Posts Tagged ‘UN’

Human Rights High Commissioner Bachelet urges support for environmental defenders

March 2, 2022
United Nations
Protect the defenders of the planet, UN rights chief urges
Poyowari Piyãko, a young activist, poses in his home in the Apiwtxa village, which belongs to the Ashaninka indigenous people, in northern Brazil.

Poyowari Piyãko, a young activist, poses in his home in the Apiwtxa village, which belongs to the Ashaninka indigenous people, in northern Brazil. © UNICEF/Alécio Cézar

The world must be made a safer place for people working to protect the planet, who sometimes pay with their own lives for their activism, UN Human Rights High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said on Tuesday 1 March 2022.  Protecting the environment goes hand-in-hand with protecting the rights of those who defend it, she told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, which is holding its annual month-long session. 

Ms. Bachelet revealed how speaking out and standing up for environmental rights can come at enormous cost as activists have been killed or subjected to abuse, threats and harassment.   

At particular risk are people who speak out against deforestation, extractives, loss of cultural heritage or identity, or large scale-agribusinesses and development projects – including those intended to produce clean energy, such as mega dams,she said.  Many environmental human rights defenders are also indigenous peoples, or members of local communities or minority groups – or those representing them.   Berta Caceres, an environmental activist from Honduras, was assassinated in March 2016.  She was recognized posthumously as a UN Champion of the Earth laureate for her tireless campaign for the rights of indigenous people.

Berta Caceres, an environmental activist from Honduras, was assassinated in March 2016. She was recognized posthumously as a UN Champion of the Earth laureate for her tireless campaign for the rights of indigenous people. © UNEP

She said entire communities may face threats and intimidation when someone speaks out on their behalf.  Ms. Bachelet underlined that States have an obligation to respect and protect the rights of environmental human rights defenders, and the communities they represent.  Authorities must also prevent and ensure accountability for attacks.  These actions are in line with a Council resolution adopted last year which upholds the right to a healthy environment, she said.  See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/10/26/aarhus-convention-gets-new-mechanism-to-protect-environmental-defenders/ and

“In addition, it is critical that States effectively regulate businesses and hold them accountable for human rights violations,” she said, while corporations also have a similar duty, as outlined in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

Ms. Bachelet advised that prior to undertaking any climate project, both governments and businesses must carry out human rights risk assessments.  

If indigenous peoples’ rights are at risk of being adversely affected by such projects, it is crucial that their free, prior and informed consent is obtained,” she said. 

The UN rights chief also reported on some of the global work of her staff.  “All around the world, my Office is committed to supporting States, businesses and environmental human rights defenders in all of their efforts to protect our planet,” she said. 

For example, over 200 human rights defenders in the Pacific region have been trained to help boost sustainable development, business and human rights in the context of climate change.  

In Southeast Asia, OHCHR is monitoring cases of harassment, arrest, killings and disappearances of environmental human rights defenders, while

https://yubanet.com/world/protect-the-defenders-of-the-planet-un-rights-chief-urges/working with governments towards ending punitive measures levelled against activists. 

https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/03/1113022

Towards a fairer selection of NGOs to participate in the UN human rights debate

February 14, 2022
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is international-un-ecosoc-ngos-committee-participation-getty.jpg
A plenary meeting at the 76th Session of the General Assembly, at the UN Headquarters, in New York, USA, 21 January 2022, Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

NGOs that seek to participate fully at the UN – making statements and organising events to highlight injustice and provide recommendations – have to get accredited.  The “Committee on NGOs” manages the process – as  the gateway for NGOs into the United Nations. If you’re a State with a mind to block NGOs, membership of the Committee is perfect. This is where you can sit and control who comes in. By asking questions of NGO applicants, members of the Committee can push their accreditation for many years.  For more on this see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/09/the-saga-of-the-anti-ngo-committee-in-the-un-continues/

Currently there are 70 organisations that have faced over four years of deferrals.  Two human rights organisations have been deferred for over ten years.  Some  NGOs  have also been accused by Committee members of having terrorist sympathies: baseless accusations against which the NGOs have been denied appeal.  

In four short months there’s  a chance to change things. Elections to the Committee on NGOs will be held in April 2022. The 54 members of the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) vote to fill the 19 seats on the Committee across all regional groups. 

A joint letter by a massive number of NGOs of 10 February 2022 makes the point:

To: Member States of the UN General Assembly

Excellencies:

We are five months out from elections to the ECOSOC Committee on Non-Governmental Organisations for the 2023-2026 term. These are key elections for all those who value the expertise of civil society and seek to ensure the UN can benefit from it.

The Secretary General has called civil society the UN’s ‘indispensable partners”. Member States recently committed to boosting partnerships ‘to ensure an effective response to our common challenges’. In recommending approval of the participation of non-governmental organisations in a range of UN bodies and processes, the Committee on NGOs plays a key role in facilitating such partnerships. It is essential that the members of the Committee are committed to fulfilling such a task fairly and judiciously.

With this in mind, we would like to request the following, that:

1/ States with an interest in facilitating and safeguarding civil society access to and participation in UN processes stand for election to the Committee.

2/ Candidates make public the reasons for their candidacy and their commitment to fulfil their responsibilities as members of the Committee, as per ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31.

3/ All regions put up competitive slates, as the Asia-Pacific and GRULAC regions did in the last elections for the Committee in 2018. Competitive elections are important to create buy-in to the process and encourage states to be accountable for their commitments.

4/ All regions make public candidacies at least two months before the elections to allow for proper consideration of candidates.

5/ All ECOSOC members vote (and be encouraged to vote) only for candidates with positive track records in regard to civil society access and participation. Candidates could be assessed in regard to indicators such as support for relevant UN resolutions, such as those on civil society space and human rights defenders; on responses to cases of intimidation and reprisals; and on national level initiatives to safeguard civic space, press freedom – online as offline – and the right to defend human rights.

6/ ECOSOC members should consider introducing term limits for membership of the Committee on NGOs, among other reforms encouraging openness and accountability. As with other UN bodies, states should be required to leave the Committee for a specific interval of time after serving for a maximum agreed period. Term limits would encourage greater diversity in membership over time and encourage states to step up as candidates.

The Committee on NGOs is entrusted with the task of facilitating civil society access so that the expertise and experience of civil society partners can enrich and inform UN debates. It needs members that are committed to fulfilling the Committee’s mandate in a fair, transparent, non-discriminatory, expeditious and apolitical manner. It falls on all member states – as potential candidates and / or electors – to ensure that the Committee membership is fit for purpose.

Please elect to stand up for civil society!

Yours sincerely,

In addition to the letter, individuals can undertake additional steps. You can engage with States on all the campaign objectives!

  • On competitive elections and voting with integrity: See here for a model email for sending to those who get to vote, ECOSOC members.  Check here whether your State is going to vote. 
  • On candidates: Does your state have a positive record on promoting civil society but isn’t running? See here for a model email to encourage them. 

https://ishr.ch/action/campaigns/openthedoor2ngos/

Working Together

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/02/16/letter-members-uns-general-assembly-regarding-ecosoc-committee-ngos

Myanmar: one year after the coup – only getting worse

February 2, 2022
A crowd of protesters wearing face masks, holding up an image of a woman, Aung San Suu Kyi.

On 1 February last year, the military seized power over Myanmar/Burma by overturning the election results and detaining State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. The military is still controlling power by force and uses brutal violence against human rights defenders, civil society groups, and journalists in order to silence all forms of protest and dissent. More than 1,500 people have been killed by the military and over 8,000 people have been arrested.

The coup prompted mass protests and more than 1,500 people have been killed by the military. Over 8,000 people have been arrested in the harsh crackdowns. In a series of charges, Aung San Suu Kyi has been sentenced to several years in prison. Most recently, five new corruption charges against her were announced and in all she faces up to 164 years in jail. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/09/30/rohingya-human-rights-leader-mohibullah-murdered-in-bangladesh-refugee/

Despite the military’s brutal response, people have come together to fight the dictatorship. Nationwide protests, boycotts, strikes, and coordinated civil disobedience movements have taken place. Journalists across the country have continued their work despite severe attacks by the military.  

A new report by Athan looks at how the military coup has affected journalists’ work and press freedom in the country. Throughout the country’s history, military coups have led to severe attacks on press freedom and the 2021 coup is no exception.  Since the launch of the coup, 141 journalists have been arrested and 13 have been sentenced to prison. On 10 December, photojournalists Ko Soe Naing and Ko Zaw Tun were arrested while taking photos of a nationwide silent strike. Ko Soe Naing was tortured to death at the interrogation centre four days later. Just a couple of weeks after that, editor of the Federal Journal, A Sai Kay (Aka) Sai Win Aung, was shot dead by the military in Lay Kay Kaw.  See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/05/11/three-democratic-voice-of-burma-journalists-and-two-activists-risk-refoulement-by-thailand/

According to Athan, the attacks on press freedom since the 2021 military coup have been the worst the country has seen.  “Journalists and news media require continuous support to sustain local media and its journalists in order to secure journalists’ careers and their safety, and to enable an environment for journalistic professionals and the industry,” says a representative from Athan about the report. 

On the one-year anniversary of the military coup in Myanmar, the High Representative on behalf of the European Union and the Foreign Ministers of Albania, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States, have made the following declaration:

….The European Union is deeply concerned by the continuing escalation of violence and the evolution towards a protracted conflict with regional implications. Since the military coup, the situation has continuously and gravely deteriorated. A large part of the population is now in a highly precarious situation, experiencing poverty, food shortages, displacement, and violence. ..

The European Union condemns in the strongest terms continuing grave human rights violations including torture, sexual and gender-based violence, the continued persecution of civil society, human rights defenders, and journalists, attacks on the civilian population, including ethnic and religious minorities by the Myanmar armed forces. Therefore, the EU calls for full accountability of the leaders responsible for the coup as well as of the perpetrators of violence and human rights violations. The EU also reiterates its firm demand for the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners arbitrarily detained in relation to the coup and the return to power of democratically elected leaders.

As a matter of priority, the EU reiterates its calls for an immediate cessation of all hostilities, and an end to the disproportionate use of force and the state of emergency. The military authorities must ensure rapid, safe, and unhindered humanitarian access to all displaced persons and people in need, in all parts of the country. The European Union will continue to provide humanitarian assistance, in accordance with the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence and reiterates its call for the full and immediate respect of international humanitarian law…

In view of the escalating violence in Myanmar, increased international action is required in line with the already existing EU arms embargo on Myanmar. Since the military coup on 1 February 2021, the EU has imposed targeted sanctions on the Myanmar military, its leaders, and entities. In the absence of any swift progress of the situation in Myanmar, the EU stands ready to adopt further restrictive measures against those responsible for undermining democracy and the serious human rights violations in Myanmar.

It is a failed coup,” said Yanghee Lee, co-founder of the Special Advisory Group on Myanmar and former UN special rapporteur for human rights in the country in a CNN report of 1 February. “The coup has not succeeded in the past year. And that is why they are taking even more drastic measures to finish out the coup.” He reported on problems for human rights defenders already in 2015, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/03/19/myanmar-backsliding-by-prosecuting-human-rights-defenders-instead-of-perpetrators/

https://edition.cnn.com/2022/01/31/asia/myanmar-coup-anniversary-resistance-junta-intl-hnk-dst/index.html

TODAY: International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women,

November 25, 2021

Women and girls everywhere continue to be subjected to multiple forms of gender-based violence, including femicide, online violence and domestic violence, UN and regional experts (for impressive list see below) said today. They call on States to exercise due diligence and to fight pushbacks on gender equality.

On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, they issue the following statement: [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/11/19/16-days-of-activism-against-gender-based-violence-start-on-25-november-2019/]

“Although they represent more than half the world’s population, women and girls the world over are still at risk of being killed and subject to violence, intimidation and harassment when they speak out – for the simple fact of being women and girls. Violence against women and girls is the result of intersectional forms of social, political, economic, racial, caste and cultural discrimination perpetrated daily against women and girls in all of their diversity, including in the context of armed conflict, and States and the international community have the obligation mandated by international human rights law and standards to address this violence. Together, these forms of discrimination not only aggravate the intensity and frequency of violence but also sharpen the impunity that exists against it and increase societal and individual readiness to allow it.

Of particular concern is the fact that not only women and girls continue to be subjected to multiple manifestations of violence but that the spaces where this violence takes place have also multiplied. Nowhere is this more apparent than within online spaces, including social media. Governments, private companies and others may seek to hide their responsibilities behind the seemingly “borderless” nature of the internet. But human rights are universal and, as such, there is one human rights regime that protects the rights of women and girls offline as well as online, and that demands zero tolerance for violence against women and girls in the digital space. Violence against women and girls flourishes because those who seek to silence women and girls and facilitate their exploitation, abuse, maiming and killing are not firmly prevented from and held accountable for their actions.

It is unacceptable that in today’s world where humanity and life on this planet faces the existential threats of climate change and toxic pollution amidst a proliferation of conflict; the COVID-19 pandemic has killed at least 5 million people and infected at least 250 million worldwide in less than two years, also causing an increase in domestic violence against women, that women and girls are unable to participate fully in responding to these threats or in the search for solutions because they are discriminated, abused and continue to suffer violence, including sexual violence, exploitation and death on the basis of their sex, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity. These global crises interact with and further deepen pre-existing inequalities as well as legal, institutional and policy gaps to eliminate gender-based violence against women and girls, which in many cases, worsen them. Indigenous women, internally displaced women, women with disabilities, lesbian and transgender women and women belonging to other vulnerable or marginalized groups are particularly affected by the failure of these policies to prevent such violence, as well as protect and assist survivors.

While a number of States, non-state actors and other stakeholders have stepped up their interventions and resource allocations to prevent and respond to gender-based violence against women and girls, more effort in terms of both financial and non-financial interventions is needed to make these approaches truly transformative, particularly with regards to prevention, to avoid that policies remain ‘gender blind’, ‘gender exploitative’ or ‘race neutral’. Many of these policies do not disaggregate data based on social and racial constructs which discriminate, marginalize, exclude, and violate women and girls. These policies need to transform the prevailing social, economic and political systems that produce, nurture, and maintain gender inequality and drive violence against women and girls everywhere, through increased investment in their education and skills development, access to information, social services and financial resources, and support for positive representation and images in public discourse and social media. Collectively, they need to do more to challenge the patriarchal social norms and constructs of masculinity, femininity, racism and casteism that are based on extremely harmful stereotypes and which can cause psychological, physical, emotional and economical harm, including for women of colour, including those of African descent. These stereotypes pervade state institutions as evidenced by the lack of accountability for many cases before law enforcement and justice systems. States must also ensure access to comprehensive physical and mental care for survivors of gender-based violence, as part of the full range of quality sexual and reproductive health care that must be available for all.

Collective effort is required to stop the reversal of progress made in ending violence against women across the world and to counter the backlash against gender equality and the tenets of human rights-based legislation and governance. Those responsible for these regressive steps often begin by attempts to co-opt the justice system, change or issue new legislation and curtail fundamental rights and freedoms for women and girls, such as their freedom of thought, expression and association, their right to peaceful assembly, freedom of association, freedom of thought and, in particular, their sexual and reproductive rights. All human rights are inalienable, interdependent and exist without a hierarchy, despite the efforts of some actors to sacrifice some of these rights at the expense of others, often in the name of their own cultural or religious norms and their particular perception of societal harmony.

Women and girls around the world need to be heard; their voices should not be silenced nor their experiences go unnoticed. Women will never gain their dignity until their human rights are protected. Women’s rights are human rights. Women and girls’ agency and participation in all processes that affect their rights and lives need to be promoted and protected at all costs. States should ensure and create an enabling environment for women to exercise their fundamental freedoms of expression, association, peaceful assembly and public participation free from intimidation and attacks. States must exercise their due diligence obligation and protect women human rights defenders, activists and women’s organizations who are regularly harassed, intimidated and subjected to violence for defending their rights and promoting equality. The level and frequency of violence against them should raise alarm bells everywhere. It is, and should be, a public policy and a human rights priority.

If we want to gauge the underlying health, security and prosperity of a society, we all need to address our duty to play a part in the respect and furtherance of women and girls’ rights. There will be no prosperity without ending violence against women and girls in the public as well as in the private sphere.

There will be no ending of violence against women and girls if we don’t recognize and protect the dignity, rights and security of women and girls everywhere and at all times.” ENDS

*The experts:

Platform of independent expert mechanisms on the elimination of discrimination and violence against women (EDVAW Platform): Reem Alsalem*, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; ****Melissa Upreti ****(Chair), **Dorothy Estrada Tanck **(Vice-Chair), Elizabeth Broderick, Ivana Radačić, and **Meskerem Geset Techane, ***Working Group on discrimination against women and girls*; ****Gladys Acosta Vargas, ***Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women;* Margarette May Macaulay******, ****Rapporteur on the Rights of Women of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights**; Iris Luarasi, President of the Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence of the Council of Europe; Tatiana Rein Venegas**, President of the* Committee of Experts of the Follow-up Mechanism to the Belém do Pará Convention*; Maria Teresa Manuela, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa.*

Obiora Okafor*, Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity; Javaid Rehman, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran; Fabian Salvioli, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence; Marcos A. Orellana, Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes; Francisco Cali Tzay, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples; Vitit Muntarbhorn,*Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia*; Mama Fatima Singhateh, Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children; Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; **Victor Madrigal-Borloz, ***Independent Expert on Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity*; ****Alioune Tine****, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Mali; **Sorcha MacLeod (Chair-Rapporteur), Jelena Aparac, Ravindran Daniel, Chris Kwaja, ***Working Group on the use of mercenaries*; Gerard Quinn****, ****Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities*; Livingstone Sewanyana*, Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order; ****Fionnuala Ní Aoláin****, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism; Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons;** Saad Alfarargi, Special Rapporteur on the right to development; **Tomoya Obokata, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences; Fernand de Varennes****, Special Rapporteur on minority issues; Yao Agbetse, Independent Expert on the situation of Human Rights in the Central African Republic; **Nils Melzer, ***Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment*; Felipe González Morales, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing; Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right to health; Attiya Waris, Independent Expert on debt, other international financial obligations and human rights; Pedro Arrojo Agudo, Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation;****Elina Steinerte**** (Chair-Rapporteur), ****Ms. Miriam Estrada-Castillo**** (Vice-Chair), ****Ms. Leigh Toomey****, ****Mr. Mumba Malila****, ****Ms. Priya Gopalan****, Working Group on arbitrary detention;** Michael Fakhri, Special Rapporteur on the right to food; Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; Muluka Anne Miti-Drummond,Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism; Siobhán Mullally, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children; Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association**; **Isha Dyfan, ***Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia* ; ****Luciano Hazan (****Chair-Rapporteur),**** Aua Balde ****(Vice-Chair),**** Gabriella Citroni, Henrikas Mickevicius**** and ****Tae-Ung Baik, ***Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances*; ****Alexandra Xanthaki, ***Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights;* **Morris Tidball-Binz ***Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions*; Anais Marin, Special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus; Surya Deva (Chairperson), Elżbieta Karska (Vice-Chairperson), Githu Muigai, Fernanda Hopenhaym, and Anita Ramasastry, Working Group on Business and Human Rights; David Boyd, Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment; Ms. Dominique Day (Chair), Ms. **Catherine S. Namakula (Vice-Chair), Ms. Miriam Ekiudoko,** Mr. Sushil Raj, Ms. Barbara G. Reynolds Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent; **Irene Khan, ***Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

See also:

https://www.coe.int/en/web/commissioner/-/combating-violence-against-women-in-a-digital-age-utilising-the-istanbul-convention-grevio-general-recommendation-no-1-on-the-digital-dimension-of-vio

https://www.unhcr.org/news/stories/2021/11/619e0ae14/refugee-women-lead-combating-gender-based-violence.html

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/violence-targeting-women-politics-trends-targets-types-and-perpetrators-political

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – a subversive document?

October 6, 2021
Sep 30, 2021

The government of Vietnam has admitted that it arrested an indigenous rights activist for possessing translated copied of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In an extraordinary statement, made to the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights on 20 September 2021 and just now made public, the government of Vietnam justified these arrests as being necessary to maintain national unity in Vietnam. In doing so, it has effectively sought to justify the criminalization of possession of a UN document that establishes core human rights belonging to indigenous people that the government of Vietnam itself voted to create.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), in the words of the United Nations, “is the most comprehensive international instrument on the rights of indigenous peoples” and “establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world and it elaborates on existing human rights standards and fundamental freedoms as they apply to the specific situation of indigenous peoples.”  It was approved by the UN General Assembly on 13 September 2007. … Vietnam was one of the 144 countries to vote in its favor.

In April 2021, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) brought to international attention the case of Mr. Duong Khai, a Khmer Krom activist campaigning for recognition of the indigenous status of the Khmer Krom people in Vietnam, who was arrested and threatened for possession of translated copies of the UNDRIP. In June 2021, a team of UN independent experts wrote a Joint Allegation Letter to the governmment of Vietnam demanding an answer and expressing their “concern that these reported threats may be connected to his efforts to disseminate United Nations documents, in particular the promotion and translation of the UNDRIP, and may have chilling effect on any expression, by all those, including human rights defenders, who draw attention to minority and indigenous people’s issues in the country.”

On 20 September 2021, the government of Vietnam responded to the UN experts in a letter to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The response is deeply troubling. Instead of denying that such repressive actions took place, or admitting that they did and outlining a process for redress, the government of Vietnam admitted Mr. Duong Khai was indeed arrested for possession of copies of the UNDRIP and claimed that the arrest was justified in order to maintain “national unity” because, according to the government of Vietnam, there are no indigenous peoples in the country.

It is well-settled that indigenous people make up approximately 15% of Vietnam’s population and that the Khmer Krom are one of the major indigenous communities. Yet Vietnam denies the existance of indigenous people, resulting in significant negative impacts on these communities. Mr. Duong Khai is one of many human rights defenders campaigning for recognition of indigenous status, and persecuted for doing so. In Vietnam, seeking indigenous status is so dangerous that an indigenous person wearing a T-shirt with the logo of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals stating “Implementing the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to ensure No Khmer-Krom are left behind” can be arrested.

This case presents a troubling baseline for the status of human rights in Vietnam. If, in Vietnam, a person can be criminalized merely for possessing and distributing UN human rights instruments that their own government has had a hand in creating, there can be no limit to the ability of the state to repress its citizens and eradicate freedom of expression and opinion.

Unfortunately, all too often today, Member States of the United Nations justify the worst repression under the guise of “national unity.” Indigenous communities and religious and ethnic minorities regularly bear the brunt of this fundamental perversion of the international system. Yet rarely do states so explicitly and openly violate these rights as the government of Vietnam has done in this case. By criminalizing the mere possession of a document that presents solely the text of a UN human rights instrument the government of Vietnam is openly repudiating the very foundations of the international order.

In light of the government of Vietnam’s admission in this case, the UNPO is calling on the entire international community to unequivocally condemn the government’s action in this case and to ensure that any aid or support to the country or trade with it is conditioned on the provision of adequate protection for human rights defenders, indigenous communities, and freedom of expression and opinion.

https://unpo.org/article/22158

Today is the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, also in Nepal 

August 30, 2021

Enforced disappearance refers to the arrest, detention or abduction of persons by agents of the State, or those acting with State authorization or support, whose whereabouts are unknown.

Once largely the product of military dictatorships, it has become a global problem, according to the UN, with hundreds of thousands of people “disappeared” in more than 80 countries. Impunity remains widespread.

While strictly prohibited under international human rights law, the SG, Mr. Guterres said enforced disappearance continues to be used across the world as a method of repression, terror, and stifling dissent.

Paradoxically, it is sometimes used under the pretext of countering crime or terrorism. Lawyers, witnesses, political opposition, and human rights defenders are particularly at risk,” he added. 

Having been removed from the protection of the law, victims, who can include children, are deprived of all their rights and are at the mercy of their captors. 

They are frequently tortured and know that it is unlikely anyone will come to their aid.  Some are even killed. 

Enforced disappearance deprives families and communities of the right to know the truth about their loved ones, of accountability, justice and reparation,” the Secretary-General said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has added to the agony and anguish of enforced disappearance, by limiting capacities to search for missing persons and investigate alleged enforced disappearance.”

It was established by the UN General Assembly, which adopted a resolution in December 2010 expressing deep concern about the rise in incidents in various regions, and increasing reports of harassment, ill-treatment and intimidation of witnesses of disappearances, or relatives of people who were disappeared.

The resolution also welcomed the adoption of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which calls for countries to take measures to hold perpetrators criminally responsible.

“The Convention for the Protection of all Persons against Enforced Disappearances is indispensable in helping to tackle this cowardly practice. But it requires the will and commitment of those with the power to do so,” the Secretary-General said. “States must fulfil their obligations to prevent enforced disappearance, to search for the victims, and to investigate, prosecute and punish the perpetrators.”

Mr. Guterres reiterated his call for countries to ratify the Convention, and to work with the UN Committee that monitors its implementation, as well as the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, which assists families in determining the fate of their loved ones.

On this day Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) issued a statement that the government of Nepal should promptly enforce Supreme Court rulings and permit the regular courts to try cases of enforced disappearance and other grave international crimes. On the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, August 30, 2021, thousands of Nepali families are no closer to knowing the truth of what happened to their missing loved ones than they were when the country’s armed conflict ended 15 years ago.

Nepal’s Supreme Court has repeatedly ordered the government to investigate gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law during the conflict from 1996 to 2006, and to conduct a meaningful, effective transitional justice process to establish the truth and provide justice for thousands of cases of serious abuses.

The Nepali government stands in blatant violation of express orders of the Supreme Court by failing to conduct a credible, timely transitional justice process,” said Mandira Sharma, senior legal adviser for South Asia at the ICJ.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/03/17/where-is-somchai-a-brave-wifes-17-year-quest-for-the-truth/

The International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances

https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/08/30/nepal-stop-stalling-enforced-disappearance-inquiries

Too sad for words: 11-year-old boy receives death threat

January 28, 2021
<img src="https://static.independent.co.uk/2021/01/27/10/Screenshot%202021-01-27%20at%2010.18.59.png?width=982&height=726&auto=webp&quality=75&quot; alt="<p>Francisco Vera

Francisco Vera (Reporter’s screenshot)

Clea Skopeliti reports in the Independent of 27 January 2021 that an 11-year-old environmental and children’s rights activist in Colombia has received death threats after he urged the government to improve children’s access to remote education during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Francisco Vera was sent a death threat from an anonymous Twitter account in mid-January after posting a video calling on the government to better internet connection for pupils learning from home during the coronavirus crisis.  The child activist has since been awarded with a letter of congratulations from the UN for his work, personally delivered by a UN representative who also expressed solidarity with the 11-year-old for the intimidation he has faced.

Francisco’s mother, Ana María Manzanare was the first to noticed  the threatening messages. Ms Manzanare told Columbian newspaper El Tiempo: “I was the one who noticed that message because I checked all of Francisco’s networks. He had already received many ridicules, criticism and insults for his activism in defence of life and the environment, but he had never been threatened with death.”

Colombian President Ivan Duque condemned the threats of violence, and ordered the police to “find those bandits” who threatened Francisco. Police say the investigation is ongoing.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/child-activist-death-threats-climate-activism-b1793364.html

As Iran prepares to execute Ahmadreza Djalali, the world reacts

November 26, 2020

Around the world, shock and outrage has been the reaction to the news that Iran is preparing to execute Swedish-Iranian emergency medicine specialist Dr Ahmadreza Djalali. In a call from Evin Prison on 24 November, Ahmadreza told his wife Vida, who lives in Sweden, that he believed he may be executed in less than a week. He has been transferred into solitary confinement and it has been reported that he will shortly be sent to Rajai Shahr Prison where this draconian death sentence would be delivered.

Dr Djalali has been used as a bargaining chip as part of Iran’s hostage diplomacy. A dual national, illegally detained in solitary confinement with no access to a lawyer before being sentenced to death in October 2017. The court based their sentence for “corruption on earth” on “confessions” elicited after torture, threats to kill Ahmadreza Djalali’s wife and two young children, solitary confinement and his prolonged ill treatment.

The UN, EU, Council of Europe, European governments, worldwide academic institutions, civil society and thousands of individuals have all called for Dr Djalali’s release.

UN experts Javaid Rehman, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran and Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions issued a statement saying: “We are horrified by the reports that Mr. Djalali is soon to be executed by the Islamic Republic of Iran. His torture, arbitrary detention, death sentence and now reported imminent execution are unconscionable acts that should be condemned by the international community in the strongest terms. We urge the Iranian authorities to take immediate action to reverse this decision before it is too late.

Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Diana Eltahawy, said:

“We call on members of the international community to immediately intervene, including through their embassies in Tehran, to save Ahmadreza Djalali’s life before it is too late.”

Valerie Peay, Director of the International Observatory of Human Rights said: “We stand in support of Dr Djalali and his family. Ahmadreza has already suffered gross injustice, pain and the cruel separation from his wife and two children. For three years he has faced a baseless death sentence while Iran has used him as a bargaining chip and sought to gain leverage with the international community by unjustly incarcerating Dr Djalali and other dual nationals. Now is the moment for the Islamic Republic to act to cease this action to execute Dr Djalali and instead, release him to return his life in Sweden with his family.

https://researchprofessionalnews.com/rr-news-europe-universities-2020-11-academic-groups-sound-alarm-over-djalali-death-sentence/embed/#?secret=xEX33rLMOr

Trump’s human rights diplomacy: Estrangement over Engagement.

October 15, 2020

Ryan Kaminski and Grace Anderson wrote in Just Security of 14 October 2020 a scathing assessment of US human rights policy under Trump, Here some large extracts, but it is worth reading in full:

At the launch of the first virtual session of the United Nations General Assembly last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sought center stage to question one of the most historic documents put forward by the U.N. shortly after its inception: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Pompeo presented the findings of the State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights via videotape during a U.N. event that took place the same week [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/11/trump-marches-on-with-commission-on-unalienable-rights/]

Although jarring, the Commission’s conclusions should have come as no surprise: They are simply the culmination of the Trump administration’s downward trajectory on protecting human rights and engaging on these issues specifically at the U.N.

Just this month, for example, the U.S. microphone at the U.N. Human Rights Council was silent on the situation in Belarus, where massive protests have taken place against the country’s authoritarian leader. Nor did the United States take the floor when the Human Rights Council discussed combating global racism during an urgent debate requested by hundreds of U.S. non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and human rights advocates, as well as the family of George Floyd. Moreover, the Trump administration’s recent self “report card” on human rights in the United States, posted online by the U.N. in September, is the shortest ever submitted from the United States, and it is unnecessarily combative, and conspicuously cherry-picked.

The practice of the Trump administration turning its back on rights at the U.N. goes well beyond the Human Rights Council.

Last December, the administration torpedoed a U.N. Security Council session on human rights in North Korea for a second year in a row. Its actions broke with years of precedent in which U.S. ambassadors of varying political stripes lobbied Security Council members to debate Pyongyang’s atrocious rights record. In 2019, the United States effectively kneecapped its own effort, despite having support from key allies and partners on the Security Council to move forward.

Recent budgetary moves by the Trump administration are another example of this worrying trend. In September, the State Department again served notice that it would be flouting the will of Congress by “reprogramming” $28 million for the U.N. Human Rights Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Over the past three years, the Trump administration has unilaterally withheld nearly $60 million in assessed contributions to OHCHR, an especially disdainful action given the bipartisan congressional support for the office.

Another area of concern is the Trump administration’s absentee track record of filling openings on U.N. human rights treaty bodies. These treaty bodies are official assemblies of international rights experts tasked with holding governments accountable for implementing the human rights accords they have ratified. They are effectively incubators and accelerators for the maintenance of international law and norms central to fundamental freedoms and human dignity. Yet, in a break with precedent from the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, Trump has not even nominated a candidate to sit on the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The absence of American presence on the Committee, as well as other unsung, yet influential, bodies, represents a sorely missed opportunity.

The Committee, for example, works to ensure compliance among its 182 State parties and has taken decisive action on issues at the heart of bipartisan U.S. foreign policy priorities, such as grilling China on atrocities committed against ethnic Uyghurs in its territory….

Worse than stonewalling special procedures and limiting visits, Trump administration officials have in certain cases even gone on the offensive against these U.N. watchdogs. After an official U.S. visit by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, originally authorized by the Obama administration, then-U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Nikki Haley claimed the expert’s findings were inaccurate, offensive and wasteful. This was a missed opportunity for the United States to constructively address scrutiny of its rights record like any other advanced democracy; instead the administration reflexively attacked an independent rights watchdog.

Constructive U.S. engagement with U.N. special procedures helps set a positive example and bolsters U.S. credibility, especially when the United States calls on regimes violating rights to not hide from these exact same investigations. This year, for instance, Pompeo called out Cuba, via Twitter, for not responding to communications from the U.N. special rapporteurs on combating trafficking and modern slavery.

The picture is not entirely gloomy, however.

One potential bright spot for the Trump administration’s human rights engagement at the U.N. is the State Department’s prioritization of U.N. Human Rights Council reform…butt reform is a function of engagement, not withdrawal. Thus, the administration’s 2018 decision to give up its seat on the Human Rights Council has proven ineffective, unsurprisingly, in accomplishing meaningful reform. In fact, research from the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights found active U.S. membership on the Human Rights Council was a “game-changer,” resulting in a significant drop in anti-Israel resolutions and “scrutiny of many of the world’s worst human rights violators.”

Conversely, the U.S. absence from the Council, together with attempts to strong-arm U.N. institutions through funding cuts, has abetted China’s growing assertiveness in the U.N. system. Even the Heritage Foundation has acknowledged the “concerning” trend of China’s upward trajectory in the U.N. system.

The Trump administration also acknowledged this new reality when the State Department established an unusual new envoy posting charged with countering Chinese influence at the U.N. and other international organizations. But this move falls well short of the United States adopting an overarching strategic policy on China’s growing U.N. influence. This month, the Trump administration awkwardly tweeted support for action by the U.N. Human Rights Council on China, all the while warming the bench in its ongoing boycott.

Overall, sustained pushback against human rights work at the U.N. by the United States has become yet another cornerstone of the Trump administration’s “America First” doctrine. As Pompeo stated unequivocally at the launch of the Commission on Unalienable Rights: “Many [human rights] are worth defending in light of our founding; others aren’t.”

Critics of the Commission are right to be concerned. Whether leaving critical human rights positions unfilled, undercutting U.N. human rights bodies by withholding funds, or attacking U.N. independent rights advocates, Eleanor Roosevelt’s warning more than 60 years ago is more salient than ever: “Without concerted citizen action to uphold [universal human rights] close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”

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See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/09/29/kenneth-roth-speaks-plainly-on-international-human-rights-china-a-violator-and-us-unprincipled/

Iranian human rights defender Narges Mohammadi released from jail, finally

October 8, 2020

Iranian opposition human rights activist, Narges Mohammadi, at the Defenders of Human Rights Center in Tehran (AFP/File photo) By MEE staff

Prominent Iranian human rights defender Narges Mohammadi has been released from prison, her husband confirmed on Thursday 8 October 2020. She had been serving a eight and a half years out of a10-year sentence for ‘forming and managing an illegal group’

Ismail Sadeghi Niaraki, prosecutor in Zanjan province, said a newly passed law reducing prison sentences included the activist and said she had been released on that basis, according to BBC Persian. Mohammadi, who was held in Zanjan Prison in northwestern Iran, was the spokeswoman for the Centre of Human Rights Defenders in Iran.

Originally serving a six-year sentence dating from 2011, she had been released on bail before being arrested again on new charges in 2015.

The mother of two was then sentenced to 16 years in prison for “forming and managing an illegal group” among other charges, with a minimum of 10 years having to be served. Coronavirus: Iran reports record high death numbers as it grapples with third wave

Her husband, Taghi Rahmani, confirmed the news on Twitter. “Narges was released from Zanjan prison at three in the morning,” he tweeted. “Wishing freedom for all prisoners.

UN rights experts in July called for Mohammadi’s release after she reportedly fell ill with Covid-19, warning her life was at stake.(see: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=26118&LangID=E

“The Iranian authorities must act now before it is too late,” the 16 independent experts said in a statement.

Iran has released more than 100,000 prisoners since the coronavirus pandemic broke out in March, as a way of reducing infection.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/10/07/un-rights-chief-urges-iran-to-release-jailed-sotoudeh-and-other-human-rights-defenders-citing-covid-19-risk/

and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/08/06/exclusion-of-human-rights-defenders-from-covid-release-measures-is-the-norm/

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/iran-narges-mohammadi-release-prison-human-rights

https://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/Iran-frees-rights-activist-after-more-than-8-15630185.php