Posts Tagged ‘UN Special Rapporteurs’

Emirates: one year later human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor’s whereabouts remain unknown

March 21, 2018


The authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) should reveal the whereabouts of prominent human rights defender and citizen-journalist Ahmed Mansoor and release him immediately and unconditionally, an impressive group of over twenty human rights organisations said on 20 March 2018.  This day marks one year since security forces arbitrarily arrested Mansoor, winner of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in 2015, at his home in Ajman. The UAE authorities have continued to detain him in an unknown location, despite condemnation from UN human rights experts and independent human rights organisations.

The authorities have subjected Ahmed Mansoor to enforced disappearance since his wife last saw him in September 2017. They must reveal his whereabouts to his family and grant him regular access to them and to a lawyer of his choosing.  Following his arrest on 20 March 2017, the authorities announced that he is facing speech-related charges that include using social media websites to “publish false information that harms national unity.”  On 28 March 2017, a group of UN human rights experts called on the UAE government to release Mansoor immediately, describing his arrest as “a direct attack on the legitimate work of human rights defenders in the UAE.” They said that they feared his arrest “may constitute an act of reprisal for his engagement with UN human rights mechanisms, for the views he expressed on social media, including Twitter, as well as for being an active member of human rights organisations.”  Since his arrest, Mansoor has not been allowed to make telephone calls to his family and has been allowed only two short visits with his wife, on 3 April and 17 September 2017, both under strict supervision. He was brought from an unknown place of detention to the State Security Prosecutor’s office in Abu Dhabi for both visits. The authorities have refused to inform his family about his place of detention and have ignored their requests for further visits.

In February 2018, a group of international human rights organisations commissioned two lawyers from Ireland to travel to Abu Dhabi to seek access to Mansoor. The UAE authorities gave the lawyers conflicting information about Mansoor’s whereabouts. The Interior Ministry, the official body responsible for prisons and prisoners, denied any knowledge of his whereabouts and referred the lawyers to the police. The police also said they had no information about his whereabouts. The lawyers also visited Al-Wathba Prison in Abu Dhabi following statements made by the authorities after Mansoor’s arrest, which suggested that he was held being held there. However, the prison authorities told the lawyers there was nobody matching Mansoor’s description in the prison.  Instead of protecting Mansoor, the authorities have detained him for a year with hardly any access to his family and no access to a lawyer of his choosing. Their contempt for human rights defenders and brazen disregard for their obligations under international human rights law is truly shocking. []

Background to his case is documented in the joint statement and in my earlier posts:

Mansoor is a member of GCHR’s Advisory Board and a member of the advisory committee of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division.

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain
Amnesty International
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)
Committee for the Respect of Freedoms and Human Rights in Tunisia
English PEN
Freedom Now, Morocco
Front Line Defenders
Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
Human Rights First
Human Rights Watch
International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), under the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
Maharat Foundation
Martin Ennals Foundation
Moroccan Association for Human Rights
PEN International
Reporters Without Borders
Scholars at Risk
Tunisian Association for Academic Freedoms
Tunis Center for Press Freedom
Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights
Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH)
Tunisian Organisation against Torture
Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), under the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

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.

Preview of Human Rights Defenders issues at the 2018 session of the UN Human Rights Council starting Monday

February 24, 2018

Thanks to the International Service for Human Rights I am able to give you a short overview of what issues directly relevant to human rights defenders are coming up in the 37th session of the UN Human Rights Council starting on Monday 26 February 2018. For the broader human rights view please follow the link at the end of this post.


Protection of human rights defenders working in the context of people on the move

A few days ago I posted which refers to:

– the Global Compact for Migration which States will negotiate (in an open letter sent on 21 February, High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid urged States to develop a compact that ‘explicitly recognizes and fully conforms to the existing international human rights framework as the authoritative protection agenda for all migrants’)

–  a thematic report on the situation of defenders of the rights of people on the move by the Special Rapporteur Michel Forst (read  ISHR’s detailed analysis)

– the OHCHR Principles and Practical Guidance for the protection of the Human Rights of Migrants in Vulnerable Situations (Principle 18 which states that States should ‘respect and support the activities of human rights defenders who promote and protect the human rights of migrants’)

– the Special Rapporteur on Torture’s report which is expected to focus on torture and other forms of ill-treatment in the context of migration.


During its last session, the Council adopted a resolution on reprisals. The resolution established a dedicated dialogue to address acts of intimidation and reprisals at each September Council session. Through the resolution, the Council also affirmed the particular responsibilities of its Members, President and Vice-Presidents to investigate and promote accountability for reprisals and intimidation.Reports of cases of reprisals not only continue, but grow in spite of the passage of this resolution, and the appointment of the UN Assistant Secretary General as the Senior Official on addressing Reprisals. As requested by Council Resolution 12/2, the General Debate under Item 5 of the Council is a key moment for States and civil society to raise and follow up cases of reprisals, and to push for accountability for such acts. [one of my favorite topics:]

Other key thematic report will be the one by the body working on developing a treaty on business and human rights. The open-ended inter-governmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises (known as IGWG), will present its third report to the Council. ISHR is concerned about the limited protection for human rights defenders in the current elements discussed at the last session. Any process towards drafting a business and human rights treaty should effectively prevent and respond to cases of reprisals.

Country-specific developments relating specially to HRDs:

Burundi. During the 36th session, the Council passed two resolutions on Burundi; one led by the European Union extending the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry and a second resolution by the African Group that requested OHCHR to urgently dispatch a team of three experts to engage with the Burundian authorities and all other stakeholders. Read here ISHR’s analysis of the two resolutions. At the 37th session, the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi will present an oral briefing to the Council. In addition, the High Commissioner will give an oral briefing of the Council on the mission of the OHCHR. Furthermore, the Secretary-General’s report on Burundi noted that OHCHR continued to receive allegations of serious human rights violations and abuses, primarily by the State and affiliated actors, including killings, enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment, more than 1,000 arbitrary arrests and detentions and restrictions on the freedoms of association, expression and movement. Burundi’s vice president criticised the report, suggesting that the Secretary-General has been transformed into an opposition member. ISHR and other NGOs continues to remain highly concerned about the human rights situation in Burundi and its refusal to cooperate with the Council’s mechanisms, which both clearly warrant an invitation to the General Assembly to consider the suspension of Burundi as a member of the Council. [see also:] For more information on the situation of human rights defenders in Burundi, check ISHR Briefing Paper for the UPR here.

China. Since Xi Jinping’s assumption of power in 2013, the situation for human rights defenders in China has gone from bad to worse. Five current cases illustrate the sense of impunity with which Chinese authorities trample on the rights of civil society actors. ISHR has discussed many of them in detail, but in short they include:

  • the baseless house arrest since 2010 of Liu Xia, a poet and the widow of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo;
  • the prolonged detention of rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang, who has been held incommunicado, and without charge or access to lawyers since July 9, 2015;
  • the seizure and disappearance in January 2018 of bookseller Gui Minhai, a Swedish citizen previously forcibly disappeared from Thailand in October 2015;
  • the detention and prosecution for inciting separatism of Tashi Wangchuk, a Tibetan cultural rights and education advocate; and
  • the punitive disbarment in January 2018 and, later that month, arbitrary detention of Yu Wensheng, a prominent human rights lawyer.

see also:

Other country situations:

The Council will hear reports on and is expected to consider resolutions addressing a range of country situations, in many instances involving the renewal of the relevant expert mandates and the situation of human rights defenders. They include:

  • The High Commissioner will present his reports on Guatemala, Honduras and Colombia, Afghanistan and give oral updates on the situation of human rights in Haiti, Yemen, Ukraine, Libya, Democratic Republic of Congoand Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
  • OHCHR will present its report on Cyprus and an oral update on Eritrea.
  • The Council will consider the written update of OHCHR on promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka.
  • The Council will consider the report of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria and renew its mandate.
  • The Council will consider the report of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan and the report of the Special Rapporteur on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
  • The fact-finding mission on the situation of human rights in Myanmar will present an oral update to the Council and the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar will also present her report to the Council.
  • The Council will consider the interim report of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in Iran and Cambodia.
  • The Council will hold an interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the Central African Republic.
  • The Independent Expert on Mali will present his report to the Council, who will also hold an interactive dialogue on the human rights situation in Mali.
  • The Council was intending to consider the report of the Special Rapporteur on Iran, Asma Jahangir, however due to her death, it is currently unclear whether and how the report will be considered. {see also:]

The High Commissioner will present his annual report in the last interactive dialogue of his term. Read here ISHR and other regional and international human rights organisations’ open letter to the Secretary General on the selection process of the next High Commissioner. [see also]

Universal Periodic Review (UPR): States to be reviewed

During this session the Council will adopt the UPR reports which list the recommendations the State under review is expected to implement of the following 14 countries: Czechia, Argentina, Gabon, Ghana, Peru, Guatemala, Benin, the Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Pakistan, Zambia, Japan, Ukraine and Sri Lanka. ISHR submits briefing papers regarding the situation facing human rights defenders in some States under review and advocates for the UPR to be used as mechanism to support and protect human rights defenders on the ground.

Appointment of mandate holders

The President of the Human Rights Council has proposed candidates for the following a number of vacancies of mandate holders to be filled at this session, including:

  • Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association
  • Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence
  • Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Mali


Panel discussions

During each Council session, panel discussions are held to provide member States and NGOs with opportunities to hear from subject-matter experts and raise questions. All panel discussions will be broadcast live and archived on Seven panel discussions are scheduled for this upcoming session, including:

  • The annual high-level panel discussion on human rights mainstreaming will take place on 26 February 2018 from 16:00 to 18:00. This panel will discuss the challenges and opportunities of the promotion and protection of human rights in the light of the UPR mechanism. The concept note of the panel is available here.
  • High-level panel discussion on the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action will take place on 28 February 2018 at 16:00 to 18:00. The concept note of the panel is available here.
  • Annual full-day meeting on the rights of the child will take place on 5 March 2018 from 09:00 to 11:00 and from 16:00 to 18:00. This panel will discuss the protection of the rights of the child in humanitarian situations. The concept note of the panel is available here.
  • Debate on promoting tolerance, inclusion, unity and respect for diversity in the context of combating racial discrimination will take place on 16 March 2018 at 09:00 to 11:00. This panel will be held in commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The concept note will soon be made available here.

Side events. States and NGOs are holding a series of events. You can download the list of State events here and NGO events here. I will post on some of these separately.

UN Rapporteurs urge ASEAN summit to address regional human rights concerns

November 11, 2017

Four UN human rights experts*(including Michel Forst, the Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders) have called on states to address pressing human rights issues during the 31st ASEAN Summit being held from 10-14 November in the Philippines. Recognising the important work of the many active civil society organisations across the region, the experts expressed concern about “a worrying deterioration in the environment in which they operate.

Human rights defenders, social activists, lawyers, journalists, independent media and even parliamentarians trying to speak out and protect the rights of others, increasingly face a multitude of risks ranging from judicial harassment and prosecution to threats, disappearances and killings,” said the experts. They observed rising numbers of cases of serious human rights violations affecting among others, people working on women’s rights, environmental and land issues and lawyers dealing with drug cases.

The experts called on the 10 ASEAN Member States to amend or repeal existing legislation and to reconsider draft laws that are being or could be applied to criminalize or restrict the vital work of civil society.  “We condemn the public vilification, harassment, arrests and killings of members of civil society, and call on Member States to rigorously uphold their duty to ensure the freedom and protection of those exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly,” the experts said. “Independent media, members of civil society and human rights defenders should be viewed as partners and as an essential element of democracy.


This summit should be seen as an opportunity to make real progress on these issues and to show the world that the Member States of ASEAN are fully committed to securing the human rights of all in the region,” the group said.

(*) The UN experts are: Ms. Annalisa Ciampi, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Ms. Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions;  Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders;  Ms. Yanghee Lee, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar

9 August: International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples – UN experts see increasing murder

August 8, 2017

Ahead of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on 9 August 2017, IPS publishes a statement by Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine (Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues), Albert K. Barume (chairman of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz (Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples). The group of experts warns that he world’s indigenous peoples still face huge challenges a decade after the adoption of an historic declaration on their rights. The killing of environmental defenders has been the topic of several recent reports (see e.g.










Women from Nepal’s indigenous tribe. Credit: Mallika Aryal/IPS

They state that States must put words into action to end discrimination, exclusion and lack of protection illustrated by the worsening murder rate of human rights defenders. The full text of the short statement follows here: Read the rest of this entry »

What the next session of the Human Rights Council will do with Human Rights Defenders

June 9, 2016

The UN Human Rights Council will hold its 32nd regular session at Palais des Nations in Geneva from 13 June to 1 July 2016. The Geneva-based International Service for Human Rights published its preview called “Alert to the Human Rights Council’s 32nd session”. This special issue of the ISHR Monitor is worth reading in full, but for those with special interest in human rights defenders here are some of the highlights:  Read the rest of this entry »

UN experts launch practical advice on how to implement the freedom to demonstrate

March 28, 2016

At the latest session of the Human Rights Council, States and NGOs reacted to the new compilation of advise and recommendations on how to protect the right to assembly (‘freedom to demonstrate’). UN human rights experts have launched a major new report on the proper management of assemblies. The compilation of practical recommendation, which seeks to ensure that the management of assemblies and protests comply with international law through which to apply international law, was drafted by the Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Association and Assembly (Maina Kiai) and on Extrajudicial Executions (Christoph Heyns), after a series of consultations with multiple stakeholders including civil society.

An interactive dialogue with the Rapporteurs followed the report’s presentation, and several States – including Norway, Egypt and Ireland – reiterated the responsibilities of business. Whilst a broad range of States – including Costa Rica, Turkey and Tunisia – acknowledged the report’s importance, others used their interventions to emphasise the responsibilities of protesters. In response to Russia, Botswana and Cuba amongst others, Mr Heyns was clear: ‘Rights come before responsibilities. The report does not challenge that responsibilities are an inherent component of human rights, but one must come before the other.’ Maina Kiai underlined that ‘requiring authorisation for a protest dilutes a right to a mere privilege’.

ISHR’s statement reiterated that free assembly is a vital component of a safe and enabling environment for human rights defence, and highlighted how vague laws such as the Ley de Tumulos in Guatemala, repressive clampdowns on protest such as in Gezi Park in Turkey, and the imprisonment of protesters such as the Bahrain 13 are being used to hamper the work of human rights defenders.


ISHR welcomed the report’s emphasis on the responsibilities of business. ‘We hear increasingly of abuses by private security firms against protesters, as well as strategic lawsuits against public participation brought by companies and the enactment, by States, of laws which specifically target and restrict protests against business operations,’ said ISHR’s Ben Leather. ‘States should take heed of the recommendations made in the report to reverse these trends’.

For other posts on this topic:

Source: UN experts launch practical advice on management of protests | ISHR

Preview of the upcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council

February 25, 2016

The UN Human Rights Council will hold its 31st regular session at Palais des Nations in Geneva from 29 February to 24 March 2016 (it also marks the 10th anniversary of the Human Rights Council). The International Service for Human Rights (see link at the bottom of the post) has published an Alert full of details, but I highlight here the elements that concern human rights defenders most directly:ISHR-logo-colour-high

Human rights defenders:  The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, will present his annual report to the Council on 3 March. The report focuses on good practices to promote and protect the rights of human rights defenders. Presentation of the report will be followed by a dialogue. Of significance this session is a substantive resolution that will be presented by Norway on the situation of human rights defenders. The resolution at this session of the Council follows on the heels of the resolution on human rights defenders presented at the General Assembly in November 2015. The General Assembly resolution included a number of new, important and substantive provisions, including on the vital role of advocacy and the work of defenders in contributing to sustainable development and the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights, and the responsibilities of business enterprises with respect to engaging, consulting and protecting defenders. [see also:] This latest resolution provides an opportunity to recognise the critically important work of economic, social and cultural rights defenders, and the cross-cutting challenges they face, including restrictions not only on their rights to health, food, housing, social security and work, but also on their rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly and life itself. Economic, social and cultural rights activists have been identified by current and previous Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights defenders as among the most isolated and stigmatised defenders. It is integral that the resolution recognises the role of both State and non-State actors in the protection of human rights defenders, and enjoys broad State support for strong language demanding their protection.  (On 7 March, ISHR will facilitate a side event on this topic which will be the subject of a separate post) Read the rest of this entry »

UN human rights experts welcome Iran prisoner releases, while calling for more

January 20, 2016

And while we are on groups of UN human rights experts, also on 19 January three Rapporteurs welcomed Iran’s release of four Iranian-Americans in an apparent prisoner swap with the United States, and called on Tehran to pave the way for the freeing of all remaining unlawfully detained prisoners. Read the rest of this entry »

UN rapporteurs urge France to protect fundamental freedoms while combatting terrorism

January 20, 2016

A group of five United Nations human rights experts have joined the debate in France on security. Yesterday, 19 January it warned that the current state of emergency in France and the country’s law on surveillance of electronic communications impose excessive and disproportionate restrictions on fundamental freedoms.

UN SG Ban Ki-moon pays tribute to the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November. 6 December 2015. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
As France debates the strengthening of measures in the fight against terrorism, and considers a reform of the criminal procedure, we call on the authorities to revise the provisions and possible reforms adopted to that end, to ensure they comply with international human rights law,” the UN experts said in a press statement.

In a list of concerns to the French Government, the independent experts stressed a lack of clarity and precision on provisions regarding several state of emergency and surveillance laws that relate to the legitimate rights of privacy and freedoms – of expression, peaceful assembly and association.

To guarantee the rule of law and prevent arbitrary procedures, the experts recommended the adoption of prior judicial controls over anti-terrorism measures. Since the recent terrorist attacks in France, the state of emergency law in force, which temporarily expands the executive powers in the fight against terrorism, only allows judicial review a posteriori.

The UN experts also noted that the November 2015 law on surveillance of international electronic communications expands the executive power over the collection, analysis and storage of communications content or metadata – without requiring prior authorization or judicial review.

The UN experts also expressed alarm that environmental activists in France have been under house arrest in connection with the state of emergency invoked following the November attacks. “These measures do not seem to adjust to the fundamental principles of necessity and proportionality,” they said, highlighting the risks faced by fundamental freedoms in the fight against terrorism.

Calling on France not to extend the state of emergency beyond 26 February 2016, they said, that: “While exceptional measures may be required under exceptional circumstances, this does not relieve the authorities from demonstrating that these are applied solely for the purposes for which they were prescribed, and are directly related to the specific objective that inspired them.”

The independent experts – David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression; Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Ben Emmerson, Special Rapporteur on the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; and Joseph Cannataci, Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy – expressed their solidarity and deepest sympathy to the victims of the terrorist attacks committed in France and many other places in the world.

Source: United Nations News Centre – UN experts urge France to protect fundamental freedoms while combatting terrorism