Posts Tagged ‘UPR’

Guide to Human Rights Defenders issues at the 41st Human Rights Council starting on 24 June

June 14, 2019

Thanks to the – as always very complete and timely – “Alert to the Human Rights Council’s 41st session” (from 24 June to 12 July 2019) issued by the International Service for Human Rights. I am able to give a short guide to the main items that relate to human rights defenders. To Read the full Alert to the session online click here and stay up-to-date with @ISHRglobal and #HRC41 on Twitter.

Thematic areas of interest:

Sexual orientation and gender identity: The interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) will be held on Monday 24 June at 11:00. The Council will consider the new thematic report of the mandate holder as well as the report of the country visits he made to Georgia and Mozambique. The Council will also consider the renewal of the mandate.

Business and human rights: The Council will hold an interactive dialogue with and consider several reports of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises on 26 June. The Working Group will present a report on the gender dimensions of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the reports of country visits to Thailand and Kenya. The Working Group’s report on the gender dimensions of the Guiding Principles integrates clear recognition that women human rights defenders play a vital role in challenging business-related human rights abuses as well as in promoting and protecting human rights in relation to business activity, including the right to an effective remedy. As a result of this work, women human rights defenders often face gender-specific risks including sexual violence, misogynist public shaming and online harassment. Among its recommendations, the Working Group calls on business enterprises to ensure the meaningful participation of women’s organisations, women human rights defenders and gender experts in all stages of human rights due diligence.

Women human rights defenders and women’s rights: The annual full day discussion on the human rights of women will take place on 27 and  28 June. The discussions will focus this year on violence against women in the world of work, the rights of older women and their economic empowerment. A panel focused on women’s rights and climate change will also be organised, focusing on climate action, best practices and lessons learned. States should place due consideration on the role of women human rights defenders and social movements in this regard, in line with the Human Rights Council resolution focused on environmental human rights defenders adopted in March 2019…
The Council will also hold an interactive dialogue with the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice which focuses on women deprived of liberty (including women human rights defenders in detention, facing travel bans, among other situations), and will consider their reports including a report on the country visits to Honduras and Poland. The Council will hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences on 27 June and will consider her report including the report of her visits to Canada and Nepal.

Reprisals:  In spite of a number of measures, reprisals not only continue, but grow. Item 5 of the Human Rights Council’s agenda provides a key opportunity for States to raise concerns about reprisals, including specific cases, and for relevant governments to provide updates on cases to the Council on any investigation or action taken toward accountability. During the organisational meeting held on 7 June, the President of the Council stressed the importance of ensuring the safety of those participating in the Council’s work, and the obligation of States to prevent intimidation or reprisals. In line with previous calls, ISHR expects the President of the Human Rights Council to publicly identify and denounce specific instances of reprisals by issuing formal statements, conducting press-briefings, corresponding directly with the State concerned, publicly releasing such correspondence, and insisting on undertakings from the State concerned to investigate, hold the perpetrators accountable and report back to the Council on action taken. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/13/ishr-on-reprisals-un-and-states-must-do-more-to-address-reprisals/]

Other key thematic reports: The Council will hold dedicated debates and consider reports of several mandates relating to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, and the role of human rights defenders in that work area, in some instances involving the renewal of the mandate:

  • The Special Rapporteur on independence of judges and lawyers and on the right to health (including country visits report to Canada and Kyrgyzstan) on 24 June
  • The Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association (mandate renewal, reports include country visits to Tunisia and Armenia) on 25 June
  • The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and right to education on 26 June
  • The Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression (including thematic report on surveillance companies and country visit report to Ecuador) on 25 June
  • The Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights (including country visits reports to the UK and Laos) on 28 June

In addition, the Council will hold dedicated debates on rights of specific groups including with:

  • The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants (and country visit report to Niger) on 24 June
  • The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons on 28 June (mandate renewal)
  • The Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons (and country visit to Nigeria) on 27 June
  • The Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members on 24 June

Country-specific developments:

China: For more than a year, the international community has had access to credible reports and first-hand testimony of the harassment, surveillance, and mass detention of more than one million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang. Despite the consistent work of the UN human rights mechanisms to review China, ask questions, and make recommendations, there has been no serious or effective response. The Council should take urgent action to seek access, monitoring and reporting of the situation to inform future actions. ..ISHR urges States to act collectively to advance a resolution calling for China to allow access to the region to independent human rights experts and to end country-wide the arbitrary detention of individuals based on their religious beliefs or political opinions.

Sudan: In response to the gross and systematic human rights violations occurring in Sudan, ISHR andother NGOs have urged Council Member States to urgently hold a Special Session on the human rights situation in Sudan. The Council should urgently establish an international fact-finding mission to document violations, identify perpetrators and push for accountability, in line with calls made by a group of Special Procedures including the Independent Expert on Sudan. Since 3 June, Rapid Security Forces, riot police and national security officers violently dispersed peaceful protesters in Khartoum as well as in different cities across Sudan. The MENA Women Human Rights Defenders’ Coalition reported that at least 113 people have died including women human rights defenders. Civil society documented cases of rape, attacks on hospitals, with hundreds injured and missing.  The Transitional Military Council is enforcing a ban on communication causing an internet black out. The High Commissioner has deplored the killings and proposed ‘the rapid deployment of a UN human rights monitoring team’ to Sudan.

Saudi Arabia: The June session provides an important opportunity for the Council to follow up on the joint statement delivered on behalf of 36 States [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/08/saudi-arabia-for-first-time-openly-criticized-in-un-human-rights-council/] .. Seven women’s rights activists have been provisionally released, but they are still facing trial, and other women human rights defenders are still in detention, with the human rights situation on the ground deteriorating markedly on other fronts, including through increased use of the death penalty and the authorities’ continuing crackdown on freedom of expression.  [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/28/3-saudi-women-human-rights-defenders-released-but-for-how-long-and-what-about-the-others/]
The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions will present her findings of the investigation into the killing of Khashoggi. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/26/other-members-of-the-uns-khashoggi-investigation-team-named/%5D…..ISHR calls on States to advance a Human Rights Council resolution establishing a monitoring mechanism over the human rights violations in the country and calling explicitly for the immediate and unconditional release of all human rights defenders including the detained women human rights defenders and to drop all charges against them, including those provisionally released. ISHR considers the March joint statement as a first step towards more sustained and dedicated review by the Council in its efforts to hold its members accountable.

The Philippines: The Philippines is one of the most dangerous countries for human rights defenders. Several NGOs callied on the Council to advance accountability for human rights violations by adopting a resolution establishing an independent international investigation into extrajudicial killings and this call was strongly endorsed by a group of independent UN experts who condemned a ‘sharp deterioration in the situation of human rights across the country, including sustained attacks on people and institutions defending human rights.’ [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/07/philippines-labour-rights-defender-dennis-sequena-shot-dead-while-meeting-with-workers/]

Egypt: Despite the Egyptian government’s assurances to the African Commission civil society faced restrictions, reprisals and intimidation for engaging or seeking to engage with the Commission. These restrictions and reprisals happened in a context where the Government of Egypt crushes dissent, discourages public participation in public affairs and punishes people who dare to claim basic human rights. Individuals and communities who engaged with the Special Rapporteur on the right to housing during her visit in September 2018 faced systematic reprisals. All other scheduled visits by the Special Procedures have been postponed as a result. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/07/egypt-denounced-for-reprisals-against-human-rights-defenders-who-talked-to-visiting-un-delegation/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/12/reprisal-against-egyptian-human-rights-defender-mohamed-soltan/]. ISHR calls on States to condemn the acts of intimidation and reprisals for civil society engaging with the African Commission and with the Special Procedures, and recall Egypt’s obligations to prevent acts of intimidation and reprisals, investigate the allegations and provide victims with effective remedy.

Burundi: The Commission of Inquiry on Burundi will present its oral briefing on 2 July. The closing of the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is regrettable and worrying. In addition, ISHR remains seriously concerned over the breaches to due process observed in all of human rights defender Germain Rukuki’s legal proceedings since his arrest without warrant on 13 July 2017. [See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/29/ngo-statement-condemns-new-irregularities-in-the-case-of-germain-rukuki-burundi/]. For more information on the situation of human rights defenders in Burundi, check ISHR Briefing Paper for the UPR here.

Other country situations: The High Commissioner will present her oral update to the Council on 24 June. The Council will hear reports on and is expected to consider resolutions addressing a range of country situations, in some instances involving the renewal of the relevant expert mandates. These include:

  • Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus (mandate renewal) on 1 July
  • Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea (mandate renewal) on 2 July
  • Interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi and the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar on 2 July
  • Enhanced interactive dialogue with the government of Sudan and OHCHR on 9 July
  • Enhanced interactive dialogue on the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo and interactive dialogue with the team of experts on the situation in the Kasai region on 9 July
  • Interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner on the situation in Ukraine on 10 July
  • Interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the Central African Republic on 10 July
  • Enhanced interactive dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner on Venezuela on 10 July
  • Interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner on the situation of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar on 10 July
  • First oral update and enhanced interactive dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner on Nicaragua on 11 July
  • Oral update by the High Commissioner on cooperation with Georgia on 11 July

Adoption of Universal Periodic Review (UPR) reports: During this session, the Council will adopt the UPR working group reports on New Zealand, Afghanistan, Chile, Viet Nam, Uruguay, Yemen, Vanuatu, North Macedonia, Comoros, Slovakia, Eritrea, Cyprus, Dominican Republic and Cambodia.

Resolutions to be presented to the Council’s 41st session: At the organisational meeting resolutions were announced (States sponsoring the resolution in brackets); it is possible that more resolutions could be presented at this session. These include:

  • The human rights situation in Belarus (European Union)
  • Human rights of internally displaced persons (Austria, Honduras, Uganda)
  • Human rights and climate change (Bangladesh, Philippines, Viet Nam)
  • Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Uruguay).
  • Elimination of discrimination against women and girls (Colombia, Mexico)
  • Rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association (Czech Republic, Indonesia, Lithuania, Maldives, Mexico)
  • New and emerging and digital technologies and human rights (Republic of Korea, Austria, Brazil, Denmark, Morocco, Singapore)
  • Accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women(Canada)
  • The human rights situation in Syria (France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Netherlands, Qatar, Turkey, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland)

There wil be again many side events at the Council, on which I will report separately.

Read here the three year programme of work of the Council with supplementary information.
Read here ISHR’s recommendations on the the key issues that are or should be on the agenda of the UN Human Rights Council in 2019.

On 26 April Numan Afifi must report to the police in Malaysia – smells like reprisal

April 24, 2019

On 16 April 2019, human rights defender Numan Afifi was asked by the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) to present himself on 26 April at the federal police headquarters in Bukit Aman in relation to an investigation into a speech that he had delivered at the United Nations in Geneva last month.

According to the information received from  Front Line Defenders, Numan Afifi is a human rights defender who has advocated for LGBT+ rights in Malaysia. He has actively contributed to issues ranging from democracy to HIV advocacy through his involvement in the Pelangi Campaign, the Coalition of Malaysian NGOs in the UPR Process (COMANGO) and Challenger.

On 16 April 2019, the human rights defender was contacted by an inspector from the Classified Crimes Investigation Unit, which investigates cases that fall under the Sedition Act. Numan Afifi has been asked to present himself at the federal police headquarters in Bukit Aman on 26 April 2019 to provide a statement regarding a speech presented at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva during the Consideration of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Outcome of Malaysia on 14 March 2019. The human rights defender has not been told whether the police investigation concerns his speech alone or if other civil society organisations present at the conference are involved as well. To date, no official charges have been lodged against him.

In Geneva, Numan Afifi read out a statement on the situation of LGBT+ rights in Malaysia. The statement, which was a response to Malaysia’s UPR submission, had been prepared by a coalition of 12 Malaysian organisations working on gender identity and sexual orientation. It commended the government on its acceptance of one of the recommendations regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, and raised concerns about the rejection of the other 10. The statement also called for the government and civil society to have a dialogue on sexual orientation and gender identity.

[On 17 April 2019, a smear campaign has been launched against him by pro-government groups on social media, alleging that the statement he had presented at the UN conference contained inaccurate information. The human rights defender is being pressured to retract his claims regarding the existence of state-sponsored violence against LGBT+ people in Malaysia. In June 2017, Numan Afifi was barraged with online criticism, harassment and death threats after organising a “gay breaking fast” event during the month of Ramadan to show solidarity to the LGBT+ community.]

For some of many posts on reprisals: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/numan-afifi-summoned-questioning-police-over-speech-delivered-un

Cao Shunli died five years ago – how many more before there is a change?

March 14, 2019

On 14 March 

Veteran Chinese human rights activist Cao Shunli, who died in 2014 in a Beijing hospital.

Veteran Chinese human rights activist Cao Shunli, who died in 2014 in a Beijing hospital. Photograph: Front Line Defenders

Five years ago today, Chinese activist Cao Shunli died in a Beijing hospital surrounded by police. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/02/12/cao-shunli-a-profile-and-new-award-in-her-name/]

...This week is an opportunity to pay tribute to Cao Shunli, but also importantly, for the international community to speak up and remind the Chinese government of its obligations to safeguard human rights. On March 15, the UNHRC will be meeting to adopt a final report on recommendations made in November during China’s third Universal Periodic Review (UPR). ……States can use Friday’s meeting to speak out and pay tribute to Cao Shunli and all those who have died under Chinese police custody, reject China’s denials made during the UPR over its rights abuses in Xinjiang, and build momentum towards passing a resolution on the human rights situation in China……..Since the council’s creation in 2006, there has not been a single country-specific resolution directed at China despite a worsening rights situation. It’s time for the UNHRC to end its double standards and mandate an international fact-finding mission to look into the credible reports of internment camps in Xinjiang.

Many human rights defenders, like Cao, and ethnic and religious minorities have died in Chinese custody due to torture or deprivation of medical treatment. China’s only Nobel peace prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, Uighur scholar Muhammad Salih Hajim, and Tibetan monk Tenzin Delek Rinpoche all died in police custody in recent years.

Others, like detained citizen journalist Huang Qi, await such a fate without urgent intervention. Police have denied Huang, who has kidney and heart diseases, medical treatment and have repeatedly beaten him in custody. His condition has deteriorated to the point where supporters fear he may become “another Cao Shunli” and UN independent experts recently expressed concern he might die in detention.

Ten other Chinese activists, journalists, scholars, and lawyers are on a medical watchlist of political prisoners, launched after Cao’s death to draw attention to China’s practice of torture by withholding medical treatment…………..

It’s no coincidence that following a weak response internationally to the deaths of prominent human rights defenders and a widespread crackdown on civil society that the Xi government felt confident enough to establish a system of mass internment camps for ethnic Uighurs and Muslims and turn the Xinjiang region into a “no-rights zone”.

Human rights defenders and ethnic and religious minorities in China face real risks for standing up to the Chinese government. They don’t pay with lost trade deals but with their lives. The risks of speaking out in defence of human rights and fundamental freedoms in China include losing your job, your home, your family, or being disappeared, arbitrarily detained, tortured, or even killed.

Cao Shunli said before her death: “Our impact may be large, may be small, and may be nothing. But we must try. It is our duty to the dispossessed and it is the right of civil society.” States should remember her spirit and not be afraid to speak truth to power.

Note that on 14 March a group of UN experts have renewed their call for a comprehensive and independent investigation into her death by Chinese authorities (https://www.protecting-defenders.org/en/news/china-un-experts-renew-calls-probe-death-cao-shunli).

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/14/cao-shunli-died-five-years-ago-she-stood-up-to-china-on-human-rights-and-so-must-we

China’s freedom of expression subject of side event on 13 March

March 4, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

In November 2018, China underwent its Universal Periodic Review and received many recommendations on freedom of expression, both online and off. This side event will elevate the views of civil society actors who are committed to seeing improvements in the protection of freedom of expression in China.

13 March 2019 , 13h30-14h30, in Room XXIII, Palais des Nations, Geneva

Panelists:

  • Judith Lichtenberg, Director of Lawyers for Lawyers
  • A 1989 democracy activist
  • Uyghur PEN representative
  • Steven Butler, Asia Program Coordinator, Committee to Protect Journalists
  • Sarah M Brooks, Asia Advocate, International Service for Human Rights.

Event co-organised by:

Download the event flyer

For some of my earlier posts re China: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/china/

Join the conversation on Twitter: #ChinaUPR

https://mailchi.mp/ishr/749qlxejj6-32025?e=d1945ebb90

Son of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia tells UN impunity continues

February 26, 2019

Andrew Caruana Galizia

As the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) began its 40th session in Geneva, the son of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, Andrew Caruana Galiziasaid her targeted assassination was a culmination in failures of government protection, followed by libel suits against her estate, as reported by  on 25 February 2019. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/20/human-rights-defenders-issues-in-the-40th-session-of-the-un-human-rights-council/

Caruana Galizia spoke of the difficulty in maintaining international media and political attention around cases, and how weakening multilateralism made that even harder. It has fallen on her family and her children to sustain that, he said. He spoke at HRC urging them to ensure Malta accepts specific recommendations made at the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) five months ago for an independent public inquiry into his mother’s death. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/11/maltas-aditus-foundation-urges-government-to-improve-relationship-with-human-rights-defenders/]

The NGO Article 19, which organised the panel, stressed that impunity for attacks against journalists must end. It listed worrying trends of human rights violations, all of which pose a major threat to freedom of expression globally:

  • Continued impunity for attacks against journalists;
  • Failures by States to combat religious intolerance, while also failing to secure the rights to freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression;
  • The abuse of counter-terrorism laws to target civil society and dissenting voices;
  • Attacks against women human rights defenders and environmental and land defenders.

https://theshiftnews.com/2019/02/25/impunity-persists-son-of-murdered-journalist-tells-un-human-rights-council/

Israel at 2018 UPR session denies restricting human rights defenders

January 29, 2018

On Wednesday, 24 January 2018 mwcnews reported on Israel‘s third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session in Geneva.  A large part of the session was devoted to the usual and heated tit-for-tat with UN member states criticizing Israel for failing to abide by human rights laws and UN resolutions (“Israel is the only state in the world that can be called an apartheid state,” the South African delegate stated), while Aviva Raz Shechter, Israeli ambassador to the UN in Geneva, laid out bluntly how Israel was going to receive the recommendations of fellow members. “The continuous discrimination against Israel in the HRC and the unparalleled number of one-sided biased and political resolutions adopted regularly by the automatic majority of its members testifies not only to the unfair treatment of Israel but also to the deficiencies of the council itself and its agenda,” she said.

Shechter listed what she claimed were some areas of improvement in human rights in Israel compared with the last review, which was in 2013. These, she said, included new initiatives and measures taken by Israel to uphold the rights of people with disabilities, minorities, the LGBT community and women. However, Shechter’s minimal references to the situation of Palestinians in the occupied territories left many delegates unimpressed. Emi Palmor, the director-general of the Israeli ministry of justice, stayed on the defensive before highlighting what she called the improvements in the judiciary, from the introduction of some prisoners’ rights and safeguards for juvenile detainees to taking over investigations of complaints against the Israel Security Agency, better known as Shin Bet. “A large part will not listen to what I am saying … this council has not acquired its reputation for equality or impartiality,” she said.

Palmor contended that Israel had made progress with regards to the detention of minors by establishing a dedicated juvenile court, improving its system by which families are notified, as well as authorising courts to appoint attorneys for the minors “if they wished so”. Still, delegates from Belgium, Bolivia, Canada, Madagascar and other UN member states called upon Israel to allow civil society and independent human rights organisations on its territory to work freely. Some called on Israel to allow human rights bodies to conduct fact-finding missions to investigate allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity. They expressed concern over the perceived targeting of human-rights defenders and independent nongovernmental organisations in the context of Israel’s NGO Transparency Law and Anti-Boycott Law. The recommendations and concerns were rejected by Palmor, who claimed that Israel places no legal restrictions on human rights associations.

[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/26/israel-denies-work-permit-to-human-rights-watch-and-continues-harassment-of-hrds/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/27/human-rights-watch-granted-israeli-work-permit-in-the-end/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/05/michael-sfardjan-israels-human-rights-activists-arent-traitors/]

Some delegates called upon Israel to ratify the optional protocol to the Convention against Torture and to uphold the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, which prohibits individual or mass forcible transfers and deportations of protected persons from occupied territory. Germany was one of the countries with concerns in this regard.…..

Shechter, the Israeli ambassador, said it was deplorable that UN representatives would use the UPR session as what she called a platform to politicise the human rights discourse. “It is a cynical and hypocritical attitude meant to distort the reality,” she said, adding however that Israel would continue to cooperate with the HRC and take “seriously” the recommendations made at Tuesday’s session.

http://mwcnews.net/news/middle-east/70152-israel-gets-flak-over-human-rights-record.html

Emirates at the UPR in Geneva: two sides of the same medal?

January 23, 2018

Sometimes it hard t believe that media have observed the same meeting. Here the case of the Emirates (UAE) which was the subject of a UPR session on 22 January 2018. The Middle East Eye says that “At UN meeting, rights groups slam UAE for arbitrary detention“, while The National sees that “UAE strategy will advance human rights in Middle East, Gargash tells UN council”.

Portrait of UAE founder Zayd Bin Sultan Nahyan at UAE’s culture exhibition at the Palace of Nations, Geneva (MEE/Amandla Thomas-Johnson)
Amandla Thomas-Johnson's picture Amandla Thomas-Johnson reports that Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash strongly denied allegations that the country practises arbitrary detention. Gargash, who led a high-level delegation to a peer-review process called the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which each UN-member state undergoes every five years. “I would like to affirm that the UAE does not arrest or detain any person arbitrarily,” he said. “A person is immediately informed of the accusations against them. Everything that takes place is in line with our laws and done with concrete safeguards against arbitrary detention and arrest.
The remarks from the senior Emirati diplomat starkly contrasted with the opinion of four UN Special Rapporteurs – independent experts mandated to look into human rights violations – who in 2016 called on the UAE to respect the rights of several foreign nationals who were arbitrarily detained. Gargash’s comments came amid a quick-fire session held at the human rights conference room, with over 100 country-delegates given just over a minute each to speak. Rights organisations that took part in the UPR process by submitting documents detailing alleged human rights abuses, had mixed responses to the session;
  • Safwa Aissa, Executive Director of the Geneva-based International Centre for Justice and Human Rights, said of the session: “It’s not bad, but we wanted something better, especially from European countries. We had met with many countries beforehand and made them aware of the situation in the countries.”
  • Similarly, Julia Legner from Geneva-based Alkarama Foundation said: “It was slightly disappointing. I was expecting harsher criticism, given that it’s a peer review by states. It’s clear that some states will always congratulate the UAE.” “There could have been stronger comments on the total silencing of civil society, the crackdown on freedom of expression, which has reached a limit where there is no human rights defenders operating from within the UAE.” Responding to Gargash’s claim that arbitrary detention is not practised, she said: “We beg to differ and we have evidence.”
  • Toby Cadman, an international human rights barrister, said that while the UPR is “an important process,” it often has “the appearance of the Eurovision Song Contest of International Justice whereby friendly States, regional, diplomatic and trade partners pat each other on the back rather than offer constructive criticism and call for change”. “The UAE UPR was indicative of that approach today. There is a real need for fundamental reform in the UAE criminal justice and penal system.” 

David Haigh, who is bringing a legal case against UAE authorities for his arbitrary arrest and torture, criticised Gargash’s comments as untruthful. “I was arbitrarily detained for 15 months before I was charged. In the judgments against me one of the UAE courts confirmed that I had complained of arbitrary detention,” Haigh told MEE after the session. “Of course there is arbitrary detention.” Haigh, who has now established a foundation and law firm to assist others who suffer injustice in the UAE, said arbitrary detention happens “time and time again”.

 

Advancing human rights is a critical factor in ensuring stable societies and promoting development, ..The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs said that as a model nation for youth in the region, the UAE had sought to strengthen human rights and legal safeguards within the review framework overseen by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights….In the context of a region where extremism creates division and polarisation, Mr Gargash said advancing human rights was a “powerful antidote” to pernicious forces.

“The promotion of tolerance and the rejection of extremism is fundamental to the advancement of human rights in the UAE and the wider region,” he told a packed chamber at the Palais des Nations. “Piece by piece, we have developed a comprehensive strategy to advance the cause of human rights in the UAE.” The UAE will establish a national human rights institution in line with the Paris Principles and guidance of the reporting process before the end of the year, he said. In responses to contributions from the floor, Dr Gargash said the country would also study joining additional protocols and extending invitations to special rapporteurs…

In response to allegations based on reporting about pre-trial detention, Dr Gargash said there was no detention without an arrest warrant…“The UAE is a bastion of stability where people from about 200 nationalities live peacefully in social and religious harmony. We are committed to finding the right balance between protecting our legitimate need for security and preserving our reputation as an open society.”….

He also pointed to the UAE’s role as the world’s largest donor of official development assistance as a proportion of its national income….

In its submission, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights recognised considerable developments in the UAE in the past four years. “UAE’s efforts in combating trafficking are marked as a good example,” the office said. “This included the Adoption of Federal Act Law No 1 of 2015, which provides protection for victims of trafficking, and the 2012 and 2015 Amendments of Federal Law No 51 of 2006 on combating trafficking.” It also hailed the progress in raising the status of women. “The National Strategy for Empowerment of Emirati Women in the UAE for 2015-2021 … provides a framework for government, private sector and civil society organisations to establish work plans to increase women’s presence and empowerment mainly in the economic sector in the UAE.”

Anwar Gargash, UAE minister of state for foreign affairs, tours Michael Møller, Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva, around UAE culture exhibition (MEE/Amandla Thomas-Johnson)

Cultural diplomacy: Earlier in the day, Gargash had been the focus of attention as he hosted the director-general of the UN in Geneva, Michael Moller, around a new cultural exhibition the UAE had officially opened minutes before the human rights session began a floor above. Spread over two floors and including mock Bedouin tents and a photo exhibit, women took centre-stage at the UAE’s latest efforts at cultural diplomacy, with a troop of women clad in sequined abayas performing a fashion show for onlookers. But The Middle East Eye said that “UAE’s efforts at cultural diplomacy came under fire by Julia Legner, at Alkarama”:  “It’s part of the propaganda machine of the UAE, trying to portray an image of culture and tolerance and inclusion and progress. They’re using it as a chance to cover up the dark side.” 

For my earlier posts on the UAE, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/uae/

http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/un-meeting-uae-heavily-criticised-rights-groups-arbitrary-detention-888227605

https://www.thenational.ae/world/gcc/uae-strategy-will-advance-human-rights-in-middle-east-gargash-tells-un-council-1.697809

Job opportunities at the International Service for Human Rights

October 4, 2017

International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) announces two vacancies:

Read the rest of this entry »

Philippines shows the weakness of the UPR system: spinning only on one side

September 23, 2017

On 23 September 2017 quite a number of observers and some media responded to the ill-deserved claim by the Philippines Government that it has scored a “big victory” in the UN’s UPR (Universal Periodic Review).  The problem remains that the UN itself does not have the outreach and ‘spinning’ capacity to counter the propaganda spread, especially at the national level in the Philippines.

Seat of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. UN Brief photo

In reality it was ignoring important issues raised and rejected key recommendations made by other States. The Philippine delegation on Friday at the session in Geneva accepted only 103 out of 257 recommendations made by member-states. On Saturday, the Department of Foreign Affairs claimed the country “scored a big victory in Geneva” when the UN body “overwhelmingly adopted Manila’s human rights report card.” (Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano claimed the “adoption” of Manila’s report means that the country “has nothing to hide with its human rights record.“)  [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/11/02/duterte-is-wrong-human-rights-defenders-are-beautiful/]

Adoption of the UPR outcome report, however, cover both the report by the Philippines’ and also the other states’ positions on its human rights record, which included calls to investigate killings (the final document “consists of the questions, comments and recommendations made by States to the country under review, as well as the responses by the reviewed State,” according to a UN human rights office’s brief on its website.)

While member-states welcomed the Philippines’ acceptance of some of the recommendations such as on poverty and education, many expressed concern over its decision not to take action on most of the points raised. Key recommendations merely “noted” by the Philippines—a move interpreted as a rejection by observers—include 44 related to extrajudicial killings in the Duterte government’s campaign against illegal drugs. The Philippines also snubbed recommendations relating to the protection of journalists and human rights defenders, as well as those urging it to lift conditions to allow access of the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings.

A farce”. This was how human-rights group Karapatan described the Philippine government’s supposed “victory”. Karapatan secretary general Tinay Palabay said on Saturday the Philippine government delegation to Geneva “conveniently glosses over” the fact that it did not accept a number recommendation that aimed to resolve pressing issues on human rights. The Philippine delegation, however, practically denied before the UN body the existence of extrajudicial killings in the drug war despite the increasing number of deaths of suspects without trial.

International watchdog Human Rights Watch also reminded the Philippines to cooperate as a member of the council in all of its mechanisms, such as in allowing the special rapporteur without conditions to look into cases in the Philippines.

Sources: Ignoring issues raised, Philippines claims ‘victory’ in UN review | Headlines, News, The Philippine Star | philstar.com

http://www.interaksyon.com/dedma-blues-human-rights-watch-dismayed-at-ph-rejection-of-review-recommendations/

http://globalnation.inquirer.net/160441/karapatan-downplays-ph-delegates-victory-unhrc-united-nations-unhrc-dfa-cayetano-karapatan-human-rights-group#ixzz4tUkOfpcR

Reprisals at the UN: more calls for action – no action

June 23, 2017

The UN and States must take visible and sustained action against acts of intimidation and reprisal against those engaging or seeking to engage with the UN“, says the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) in two reports issued on 22 June 2017.  Unfortunately, the NGO community (the main victims of the practice of reprisals) finds it difficult to come up with new ideas on how counter the trend while States continue to block the participation and input by human rights defenders. [ see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/03/13/zero-tolerance-for-states-that-take-reprisals-against-hrds-lets-up-the-ante/and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/]

ISHR’s latest report to the UN Secretary-General demonstrates again the need for the UN and States to act to prevent and ensure accountability for intimidation and reprisals against those cooperating or seeking to cooperate with the UN, and lays out a series of recommendations in that regard. The report documents a disturbing pattern of reprisals against human rights defenders seeking to cooperate with the UN. It includes alleged cases of travel bans in Bahrain in the context of the Universal Period Review this May; disappearances and detention of defenders and lawyers, as well as intimidation of their families in China; and restrictions imposed on NGOs in Egypt.The report welcomes recent positive steps such as the appointment of Assistant Secretary General Andrew Gilmour as the first high-level official on reprisals against those cooperating with the UN on human rights, but highlights that more needs to be done. ‘In the overwhelming majority of cases, steps taken by the State to prevent, investigate or ensure accountability for reprisals have been inadequate or non-existent, and in many States there has been a high-level of impunity’ said ISHR’s Programme Coordinator and Legal Counsel, Tess McEvoy. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/05/assistant-secretary-general-andrew-gilmour-appointed-as-the-uns-focal-point-to-combat-reprisals-against-human-rights-defenders/]

The primary duty to prevent and remedy reprisals lies with States. However the UN itself also has a duty to step up. ‘Where States fail to adequately investigate and ensure accountability in relation to credible allegations of intimidation and reprisals, the UN should ensure an international, independent investigation into the case‘, said McEvoy. In the report ISHR called on UN bodies to take a more proactive role in combating reprisals and intimidation, and among other things, urged:

  • The Human Rights Council President and Bureau to clearly outlines steps the Council will take on receipt of information about credible risks of reprisals.
  • Treaty bodies to fully adopt and implement the San Jose guidelines.
  • The Assistant Secretary-General to ensure that rights holders and victims are kept regularly appraised of the status of their case.

     

    On the same day ISHR published a statement to the 35th session of the Human Rights Council, ISHR calling for a stronger focus on the implementation of Universal Periodic Review recommendations and the development of processes to ensure civil society can freely engage without fear of intimidation and reprisal. ‘Civil society is not only necessary for developing recommendations, but is essential for the working towards the implementation of these recommendations. The role of civil society must therefore be protected and enhanced’, said ISHR.

    While recommendations received are often accepted at ‘Geneva level’, implementation of these recommendations on the ground remains patchy. Item 6 on the agenda of the UN Human Rights Council provides a opportunity for dialogue on implementation.

    Alleged cases of intimidation and reprisals of human rights defenders engaging or seeking to engage in the UPR have escalated. ISHR received reports of cases in Egypt, India and Venezuela in the past year. Ongoing reprisals in Bahrain  are particularly concerning, including the imposition of travel bans on 27 defenders during the 27th UPR pre-session – including Sayed Hadi Al Musawi – as well as the interrogation of Abtisam Alsayegh in relation to her UN engagement. ISHR’s statement reiterated calls for States to ask advance questions, and make recommendations about the prevention, investigation, prosecution and remediation of reprisals.

    Reprisals against human rights defenders for their engagement with the UPR remain worryingly prevalent,’ said McEvoy. Given civil socity’s fundamental role in the UPR, we call on the President, Bureau and Secretariat to establish an institutionalised reprisals mechanism to prevent, investigate, remedy and promote accountability for reprisals associated with the UPR’, McEvoy continued. These calls form part of ISHR’s broader strategy to strengthen the UPR  which can be accessed hereContact: Tess McEvoy, Programme Coordinator and Legal Counsel, and focal point for ISHR’s UPR advocacy, on: t.mcevoy@ishr.ch.

    http://www.ishr.ch/news/report-sg-un-and-states-must-do-more-prevent-and-ensure-accountability-reprisals-0