/28/new-secretary-general-at-human-rights-council-tells-human-rights-defenders-and-i-am-on-your-side/]

The UN Mission of Norway is as usual in the lead in getting this resolution adopted, while facing the danger of hostile amendments. [see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/03/23/norwegian-resolution-un-human-rights-council-defenders-amendments/]. They have their work cut out and any help in lobbying for this new draft would be most welcome. The text of the draft resolution as tabled follows below (it should be issued soon as an “L” document) in which I have highlighted operative paragraphs 14-17.

Draft resolution – version for tabling Read the rest of this entry »

ISHR 2018 training for human rights defenders is now open for application

October 31, 2017

 If you are – or know – a human rights defender keen to increase interaction with the UN system, apply now for the 2018 edition of ISHR’s Human Rights Defenders Advocacy Programme !

The training will take place in Geneva between 11 and 22 June 2018 and provides defenders with opportunities to put their advocacy skills directly into action at the 38th session of the UN Human Rights Council. Get a taste of the programme here.

ISHR’s Human Rights Defender Advocacy Programme (HRDAP) equips defenders with the knowledge and skills to make strategic use of the international human rights system. It also provides an opportunity for participants to directly engage in lobbying and advocacy activities at the UN level to effect change on the ground back home.

As well as receiving training modules on all the UN human rights mechanisms from a range of experts, participants will also have the opportunity to build networks in Geneva and around the world, carry out lobbying of UN member States and UN staff, and learn from peers from a range of regions working on a range of human rights issues.

At the end of last year’s training, 100% of participants were either “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with the overall programme, and they all also felt that they would be able to apply what they learnt to their own day-to-day work. ISHR will look to build upon this success in 2018.

Participants will take part in:

  1. A short online learning component, prior to face-to-face training, to enable you to consolidate your existing knowledge and develop your advocacy objectives;
  2. Intensive training in Geneva during June, to coincide with the 38th session of the Human Rights Council. The training will focus on ways to effectively use international human rights mechanisms and to influence outcomes;
  3. Specific advocacy at Human Rights Council sessions and other relevant meetings, with regular feedback and peer education to learn from the experiences, including expert input from leading human rights advocates.

This programme is directed at experienced human rights defenders in non-governmental organisations, with existing advocacy experience at the national level and some prior knowledge of the international human rights system.

If you are interested in applying for ISHR’s training programme, please read the call for applications to check that you comply with the requirements, and apply before midnight Geneva time on 11 December 2018. The link to the online application form can be found in the call for applications. For more information, write to hrdap2018@ishr.ch.

for 2017 see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/05/27/ishrs-human-rights-defenders-advocacy-programme-2017-starts-on-monday/

Source: HRDAP | ISHR 2018 training for human rights defenders: apply now! | ISHR

Job opportunities at the International Service for Human Rights

October 4, 2017

International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) announces two vacancies:

Read the rest of this entry »

Documenting human rights: standards and practice – side event

September 27, 2017

This side event is announced too late, but still good to know and find out more from the organizing NGOs:

 

United Nations’ Andrew Gilmour: HRDs are like “the canary in the coalmine, bravely singing until they are silenced..”

September 22, 2017

Andrew Gilmour, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights (file). UN Photo/Manuel Elias

On 20 September 2017 the UN reported that a  growing number of human rights defenders around the world are facing reprisals and intimidation for cooperating with the United Nations, ranging from travel bans and the freezing of assets to detention and torture, says a new report issued by the world body.

“It is frankly nothing short of abhorrent that, year after year, we are compelled to present cases of intimidation and reprisals carried out against people whose crime – in the eyes of their governments – was to cooperate with UN institutions and mechanisms,” said Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour“We should see these individuals as the canary in the coalmine, bravely singing until they are silenced by this toxic backlash against people, rights and dignity – as a dark warning to us all,” Mr. Gilmour told the Human Rights Council in Geneva, as he presented the Secretary-General’s report.

The report, the eighth of its kind, names 29 countries where cases of reprisal and intimidation have been documented; this is higher than the previous highest number of 20. Eleven of the States are current members of the Human Rights Council, a news release pointed out. Some have featured in the annual report on reprisals nearly every year since it was instituted in 2010. [see my earlier: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/23/reprisals-at-the-un-more-calls-for-action-no-action/]

Mr. Gilmour told the Council that the problem was much more widespread than presented in the report. “Since this report is limited to reprisals against people cooperating with the UN, the cases covered in it represent only a small portion of a far more generalized backlash against civil society and others challenging State authorities, especially human rights defenders”. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/21/assistant-secretary-general-for-human-rights-andrew-gilmour-speaks-very-freely-at-the-united-nations-association-of-the-usa/]

———

Amnesty International has launched a campaign to publicize what it says is a worsening situation for human rights activists throughout the world. The group hopes its “Brave” campaign will persuade governments to keep the promises they made in United Nations treaties to protect defenders of human rights. The organization Front Line Defenders says 281 people were killed in 2016 for defending human rights. In 2015, the number was 156.

Guadalupe Marengo, head of Amnesty’s Human Rights Defenders Program, told the VOA that “In the current context of us-versus-them, of demonization, of full frontal attack actually I would say on human rights, it is crucial that we take stock and that we call on the authorities to stop these attacks immediately.” …….Amnesty says human rights defenders are arrested, kidnapped and killed around the world. It says they are also attacked using online technology. Surveillance tools are used to study their activity. Marengo says campaigns launched on social media tell lies about the activists in an attempt to cause others to oppose them. “They are accused of being terrorists; they are accused of being criminals, they are accused of defending ‘immorality.’” Amnesty International hopes the “Brave” program will show the worsening situation for human rights activists worldwide.

——–

To underscore the point the NGO CIVICUS made a statement to the same (36th) UN Human Rights Council based on a panel discussion on the rights of indigenous people. 

“I read this statement on behalf of 39 human rights defenders and civil society organisations working on indigenous, land and environmental rights from 29 countries who met in Johannesburg, South Africa from 7-9 August 2017 to discuss strategies to advance the protection of indigenous, land and environmental rights activists. Mr. President, 2016 surpassed 2015 as the deadliest year on record for those stood up against land grabbing, natural resource exploitation and environmental destruction. Worryingly, the number of killed has risen to 200 from 185 in 2016 and spread to several countries across the world.

In the current global climate, where repression of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly is becoming the norm rather than the exception, environmental and land defenders are particularly vulnerable. When we express concerns over the collusion between States and corporate actors, we face opposition – dissent is stifled and criminalised, and our lives are threatened. Often our work is discredited and we are labelled ‘anti-national’ and ‘anti-development’.

When we protest peacefully against this attack on our resources and livelihoods, we face violence from state authorities, private security groups and state-sponsored vigilante groups. When we stand up to defend the rights of our communities, we face unfounded criminal charges, unlawful arrests, custodial torture, threats to life and liberty, surveillance, judicial harassment and administrative hurdles, among other actions.

Mr. President, our families are threatened into silence and many of us have had to make the difficult decision to flee our homes and go into exile, retreating from a fight that has become too dangerous. We need global action to counter the threats we face.

We ask the panellists to urge the Council to emphasise the need for all states to ensure that affected communities are adequately consulted, including securing their full consent prior to the development of infrastructure and extractive industries projects. “

Sources:

United Nations News Centre – Growing number of rights defenders facing reprisals for cooperating with UN

http://www.civicus.org/index.php/media-resources/news/united-nations/geneva/2953-joint-statement-on-the-rights-of-indigenous-peoples

https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/amnesty-human-rights-campaign/3861696.html

Important side event on Thursday 21 September 2017: Ending Reprisals

September 19, 2017

organizes on 21 September 2017 an important side event: “Ending Reprisals: Discussion with Human Rights Defenders and Experts”. The purpose of this discussion is to contribute to the critical debate on developing and strengthening procedures to prevent and address reprisals at the UN, ensuring that the voices of defenders are at the front and centre of the discussion.

This panel coincides with the presentation of the Secretary-General’s annual report on Cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights (‘the reprisals report’) at the Council’s current session. [for some of my earlier posts on this crucial topic see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/]

Panelists: 

  • Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
  • Peggy Hicks, Director of Thematic Engagement, Special Procedures and Right to Development Division, OHCHR
  • Claudia Samayoa (UDEFEGUA), Human Rights Defender from Guatemala
  • Ellecer Carlos (iDEFEND & PAHRA), Human Rights Defender from the Philippines
  • Women human rights defender from Burundi, member of the MFFPS

Moderator:   Tess McEvoy, Legal Counsel, ISHR

(Attendance with UNOG pass only.)

Source: Invitation: Thursday 21 September, 3.00pm – Ending Reprisals: Discussion with Human Rights Defenders and Experts