News

19 Jan

On 19 January 2018, Chinese human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng was taken by police while he walked his son to school; his wife received notice of his formal detention over a week later. For two years his family and friends – supported by the international community - have continued to call for due process and his safe release.  

13 Dec

The UN is seeking ideas on how best to support and engage with civil society at national level as well as within UN human rights mechanisms and other bodies. Online consultations will be held from 13 -24 January 2020. 

18 Dec

ISHR joins 24 other non-governmental organisations in raising the alarm about potentially serious negative impacts on human rights of budget proposals currently being debated at UN headquarters. 

21 Nov

15 NGOs that closely follow and engage with the Third Committee have joined together to publish a joint statement on outcomes of this 74th session.

05 Dec

A big thanks to everyone who’s getting behind our fundraising appeal and investing in a better world by supporting human rights defenders!

LGBTI rights | Factsheets on UN Special Procedures

10.12.2019
Rainbow flag photo credit: Common Wikimedia Ludovic Bertron

以阅读有关特别程序以中国LGBTI为主的工作资料事实纪要的2018年11月更新版,请点此

For a Chinese version of the factsheets updated in November 2018, please click here.

ISHR and ILGA World have looked through the work of 39 UN Special Procedures over the last eight years to compile factsheets listing the references and recommendations made by these experts regarding LGBTI persons, sexual orientation, sex characteristics, gender identity and expression.

Focusing on the Special Procedures that have made the most regular and in-depth references to issues affecting LGBTI persons, the factsheets examine all thematic reports, reports arising from country visits, and communications sent to different States between January 2011 and November 2019. Find out more about the trends over the past year here.

During this period, 37 Special Procedures have made SOGIESC references in over 400 country visits, thematic reports and communications. In both 2018 and 2019, almost every second report contained some reference to SOGIESC. However, the level of detail and analysis, as well as which mandates do or do not engage with SOGIESC issues regularly, show that there are still oppportunities for LGBTI defenders to strengthen this work.

In addition, since 2016, the Independent Expert on SOGI has played a vital role in adding to the amount and analytical depth of the SOGIESC references. So far, according to the information published on the OHCHR website, the mandate holders have conducted 4 country visits, sent 46 communications and prepared 6 thematic reports exclusively centred on SOGIESC.

Explore our infographics and fact sheets below, and later this year we will also present a more detailed analysis of SOGIESC references, as well as suggestions for future improvements and LGBTI defenders’ engagement with this part of the UN system.

Read this article to find out more about the efforts of Special Procedures to push for better protection of the human rights of LGBTI persons over the last year.

The experts on leprosy and environment have not yet included any references to LGBTI persons or issues related to sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or sex characteristics.

Photo credit: Common Wikimedia Ludovic Bertron

General Assembly | NGOs raise alarm about negative impacts on human rights of UN budget negotiations

18.12.2019

ISHR joins 24 other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in raising the alarm about potentially serious negative impacts on human rights of budget proposals currently being debated at UN headquarters. 

NGOs sent an urgent letter to diplomatic delegations today, citing a number of worrying proposals under consideration by the General Assembly’s Fifth Committee, which is under pressure to finalise the UN budget by Christmas Eve. 

‘We are extremely alarmed by a number of aggressive proposals by the likes of China and Russia that would undermine the quality of the work and the effectiveness of critical human rights mechanisms,' said Madeleine Sinclair, ISHR’s New York Office Director and Legal Counsel. 

Several proposals seem to take aim at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, including dramatically increasing scrutiny of the use of so-called extrabudgetary resources, or voluntary contributions from countries, which are a significant source of funds for the Office (around 59% of its income last year). ‘Some of these proposals can look rather innocuous at first but the reality is this would severely impact the Office’s ability to carry out its work to promote and protect human rights around the world’, said Sinclair.  

Other negative proposals NGOs are urging States to reject include arbitrarily cutting the travel budget for treaty body members and denying funding to webcast the meetings of the treaty bodies. Treaty bodies are the independent expert bodies set up to monitor States’ implementation of their obligations under human rights treaties.

‘Equally concerning are proposals that would threaten civil society's ability to engage with, participate in, and have information about, key UN proceedings,’ said Sinclair. China and the Group of 77 (a coalition of 135 developing nations) have proposed cutting funds for a staff person to support civil society engagement, and imposing greater limitations on access to the UN in Geneva. ‘Basically, China is chipping away wherever it can—in this case using the UN budget to undermine civil society’s ability to access and engage with these bodies and mechanisms’, said Sinclair. 

Finally, the NGO letter points to a number of proposals seemingly designed to radically limit or eliminate support (funding and staff) for UN mechanisms intended to promote accountability for serious human rights violations in Syria and Myanmar.

The NGOs call on Member States to offer strong support to the proposals that would adequately fund and otherwise ensure the proper functioning of the UN’s human rights bodies and mechanisms; to reject those proposals that would undermine their effectiveness; and to resist pressure to accept compromise agreements that would have an overall negative effect on the UN’s human rights activities.

Contact: Madeleine Sinclair, m.sinclair@ishr.ch, +1-917-544-6148.

UN Photo/Cia Pak

GA74 | Civil society assess highs and lows of Third Committee session

21.11.2019
The full statement is below: 
 
Joint civil society statement on outcomes of the UNGA’s Third Committee 

The undersigned civil society organisations mark the conclusion of the UNGA’s 74th Third Committee session, with the following observations on both thematic and country-specific resolutions. 

We welcome the first joint statement on reprisals at the Third Committee led by the United Kingdom and joined by a cross-regional group of 71 countries, calling on all States and the UN to prevent, respond to, and ensure accountability for cases of intimidation and reprisals against those who engage or seek to engage with the UN. This move is in line with the call made this September at the Human Rights Council (resolution 42/28) for the General Assembly to remain seized of all work in this area. This joint statement is an important first step towards enhanced dialogue on reprisals at the General Assembly. 

The human rights resolution on the implementation of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and elements of effective protection policies and mechanisms is significant,  including as it does new references to the need to remove barriers to the right to defend rights. We’re disappointed at the weakening of language exhorting States to immediate action, given that the grave situation faced by defenders in too many parts of the world demands an urgent response. However, the consensus outcome and record number of co-sponsors across regions, provides an opportunity and  basis for an ongoing, energetic and focused conversation on where global agreements on the right to defend rights should go next.  

It is important that the Third Committee has again committed to ensure the safety of journalists and end impunity for attacks. While we welcome the reaffirmation of measures States must take on prevention, protection and remedy of attacks, their implementation is sorely lacking. We are also disappointed that more progressive language already adopted by consensus at the Human Rights Council was not fully incorporated into this text, and that the recommendations from the UN probe into the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi are also not reflected. The UN must do much more if it will turn the tide on attacks against journalists, and the creation of a UN Standing Investigative Mechanism, as recommended by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, could be a significant contribution in this regard.  

Ongoing consensus support for the highest standard national human rights institutions is appreciated. However, we’re disappointed that a commitment to formalising the relationship between the Global Alliance for National Human Rights Institutions and the UN - a measure to further enable the UN to benefit from the work of NHRIs - was not supported. 

Advances were made with the Denmark-led Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment at a time torture remains prevalent in several UN States. We welcome consensus backing of new language agreed on the elaboration of a set of universal standards for non-coercive interviewing methods and procedural safeguards, the need for states to adopt a gender-responsive approach in the fight against torture, as well as the recognition that the prevalence of corruption can have a negative impact on the fight against torture.  

We welcome the adoption by consensus of the Annual Resolution on the Rights of the Child, in time for the Commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It was encouraging to see States maintain their commitments, despite attempts to water down text relating to sexual and reproductive health and comprehensive education, and thus challenge children’s basic right to education and health. It is of concern that the Third Committee did not open the Resolution on the Girl Child for negotiations. This was a missed opportunity for States to take stock of progress made and to reaffirm their commitments to the rights of girls, particularly within the context of increasing hostility and attempts to erode women’s and girls’ rights to bodily autonomy.  

We welcome the adoption of the resolution on the Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation, which has now been brought back to consensus. In particular we welcome the new emphasis on addressing menstrual hygiene management needs, including the widespread silence and stigma surrounding menstruation, and greater attention to the growing threat that the climate crisis poses to the realisation of water and sanitation services for all.

We appreciate that the Third Committee has once again adopted without a vote a resolution condemning the long-standing and ongoing systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights committed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which the 2014 report of a Commission of Inquiry created by the Human Rights Council characterized as likely amounting to crimes against humanity. We note that this year’s resolution encourages the UN Security Council to engage more actively on the human rights situation in the DPRK and, given the gravity of the violations, we hope the Council will convene a meeting on this subject before the end of 2019, as it did on an annual basis from 2014-2017. 

We welcome the overwhelming support during the vote on the resolution on the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran, recognising the ongoing systemic and systematic rights violations taking place in the country. We are deeply concerned about the reported killing of more than 100 people protesting economic policies since 15 November. In addition, the Iranian government has shutdown the internet, undertook mass arrests and reportedly declared a gag order on print media, all less than 24 hours after this resolution was adopted, and just weeks after Iran claimed progress on human rights during its Universal Periodic Review. These serious human rights violations were committed notwithstanding the scrutiny of Third Committee and the resolution’s attempts to encourage progress, underscore the importance of Member States who abstained or voted “no” to support the resolution when it is considered in the upcoming Plenary session. 

The resolution on human rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar, led by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the European Union, calls on Myanmar to end ongoing human rights abuses and highlights violations perpetrated by armed forces. Importantly the resolution calls on the government to cooperate with and grant ‘unmonitored’ access to UN mandate holders and mechanisms. It also welcomes the Secretary-General’s commitment to implement the recommendations in the independent Rosenthal Report, which is particularly important as we are yet to see how the Secretary-General will address the report’s finding of ‘systemic failure’ by the UN in Myanmar since 2010. We welcome the reference to Security Council resolution 24/67 on sexual violence in conflict, and therefore the General Assembly’s recognition that a survivor centered approach should be adopted. 

The centerpiece of the session on the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was a powerful joint statement on the massive human rights abuses in Xinjiang delivered by the UK on behalf of 23 countries. Although China managed to round up several dozen member states to sing its praises in response, the UK-led joint statement highlights the growing concern about the detention of over a million Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang and the need for China to grant full and unfettered access to the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

We welcome the consensus adoption by the Third Committee of its annual resolutions on Freedom of Religion or Belief led by the European Union and on Combating Religious Intolerance led by the OIC. Noting the alarming rise of reports of violent acts and threats against persons on the basis of their religion or belief worldwide, we welcome ongoing efforts by States to encourage the practical implementation of both resolutions.The reinvigoration of the Istanbul Process, with the seventh meeting taking place in the Netherlands shortly after the adoption of these resolutions, is positive, and we encourage all States to engage further.

We regret that following repeated attempts in Geneva to dilute, distort and distract the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the protection of human rights while countering terrorism, States continue to support the leadership of Egypt in the resolution on human rights and terrorism. This Third Committee session, the last before the review of the Global Counter Terrorism Strategy review next year, was a crucial opportunity for States to restore the approach and strong human rights commitments from prior Mexican-led resolutions on this issue (resolution 72/180). Considering also the national record of Egypt on using counter terrorism measures to violate human rights, including to engage in reprisals against persons seeking to cooperate with the UN, as condemned by the High Commissioner on 20 November, there must be a change in approach. We therefore consider the decision of the President of the General Assembly to award Egypt with the role of co-facilitating the outcomes of the Global Counter Terrorism Strategy review inappropriate, and call for this decision to be reconsidered. 

We regret that despite significant opposition, the resolution on Countering the use of information and communications technologies for criminal purposes led by Russia was adopted and will establish a process to elaborate a new international convention on cybercrime. Nearly 50 organizations and individuals from civil society expressed concern that this initiative could undermine the use of the internet to exercise human rights and facilitate social and economic development. As the resolution on human rights defenders importantly noted, cybercrime legislation is being misused in many parts of the world to target defenders, hinder their work, and endanger their safety in a manner contrary to international law. Building on and improving existing instruments is more desirable and practical than diverting scarce resources into a new international framework likely to be lengthy and unlikely to result in consensus. In particular, a process led by Russia deserves high levels of scrutiny, given its efforts to expand government control over the internet, with the “sovereign internet” law going into effect earlier this month.

The resolution on implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was focused on Accessibility this year. Mentions of the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy, the Accessibility Steering Committee, and relevant International Days were welcomed. We regret that references to the highly relevant Security Council Resolution 2475 were lost, but welcomed mentions of humanitarian situations.

Finally, it is a source of ongoing frustration that civil society are not consistently welcomed to attend informals as observers. Our direct experience of the human rights violations and abuses Third Committee seeks to address, and our expertise on the substance and history of UN resolutions, should mean civil society are treated as valuable partners. States should invite civil society to actively participate in informals as a matter of course, and speak up if their presence is challenged. 

Signatories:

Access Now

Amnesty International 

ARTICLE 19

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

Asian Legal Resources Centre

Association for Progressive Communications (APC)

CIVICUS

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative 

Human Rights in China

Human Rights Watch

Impact Iran

International Disability Alliance (IDA)

International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights

OutRight Action International

Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN)

 

Contact: Tess McEvoy, t.mcevoy@ishr.ch; Eleanor Openshaw, e.openshaw@ishr.ch 

Photo: Joao Araujo Pinto

UNGA74 | Global agreement on key elements of an effective defender protection policy

20.11.2019

The UN General Assembly’s human rights committee in New York – the Third Committee – today passed by consensus a resolution focusing on implementation of the Declaration on Human Rights defenders and some key elements of protection policy.

‘This is a great outcome and congratulations are due to Norway as the lead negotiator,’ said ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw. ‘The resolution contains important new language on what effective protection policies should contain, as well as further acknowledges the nature of threats against defenders’. 

On human rights defender protection policy, the resolution states:

  • the need for comprehensive risk analysis; 

  • that protection mechanisms should provide an early warning function to enable human rights defenders immediate access to ‘competent and adequately resourced authorities to provide effective protective measures’; 

  • the need for policies to ‘address causes of attacks against defenders and barriers against the defence of rights’, and

  • the need for coordination across government and between national and local levels so as to implement a commitment to uphold the right to defend rights.

In addition, all States acknowledge:

  • the ‘positive, important and legitimate’ the work of ‘environmental human rights defenders’ and the risks they are exposed to; 

  • the need for the protection of communities [with a reference to ‘the protection of individuals and the communities in which they live’]; 

  • the need for improved data on killings, kidnappings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, torture and other harmful acts against HRDs; 

  • that campaigns against women defenders are carried out both online and offline, and

  • that ‘cybercrime legislation’ can be misused to target human rights defenders or to hinder their work and endanger them. 

Whilst there was general acknowledgement of the key advances made in the resolution, the EU expressed concern that certain elements in the text were ‘problematic’, including references to morality and public order as the basis for possible limitations on the rights of defenders. 

‘There are a couple of paragraphs drawn from the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders that have a potentially limiting effect,’ agreed Openshaw. ‘We welcome the vision and persistence shown by the EU to try to move beyond these. This year, however, progress was made on other fronts.’

Disagreement with some other aspects of the text was also expressed by China, Russia and Vietnam, but these voices were very much in a minority.  In fact, the resolution attracted the highest number of co-sponsors yet for any UN human rights defenders resolution, with 85 States signing up.  This included several Latin American States, including those with existing protection laws and policies, which were very active during negotations. 

‘Ten States co-sponsored the resolution for the first time, including South Africa,’ said Openshaw. ‘This is a significant and welcome development and we hope to see further States step up and co-sponsor in future.'

Several changes were made to the text during adoption, so a final version is yet to be made available.  It will go for final and expected adoption by the UN General Assembly in mid- December.  

‘The resolution has been adopted but, of course, the real work starts now,' said Openshaw. 'This global agreement must lead to real change in the lives of human rights activists globally,’ said Openshaw. ‘States must start that work immediately.’

Contact: Eleanor Openshaw e.openshaw@ishr.ch  929 4267679 

Photo: Oxfam Intl, Flick

Alert | GA 74th Session Third Committee

01.10.2019

The Third Committee brings together a wide array of Special Procedures mandate holders, including Special Rapporteur, independent experts, and chairs of working groups that are mandated by the Human Rights Council to discuss some of the most pressing human rights concerns and present findings and recommendations to the Third Committee. These findings should in turn play a role in shaping the focus of resolutions negotiated at this session.

Similar to the seventy-third session, this year’s Third Committee is expected to consider approximately 60 resolutions on a range of topics, including:

  • the advancement of women
  • the rights and protection of children
  • the rights of refugees
  • the elimination of racism
  • self-determination
  • and social development, amongst others. 

ISHR will be closely monitoring the work of the Third Committee as well as relevant developments in the plenary of the General Assembly and will report on key developments. Follow us on Twitter at @ISHRglobal using #UNGA74 for the latest updates. Formal meetings of the Third Committee can be watched live on the UN Web TV.

ISHR Events

  • Ending impunity for violations against Human Rights Defenders - Impunity fuels attacks against human rights defenders.  In 2018 alone, 321 human rights defenders were assassinated, 49% of whom had previously received direct threats that had not been investigated. ISHR, together with Amnesty International and the Permanent Mission of Norway, will be hosting an event with the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders to discuss how to deal effectively with impunity.  The discussion will be held on 16 October at 1:15-2:30pm in Conference Room 11, UNHQ.  
  • Book Launch - ISHR will also be hosting a launch of Hurst Hannum’s new book ‘Rescuing Human Rights: A Radically Moderate Approach’ on 18 October at 1:15-2:30pm. Please contact Marina Wilbraham at m.wilbraham@ishr.ch if you are interested in attending. 

You can also catch ISHR at the following events: 

  • Venezuela on the Brink: The urgency of an appropriate international response to the crisis, where Eleanor Openshaw will be discussing the implications of Venezuela being re-elected to the Human Rights Council. 2 October at 10am in the Church Center, 777 UN Plaza. 
  • Breakfast reception to mark the launch of URG’s new yourHRC.org Guide to the 2019 Human Rights Council Elections, where Madeleine Sinclair will be discussing ISHR’s ‘scorecards’ for each of the States seeking election to the UN Human Rights Council for 2020- 2022. October 10 at 8:30 am in Conference Room 6, UNHQ. 

Overview of Key Resolutions  

Thematic resolutions

  • Human Rights Defenders (Lead Sponsor: Norway) - This year Norway will present the biennial resolution on human rights defenders. One year after the twentieth anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, implementation of the Declaration unfortunately remains far from adequate in a number of States. ISHR therefore welcomes the resolution's continued focus on the Declaration's implementation and urges States to ensure that the resolution includes calls for concrete activities and mechanisms to monitor and facilitate the implementation of the Declaration and previous resolutions on human rights defenders.
  • Terrorism and Human Rights (Lead Sponsors: Mexico and Egypt) - The Third Committee will consider a resolution relating to Terrorism and Human Rights. Previous resolutions on the topic have condemned terrorist acts as criminal and unjustifiable, and expressed concerns about their detrimental effects on the enjoyment of all human rights. The resolution is the result of the combination of two previously separate resolutions on the “Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism” and the “Effects of Terrorism on the Enjoyment of Human Rights” led by Mexico and Egypt, respectively. Civil society remains concerned that the combined resolution compromises language on State obligations to protect human rights by prioritising the impact of terrorism on human rights. ISHR hopes that language in the original resolution led by Mexico is not compromised and that this resolution upholds State responsibility and the rights of victims.
  • Safety of Journalists (Lead Sponsors: Greece, Argentina, Austria, Costa Rica and France) - A resolution on the safety of journalists is expected to be advanced at this session. ISHR will be watching this negotiation closely and hopes the resolution will be used to expand, rather than restrict, space for civil society and strengthen protections for human rights defenders. 
  • The Third Committee will once again consider a resolution on national human rights institutions (NHRIs). It appears no progress has been made since the last resolution adopted in 2017 called on ‘all relevant UN forums and meetings’ to provide for the engagement of ‘A’ status national human rights institutions

Country specific resolutions

Several country resolutions are expected again this session. For the 17th year, Canada will present a draft resolution on the Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran spotlighting the continued dismal human rights situation and lack of progress over the last year. The European Union will again lead on a resolution on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, similarly underlining the lack of human rights progress. Ukraine will again present a draft resolution condemning Russia's activities in Crimea. Resolutions on the human rights situation in Myanmar and Syria are also expected to be led by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and Saudi Arabia respectively. 

Other key issues  

ISHR remains concerned that China will again attempt to insert the seemingly harmless language of ‘win/win’ language in resolutions, which in fact focuses only on intergovernmental dialogue and cooperation, rather than actual human rights violations or accountability. This language risks shrinking space for civil society and roll back human rights norms across a number of resolutions.

Several resolutions are expected to become battle grounds regarding references to gender, and sexual and reproductive health and rights, including resolutions on the Improvement of the situation of women and girls in rural areas, Violence against women migrant workers, Rights of the Child, The girl child, The human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, 

As the Third Committee takes place in the wake of the catastrophic event of Hurricane Dorian and the UN Climate Action Summit, we expect to see climate change addressed in a number of discussions, particularly relating to sustainable development, even if there is no resolution specific to the issue. ISHR supports the protection of all persons and communities suffering negative effects from the climate crisis and hopes the momentum from last week's summit will not be lost at this year's Third Committee session. 

Elections for the Human Rights Council are set to take place in mid-October as part of the General Assembly. ISHR is once again disappointed that this year a number of regions have presented closed slates. ISHR has published 'scorecards' for each of the States seeking membership. These provide a brief overview of their human rights records, cooperation with civil society, past roles in the Council, and past engagement with UN human rights mechanisms.

Overview of Reports and Dialogues with UN Experts: 

The UN Special Procedures - Special Rapporteurs, independent experts, and working groups - will report to the Third Committee and hold interactive 'dialogues' with member States. Several of this year's reports reflect concerns about increased attacks on human rights defenders and emphasise the critical importance of creating and maintaining space for civil society. Click here for a list and schedule of dialogues. 

  • Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders – Combatting the currently widespread impunity for human rights violations that target human rights defenders is, according to Special Rapporteur Michel Forst's report (A/74/159), “an essential prerequisite to guarantee human rights and to advance towards equal societies that are free from fear and violence.” He outlines a regulatory framework on the right to access to justice, including due diligence in investigations and elaborates on the de facto and legal barriers to access to justice. He offers essential guidelines for ensuring due diligence in the investigation of such violations. Good practices implemented by States and civil society are also described. He will present his report and an interactive dialogue will be held on 15 October 2019 at 3pm. 
  • Report of the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context - In the context of her report on the right to housing of indigenous peoples (A/74/183), Special Rapporteur Leilani Farha underlines the fact that indigenous peoples are disproportionately victims of extreme violence simply for defending their rights to land: approximately 40% of the environmental and land defenders assassinated in 2016 and 25% of those assassinated in 2017 were indigenous. The Special Rapporteur will present her report and hold an interactive dialogue on 18 October 2019 at 3pm. 
  • Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran – At least 32 Iranians have been arrested as a result of viral social media campaigns against compulsory veiling laws, such as the #whitewednesdays and “Girls of Revolution Street.” Human rights lawyer and defender Nasrin Sotoudeh was sentenced to 148 lashes and 38 years in prison last March for defending some of these women. BBC Persian staff have suffered reprisals for engaging with UN human rights mechanisms. These are only some of the attacks on human rights defenders that Special Rapporteur Javaid Rehman flags in his report (A/74/188), which calls on Iran to stop violating the rights of human rights defenders through intimidation, harassment, arbitrary arrest, deprivation of liberty, among other arbitrary sanctions. The Special Rapporteur will present and discuss his report on 23 October 2019 at 10am. 
  • Report of the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity – In his report (A/74/181), Independent Expert Victor Madrigal-Borloz exposes the ways in which socio-cultural norms and discriminatory laws continue to marginalise and exclude LGBT persons. In order to become fully inclusive of LGBT individuals, he stresses that States cannot overlook the “vital role” of partnerships with civil society. He cites a number of partnerships in the fight against HIV/AIDS as particularly strong examples of this. Independent Expert Madrigal-Borloz will present his report and hold an interactive dialogue on 24 October 2019 at 10am.
  • Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism – How can States truly integrate human rights into the global fight against terrorism that is increasingly shaped by elusive norms of ‘soft law’? According to Special Rapporteur Fionnuala Ní Aoláin’s report (A/74/335), one of the keys is for States to engage with and create space for civil society, non-governmental organisations, and human rights defenders to participate in the shaping of these counter-terrorism norms. Her report maps out how civil society access to these processes can be transformed from “ad hoc and inconsistent” to consistent and meaningful, ensuring that soft-law counter-terrorism norms are not at odds with human rights. The Special Rapporteur’s report will be presented and discussed on 16 October 2019 at 10am. 
  • Report of the Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment – Special Rapporteur David R. Boyd clarifies the obligations of States and businesses under a human-rights based approach to climate change in his report (A/74/161). These obligations include providing strong protections for environmental and environmental defenders who work on issues relating to climate change. In addition, the report examines how UN human rights mechanisms can be empowered to better address climate change. The Special Rapporteur will present his report and an interactive dialogue will be held on 24 October 2019 at 3pm.  
  • Interim report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food – Special Rapporteur Hilal Elver’s report (A/74/164) stresses just how interrelated the Sustainable Development Goals and human rights are. If States are to enable the universal enjoyment of the right to food and successfully use the Sustainable Development Goals as a tool to realise this right, populations that are traditionally left behind must be engaged in the policy process. Similarly, Special Rapporteur Elver concludes that “creating safe spaces for media actors, journalists and human rights defenders to investigate and report on progress” are some of the keys to holding States accountable for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. She will present her report and hold an interactive dialogue on 24 October 2019 at 3pm.
  • Report of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief – Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed expresses alarm in his report (A/74/358) about the rise of anti-Semitism around the world and the ways in which the underreporting of these hate crimes and lack of mechanisms to monitor them enable anti-Semitic hate crimes. The report finds that a lack of Jewish civil society engagement with UN human rights monitors only exacerbates this issue and calls on States to work more closely with Jewish communities and organisations to create mechanisms that fill this void. Special Rapporteur Shaheed ends his report with the recommendation that the Office of the UN Secretary-General appoint a senior-level focal point specifically responsible for monitoring and engaging with Jewish communities on this issue. He will present his report and hold an interactive dialogue on 17 October 2019 at 3pm.
  • Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences – In her report (A/74/137), Special Rapporteur Dubravka Šimonović stresses the need to address mistreatment and violence against women in reproductive health services from a human rights perspective. The report therefore calls for the creation of human rights-based accountability mechanisms and greater State collaboration with civil society organisations to address violence and mistreatment in reproductive and obstetric care. The Special Rapporteur will present her report and hold an interactive dialogue with the Third Committee on 4 October 2019 at 10am. 
  • Report of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights –Special Rapporteur Karima Bennoune urges States, in her report (A/7/255), to protect and promote cultural rights in public spaces through policies that “give clear priority to messages that promote human rights and inclusion and find ways to respond to and challenge anti-rights or exclusionary agendas.” How can States do this? The Special Rapporteur cites the display of rainbow flags on public buildings and allowing socially-engaged artists to promote human rights as two simple examples of the many ways in which public spaces can be made inclusive and can foster civic mobilisation. The Special Rapporteur will present her report and an interactive dialogue will be held on 22 October 2019 at 10am.

 

Photos: ISHR

Burundi | NGOs condemn 32 years prison sentence for Germain Rukuki

25.07.2019

Lire cet article en français.

On 17 July 2019, also the World Day for International Justice, the Burundian Court of Appeal of Ntahangwa deliberated on the case of the human rights defender Germain Rukuki, confirming his sentence delivered on first instance. The deliberation took place in a public hearing without Germain and his defence being notified. On 22 July, six days after the decision was issued, they were finally informed. 

Arrested at home two years ago on 13 July 2017 and detained since then, on 26 April 2018 Germain Rukuki was sentenced to 32 years in prison by the Ntahangwa High Court  on charges of “rebellion”, “breach of State security”, “participation in an insurrectional movement” and "attack on the Head of State". He appealed this sentence on 29 May 2018. In addition to the many other procedural irregularities that have affected the case, the appeal decision was eventually delivered more than 6 months after the legal deadline.

“It is with great disappointment that I learn of this very unfair and sad decision. The Court of Appeal did not consider my case with all the attention and caution it deserved, but instead decided to simply confirm the verdict of the trial court”, declares Germain Rukuki today. “This judicial conviction is nothing more than a political decision”. 

Despite the attention of the international community and the recognition of Germain’s commitment to human rights, the decision of the court to impose a harsh verdict on Germain Rukuki remains notable miscarriage of justice and the result of the unlawful criminalisation Germain has experienced since he was arrested because of his past activities as a human rights defender with the organisation ACAT-Burundi. His prosecution exposes the way in which he and other human rights defenders in Burundi are harassed and targeted through the criminal justice system simply for exercising their right to defend human rights. This is also an emblematic example of the continuous political determination of Burundian authorities to silence human rights defenders, or any source of dissidence, in Burundi.

“Germain's place is not in prison. He must be released, close to his family and friends. The legitimacy of his work in achieving social justice and protecting human rights must be recognised”, Germain’s relatives and friends share today.  

We, the undersigned non-governmental organisations, strongly condemn Germain’s unlawful conviction and call on Burundian authorities to:

  • Comply with international human rights standards, notably the right to a fair trial, to reverse and remedy this wrongful conviction by releasing Germain without further delay
  • Recognise the legitimacy of human rights work and stop criminalising human rights defenders in Burundi 

The support of the international community, the diplomatic representations in Burundi, the African Union and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, as well as the African regional leaders in particular, remains crucial at this stage. 

We therefore urge the international community to:

  • Advocate for the release of Germain Rukuki
  • Communicate their support and solidarity with Germain Rukuki and his family 
  • Publicly condemn the policies of harassment, as well as arbitrary arrest and detention of human rights defenders in Burundi.

For media inquiries, please contact ao@protectioninternational.org// +32 (0)2 609 44 09.  

 

Signatories: 

  1. AfricanDefenders
  2. Amnesty International
  3. Association Européenne pour la défense des Droits de l’Homme (AEDH)
  4. Association Burundaise pour la Protection des Droits Humains et des Personnes Détenue (APRODH)
  5. Association des Journalistes Burundais en Exil (AJBE)
  6. Coalition burundaise des Défenseur·e·s de Droit Humains
  7. Coalition Burundaise pour la Cour Pénale Internationale (CB CPI)
  8. Collectif des Avocats pour la défensedes Victimes de Crimes de droit International commis au Burundi(CAVIB)
  9. Coalition de la Société Civile pour le Monitoring Electoral (COSOME)
  10. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  11. Consortium of Ethiopian Human Rights Organizations (CEHRO)
  12. Fédération internationale des ACAT (FIACAT) and the following ACAT (Action des chrétiens pour l’abolition de la torture):
  13. ACAT Burundi
  14. ACAT Bénin
  15. ACAT Congo (BZV)
  16. ACAT USA
  17. ACAT Suisse
  18. ACAT Allemagne
  19. ACAT République centrafricaine
  20. ACAT Belgique
  21. ACAT Espagne
  22. ACAT Luxembourg
  23. ACAT Madagascar
  24. ACAT Liberia
  25. ACAT Canada
  26. ACAT RDC
  27. ACAT Ghana
  28. ACAT France
  29. ACAT Italie
  30. Fédération Internationale pour les Droits humains (FIDH), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  31. Forum Pour le Renforcement de la Societe Civile (FORSC)
  32. Front Line Defenders
  33. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  34. Ligue Burundaise des Droits de l'Homme Iteka
  35. Mouvement des femmes et filles pour la paix et la securite au Burundi (MFFPS)
  36. Mouvement Citoyen pour l'Avenir du Burundi (MCA Burundi)
  37. Observatoire de Lutte contre la Corruption et les Malversations Economiques (OLUCOME)
  38. Organisation mondiale contre la torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  39. Protection International
  40. Organisation pour la Transparence et la Gouvernance (OTRAG Burundi)
  41. Réseau des Citoyens Probes (RCP)
  42. SOS-Torture/Burundi
  43. Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN)
  44. Union Burundaise des Journalistes

 

Timeline of events in the case of Burundian human rights defender Germain Rukuki

2019

  • 17 July: the Court of Appeal of Ntahangwa deliberates on the case, confirming his sentence delivered on first instance. The deliberation takes place in a public hearing without Germain and his defence team being informed, something that was only done 6 days after on 22 July. 
  • 31 May: A quick hearing takes place at the Court of Appeal where the judges confirm some new competent judges, as well as the new deadline for the appeal decision (28 June). The lost file seems to have finally been found, without further details about its disappearance and recovery.
  • 27 March: The spokesperson for the Burundi Supreme Court tells local media that Germain’s judicial file has been misplaced during the restructuring of the Appeals Court of Bujumbura. The loss of the file comes in addition to other numerous procedural irregularities that had affected the case.

2018

  • 26 November: The appeal hearing takes place before the Bujumbura Court of Appeal. A 30 day window is given for the appeal decision to be delivered. It is not.
  • 5 July: Human Rights Subcommittee (DROI) of the European parliament calls for the immediate release of Germain during an urgency resolution on the human rights situation in Burundi.
  • 26 June: He applies for bail under medical and humanitarian grounds. To date no response has been given.
  • 18 June: Germain is transferred back to Ngozi prison although he remains in critical condition.
  • 11 June: Germain undergoes a surgical operation in Ngozi hospital after he fractures his ankle in prison.
  • 29 May: Germain appeals his conviction.
  • 16 May: Chair of the Human Rights Subcommittee (DROI) of the European parliament Pier Antonio Panzeri calls on authorities to release Germain. 
  • 8 May: High Representative Mogherini issues a statement on behalf of the EU specifically mentioning the case of Germain Rukuki against the background of the wider human rights concerns in the country.
  • 26 April: Germain is sentenced to 32 years in prison by the Ntahangwa High Court for “rebellion”, “threatening state security”, “attacking the authority of the state” and “participation in an insurrectionist movement”. Germain is acquitted on charges of “assassination” and “destruction of public and private buildings”. Neither Germain nor his lawyers are present when the verdict is read out in court. 
  • 3 April: Second hearing takes place before the Ntahangwa High Court. The prosecution fails to present concrete and convincing evidence at both trials.
  • 13 February: First hearing takes place before the Ntahangwa High Court. Three additional charges of “assassination”, “destruction of public and private buildings” and “participation in an insurrectionist movement” are added. 

 

2017 

  • 25 August: UN experts call for release of Burundi human rights defender Germain Rukuki. 
  • 21 August: The Court confirms his pre-trial detention.
  • 1 August: He is charged with ‘breaching the internal security of the State’ and ‘rebellion’ by the Court of First Instance of Ntahangwa in Burundi, on the grounds of his work with NGO ACAT-Burundi.
  • 26 July: Germain is transferred to the Ngozi prison.
  • 13 July: Germain Rukuki is arrested at home and brought to the National Intelligence Service (Service National de Renseignement - SNR) facilities. He is detained and interrogated without a lawyer present. 

 

Photo credit: Google/Protection International

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1984

ISHR commences work to develop an international Declaration on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders

1988

ISHR publishes first Human Rights Monitor, connecting human rights defenders on the ground with international human rights systems and developments

1993

ISHR facilitates global civil society engagement with the Second World Conference on Human Rights, which leads to the strengthening of women’s rights, the affirmation of universal rights, the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action and the establishment of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

1994

ISHR provides training, technical assistance and support to its 1000th human rights defender

1998

After 14 years of ISHR lobbying, advocacy and negotiation, the UN General Assembly adopts the landmark Declaration on Human Rights Defenders

2000

UN Secretary-General appoints Hina Jilani as inaugural UN Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders, strengthening protection of human rights advocates at risk worldwide.

2004

ISHR leads a successful campaign for the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

2005

ISHR co-founds and supports a range of international and regional human rights coalitions, including the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and the West African Human Rights Defenders Network

2006

ISHR contributes to the establishment and institution building of a new global peak body for human rights issues, the UN Human Rights Council

2007

ISHR leads and coordinates the development of the Yogyakarta Principles on sexual orientation and gender identity, strengthening legal recognition and protection of LGBT rights worldwide

2011

ISHR’s sustained advocacy on the issue of reprisals and intimidation faced by human rights defenders leads to adoption of landmark UN Human Rights Council resolution condemning and strengthening protections against reprisals

2012

Working with key NGO partners such as Amnesty International, ISHR leads civil society efforts to strengthen UN human rights treaty bodies, prevent their weakening and better connect their work with victims and human rights defenders on the ground

2013

Working with supportive states and NGOs, ISHR advocacy leads to adoption of historic Human Rights Council resolution calling on all States to review and amend national laws to respect and protect the work of human rights defenders