Posts Tagged ‘UN Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders’

Human Rights NGOs in Europe no longer the standard to follow!

January 27, 2018

In January 2018 the EU Fundamental Rights Agcncy (FRA) published a Report “Challenges facing civil society organisations working on human rights in the EU“. Its conclusion is that the situation is getting more difficult. Also, on 26 January 2018, the Thomson Reuters Foundation published an interview with Michel Forst, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders said that the EU are setting a bad example by allowing some of its members to stifle human rights groups, which is encouraging crackdowns elsewhere in the world.

In the interview done by Umberto Bacchi, Michel Forst said that the EU has historically done a good job supporting and protecting rights advocates worldwide but the bloc’s authority is now being undermined from within. Officials in Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Israel and other countries pointed at recent laws in Hungary and Poland to justify their own regulations which may curb the independence of non-governmental organisations.

There is a need for European countries to be more coherent … not to teach human rights outside of Europe and then not respecting human rights inside Europe,” said Forst, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders. Charities in dozens of countries, from Angola to India and Tajikistan have faced restrictions targeting their funding and operations over the past two years, according to an EU report. The trend is part of a global backlash on civil society that has seen rights activists in some parts of the world criminalised or branded as troublemakers, Forst stated.

Last year, Hungary introduced a measure requiring NGOs that get money from abroad to register with the state, a bill that NGOs say stigmatizes them and is intended to stifle independent voices. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/06/13/human-rights-defenders-in-hungary-not-yet-foreign-agents-but-getting-close/]. Poland instead introduced legislation to set up a centralised authority controlling charities’ funding. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/02/backsliding-on-civic-space-in-democracies-important-side-event-on-3-march-in-geneva/%5D. As countermeasure, the EU should boost direct funding of rights groups operating within its borders, Forst said. “What is absurd for me is that the EU is funding organisations in Latin America, in Africa – which is good – but there is no more funding for EU NGOs,” he said. Money should be allocated from a dedicated fund and not channelled through governments, he said.

Besides Europe, Forst also singled out Australia for its treatment of asylum seekers held in offshore camps, adding it was “not a safe place” for human rights defenders due to pressure from the government. A December report by Pro Bono Australia and the Human Rights Law Centre, two rights groups, found Australian NGOs were often pressured into “self-silencing” their advocacy work fearing funding cuts and political retribution.

(Global civil society) space is shrinking because it is shrinking in Europe, because it is shrinking in the Americas, in Australia,” said Forst.

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The FRA’s report finds that civil society organisations in the European Union play a crucial role in promoting fundamental rights, but it has become harder for them to do so – due to both legal and practical restrictions. This report looks at the different types and patterns of challenges faced by civil society organisations working on human rights in the EU. While challenges exist in all EU Member States, their exact nature and extent vary. Data and research on this issue – including comparative research – are generally lacking. The report also highlights promising practices that can counteract these worrying patterns.

Happy New Year – that 2016 may be a better year for human rights defenders

December 31, 2015

For  a blog on Human Rights Defenders there is no better way to wish all my readers a happy new year than by referring you to the first electronic Newsletter produced by Michel Forst, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders:

For this first newsletter, he would like to share  three messages with which I whole heartedly agree: 

  1. an alarm call  (as I feel extremely worried about the situation of those who seek to promote and defend our fundamental rights. While I am writing these words, numerous defenders are in danger in Burundi, Bahrain and in many other countries across the globe. In front of States that despise their own international commitments and firms that seem to have profits as a unique goal, the courageous people who take a stand to defend our rights and freedoms need more than ever our protection and recognition.}
  2. message of hope. {It is true that civil society has never seemed so visible and determined. In every meeting I held this year, I could see courageous women and men speaking up and dedicating their lives to fight against injustice and barbarism. Throughout the year, we have witnessed an unprecedented number of attacks and threats and I would like to celebrate once more the action of these countless ordinary people who defend human rights, sometimes at the expenses of their own lives.}
  3. a call to action. {It is in our hands to make human rights defenders’ work more visible to the rest of the society. It is in our hands to prove that promoting and defending rights are essential to democracy and the rule of law. We all have a role to play in protecting rights defenders whether promoting their struggles or giving them our unconditional support.)

I wish you a happy 2016                                                                                                  

Source: Newsletter #1

UN Rapporteurs urge end to harassment of human rights defenders in Occupied Palestinian Territory

December 19, 2015

 

UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst. Photo: MINUSTAH

Gravely concerned at continued reports that human rights defenders in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in Hebron, are being subjected to physical attacks and death threats, United Nations independent experts denounced on 18 December 2015 such harassment as “unacceptable” and called for it to end immediately. Human rights defenders have been subjected to physical attacks, harassment, arrest and detention, and death threats, in an apparent bid by Israeli authorities and settler elements to stop their peaceful and important work.

Amidst a charged and violent atmosphere over past months in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Palestinian and international defenders are providing a ‘protective presence’ for Palestinians at risk of violence, and documenting human rights violations,” said UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst.

Earlier this month, a group of UN human rights experts urged the Israeli Government to ensure a protective environment where human rights defenders in the Occupied Palestinian Territory can work without unlawful restriction and without fear of retaliatory acts.

We recently addressed concerns to the Israeli Government regarding retaliatory acts by Israeli authorities against members of one organisation based in Hebron, Youth Against Settlements, after its Centre was subjected to raids and settlers allegedly called for it to be closed,” noted the UN Special Rapporteur the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Makarim Wibisono. He noted that the Centre has now effectively been shut down as a result of the Israeli military declaring the surrounding area a military zone. “We urge Israeli authorities to lift this military order”.


Source: United Nations News Centre – UN experts urge end to harassment of human rights defenders in Occupied Palestinian Territory

The top 5 human rights posts in 2014 of the ISHR

January 12, 2015

On 26 December 2014, the Geneva-based International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) reported that the following posts were the most visited on its website in 2014:

  1. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights adopts a landmark resolution condemning violence and calling for an end to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, perhaps marking a turning of the tide against anachronistic laws across the continent which criminalise homosexuality and even the advocacy of LGBT rights: http://www.ishr.ch/news/african-commission-adopts-landmark-resolution-lg…
  2. The UN Human Rights Council adopts a crucial resolution on the protection of human rights defenders, calling on States to enact laws and policies to support and enable their work. The resolution also renews the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders for a term of three years: http://www.ishr.ch/news/un-human-rights-council-adopts-crucial-resolutio…
  3. Human rights advocates from around the world take a stand at the UN Human Rights Council, calling on Chinese authorities to be investigated and held accountable for the death of detained human rights defender Cao Shunli: http://www.ishr.ch/news/china-interrupts-moment-silence-cao-shunli-un-hu…
  4. ISHR releases a new film on the human cost of intimidation and reprisals against those who cooperate with the UN: http://www.ishr.ch/news/new-video-reprisals-human-cost-cooperating-unite…
  5. What are the characteristics and strategies of the most successful human rights campaigns? In a guest opinion piece, Jo Becker of Human Rights Watch examines some of the most significant international human rights campaigns over the last decade to identify the secrets of success: http://www.ishr.ch/news/jo-becker-5-ways-successful-human-rights-campaign

The main topics are linked to the question of reprisals and bring to the fore the importance of the ISHR in linking to the international and regional fora.ISHR-logo-colour-high

Top 5 human rights posts for 2014 | ISHR.

Protection International Focuses on national protection mechanisms

December 3, 2014

Protection Int'I_logo_final_vertical_72dpiBrussels-based Protection International‘s Focus Report  provides detailed monitoring of developments in the field of national public policy on the protection of Human Rights Defenders. This year’s edition of Focus highlights the renewed interest in adopting legal instruments for the protection if HRDs in Latin America (in Honduras and Guatemala) and in Sub-Saharan Africa (in Côte d’Ivoire, Burundi and Mali).

The report (second year running) draws attention to the recent publication of guidelines on the protection of HRDs by OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). The work of several Latin American civil society organisations (CSOs) that have presented cases concerning murdered HRDs before the regional mechanisms has been of great value. These efforts have led to the development of jurisprudence by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Finally, this edition includes contributions by external collaborators:

  • the Preface, prepared by Michel Forst, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders;
  • an analysis of advances in the field of protection in the Americas, by Jesús Orozco H., President of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) and Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders;
  • an overview of the topic in Africa by Reine Alapini Gansou, the Commissioner and Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders of the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR); and
  • contributions by representatives of local CSOs in Mexico, Colombia and Brazil, countries that have pioneered the effective implementation of public policies for the protection of HRDs.
  • PI hopes to enrich the discussions on the adoption of appropriate policies in countries where they do not exist and to help authorities and civil society organisations implement them where they do.

For last year’s report: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/protection-international-publishes-focus-report-2013-on-policies-concerning-human-rights-defenders/

Focus 2014 Report:  http://files.flipsnack.com/ /embed.html?hash=fd152nkz0&wmode=window&bgcolor=EEEEEE&t=14174580301417458119

The Anna Lindh Lecture 2014 focused on human rights defenders

October 27, 2014

On 23 October former UN Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, gave the Anna Lindh Lecture 2014 under the title: “Providing a safe and enabling environment for Human Rights Defenders: Critical factors to Consider”. This was done in the context of the 30th anniversary of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute in Lund, Sweden.

The full text is available: http://rwi.lu.se/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/AL-Sekaggya-2014.pdf

Who should be the new UN Rapporteur for Human Rights Defenders? Ravindran is my choice.

December 14, 2013

A number of protection mechanisms exist at the international, regional and national levels for the protection of Human Rights Defenders at risk. The Special Rapporteur at UN level is the prime example. We have been very fortunate with the first two mandate holders (Hina Jilani and Margaret Sekaggya) and it is crucial to ensure that the next Rapporteur in April 2014 will be of the same caliber. While in Geneva last week I came across Ravindran Daniel a human rights lawyer from India with whom I worked together in the International Commission of Jurists a long time ago. He told me – with his usual modesty – that he is a candidate for the post of HRD rapporteur. He may not have a big lobby machinery to support him but I think he should be seriously considered. Here a bit more about his impressive background. Please spread the word. Read the rest of this entry »

And a lot more about Werner Lottje: the great German human rights defender

November 16, 2013

In the presence of the UN Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, the MEA Laureates of 2013: the Joint Mobile Group, the family of Werner Lottje (his wife Margit and the children) and some 90 other participants we had on 13 November 2013 the first WERNER LOTTJE LECTURE in Berlin. It was an impressive affair and the organisers, Bread for the World and the German Institute for Human Rights, can look back on a successful launch of this annual event. There were many good tributes to Werner’s life and contribution. Igor Kalyapin of the JMG explained the terrible conditions under which his team has to operate in Russia and Margaret Sekaggya concluded with a wide-ranging overview of obstacles that HRDs all over the world face. A short, impressive film brought the person of Werner to life.

Here I am providing you the full text my own speech on this occasion, not only because I have it handy but because it concerns mostly the international part of his work:

Thinking outside the box – Werner Lottje as an international networker”

Read the rest of this entry »

UN expert body urges action to prevent violation of indigenous rights due to business

October 30, 2013


(Indigenous people in Totonicapán, Guatemala. Photo: OHCHR/Rolando Alfaro)

Yesterday’s post about the G.A. report of UN Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders pointing to the pressure on environmental HRDs, is followed immediately by another on a similar topic: on 28 October 2013 the ‘UN Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises‘ made its report to the General Assembly and concludes that States and corporations need to do more to prevent the violation of indigenous peoples’ rights as a result of business-related activities.