Posts Tagged ‘United Nations General Assembly’

General Assembly 2018: Human Rights Defenders were a main dish on 23 October

November 7, 2018

On 26 October 2018, the ISHR reported on how the General Assembly addressed the 20th anniversary of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. Special Rapporteur Michel Forst delivered a detailed reflection and assessment of global protection efforts in his report to the General Assembly this week.

On 23/24 October, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, called the international community to action, urging open and frank dialogue and solidarity to address oppression. He addressed the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee and engaged in a dialogue on his report to the General Assembly.

In light of the 20th anniversary of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, his report focused on effective implementation strategies, incorporating both a reflection of progress made over the past two decades and an overview of recommendations on how to improve systems and mechanisms moving forward. ‘The past 20 years have been an era of struggle for human rights. Victories have been hard fought and challenges have proliferated,’ the Special Rapporteur said in his report. ‘The celebration of this milestone must be tempered by a recognition of the sacrifices of human rights defenders, their families and their communities.’

After surveying 140 States, the Special Rapporteur addressed the following key matters: the evolution of the use of the term ‘human rights defenders’, mechanisms and practices to support them and legal/ administrative frameworks to protect them. “20 years ago, the Declaration laid the groundwork for the protection of human rights defenders and amplified the importance of their inclusion as a stakeholder in human rights initiatives, but there is still work to be done,” said ISHR’s Legal Counsel Tess McEvoy.

Several States voiced their support for the report and the mandate, including Spain, Iceland, Canada, Australia, EU, Poland, Ireland, Switzerland, Mexico, Liechtenstein, Estonia, Czech Republic, Colombia, France, Slovenia, Norway, US, Belgium and the United Arab Emirates.

The United States referenced the Secretary General’s report on reprisals highlighting attacks and intimidation against defenders in more than 38 countries, saying they are ‘alarmed and monitoring all allegations.’ The US then proceeded to list over 20 specific names of individuals from 14 different countries who are victims of such reprisals. These include:

Both China and Iran criticised the report on the basis that defenders, activists and social leaders do not deserve ‘special treatment’ regardless of the risks these individuals face. Cuba rejected any attempts to paint political prisoners as human rights defenders. The Russian Federation challenged the notion of ‘State obligation’ on the basis that the Declaration of Human Rights Defenders is a non-binding document. In response to the Russian Federation’s point on the non-obligatory nature of the Declaration of Human Rights, the Special Rapporteur swiftly reminded States that while the Declaration is non-binding it reaffirms other legally binding human rights obligations.

The Special Rapporteur concluded with a call to action at the upcoming Human Rights Defenders World Summit in Paris, where a statement will be prepared, including for presentation at the upcoming high-level event on defenders at the General Assembly.

The Special Rapporteur also referenced a document—outlining the results of his global survey on defenders in 140 countries—which he hoped would be published on the OHCHR website without further delay. He invited supporters of the mandate to inform OHCHR of the need to disseminate the report via the OHCHR website.

The Special Rapporteur referenced the study being prepared by the UN Secretary-General in efforts to protect global defenders. The report of this study will be shared with States in the coming weeks. The Special Rapporteur also voiced concern about the lack of NGO access to the UN and asked members of the Committee on NGOs to invite him in to engage with the Committee.

The Special Rapporteur concluded by saying that his report to the Human Rights Council in March 2019 will focus on the situation of women defenders.

https://www.ishr.ch/news/ga73-un-expert-defenders-reflects-20-years-struggle-progress-and-remaining-challenges

For earlier posts on the anniversary: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/20th-anniversary-un-declaration-on-hrds/

UN General Assembly adopts Resolution on human rights defenders with increased majority

December 18, 2015

For the record, the Resolution on the protection of human rights defenders was adopted by the plenary of the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday 17 December 2015, with 127 States voting in favour (i.e 10 more than in the Third Committee!). See: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/12/05/follow-up-on-the-human-rights-defenders-resolution-in-the-un/.

127 States supported the resolution, including South Africa, which had voted against it in the Third Committee, while 14 States (Burundi, Cambodia, China, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Sudan, Syria and Zimbabwe) continue to vote against it. This list is not surprising (they figure regularly in this blog), although one would have hoped that Myanmar (after the elections) would have had a change of heart while Nigeria’s position remains a mystery.

Read the rest of this entry »

African Commission leads way in designating a high-level focal against reprisals

May 19, 2014

On 16 May 2014 the International Service for Human Rights [ISHR] reports that the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has designated a high-level focal point to document and follow up on cases of intimidation and reprisals against human rights defenders that cooperate with the African human rights system. The spokesperson of the ISHR, Clement Voulé, welcomed the move and said: ‘The UN and its Member States should take note of the African Commission’s initiative and approve the designation of a high-level UN focal point’…‘Delegations in New York should also heed the call led by Botswana and joined by 56 States in Geneva in March to expedite this process and ensure a comprehensive, system-wide response to reprisals.’  While this is in itself good news and a step in the right direction, some caution is needed:

(1) The tasks of documenting, monitoring and encouraging effective Commission follow up on reprisals has been delegated to the existing African Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Reine Alapini-Gansou [‘By designating me as a focal point, the Commission has acted on the need to strengthen its response to reprisals by monitoring cases and working with States to prevent recurrence and promote accountability’]. However, there is no indication that Commissioner Alapini-Gansou is given additional powers or resources.

(2) Almost all the African countries (except Chad and Morocco) supported the UN Resolution in the General Assembly last year that in fact blocked the creation of a focal point against reprisals in the United Nations. Courageous little Botswana may well have led a large group of countries with a statement in March 2014 at the Human Rights Council [http://www.ishr.ch/news/human-rights-council-has-duty-strengthen-response-reprisals] which favors such a UN-wide focal point, but how the African group will vote next time is far from clear. See more on: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/01/08/un-general-assembly-indeed-defers-un-focal-point-on-human-rights-defenders/

Still, I hope we can all share the ISHR’s passionate statement that “Any other outcome will signal support for impunity for the perpetrators of reprisals and a betrayal of human rights defenders and others who engage with the human rights system”.

via African Commission designates high-level focal point to combat reprisals | ISHR.

UN resolution on women’s rights defenders passed General Assembly Committee but..

November 28, 2013

A UN General Assembly committee has agreed a landmark first resolution on women human rights defenders, but compromise forced some weakening of the text. A Norwegian-led coalition, which prepared the resolution, had to delete language that condemned “all forms of violence against women” to get the text passed by consensus late Wednesday 27 November. Read the rest of this entry »