Posts Tagged ‘UN’

Complaint against Qatar National Human Rights Commission rejected

August 21, 2017

Perhaps a bit of a side-show in the ongoing conflict between Qatar and it Arab neighbors, but interesting to note that the International Accreditation Committee of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions has rejected the complaint submitted by the ‘siege countries’ against the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC). The International Accreditation Committee has underlined that, since the beginning of the Gulf crisis, the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) had played its part in the protection and promotion of human rights in accordance with the Paris Principles that govern the work of national human rights institutions. [the countries had filed a joint complaint on 7 August 2017 against the National Human Rights Committee at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights as the secretariat of the International Accreditation Committee, and also as a permanent observer to the Accreditation Committee of the Alliance. In their complaint to the Accreditation Committee, the siege countries requested that appropriate action be taken to freeze the membership of the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) in the list of national human rights institutions, and called for a reclassification of the Committee’s A rank and downgrade and review of all activities of the NHRC before and during the crisis to consider it conformity with its mandate in accordance with the Paris Principles.]

In a press statement, the Chairman of the Qatari National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) Dr. Ali bin Smaikh Al Marri said this decision is a remedy for the human rights victims of the siege and support for their cause, and a victory not only for the NHRC but also for all national human rights institutions and human rights defenders in the world, as well as a testimony of pride for the NHRC , and an affirmation of its independence and the credibility of its work. ….Dr Al Marri also called on civil society organizations in the siege countries to cooperate with the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) in addressing the violations and the disastrous humanitarian situation facing the citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries (GCC) as a result of the siege, especially on mixed families, affected students, owners and investors, as well as the neutralization of human rights of any political differences. Dr Al Marri stressed that the NHRC is continuing its work against the violations resulting from the siege and will intensify its efforts at regional and international forums to redress the victims within the framework of its jurisdiction and in accordance with the Paris Principles.

Source:

Siege nations’ complaint against NHRC rejected – The Peninsula Qatar

https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/06/12/nchr-calls-respect-qatari-residents-rights-amid-diplomatic-tensions/

Putting the ‘record straight’ on the UN Human Rights Council

June 19, 2017

Earlier this month I referred to a speech by Ms Haley about the USA considering withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/07/us-ambassador-nikki-haley-on-what-has-to-change-in-the-un-human-rights-council/]. A lot has been written about this but a good, concise piece was in the Economist of 3 June 2017. In particular getting the ‘facts’ right about the relative improvements in recent years:

..Yet the council is a lot better than the commission was, and is still improving. The most important difference is the system of “universal periodic reviews” that all members of the UN are subjected to, at a rate of about 40 a year. The number of special rapporteurs, most of them truly independent, has risen, too. Since 2011 there have been investigations into human-rights abuses in Burundi, the Central African Republic, Eritrea, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Libya and North Korea, as well as Gaza. The council has steadfastly monitored the horrors in Syria and played a helpful role in Myanmar, Colombia and (after a poor start) Sri Lanka.

The disproportionate focus on Israel is lessening. From 2010 to 2016 only one special session was held on Israel/Palestine, down from six in the previous four years, says the council’s spokesman. The share of time spent on Item 7 has halved, to 8%.

The quality of members may improve, too, as regional groups are a bit less willing to shield their own. Last year Russia lost its seat, receiving 32 votes fewer than Hungary, and two fewer than Croatia. In the past few years Belarus, Iran, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Syria have failed to be elected or have withdrawn their candidacies. None of the nine worst human-rights offenders, as ranked by Freedom House, a Washington-based NGO, (Syria, Eritrea, North Korea, Uzbekistan, South Sudan, Turkmenistan, Somalia, Sudan and Equatorial Guinea) has ever been elected to the council. In a telling moment in 2014, a forcefully critical resolution on Sri Lanka was passed.

Things started to change in 2010, says Marc Limon, a British former official in the council, who now heads the Universal Rights Group, a Geneva-based think-tank, when a clutch of independent-minded countries, including Mauritius, Mexico and Morocco, began to vote more freely, often for American-backed resolutions. Before then, members of the 57-strong Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) and the African Group (whose members often overlapped and later reconfigured as the Like-Minded Group) “virtually controlled the council”, he says. Anti-Westerners have recently been defeated or forced to compromise on several issues. A resolution to exempt blasphemy from free-speech protections was fended off against the wishes of the Like-Minded. The same group failed to block a resolution to appoint an independent expert to investigate discrimination against gay and transgender people.

American diplomacy under Barack Obama was a big reason for the shift….

Source: The UN Human Rights Council will be weaker if America leaves

Nine Things Everyone Needs To Know About International LGBTI Rights

May 21, 2017

17 May 2017 was the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT). It was created in 2004 to raise awareness about the violence and discrimination experienced by LGBTI people internationally. The date of May 17 was chosen specifically to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. The Advocates Post lists 9 things that are useful to remember such as:

  1. Internationally, the acronyms LGBT and LGBTI (standing for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex”) are the most commonly used terms.
  2. SOGI stands for “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.”
  3. Private, consensual same-sex conduct is a crime in at least 76 countries. Because of these discriminatory laws, millions of LGBTI persons around the world face the risk of arrest, prosecution and imprisonment every day. And in as many as 10 countries, same-sex acts can be punished with the death penalty.
  4. LGBTI people and rights are not a Western export. LGBTI people exist everywhere — in all countries, among all ethnic groups, at all socioeconomic levels, and in all communities. Further, global archeological and anthropological evidence — from prehistoric rock paintings in South Africa and Egypt to ancient Indian medical texts and early Ottoman literature — show that LGBTI people have always been a part of our communities. In fact in many parts of the world, it was Western colonial powers that imposed the criminal laws that punish same-sex conduct. You can click on an interactive map…
  5. Some countries are passing “gay propaganda” laws and other discriminatory laws that limit the rights to free speech, freedom of association, and assembly. E.g. in 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law Federal Law 135, banning propaganda to minors about “non-traditional sexual relations.” Article 3(2)(b) of Federal Law 135 imposes administrative fines and, in the case of non-citizens, deportation….
  6. LGBTI persons around the world experience widespread violence.
  7. LGBTI persons around the world experience discriminatory treatment every day, in workplaces, schools, family homes, and health care settings.
  8. International law protects LGBTI rights. The right to equality and non-discrimination are core human rights principles included in the United Nations Charter, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and all multilateral human rights treaties. The equality and non-discrimination guarantee provided by international human rights law applies to ALL people, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity or “other status.” According to the United Nations, governments have core legal obligations to protect the human rights of LGBT people………
  9. Everyone can take action to support LGBTI rights. 17 May turns out to be the single most important annual date for global LGBTI mobilization and awareness raising. Research has shown that 17% of all annual discussions on Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia are generated around this day. A few day late this post wants to add to that.

Source: Nine Things Everyone Needs To Know About International LGBTI Rights – The Advocates Post

US pushes for ‘historic’ human rights debate at Security Council but achieves little

April 20, 2017

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, with Liu Jieyi, China’s ambassador, before the April 18 Security Council meeting. Rick Bajornas/UN Photo

The United States led on Tuesday 18 April what it (and not many others) dubbed a ‘historicU.N. Security Council meeting on the link between rights abuses and conflict, but it had to drop a push for the broad issue of human rights to become a fixed item of the Security Council’s agenda when it appeared that at least six members would oppose it [Russia, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan and Bolivia were against the move and Senegal’s support was uncertain]. The United States, council president for April, did not risk the measure being put to a rare procedural vote, which requires nine in favour, and vetoes cannot be used. The opposing council members say rights discussion should be confined to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council – which Washington accuses of being anti-Israel and has threatened to quit – and the 193-member U.N. General Assembly third committee. Here is some of the analysis:

Read the rest of this entry »

UN archive on North Korean human rights violations to be established in Geneva

April 8, 2017

The 34th regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, 2017

An archive of information and evidence on human rights abuses by the North Korean regime is to be established in Geneva. Quoting a report by the UN Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts (OPPBA), VOA explained that the independent archive, to be created in accordance with a North Korean human resolution adopted by the 34th UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), will be established in physically distant Geneva for the security and total confidentiality of sensitive information.The OPPBA was also quoted as saying a legal officer with at least seven years of experience would be needed to integrate and preserve information and evidence in connection with the archive’s establishment at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva, along with another information management officer with at least five years of experience to conduct practical affairs. It also said its UN human rights office in Seoul would require three staffers: one international criminal system expert, one expert in South Korean criminal law, and one expert in interpreting for South Korean law. On 24 March 2017, the UNHRC adopted a North Korean resolution by non-voting agreement that recommends the international community’s cooperation in investigating responsibility in connection with the findings of a Commission of Inquiry (COI) report on crimes against humanity by the North Korean regime.The resolution suggested specific procedures and methods over the next two years for assigning responsibility for North Korea’s human rights abuses, including boosting the capabilities of the North Korean human rights office and OHCHR, establishing the archive, and appointing legal experts to collect and preserve information and evidence needed for procedures in investigating responsibility.

see also https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/02/20/north-korea-the-un-report-in-images/

Source: UN archive on N. Korean human rights abuses to be established in Geneva : North Korea : News : The Hankyoreh

Louise Arbour of Canada appointed Special Representative for International Migration

March 13, 2017

On 9 March 2017 the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, announced the appointment of Louise Arbour of Canada as his Special Representative for International Migration. The Special Representative will lead the follow-up to the 19 September 2016 High-level Summit on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants.  Ms. Arbour will work with Member States, in partnership with other stakeholders, as they develop a first-ever global compact on safe, orderly and regular migration.  She will lead United Nations advocacy efforts on international migration, provide policy advice and coordinate the engagement of United Nations entities on migration issues, particularly in implementing the migration-related components of the New York Declaration.  She previously served as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and as Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.  She is a former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and of the Court of Appeal for Ontario.  From 2009 to 2014, Ms. Arbour was President and CEO of the International Crisis Group.

Louise Arbour Walk of Fame 20150608

Louise Arbour smiles after having her star unveiled on Canada’s Walk of Fame in Toronto on 8 June, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese (Canadian Press).

Talking about refugees, please note that the Sergio Vieira de Mello Lecture by Angelina Jolie on 15 March [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/27/angelina-jolie-gives-2017-sergio-vieira-de-mello-lecture-on-15-march-2017/] is ‘sold out’, but it will be streamed live on UN TV and UNHCR’s Facebook.

Sources:

Secretary-General Appoints Louise Arbour of Canada Special Representative for International Migration | Meetings Coverage and Press Releases

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thehouse/first-ottawa-visit-by-trump-cabinet-member-focuses-on-security-border-1.4015295

UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders wraps up his first mandate

February 22, 2017

The UN Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst, has published his report (A/HRC/34/52) which covers the period of his first mandate:June 2014 and March 2017 [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/mmichel-forst-2015-hrd-rapporteurichel-forst/  ].

In his report Michel Forst, provides a detailed summary of the activities he carried out during his first mandate, including statistics and trends based on the communications that he sent to States, his visits to a number of countries, the dialogues established with the authorities of various States, and the close cooperation developed with key stakeholders in the protection of human rights worldwide. The Special Rapporteur also presents the work in progress and the challenges and issues on which he plans to focus during his next mandate. The report includes suggestions for diversifying working methods, broadening the scope of cooperation with other key actors, and enhancing the visibility and accessibility of his mandate. Human rights defenders and the promotion of their work and their protection will remain at the core of the Special Rapporteur’s work.

After spending the past three years travelling around the world and documenting the situation of human rights defenders, the Special Rapporteur is more appalled than ever to see attacks against them multiplying everywhere, assailing bloggers, indigenous peoples, journalists, community leaders, whistle-blowers and community volunteers. Furthermore, the Special Rapporteur has become convinced that the incidents in question are not isolated acts but concerted attacks against those who try to embody the ideal of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in a world free from fear and want. The Special Rapporteur is concerned by the lack of response to observations that have been made repeatedly since the establishment of the mandate.

We must be bolder and more creative in order to face up to threats that weigh heavily on civil society as a whole and on every individual fighting for fundamental rights and freedoms. The Special Rapporteur has also noted that intolerance thrives in part because people know little about their rights or the role of those who protect them. In that regard, it is more vital than ever to make the language of human rights accessible to all in order to ensure that civil society continues to enforce accountability.

As defenders face unprecedented attacks intended to undermine the legitimacy, credibility and sincerity of their commitment, it seems essential to quickly establish links between the specific actions undertaken by the Special Rapporteur and the pledges made at the United Nations when he was appointed in 2014. As populist, nationalist and fundamentalist movements of all kinds multiply, the Special Rapporteur remains convinced that more can be done under his mandate and that his office must continue to serve as a watchdog, a warning mechanism and a crucial resource for thousands of people. [Here he echoes sentiments expressed by others and referred to in this blog, see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/12/we-must-find-new-ways-to-protect-human-rights-defenders-and-to-counter-the-anti-human-rights-mood/ and the links to other such articles at the end of the post]

The report also identifies those areas in which, in view of the possible renewal of his mandate, the Special Rapporteur intends to become more involved so that his work remains relevant and responds as effectively as possible to defenders’ expectations.

I refer as source here not directly to the UN but draw attention to an excellent documentary service provided by RELIEFWEB:

Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders (A/HRC/34/52) – World | ReliefWeb

2017 (7): Trump’s first orders to cut global funding and treaties

January 26, 2017

The ‘ink’ of my previous post [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/26/2017-6-predictions-on-trump-and-the-un-prophets-or-cassandras/] has hardly dried and I see the piece written by Max Fisher in the New York Times of 25 January 2017 that states that the latest draft orders suggest that President Trump intends to pursue his campaign promises of withdrawing the United States from international organizations: Read the rest of this entry »

2017 (6): predictions on Trump and the UN – prophets or Cassandras?

January 26, 2017

The U.N. Human Rights Chief Fixes for a Fight with Trump

Photo credit: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

Already on 22 November 2016 Colum Lynch posted in “Foreign Policy” an insightful piece entitled: “The U.N. Human Rights Chief Fixes for a Fight with Trump”.  It records the thinking of senior UN staff and NGO leaders who are going to confront a Donald Trump with a hard-line national security team. They fear that a Trump presidency could spur a global retreat from international human rights principles, marking the dawn of American leadership (see long extracts from the piece below) on green. Now – on 26 January 2017 – Daniel Warner in his weekly blog in the Tribune de Geneve wrote a post entitled: “The U.N., Trump and Cassandra” in which he reports that a bill was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives on January 3 calling for the total disengagement of the United States from the United Nations. The bill, H.R. 193 – known as American Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2017 – has been referred for deliberations to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The bill – tried before in 2015 – may not pass, but the writer fears it reflects the tenor of the current Trump administration. See his words below marked in blue.

—-

The U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, informed his staff in the weeks following the U.S. election that they will have to serve as the front line in an international effort to check any excesses on the human rights front. A chief concern, officials say, is that if the U.N. doesn’t call out its most powerful member for straying from universally accepted human rights norms, the rest of the world will be emboldened to ditch them. “We are going to speak up,” one U.N. official told Foreign Policy. “It’ll be rough, but if [Trump] puts any of those ghastly campaign pledges into action we will condemn.”

…..Still, Trump’s campaign pledged to restore waterboarding, deport millions of undocumented migrants, and ban Muslims from traveling to the United States. …

The U.N.’s approach to human rights is particularly tricky for the incoming U.N. secretary-general, António Guterres, a former Portuguese prime minister who headed the U.N. refugee agency for nearly 10 years. Guterres has been an outspoken champion of refugees, pressing European governments, as well as the United States, to resettle far larger numbers of refugees. Two weeks after Trump called for his ban on Muslims last December, Guterres admonished the Security Council, saying, “Those that reject Syrian refugees because they are Muslims are the best allies in the recruitment propaganda of extremist groups.” But Guterres may be constrained as the leader of the United Nations, a job that requires a close relationship with the United States and other big powers. ……

That makes it likely that Zeid will take the lead on human rights. Throughout the U.S. presidential campaign, Zeid, a Muslim prince from the Jordanian royal family, has repeatedly excoriated Trump, telling reporters in December that his threat to ban Muslim travel to the United States is “grossly irresponsible.” In September, Zeid included Trump, along with France’s Marine Le Pen and Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders, on a list of “populists, demagogues, and political fantasists” who promoted their arguments grounded in “half truths and oversimplification.” [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/14/un-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-states-may-shut-my-office-out-but-they-will-not-shut-us-up/]

Some U.N. officials say Zeid’s criticism of the U.N.’s most powerful country could strengthen his hand in disputes with other U.N. members, particularly those from the developing world who have long accused the United Nations of applying greater pressure on small powers for breaching human rights norms, while letting the United States and other big powers off the hook. Other U.N. officials fear that Zeid may be exposing the organization to a battle with the U.N.’s most powerful players that he can’t win. In September, Russia’s U.N. ambassador Vitaly Churkin formally protested Zeid’s public denunciations of Trump and other European nationalists. “Prince Zeid is overstepping his limits from time to time, and we’re unhappy about it,” Churkin told The Associated Press.

More recently, Zeid tangled with China over his attendance at a ceremony for the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, which honored a Uighur economist, Ilham Tohti, who is serving a life sentence on charges of fomenting separatism and violence. A senior Chinese official appealed to Zeid not to attend the event, according to a U.N. official. But Zeid refused, insisting that he had an independent mandate to shed light on human rights violations wherever they occur, including China.

Even before Trump’s election, U.N. officials believed that human rights were under threat from authoritarian governments, including China, Egypt, Russia, and Turkey, which have been engaged in major crackdowns on civil liberties at home. “They are backsliding on human rights, but from a position of weakness,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of the New York City-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch. “Both [Vladimir] Putin and Xi Jinping are engaging in the worst crackdowns in their countries in two decades, each driven by the terror as to how their countries will react to a weakening economy; they’re trying to snuff out in advance opposition they anticipate.”

Roth said there is a real danger that Trump and other populist leaders will accelerate the curtailment of human rights. “The entire human rights movement is weary about Trump,” he said. “It’s not clear what his values are. That is why his initial appointees are so important.” Dimitris Christopoulos, president of the International Federation for Human Rights, fears Trump’s controversial positions, including torture and deportation, would embolden smaller countries. When big powers, particularly the United States, tread on human rights the world tends to follow. If smaller countries, such as Burundi and Kenya, hear Trump threatening to cast out foreign refugees they may choose to act in kind, Christopoulos said. Saudi Arabia threatened this year to cut funding to U.N. relief programs and to lead a walkout by Muslim states from the United Nations if the U.N. didn’t lift its name from a list of countries that killed or maimed children in armed conflict, according to a senior U.N. official. In its defense, Saudi officials noted that the United States had shielded its closest Middle East ally, Israel, from being included on the same list in 2015. It was only fair, therefore, that Riyadh be spared the shame of being included on the list...

Rights advocates say the rising tide of nationalism and populism in Europe and the United States represents a potentially existential threat to the human rights movement, as governments that once championed the cause on the international stage head into retreat. Britain’s new prime minister, Theresa May, has railed against “left-wing human rights lawyers” who are seeking the prosecution of British soldiers alleged to have committed war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. She has proposed that London withdraw from key provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights that potentially expose British troops to prosecution. A generation of European nationalist leaders, including Le Pen and Wilders, who had been on the fringe of the European political spectrum, have seen their electoral prospects grow in the face of spreading anti-immigrant sentiment. That has left German Chancellor Angela Merkel as one of the “only outspoken leaders on human rights,” Roth said. In her first statement following Trump’s election, Merkel said she would work closely with Trump, but only on the basis of “democracy, freedom, respect for the rule of law, and the dignity of men regardless of origin, skin color, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.”

———-

Daniel Warner further wrote: Fervent supporter of H.R. 193 and prominent Republican Rand Paul (Rep-KY) said in 2015: “I dislike paying for something that two-bit Third World countries with no freedom attack us and complain about the United States… There’s a lot of reasons why I don’t like the U.N., and I think I’d be happy to dissolve it,” added the Kentucky senator. Or, as John Bolton, once U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and now being considered for the number two spot in the State Department famously said: “There’s no such thing as the United Nations. The Secretariat building in New York has 38 stories. If it lost ten stories it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.”
This time, following the election of Donald Trump and the U.S. abstention on a Security Council resolution to condemn the continued construction of illegal Israeli settlements, the bill has a better chance. The mood in Washington of “America First” will try to repeal all multilateral agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the North American Free Trade Agreement as well as weakening multilateral organizations like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Does the introduction of the bill matter? For International Geneva, it certainly does. While the United States might not withdraw from the U.N., the negative attitude of the current administration towards multilateralism and multilateral organizations will have obvious negative consequences for Geneva, sometimes called “The Rome of Multilateralism.” Even with U.S. participation, the international system will lack United States leadership during the Trump presidency. The visit of the Chinese President to the U.N. Office in Geneva and his speech at Davos were clear signs of shifting multilateral leadership.
I heard a comment from someone within the Washington bureaucracy that gives some hope.  Her feeling was that career civil servants will slow down if not block radical changes in U.S. foreign policy. The slow wheels of government will crush any unilateral attempts by the Trump leadership. The ship of state will carry on with deep divisions between the political appointments and career civil servants. This would be an indirect check on the incoming politicians.
On January 21, one day after Trump’s inauguration, millions marched against the Trump presidency throughout the United States. Millions more marched around the world for women’s dignity and many against Donald Trump as well. Will anyone march to save multilateralism and the U.N?

——

Sources:

The U.N. Human Rights Chief Fixes for a Fight with Trump | Foreign Policy

The U.N., Trump and Cassandra : Le blog de Daniel Warner

see also:

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/23/2017-4-canadas-year-of-real-human-rights-action/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/24/2017-5-with-trump-us-president-sweden-must-stand-up-for-human-rights/

Canada joins select group of Governments with Guidelines on human rights defenders

December 13, 2016

On 7 December 2016 the Government of Canada published Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders. It joins a limited number of Governments with a specific policy on human rights defenders (not just human rights in general) such as Norway, the Netherlands, Ireland, Switzerland and Austria, although they differ a bit in the degree of detail. And there are of course the EU Guidelines.[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2012/01/13/quick-reminder-of-the-eu-guidelines-on-human-rights-defenders/] and those of the OSCE: Read the rest of this entry »