Posts Tagged ‘Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’

Change of High Commissioner for Human Rights at the UN: optimism warranted

August 22, 2018

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, following approval by the General Assembly, has appointed Michelle Bachelet of Chile the next United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.  [Ms. Bachelet ended her second four-year term as President of Chile in March 2018, having already held the position between 2006 and 2010.  The first woman elected to Chile’s highest office, after her first term, she joined the United Nations as the first Executive Director of the newly established United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women). A long-time human rights champion and ground-breaking leader, Ms. Bachelet is a paediatrician who began her Government career as an adviser in the Ministry of Health, rising quickly to become the first woman to lead Chile’s Health Ministry in 2000 and its Defence Ministry in 2002. Ms. Bachelet became involved in Chilean human rights activism in the early 1970s.  She and her parents were political prisoners, and her father, a general in the air force, died in prison.  After their release, Ms. Bachelet and her mother spent several years in exile.  She returned to Chile in 1979.] Her human rights background as well as her political cloud and experience give reason to hope that the Office of the High Commissioner will continue to be at the forefront in spite of the countervailing currents at the moment.  

 

 

 

 

 

Recognition of the fearless outgoing High Commissioner has continued to pour in:

The 2018 Human Rights Tulip has been awarded to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. Dutch Foreign minister Stef Blok will present him with the prize on 3 September in The Hague. For more information on the Human Rights Tulip see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/tulip-award. ‘The Netherlands greatly values the way in which he has fulfilled his mandate as High Commissioner,’ Mr Blok said. ‘He addressed human rights violations wherever they occurred. This critical and independent attitude is what is needed in a world where human rights are in jeopardy in many places.

On Monday 20 August the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said in a wide-ranging interview days before his four-year term ends that U.S. President Donald Trump bears “a heavy responsibility” for how the media is portrayed and that his remarks could have a knock-on effect that could hurt journalists in other countries.” [U.S. newspapers across the country ran editorials last Thursday defending freedom of the press in response to President Donald Trump calling some media organizations enemies of the American people.] “The President should be aware that a heavy responsibility lies on his shoulders when it comes to the way in which the media is being portrayed,” Zeid said.

In his last major interview with UN News on 15 August, the UN human rights chief says that the “real pressure on this job comes from the victims and those who suffer and expect a great deal from us.” “Governments are more than capable of defending themselves. It’s not my job to defend them. I have to defend civil society, vulnerable groups, the marginalized, the oppressed. Those are the people that we, in our office, need to represent,” he adds, noting that “oppression is making a comeback”.

When asked about whether his view of the UN and what it can achieve has diminished during his time spent speaking out loudly in defence of the abused and defenceless over the past four years, he says: “It’s very difficult to tolerate abuse of the UN when I keep thinking of the heroic things that people do in the field, whether the humanitarian actors or humanitarian personnel, my human rights people, the people who are monitoring or observing. And I take my hat off to them. I mean, they are the UN that I will cherish and remember.”

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https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2018-08-20/trump-has-responsibility-towards-media-un-rights-boss-says

https://news.un.org/en/story/2018/08/1017052

https://www.government.nl/latest/news/2018/08/14/high-commissioner-for-human-rights-zeid-raad-al-hussein-to-receive-2018-human-rights-tulip

https://www.un.org/press/en/2018/sga1824.doc.htm

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights warns of ‘preventable calamities’ worldwide

June 14, 2016

In a wide-ranging opening speech to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, on 13 June 2016, the UN rights chief sheds a light on “ calamities” and worrying trends around the world, including detailed concerns about the situation in more than 50 countries.

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. UN Photo/Pierre Albouy

Hate is becoming mainstreamed,” warned the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, speaking at the opening of the Council’s 32nd session.

Walls – which tormented previous generations, and have never yielded any sustainable solution to any problem – are returning. Barriers of suspicion are rising, snaking through and between our societies – and they are killers. Clampdowns on public freedoms, and crackdowns on civil society activists and human rights defenders, are hacking away at the forces which uphold the healthy functioning of societies. Judicial institutions which act as checks on executive power are being dismantled. Towering inequalities are hollowing out the sense that there are common goods,” Mr. Zeid stressed. He said these trends “bleed nations of their innate resilience,” and do not make them safe; instead, they make them weaker. “Piece by piece, these mutually reinforcing trends are shearing off the protections that maintain respect, enable development, and provide the only fragile basis for world peace. They are attacks on sanity. And they can be reversed”

Meanwhile, he told Member States that he very much regrets the refusal by some countries to permit the staff of the his Office (OHCHR) to have access in order to monitor and report on events. “I must emphasise that non-cooperation by Governments will not result in my Office remaining silent. On the contrary, it creates a presumption of major violations, and may deprive local and national actors of the opportunity to explain and provide information about events,” he stressed, adding that when he updates the Council at the September session, he may list a number of countries where engagement with or access for his Office is impeded.

‘Very pressing human rights concerns’ around the globe

Today, Mr. Zeid said his goal was to outline “some very pressing human rights concerns, which could have been prevented – and must now be redressed.”

Speaking of the situation in Europe, Mr. Zeid underlined that globally, many countries have distinguished themselves “by their principled welcome to large numbers of desperate, often terrified and poverty-stricken migrants and refugees.” However, he said many other countries have not done so, and their failure to take in a fair share of the world’s most vulnerable is undermining the efforts of more responsible States.

Turning to the Middle East and North Africa, he warned that “the life-forces of society – which are the freedom and hopes of the people – are crushed by repression, conflict or violent anarchy.” The antidote to the savagery of violent extremism is greater rule of law,” he stressed. “The best way to fight terrorism, and to stabilize the region, is to push back against discrimination; corruption; poor governance; failures of policing and justice; inequality; the denial of public freedoms, and other drivers of radicalization.”

In relation to other challenges on the African continent, Mr. Zeid’s remarks included concerns about new waves of attacks by violent extremists; killings, disappearances and arbitrary arrests by agents of the State or associated militia; some signs of stable countries “backsliding into violence; and some showing a reduction in “democratic space.

Similarly in Asia, terrorist groups are claiming responsibility for many deadly incidents against men, women, and children; there has reportedly been a dramatic increase in the number of brutal murders against freethinkers, liberals, religious minorities and activists for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights; longstanding protests have also continued and escalated with police using excessive force.

Meanwhile, the UN rights chief shared his concern about the situation across the Americas regarding the very high incidence of gun violence and gun-related deaths. According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the Americas have by far the highest rate of intentional homicide of any region in the world.


Source: United Nations News Centre – UN rights chief warns of ‘preventable calamities’ and ‘worrying’ trends in more than 50 countries

Dictator Hissène Habré sentenced to life: impunity can be beaten (sometimes)

June 6, 2016

On 30th May 2016, the Extraordinary African Chambers declared Hissène Habré guilty of torture, crimes against humanity, war crimes and sexual crimes, perpetrated during his presidency of Tchad (Chad) between 1982 and 1990. The former Tchadian dictator has been sentenced to life in prison. Human rights organizations have hailed this verdict as “historical” and a victory for the thousands of victims who have fought for twenty years to make their voices heard and obtain justice before an impartial judiciary. They hope that it sends a strong signal to all perpetrators of international crimes. There are many sources but the two most active NGOs are probably: FIDH and its member organizations in Tchad and Senegal and Human Rights Watch (HRW). For more info on their views see the links below.

Explosion of happiness at the announcement of the verdict (source FIDH Facebook)

A summary of the decision was read out in court by chief judge Gberdao Gustave Kam of Burkina Faso, who shared the bench with two senior Senegalese judges. The written decision will be distributed at a later date, but on the Human Rights Watch site there is an unofficial summary from notes taken in court.

On 30 May 2016 the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights added its agreement: “After years of struggle and many setbacks on the way to justice, this verdict is as historic as it was hard-won. I sincerely hope that today, at last, Habré’s victims will experience some sense of relief,Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said. “Following earlier convictions by other courts of former president Charles Taylor and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, the conviction and sentencing of Hissène Habré shows that even heads of State and other leaders who commit terrible crimes will ultimately be held to account”.

HOWEVER, it is not over yet. The judges have until 31 July 31 2016 to approve measures of reparation for the victims.

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https://www.fidh.org/en/region/Africa/chad/hissene-habre-case-a-historic-and-long-awaited-verdict-19999#

https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/05/30/chads-ex-dictator-convicted-atrocities

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54088#.V1UbSYRptgc

http://www.martinennalsaward.org/?option=com_content&view=article&id=120&Itemid=135

NGO Committee of the UN shows its bizarre bias against (human rights) NGOs

June 1, 2016

I have written several times about the worrying trends in the ‘obscure’ “ECOSOC Committee on NGOs”  (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/ecosoc/) which is supposed to consider applications by NGOs for ECOSOC accreditation and, as such, is a key gateway for NGOs to gain access to the UN. The International Service of Human Rights (ISHR) recently came out with a statement that the “practice of the Committee is wholly unacceptable and must change” (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/05/04/ishr-starts-campaign-to-monitor-committee-that-throttles-ngo-access-to-the-un/). As if it was necessary to illustrate the bias of this UN NGO Committee against NGOs here are two recent cases decided on 26 May 2016: Read the rest of this entry »

Opening Statement of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council’s 31st session

February 29, 2016

The Statement of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, at the 31st session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, on 29 February 2016 is worth reading (as usual). Some of the highlights are: UN HCHR Al Hussein
Today we meet against a backdrop of accumulating departures from that body of institutions and laws which States built to codify their behaviour. Gross violations of international human rights law – which clearly will lead to disastrous outcomes – are being greeted with indifference. More and more States appear to believe that the legal architecture of the international system is a menu from which they can pick and choose – trashing what appears to be inconvenient in the short term.
Read the rest of this entry »

14th International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights opens in Geneva on 4 March

February 24, 2016

The 14th edition of the “Festival du Film et Forum International sur les Droits Humains (FIFDH), will take place in Geneva from 4 to 13 March 2016. 200 film makers and international personalities are expected to show their films and participate in the debates.

This edition is dedicated to memory of the artist Leila Alaoui, who fell victim to the attack in Ouagadougou (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/01/28/14th-edition-of-the-geneva-human-rights-film-festival-fifdh-from-4-to-13-march-2016/). The opening takes place in the presence of te UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein and the festival closes with ‘Made in France‘ by Nicolas Boukhrief. For the full programme follow the link: http://www.fifdh.org/site/en/program

Source: International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights, Geneva

UN and NGOs try to deal with Burundi on 17 December

December 16, 2015

Tomorrow 17 December there will be a Special session of the Human Rights Council on preventing further deterioration [now that is diplomatic language!] of the human rights situation in Burundi. The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) is using the occasion to organize a side event on:  “Escalation of Violence in Burundi: Human rights defenders voices from the ground” from 09.00-10.00 am in Room XII, Palais des Nations, Geneva. It will be webcast live on www.ishr.ch/webcast. Follow on twitter using the hash-tag #BurundiHRDs.ISHR-logo-colour-high

Panelists (moderator Nicolas Agostini of FIDH):

  • Mr Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Incarcerated Persons (APRODH), MEA Laureate 2007.
  • Ms Margaret Barankitse, Maison Shalom
  • Mr Anschaire Nikoyagize, Ligue ITEKA
  • Ms Carina Tertsakian, Human Rights Watch
There has been almost unanimity on the need for international attention and action. For those who want to see some of the major reports that came out recently, see the summary below. See also my earlier post: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/11/10/burundi-what-more-early-warning-does-one-need/

Read the rest of this entry »

Reprisals against Human Rights Defenders continue says UN report

September 17, 2015

Reprisals against human rights defenders continue and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (fortunately) continues to give it prominence. A newly released United Nations report names 20 nations that have taken action against rights defenders and activists over the past year. Here the version of the New York Times (Nick Cumming) of 15 September 2015:

Those who give evidence to United Nations human rights investigators are facing increasingly severe reprisals, the United Nations Human Rights Council said Tuesday in a report naming 20 countries that took action against rights defenders and activists in the past year. The instances included intimidation and reprisals against the council’s commissions of inquiry on Eritrea and the 2014 war in Gaza, as well as people cooperating with United Nations investigators and staff monitoring human rights developments, the council’s president, Joachim Rücker, reported. “The types of acts reported seem to have become more varied and severe over time, targeting not only the individuals or groups concerned, but also their families, legal representatives, nongovernmental organizations and anyone linked to them,” he said in the report, which covers events in the year up to the end of May. The penalties it cited ranged from threats and travel bans to imprisonment, torture, sexual violence and disappearance. The list was not exhaustive, leaving out cases where naming individuals might endanger them.

In a statement to the council, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the United Nations’ High Commissioner for human rights, expressed concern on Monday about China’s detention of more than 100 lawyers and Russia’s stigmatization of nongovernment organizations getting overseas funding, but the report includes only one example of intimidation in each country.

It describes the torture of Sadriddin Toshev, a prisoner in Tajikistan, beaten in front of other inmates by prison officials who cited his interaction with a United Nations investigator on torture. Mr. Toshev was later charged with fraud, accused of deliberately wounding himself to discredit prison officials and of distributing false information, the report said.

Among other cases, the report cites a five-year prison sentence which it says was imposed in Iran on Mohammad Ali Taheri for cooperating with the United Nations expert monitoring human rights there. It also describes the violent arrest of a human rights defender in Myanmar by 10 plainclothes security men as he was on his way to provide evidence to the council-appointed expert assessing developments there.

“Such acts not only show a complete disregard for the functioning of the United Nations as a whole but also highlight the fact that, despite repeated calls for action by states to end all such violations, impunity continues to surround them,” the report said.

Having written so often about this topic, a link to previous posts is all this is needed: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/reprisals/ 

Source: Retribution Increases Against Those Aiding Human Rights Inquiries – The New York Times

How utterly wrong a Chinese newspaper commentary can be…

May 14, 2015

Zhu Junqing, writing in the Shanghai Daily of 13 May 2015, is the prime example of how distorted the Chinese government’s view of the international human rights regime is. Under the title: “U.S. needs to work on own human rights record first before blaming others“, the author quite rightly points to the UN Human Rights Council findings on 11 May and the comments by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, which conclude that there a lot of human right problems remain unresolved in the USA (including excessive use of force by law enforcement agencies, racial, religious and sex discrimination, Guantanamo Bay detention, migrant rights, environmental issues and counterterrorism practices). Also he recalls correctly that the United States is one of the two countries in the world that have not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and is reluctant on other international instruments.

But then the article draws exactly the wrong conclusion. Instead of appreciating the UN’s courage to tackle a superpower, it call the USA the “ultimate human rights judge” (why??) and concludes that this “self-proclaimed human rights watchdog, needs to examine itself critically and improve its own human rights record before [!] blaming other countries for their violations”. Since “no country is perfect in its human rights record,” as Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying put it, “any country with human rights defects should work hard to resolve its own problems and improve its own human rights record before casting the first stone”.

Yep, that it the solution! Nobody criticizes anybody and we are all happy. The more obvious and consistent solution does not even get mentioned: IF the USA can be criticized, WHY is China so fearful and retaliates regularly against human rights defenders? [e.g. https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/china-in-the-un-human-rights-council-manages-to-silence-cao-shunli-as-well-as-ngos/ ].

China’s own extraordinary sensitivity to ‘interference’ of any level into what it considers its domestic affairs is well-known. I touched upon this hot’ topic’ in my own 2011 article “The international human rights movement: not perfect, but a lot better than many governments think” in the book ‘NGOs in China and Europe’ (exceptionally also published in Chinese!): Yuwen Li (ed), Ashgate, 2011, pp 287-304 (ISBN: 978-1-4094-1959-4).

Commentary: U.S. needs to work on own human rights record first before blaming others | Shanghai Daily.

High Commissioner leaves Burundi and the repression goes up…

April 29, 2015

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein (second left) at a roundtable discussion during his mission to Burundi.Photo: UN Electoral Observation Mission in Burundi (MENUB)
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights left Burundi on 15 April with a final exhortation that “Burundian parties must choose the path to democracy and the rule of law“. Only a week later the authorities increased their crackdown on dissent to silence those who oppose a third term for the President.
This is a critical moment in Burundi’s history,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein during his mission to Burundi. “Its future may well depend on which path is chosen by individual politicians and their supporters, as well as various key authorities, over the next few weeks.”… “And history – and possibly national or international courts – will judge those who kill, bribe or intimidate their way to power.

He pointed out that recent events were of great concern, with tensions rising sharply over the past few months as the elections approach, reportedly stoked by an increase in politically motivated harassment, intimidation and acts of violence, as well as a reported rise in hate speech. He pointed to “extreme examples of hate speech” heard at a pro-Government political rally in Bujumbura and several examples of attacks on and intimidation of journalists, human rights defenders and opposition politicians.

“I will put it bluntly,” he said “As I prepared for this mission, I talked to many knowledgeable people, within and outside the UN, in Geneva and New York. They were all, without exception, alarmed about the direction the country appears to be taking. The Secretary-General has signalled his concerns, and so has the Security Council.”

He cited the main cause for concern as the pro-Government militia called the Imbonerakure, which he said appeared to be operating increasingly aggressively and with total impunity. People were fleeing the country, with up to 1,000 people per day crossing into Rwanda, and many of those leaving telling UN officials that their reason for leaving is fear of the Imbonerakure.

Mr. Zeid said the Government needed to send a clear message that extremism and impunity would no longer prevail and he added that all political demonstrations needed to be treated equally and in accordance with international laws and standards relating to freedom of assembly. Opposition politicians needed to play a part, too, refraining from inflation or exaggeration of facts to whip up anti-Government support and feed a climate of fear. They also needed to ensure that their supporters protest peacefully, and do not indulge in hate speech or react violently to perceived provocations. He said he had held several meetings since arriving in Burundi on Sunday, including with the country’s top officials, as well as civil society organizations, the National Human Rights Institution (CNIDH), foreign diplomats, opposition politicians, and key State institutions such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Independent National Electoral Commission, and the President of the Constitutional Court. “During the course of these meetings and discussions, it was very clear that many people here are also extremely worried,” …. “Ultimately, it is the authorities who have the obligation to protect all citizens and residents from intimidation and violence committed by any individual or group. They must also accept that criticism is a vital element of democracy, not a threat that must be crushed.”

A week later Front Line Defenders and the African defenders network EHAHRDP reported inter alia:

  • a clampdown on human rights defenders and journalists by Burundian authorities in connection with ongoing protests against President Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term widely deemed unconstitutional by Burundi’s civil society (with AP reporting 6 people killed at demonstrations over the weekend)
  • on 27 April 2015, human rights defender Pierre Claver Mbonimpa was arrested and released a day later without charge after being held in police custody approximately 48 hours [Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, Laureate of the MEA 2007, is the President of the Burundi Association for the Promotion of Human Rights (APRODH). He is also a member of the coalition “Halt to Nkurunziza’s third term”, a peaceful campaign which was launched in January 2015 by several civil organisations to oppose a third presidential term].  In May 2014, Pierre Claver Mbonimpa was also arrested and much later released [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/09/30/news-from-burundi-release-of-human-rights-defender-pierre-claver-mbonimpa/].
  • an arrest warrant seems also to have been issued against human rights defenders Messrs Pacifique Nininahazwe and Vital Nshimirimana from the Forum for the Strenghtening of Civil Society (FORSC), who are perceived as leading organisers of the campaign against the Nkurunziza’s third term.
  • state authorities forcibly closed the Bujumbura and Ngozi offices of the African Public Radio (Radio Publique Africaine – RPA), a private radio station of Burundi known for dealing with human rights-related issues
  • 0n Monday morning, police forcibly closed the Media Synergy Press Conference that was taking place at Maison de la Presse in Bujumbura.

The risks facing human rights defenders in Burundi, as well as the wider civilian population, are now at critical proportions,” said EHAHRDP’s director Hassan Shire.

https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/11/25/special-rapporteur-in-burundi-respect-the-work-of-human-rights-defenders-like-mbonimpa/

http://www.defenddefenders.org/2015/04/burundi-unprecedented-state-assault-on-human-rights-defenders-and-journalists/

United Nations News Centre – UN rights chief urges Burundi’s politicians to pick right path at ‘critical moment’ in country’s history.