Posts Tagged ‘withdrawal’

US withdraws from UN Human Rights Council: NGOs make clear their position

June 26, 2018

A group of 18 NGOs sent a joint letter to US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley in response to a letter sent by Haley to the organisations after the US withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council. On 17 May 2018, 18 NGOs had sent private letters to Member States urging them to not support the US proposal to reopen the Council’s institutional framework at the General Assembly.  Read the joint letter below.

Dear Ambassador Haley,

We write in response to your letter of 20 June 2018, in which you suggest that NGOs are somehow responsible for your decision to withdraw from the Human Rights Council. The decision to resign from the Council was that of the US administration alone. We had legitimate concerns that the US’s proposal to reopen the Council’s institutional framework at the General Assembly would do more harm than good. We see it as our responsibility to express those concerns and would do so again.

Although the Human Rights Council is not perfect, it does play an essential role. It makes a significant contribution to strengthening human rights standards, providing protection and justice to victims, and promoting accountability for perpetrators. The Council and its mechanisms have played a key role in securing the freedom of detained human rights defenders, and investigating rights violations in Syria, Yemen, Burundi, Myanmar, South Sudan, Sri Lanka and North Korea, to name but a few. It continues to address thematic issues of global concern including non-discrimination, freedom of expression online and offline, freedom of assembly, housing, migration, counterterrorism, and the protection of the rights of women, rights of LGBTI people, and rights of people with disabilities.

As you know, we are independent organizations that do not work on behalf of any government. We focus on building support for policies we believe will better the lives of those most affected by abuse –  which does mean we are sometimes opposed to proposals laid out by certain governments, or the proposed means of pursuing them, especially when we believe such an initiative could be more harmful than not.  With regard to the Council, our goal continues to be strengthening and supporting reform efforts that are ongoing in Geneva to ensure that they are informed by the experience and expertise of national and regional level actors, including rights-holders, human rights defenders and other civil society actors, victims, survivors (and their representatives).

We are committed to the international system, including the Human Rights Council, and to ensuring the system is fit for the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights. We will continue to work towards those goals.

Signatories:

  1. Amnesty International
  2. ARTICLE 19
  3. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia)
  4. Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC)
  5. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
  6. Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)
  7. Child Rights Connect
  8. Conectas Direitos Humanos
  9. DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  10. Human Rights Watch
  11. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
  12. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  13. International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU)
  14. International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA)
  15. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  16. International Women’s Health Coalition
  17. OutRight Action International
  18. Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights

UK and European Human Rights Convention: soup not eaten as hot as served

May 31, 2015

In a post of 1 October last year [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/10/01/human-rights-watch-deconstructs-case-against-uk-withdrawal-from-european-human-rights/] I referred to the rather sad efforts of conservative politicians in the United Kingdom to engineer a withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights. I am glad to refer now to a post by Ian Dunt on 27 May 2015 under the title “Cameron surrenders on human rights“.

In short, he says that the Prime Minister now sees that doing this would be politically very difficult and that he has shelved the issue at least until next year. Instead the Government will do another consultation, and – according to Dunt-  “lawyers will tell them what they have already been told: that the UK supreme court is already supreme, that we only have to ‘take account’ of Strasbourg rulings, that the Council of Europe will never tolerate an ‘advisory’ status, that the devolved assemblies will have to have a say on any changes, that the House of Lords will be within its rights to vote it down, that the Commons will probably defeat it and that even if it somehow got it through all those hurdles there’s a stream of legal recognition from Europe which could inject the European Convention of Human Rights into UK law anyway.”

The post contains a lot of interesting details on the inner-workings of the UK parliament and Cabinet and concludes that “in this case, it was a choice between his own inadequacy and the proper functioning of one of the greatest civilising missions in human history. So we should be grateful that, for now at least, his inadequacy won.”

Cameron surrenders on human rights.

Human Rights Watch deconstructs case against UK withdrawal from European Human Rights

October 1, 2014

In the past year, some senior members of the UK government have been highly critical of the current human rights framework, claiming falsely that it mainly benefits criminals, terrorists, and undocumented migrants, and suggesting that the UK should replace the Human Rights Act with a UK Bill of Rights. They have also hinted that the UK should withdraw from the European Convention so that it can more easily deport people. “To scrap the Human Rights Act and withdraw from the European Convention would be an extreme and reckless step, weakening rights protections for everyone in the UK” said Izza Leghtas, Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch. “It would gravely damage a system that has helped safeguard fundamental freedoms in some 47 European countries over six decades.”

In a Q&A released on 29 September, Human Rights Watch addresses some of the recurring criticisms of the Human Rights Act and the European Convention.

The Q&A responds to the criticism that human rights make it difficult to deport foreigners who have committed serious criminal offences. In fact, the UK already has legal powers to deport foreigners convicted of a serious criminal offence, but human rights law prohibits the deportation of a person in the limited cases where they would face a real risk of death, torture, or ill-treatment in the country of destination or have no prospect of a fair trial. Courts can also block a deportation if there would be a serious adverse impact on the deportee’s family, but in reaching such decisions courts must weigh the potential harm to the individual, the individual’s family (who may be British citizens), and the impact on society if he or she were allowed to remain.

The Q&A also addresses the criticism that the Human Rights Act is undemocratic. If a domestic court finds a UK law to be inconsistent with the Human Rights Act, it cannot strike down that law. It can only note that incompatibility and it is then for parliament to decide whether and how to change the law, in comparison to many other democratic countries where courts can strike down laws. As a last resort, people who invoke those rights unsuccessfully before UK judges can still seek to take their case to the court in Strasbourg, an arrangement approved by British governments for many decades.

The European Convention and the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights are binding on governments across the 47 countries that are part of the Council of Europe. The European Court has played a key role in protecting the rights of 800 million people across the Council of Europe region. Its rulings have been instrumental ending torture in police custody, ensuring victims of abuses by state authorities have access to justice and allowing people to express themselves freely. In many countries the court offers the only meaningful chance for justice for those whose rights are abused.

Reaffirming human rights at home is essential for any UK government that seeks to promote respect for human rights around the world. If the UK is to have any credibility on human rights in its foreign policy, it should strengthen, not weaken, its own human rights protections, Human Rights Watch said.

Attacks in the UK on the European Court of Human Rights undermine those efforts and provide succor to abusive governments in the Council of Europe that would prefer to ignore the European Court. The only European country currently not a member of the Council of Europe is Belarus. The only country to have withdrawn from the ECHR was Greece in 1969, while it was under a military dictatorship.

The UK’s withdrawal from the European Convention would be welcomed by abusive governments everywhere,” Leghtas said. “But it would gravely weaken an institution that has done so much to safeguard and advance basic freedoms across Europe and it would destroy the credibility of the UK when discussing human rights internationally.”

UK: Parties Should Commit to Rights | Human Rights Watch.