Posts Tagged ‘UNPO’

Intimidation and Reprisals on UN premises – NGOs ask for more action

September 17, 2019

On 23 August 2019, 23 NGOs wrote to the United Nations to raise concerns over the alarming pattern of intimidation and reprisals faced by members of civil society during sessions of the Human Rights Council and Treaty Bodies. The letter calls on the ASG to raise this issue during his speech before the HRC on 19 September 2019, and urges the OHCHR to take measures to ensure that such acts of reprisals are not repeated in the future. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/05/human-rights-defenders-issues-at-the-42nd-session-of-the-un-human-rights-council/

Below is the original text of the letter, as sent to the UN representatives in question:

To: Mr Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights; H.E. Mr Coly Seck, Permanent Representative of Senegal and President of the Human Rights Council; Mr Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

Mr Gilmour, 

We, the undersigned organisations, write to raise deep concerns about a consistent pattern of intimidation and reprisals faced by members of civil society from around the world during sessions of the Human Rights Council (HRC) and the Treaty Bodies. We are particularly concerned by acts of intimidation perpetrated by representatives of and individuals affiliated with government parties. 

During the 41st session of the HRC, staff of Permanent Missions and individuals wearing non-diplomatic badges, who were later verified as working with UN Member and Observer States, attended our side-events, and blatantly eavesdropped on our conversations, recorded our comments, took photos and videos of the audience, and made threatening gestures and remarks. 

We are all the more concerned as this is not the first time that human rights defenders and other individuals engaging with the HRC have faced acts of harassment and intimidation. Rather, these tactics are part of a consistent and systematic pattern of behaviour that we have unfortunately come to anticipate and expect at every session of the HRC. 

Furthermore, HRDs engaging with the Treaty Bodies also face intimidation and reprisals perpetrated by representatives of and individuals affiliated with government parties. There have been multiple instances of so-called “GONGOs” – governmental non-governmental organisations – registering for confidential and closed briefings with Treaty Bodies’ members. This allows them to know exactly who among civil society is present during these briefings. There has also been cases of briefings that have been filmed without the permission of NGOs. 

What is more, governments’ support given to GONGOs means that they are often granted consultative status with the UN. On the contrary, independent NGOs continue to be denied the ECOSOC status, demonstrating that reprisals against HRDs also occur within the UN system. In addition, the proliferation of GONGOs both at the HRC and Treaty Bodies, allows them to influence the discourse about human rights in a particular state or region, thus minimising the real issues at stake. 

The aforementioned acts of harassment and intimidation are concerning not only because they create an atmosphere of fear and self-censorship, but also because numerous human rights defenders who have travelled to Geneva to participate in HRC or Treaty Body sessions have faced reprisals upon their return to their countries as a direct result of this. As such, we take these acts of intimidation very seriously and submit that they may result in further acts of retaliation.

We note with appreciation that the current president of the HRC, his Excellency Mr Coly Seck, Permanent Representative of Senegal, addressed some of the issues raised in this letter during the final meeting of the 41st session of the HRC. He expressed his concern that “civil society organisations continue to face intimidation and reprisals” and pointed out that a number of cases had been reported to him, including of verbal harassment and unauthorised photographs taken during side-events. He emphasised that “any acts of intimidation against any individual or group that attempts to cooperate with the Human Rights Council is unacceptable”, and reminded Member and Observer States of their responsibility to ensure that civil society operate in a safe space. 

In addition, in July 2019, Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation, working in conjunction with the University of Oxford, Tibet Justice Centre and the Economic and Social Research Council launched the report “Compromised Space for Unrepresented Peoples at the United Nations”. Based on interviews and testimonies from 77 HRDs working on behalf of minorities, indigenous communities and other unrepresented peoples, it identifies a systematic attack on the UN human rights system by certain governments. This is characterised by “blocking tactics […] including deferring ECOSOC status decisions, and intervening in plenary statements, to more overt instances of harassment, intimidation and outright violence, which constitute state reprisals”. Such challenges are compounded for HRDs from minority, indigenous and marginalised groups.

While we acknowledge that HRC presidents, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ (OHCHR) reprisals team, the Treaty Bodies’ focal points for reprisals and yourself have all previously raised awareness on this issue, we strongly believe that there is a need to draw further attention to such acts of intimidation and harassment. We further note that to date, the OHCHR has not developed a systematic and practical response to the practices outlined in this letter. 

It is our contention that failure to sanction reprisals on UN premises will only embolden such acts elsewhere. Therefore, we call on you to raise this grave pattern during the presentation of the UNSG annual report on reprisals during the 42nd session of the HRC. We also call on you to urge the OHCHR to take measures to ensure that such acts of intimidation do not happen in the future. 

Yours sincerely, 

  1. Access Now 
  2. ALQST 
  3. Association for Victims of Torture in the UAE 
  4. Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain 
  5. Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy
  6. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  7. CCPR Centre 
  8. Committee for Justice 
  9. European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights 
  10. Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights
  11. MENA Rights Group 
  12. The Omani Centre for Human Rights
  13. OMCT
  14. Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion 
  15. International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE 
  16. International Centre for Justice and Human Rights 
  17. International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism 
  18. Right Livelihood Foundation 
  19. Rights Realization Centre 
  20. Salam for Democracy and Human Rights
  21. Statelessness Network Asia Pacific 
  22. Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization
  23. World Uyghur Congress 

https://unpo.org/article/21663

 

Ilham Tohti one of the finalists for the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize

August 29, 2019

Photo courtesy of Martin Ennals Award

Ilham Tohti, a Uyghur scholar who has been serving a life sentence in Chinese prison since 2014, has been chosen as a finalist for the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize.  [see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/vaclav-havel-prize-for-human-rights-pace].  The Germany-based Ilham Tohti Initiative e.V. (ITI) had nominated Prof. Tohti to the Prize on April 29, with support of four other human rights activists and NGOs. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/15/today-ilham-tohti-completes-his-fourth-year-in-chinese-detention/].

The decision as to the Prize winner will be made by the Selection Panel on 29 September 2019, and its name will be announced in the Chamber of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, on 30 September 2019 at 12:30pm. The award ceremony for the Prize will subsequently take place in the presence of all three shortlisted candidates. Two other candidates, who have also been shortlisted are Mr Buzurgmehr Yorov (Tajikistan) and the Youth Initiative for Human Rights.

The UNPO is currently campaigning for Mr. Tohti to also be awarded the Sakharov Prize saying that such prizes are an excellent way in which the international community can continue to show support for the Uyghur people in the face of hostile oppression.

China’s predictable reaction came quickly: “Beijing slammed on Thursday the nomination of a jailed academic from China’s Uighur minority for one of Europe’s top human rights awards, saying it equated to “supporting terrorism”.

https://unpo.org/article/21639

https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/china-says-uighur-award-nomination-is-supporting-terrorism

Human rights defenders of minorities having a hard time in the UN finds UNPO

July 19, 2019

On 17 July 2019 the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) is launched a report, Compromised Space: Bullying and Blocking at the UN Human Rights Mechanisms, with its partners at the University of Oxford and Tibet Justice Centre which details how China, Russia, Iran and other repressive regimes are manipulating the United Nations Human Rights System to block and attack those seeking to hold them accountable for gross human rights violations perpetrated against minorities, indigenous communities and other unrepresented peoples…

The report is based on three years of study conducted by the UNPO and its partners at the University of Oxford and the Tibet Justice Center, supported by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council. It is based largely on interviews and testimonies from 77 human rights defenders working on behalf of minorities, indigenous communities and other people living in nation states whose political systems do not create governance structures representative of all. It identifies a systemic attack on the United Nations human rights system by these governments, led largely by China, Russia and Iran, designed to shield them from accountability for human rights violations and crimes against humanity. This includes efforts to deny civil society groups participatory status at the UN (so called “ECOSOC status”), to bully and block them when they are able to access the UN, to crowd out the UN space with “GONGOs” – government-sponsored organisations posing as NGOs – and to harass, intimidate and take reprisals against activists and their families, whether at home or abroad.

Among the indicative findings of the report are the facts that:

China has regularly detained or imprisoned activists from its Southern Mongolian, Uyghur and Tibetan communities who have sought to travel to the UN, with such success that, for example, no Tibetan from Tibet who is acting independently of the Chinese government has ever managed to leave Chinese- occupied Tibet to testify at the UN in Geneva or New York, and then return safely;

Russia, in order to shield itself from accountability for its crimes in Russian-occupied Crimea, has asked for rules of participation in forums, such as the UN Minority Forum, to be changed to restrict NGO participation to groups acceptable to Russia, and its Crimea occupation authorities have attacked Crimean Tatar activists and destroyed or confiscated their passports in order to prevent their travel;

Iran regularly engages in practices designed to intimidate activists from their minority communities, even while they are operating within the United Nations buildings, and have taken out reprisals against the family members of these activists still living within the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The story of Dolkun Isa, President of the World Uyghur Congress and Vice President of the UNPO, is indicative of all of these actions. Mr. Isa and his organization have regularly been denied ECOSOC status at the United Nations, his access to the UN buildings and events have been restricted due to Chinese demands, he and his supporters have been followed and harassed in the UN building, his mother was held in China’s anti-Muslim concentration camps as a result of his work and for many years his ability to travel freely around the world was frustrated by Chinese efforts to involve European and other states in his persecution by falsely labelling him a “terrorist”.

Reacting to the launch of the report, UNPO’s General Secretary, Ralph Bunche, stated that “the report presents the disturbing finding that the United Nations Human Rights system, which is the only outlet for many peoples living under repressive regimes to seek accountability for crimes committed against them, is being systemically undermined by perpetrator regimes. Unfortunately, democratic states are not doing nearly enough to push back against this phenomenon and in some instances are even adopting the conduct that we see from the repressive states. The withdrawal of the USA from the UN’s Human Rights Council has certainly not helped matters, but other states are simply not doing enough to counter this problem and protect human rights defenders.

DOWNLOAD THE FULL REPORT HERE

https://unpo.org/article/21583

Three NGOs urge you to nominate Ilham Tohti for the Rafto Prize

January 29, 2019

Photo courtesy of the Radio Free Asia

On 28 January, 2019, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) and Norwegian Uyghur Committee (NUK) announced that they have nominated the Chinese human rights defender Ilham Tohti for the Rafto Prize. With the completion of five years of his arrest, the organisations believe his peaceful trajectory in defense of the freedom and fully enjoyment of human rights by the Uyghur population in China is deserving of this prestigious prize. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/15/today-ilham-tohti-completes-his-fourth-year-in-chinese-detention/.

[Ilham Tohti served as a professor of economics at Minzu University in Beijing where he specialized in research focused on Uyghur-Han relations, China’s ethnic policies and East Turkistan. Alongside his scholarship and teaching, Ilham is revered for establishing and maintaining Uyghur Online, a website dedicated to promoting Uyghur human rights and improved relations between Uyghur and Han Chinese people. Professor Tohti criticised oppressive policies against Uyghurs and wrote extensively on constructive approaches to overcome unequal treatment between ethnic groups. Notably, he called for dialogue and reconciliation, using his web platform as the primary vehicle. For his efforts, he was arrested by Chinese authorities on January 15, 2014. Despite the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention finding his detention to be arbitrary in March 2014, Tohti was sentenced to life in prison in September of that year on charges of “separatism” after just a two-day trial. The legal process involving Tohti was met with significant issues throughout. His lawyers were unable to meet him for six months following the initial arrest, his defense team was not provided with complete evidence by the prosecutor, nor were their requested witnesses allowed to testify during the trial. Ilham has been serving his life sentence since December 2014 at Urumqi’s No. 1 Prison. Since then, he has been allowed very few visits from his family. Complicating this has been his continued detention in Urumqi, despite his family living in Beijing – a likely punitive move from Beijing. ChinaChange has noted that Tohti has been held in solitary confinement until at least early 2016 and has been denied the right to communicate with family and friends aside from minimal visits. The WUC gathered 132 scholars and 19 civil society organisations in an open letter to urge the Chinese government to release Ilham Tohti from his arbitrary detention of the five-year anniversary of his arrest in January 2019.]  

In 2014 Mr. Tohti was awarded the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award. On October 11, 2016, Tohti was awarded the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. In 2017 he received the Weimar Prize (https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/05/uyghur-human-rights-defender-ilham-tohti-wins-also-weimar-human-rights-prize/). He was also nominated for the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize in 2016. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/15/martin-ennals-award-2016-relive-the-ceremony-in-13-minutes-or-in-full/

The WUC,the UNPO and the NUK encourage scholars and organisations to join in nominating Ilham Tohti. The deadline for nominations is Friday, February 1st. As the situation in East Turkistan continues to deteriorate, with more than one million innocent Uyghurs arbitrarily detained in internment camps and the Uyghur people facing unparalleled repression, Ilham Tohti’s life and work stands as an inspiration to continue the peaceful struggle for peace, understanding

https://unpo.org/article/21350

 

2017 (3): HRW reminds world of continuing repression of minorities and their defenders

January 20, 2017

On 12 January 2017, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released its World Report on global human rights violations in 2016 and on the dangers the world will be facing in 2017. HRW shines its spotlight on the global rise of authoritarian populism and the concomitant toughening and broadening of anti-terrorism legislation around the world, which endangered throughout 2016 – and must be expected to keep challenging in 2017 – the very foundations of human rights law and the personal dignity inherent in every human being just as much as the despicable extremist attacks, to which they are a direct reaction.

Below the UNPO‘s (stand for the UNREPRESENTED NATIONS AND PEOPLES ORGANIZATION) reading of the report which notes with satisfaction that HRW does not neglect to emphasize in its country reports the persisting human rights abuses directed against indigenous peoples and ethnic and religious minorities around the world, but also sees some shortcomings (from its own perspective): Read the rest of this entry »

UN Human Rights Prize Winner Biram Dah Abeid writes to the UN about slavery

December 18, 2013

UN Human Rights Prize laureate, Mr. Biram Dah Abeid, has written a letter to the United Nations on the occasion of the ceremony on 10 December 2013. The letter, reproduced in its entirety, is available below courtesy of UNPO:

Praise the lord and peace be upon Prophet Mohamed, Read the rest of this entry »

Human Rights award winner Biram Abeid returns triumphantly to Mauritania

June 28, 2013

(Picture courtesy of IRA Mauritania)

For those who are sceptical of human rights awards and their impact, the following report should give some food for thought: “Following a month-long trip across Europe,

Read the rest of this entry »

UNPO General Secretary Congratulates Biram Dah Abeid of Mauritania with Front LIne Award

May 4, 2013

A bit more on awards: here is an indirect way to announce the 2013 Front Line Defenders award: with the letter of congratulations published by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), which shows how recognizing a single individual HRD can lift a wider movement:Frontline NEWlogo-2 full version - cropped

Brussels, 3 May 2013 – On behalf of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, I would like to warmly congratulate Mr. Biram Dah Abeid for receiving the prestigious Human Rights Defenders at Risk Award, presented by Front Line Defenders, in Dublin. Read the rest of this entry »