Posts Tagged ‘United Nations Special Rapporteur’

UN special rapporteur urged to investigate human rights defenders in the Philippines

December 6, 2014

The UN special rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst, has made a fast start with his mandate. Hardly back from Burundi and Morocco, he met with human rights defenders in  Quezon City, Philippines as reported by InterAksyon.com on 6 December 2014.

(Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst, with human rights defenders in Quezon City – photo from Karapatan)
United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders Michel Forst indicated his interest in filing a request for an official visit after a two-hour meeting late last week with members of Manilakbayan, a contingent of indigenous peoples’ groups and advocates, and representatives of the human rights group Karapatan from Mindanao and Southern Tagalog.

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay, in a statement, urged the international community and human rights advocates worldwide to “press the Philippine government to accede to the request of the UNSR-HRD to look into the numerous reports of attacks against rights defenders in the country.” Forst’s predecessors — Hina Jilani and Margaret Sekaggya — both submitted several requests to conduct an official investigation in the Philippines, but did not obtain official invitations from the government.

UN special rapporteur wants to probe attacks on PH rights defenders.

UN General Assembly votes today on Iran: Joint appeal by NGOs

November 18, 2014

Today – 18 November 2014 – the General Assembly is due to vote on a Resolution concerning Iran. Although the human rights situation in Iran has shown some slight improvements since Rouhani became president, it seems that hardliners keep firm control over the judiciary and thus over the life and well-being of human rights defenders. Also Iran continues to deny access to the UN Special Rapporteur on Iran. The Joint Letter to the Member States of the UN General Assembly signed by numerous NGOs makes the point quite clearly:

see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/iran/

Text of Letter:

Your Excellency:

We, the undersigned human rights and civil society organizations, write to urge your government to vote in favor of Resolution A/RES/69/L on the promotion and protection of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This vote will take place during the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly, scheduled to take place in the Third Committee this Tuesday, 18 November 2014.

This resolution provides a crucial opportunity to reiterate ongoing human rights concerns identified by members of the international community and Iranian civil society. Sixteen months into the presidency of Hassan Rouhani, who won the election after promising to improve the human rights situation, those living in Iran continue to suffer violations at the hands of the authorities. Indeed, during last month’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Iran at the UN Human Rights Council, several UN member states expressed dismay at Iran’s lack of progress over the last four years, including on many of the recommendations Iran had accepted during the first UPR cycle in 2010.

Human rights abuses are deeply rooted in Iran’s laws and policies, both of which pose serious obstacles for much-needed rights reforms to take place. On 28 October 2014, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, reported that human rights in the country “remain of concern” and detailed violations of the rights to life, the rights to freedom from torture and discrimination based on gender, religion, and ethnicity, the rights to education, health, fair trial, freedom of expression, association, assembly, religion and belief, as well as limits on the press. Despite its 2005 standing invitation to the United Nations’ Special Procedures, Iran remains unwilling to accept their repeated requests to visit the country. Furthermore, the authorities have systematically worked to undermine the efforts of civil society in the country to promote and protect international human rights standards.

The continued attention of the international community is required if the Islamic Republic of Iran is to end this pattern of abuse and noncooperation. UN member states must continue to express their concern about these abuses. In doing so, member states provide support to civil society as well as to those in the Iranian government who wish to see improvements in the human rights situation. By voting in favour of the resolution, states will encourage Iran’s government to prioritize human rights and to advance and protect the rights of Iran’s population.

Since the beginning of 2014, Iran has executed at least 600 people. This figure includes juvenile offenders and individuals who may have been executed for peacefully exercising their rights including the rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly. Death sentences in Iran are often imposed without any regard to internationally prescribed safeguards. Authorities executed Reyhaneh Jabbari on 25 October 2014, despite repeated calls from UN human rights mechanisms, including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to stay the execution out of concern that her prosecution had failed to meet international fair trial standards. Moreover, the vast majority of executions in Iran are implemented for offenses, such as drug-related offenses, that do not meet the threshold of the “most serious crimes.” Iranian law maintains the death penalty for consensual sexual relations between adults, including for adultery and same-sex relations, and for financial crimes. Iran continues to execute in public despite calls by the UN Secretary-General on authorities to halt the practice.

Executions based on national security-related charges that may be politically motivated appear to be carried out disproportionately against members of Iran’s ethnic minority communities, including Ahwazi Arabs, Kurds, and Baluchis. Rights groups are concerned about the situation of 33 Sunni Kurds, most of whom are held in Raha’i Shahr Prison in Karaj and face imminent risk of execution. The men were sentenced to death following grossly unfair trials during which basic safeguards, such as the right to defense, were disregarded, in contravention of international fair trial standards.

The Special Rapporteur and human rights organizations continue to express grave concerns for scores of activists, journalists, human rights defenders, women’s rights activists, trade unionists, students, and members of ethnic and religious minorities currently languishing in arbitrary detention. Iranian detainees and prisoners consistently face the risk of torture or other ill-treatment, including prolonged solitary confinement and denial of medical treatment. They are regularly denied access to legal counsel or fair trials. Many detainees are prosecuted under vaguely defined national security charges, which are regularly used to silence peaceful expression, association, assembly, and religious activity. In July 2014, for example, journalist Sajedeh Arabsorkhi began serving a one-year imprisonment sentence on the charge of “spreading propaganda against the system.” It appears that the charge is related to her open letters to her father, Feyzollah Arabsorkhi, a former deputy trade minister and a senior member of a reformist political party, during the time he was imprisoned.

Systematic discrimination against women in law and practice also merits serious concern. In the past few years, the authorities have increasingly put in place discriminatory measures aimed at restricting women’s access to higher education, including gender quotas, and have adopted new population policies resulting in women’s restricted access to sexual health and family planning programs. The authorities continue to persecute those protesting such discriminatory laws and practices, often by accusing them of vaguely worded national security offences. This month, for example, Ghoncheh Ghavami learned of her one-year prison sentence and two-year travel ban by a Tehran court on the charge of “spreading propaganda against the system”. She was arrested after she protested a ban on women watching matches at sports stadium during a game played by Iran’s national volleyball team.

This resolution on the promotion and protection of human rights in Iran of the 69th UNGA is a vital opportunity for the international community to give expression to human rights concerns. The resolution welcomes recent positive statements by Iranian officials, while effectively drawing attention to the broad range of ongoing violations. Moreover, the resolution calls on authorities to cooperate with all UN Special Procedures, including the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Substantive cooperation with UN mechanisms and tangible rights improvements in line with Iran’s international legal obligations are the real measures of progress. By voting in favor of this resolution on 18 November, the UN General Assembly will send a strong signal to the government and all Iranians that the world is invested in genuine human rights improvements in the country.

Letter to the Member States of the UN General Assembly.

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

December 14, 2013

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

India should end funding restraints on Human Rights Defenders, Says HRW

November 5, 2013

The Indian government should vigorously investigate allegations that officials are using the law on foreign contributions to repress groups critical of the government, Human Rights Watch said on 31 October 2013.

HRW_logo

The government should amend the 2010 Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act to protect the right to freedom of association and expression. Read the rest of this entry »

Norway Proposes UN Resolution on Protection of Women Human Rights Defenders

November 2, 2013

Women human rights defenders risk violence, prejudice and exclusion for their courageous work. Through this resolution, we want to contribute to their protection,” says Norway’s Foreign Minister Børge BrendeNorway is coordinating the UN General Assembly’s work in New York on the protection of human rights defenders. The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, has on several occasions expressed great concern for the challenging working conditions of human rights defenders. This is the first time a resolution on the situation and significance of women human rights defenders has been put on the table. “We want to send a clear signal of support to women who fight for human rights around the world, and we call on member states to enable and allow for their work to make our societies better,” says Brende. The resolution also calls on national human rights institutions, regional organizations and the UN system to take action. The draft resolution was formally presented on Friday 1 November.

via Norway’s Proposal to Protect Women Human Rights Defenders – The Nordic Page – Panorama.

 

Deadline for candidatures Special Rapporteur extended to 14 November

October 29, 2013

On 28 September I shared a message concerning criteria to help select the best possible successor as Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders. It mentioned 31 October as deadline, but the UN now informs us that the deadline for applications for special rapporteurs – to be appointed at the 25th session of the Human Rights Council (March 2014) – has been extended to Thursday 14 November 2013 (Midnight, GMT). If encountering technical difficulties, the Secretariat may be contacted by email: hrcspecialprocedures@ohchr.org.

 

Human rights defenders working on development issues are increasingly stigmatized, UN Rapporteur tells General Assembly

October 29, 2013

 

Human rights defenders working on behalf of communities affected by large-scale development projects are increasingly being branded ‘anti-government’, ‘against development’ or even ‘enemies of the State’, the Special Rapporteur for human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, has warned. Read the rest of this entry »

UN human rights report is politically motivated says Iran

October 27, 2013

The Tehran Times of 24 October 2013 , the governmental english-language newspaper of Iran, devoted a big piece on the reaction of the Government to the latest report by Ahmed Shaheed, UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran. According to Reuters, in an address to the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee Ahmed Shaheed, said, “Any renewed or revitalized dialogue between Iran and the international community must include and not seek to sideline the issue of human rights” and “Human rights considerations must be central to the new government’s legislative and policy agenda, and to international dialogue and cooperation.”  Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Afkham, responded on Thursday that the mechanism for the appointment of the rapporteur was “completely political,” adding, “Terrorist groups and the groups which are seeking violence and have innocent people’s blood on their hands have been used as sources to prepare this report so it has no legal weight. In addition, Iran’s Permanent Mission to the UN issued a statement in which it defended the country’s human rights record. For those who are interested here follow some long excerpts which in tone and content are still very tough but perhaps the last paragraph reflects a bit more the hope that many have since Rouhani’s election: “Finally, notwithstanding our strong criticism of the report, we will continue our efforts to promote human rights in our country, including through enhancing our cooperation with the UN human rights machinery, particularly OHCHR, the UPR, thematic mandate holders and bilateral dialogue on human rights.Read the rest of this entry »

Margaret Sekaggya, UN expert, finds situation of human rights defenders in Togo improved, but not good enough

October 18, 2013

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, on 16 October 2013 called on the Togolese Government to ensure a favourable environment in which human rights defenders can carry out their work. The Government can do this by fully implementing the existing legal framework, avoiding stigmatisation and fostering a spirit of dialogue and constructive criticism, she said at the end of her five-day mission to assess progress made in Togo since her last visit in 2008.

Compared to 2008, “The environment for defenders is more enabling now, but important challenges remainRead the rest of this entry »

Kenya: Human Rights Defenders under attack but continue to speak out against skipping the ICC

October 15, 2013

Yesterday, 15 October, the Kenyan police arrested seven members of Bunge la Mwananchi on suspicion of illegal assembly as they were protesting a tax increase on commodities. Amongst those arrested was human rights defender Ruth Mumbi. Read the rest of this entry »