News

02 Mar

La Alta Comisionada de las Naciones Unidas para los Derechos Humanos sonó las campanas de alarma hoy sobre la situación de las personas defensoras en Colombia, Guatemala y Honduras. La ausencia del Estado, las restricciones legales y las prácticas inefectivas fueron destacadas como obstáculos que deben ser abordados por los estados con urgencia.

 

01 Mar

The recent adoption of laws that severely restrict civil society space are the latest episode in Nicaragua's steady human rights deterioration.  During its current session, the Human Rights Council must adopt a strong resolution which sets a clear series of benchmarks the government must urgently meet to reverse course and resume meaningful cooperation with the international community.

01 Mar
Chinese scholar Teng Biao speaks

In a statement at the UN Human Rights Council today, a Chinese lawyer teamed up with ISHR to call on governments and High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to stand up to China and to take concrete steps to hold the Chinese authorities accountable for rights violations.

02 Mar

In a joint statement, ISHR and partners welcome the High Commissioner's recognition of the disproportionate impact of the COVID pandemic and the asssociated economic crisis on LGBTI communities, and call for national and international responses to be developed in consultation with civil society.  

22 Feb

The UN Human Rights Committee has ruled that the Supreme Court of the Maldives violated the freedom of expression of two former members of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) when it carried out reprisals against the HRCM for engaging with the UN.

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

CDH46 | Colombia, Honduras y Guatemala bajo el foco

02.03.2021

Cada año, el Consejo de Derechos Humanos recibe informes sobre la situación de los derechos humanos en los países donde hay presencia de oficinas de la Alta Comisionada de Naciones Unidas para los Derechos Humanos. Esta sesión del Consejo celebró un diálogo sobre Colombia, Guatemala y Honduras.Ver declaraciones grabadas

Colombia

Cualquier discusión sobre la situación de los derechos humanos en Colombia hablará y debe hablar del nivel de asesinatos de las personas defensoras. 'El informe de 2020 de Frontline Defenders muestra que los asesinatos de personas defensoras en Colombia son siete veces más altos que en cualquier otro país", dijo ISHR's Valeria Castellanos. 'Las personas defensoras no están más seguras ahora que durante los años de conflicto'.

En su presentación, la Alta Comisionada observó una significativa  intensificación de la violencia en el país, principalmente debido a la expansión de grupos armados no estatales. Destacó la necesidad del despliegue de instituciones civiles y autoridades para la prevención de violencia y la expansión de garantías de derechos humanos.

La ONG Comisión Colombiana de Juristas, hizo eco de la recomendación de la Alta y de su llamamiento a Colombia a que redoblara sus esfuerzos para la implementación de todos los capítulos del acuerdo de paz.  

 

Twitter: @Coljuristas

Colombia respondió para decir que se encuentre al tanto de los peligros enfrentados por personas defensoras de derechos humanos y que la fuente de esta violencia son los grupos criminales armados envueltos en actividades ilícitas, particularmente el tráfico de drogas. 

Guatemala 

La erosión del espacio cívico durante 2020,  con ataques e intimidaciones a defensores de derechos humanos, incluyendo periodistas, fue uno de los temas resaltados por la Alta. En el mes de febrero se adoptó la Ley 5257, la cual reforma regulaciones dirigidas a organismos no-gubernamentales para el desarrollo y - según la Alta Comisionada -  puede ser problemática para la labor dirigida por personas defensoras de derechos humanos. Con respeto a cuestiones de impunidad y corrupción, el gobierno de Guatemala comentó que se habían fortalecido instancias públicas en la materia, particularmente las fiscalías correspondientes.

Honduras 

La Alta Comisionada resaltó que desde 2016 ha habido una contracción en el espacio cívico en Honduras, siendo esta una tendencia que se intensificó en el año 2020. Protestas sociales se hicieron más comunes en este año. Personas defensoras han sido atacadas y asesinatos de activistas y periodistas han obtenido reducidas o nulas acciones por parte del sistema judicial.  La Alta Comisionada comentó que los cuerpos nacionales para la protección de derechos humanos en Honduras se han debilitado con el paso del tiempo y siguen impregnados por problemáticas sistémicas de corrupción e impunidad. 

Respondiendo a la presentación de la Alta Comisionada, Honduras reafirmó la importancia del trabajo conjunto para la protección de defensores de derechos humanos y su apertura a visitas por parte de los Procedimientos Especiales del Consejo.

Finalmente, varios estados latinoamericanos aprovecharon la sesión para mencionar su preocupación por el reducido financiamiento de la OACNUDH en la región. Urugay, Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Panamá y Perú solicitaron más apoyo para la protección de víctimas de violaciones de derechos humanos.

 

Para cualquier información adicional, entrar en contacto con Eleanor Openshaw por email (e.openshaw@ishr.ch) o en Twitter (@eleanoropenshaw).

Foto: Flickr / UN Geneva

Venezuela | Standing in solidarity with human rights defenders

04.02.2021

Standing in solidarity with Venezuelan human rights defenders

The recent, ongoing and unwarranted detention of five members of the Venezuelan NGO ‘Azul Positivo’ is one more event in a series of threats, harassment, attacks, restrictions, reprisals and criminal proceedings against Venezuelan civil society organizations and human rights defenders, which has been intensifying since November 2020. In recent months and weeks, state agents have forcibly entered the offices of civil society organizations; public threats have been made against defenders who have been engaging with human rights mechanisms, NGO bank accounts have been frozen and arrest warrants issued for aid workers.

Venezuelan civil society operate in a context of serious legal and administrative obstacles with domestic laws used to target human rights defenders, such as the ‘Law Against Hate’, or having the effect of limiting the operations of NGOs and restricting their access to funding, essentially blocking the work of many organizations vital for Venezuelans in need.

In a public statement, a number of UN independent human rights experts and regional experts have described threats and measures taken against Venezuelan civil society since November 2020 as amounting to ‘systematic persecution and stigmatization.’

It is essential that humanitarian and human rights organizations responding to the grave humanitarian and human rights crises in the country, pushing for accountability for violations and abuses and the return of guarantees provided by democratic institutions and processes are able to do their work without fear or hindrance. 

Human rights defenders are critical, constructive and essential to democracies and the functioning of the rule of law. Attempts to silence and cow them are counterproductive and shameful. 

We urge the Venezuelan authorities to ensure that harassment and threats against Venezuelan defenders stop and for all international legal guarantees to be respected.  We call on all states and UN bodies and agencies to actively support civil society organizations, defenders and activists and to speak up loudly and consistently for the right to defend human rights in Venezuela and globally.

We are inspired by the daily commitment and courage of Venezuelan human rights defenders and humanitarian workers and stand in solidary with our Venezuelan partners and friends.

Amnesty International

Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL)

CIVICUS

Civil Rights Defenders

Conectas Direitos Humanos

Freedom House

Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

Human Rights Watch

International Commission of Jurists

International Service for Human Rights

People in Need

Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)

 

Contact:  Eleanor Openshaw e.openshaw@ishr.ch

Photo: EfectoEco

UNGA75 | Country-specific mandates discuss increased persecution and detention of journalists and defenders

19.11.2020

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, interactive dialogues between country-specific mandate holders and member States took place in a virtual setting. While several important issues were discussed during these dialogues, technical issues posed challenges for those monitoring, as well as States participating.

Arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances and imprisonment of political prisoners were discussed in several dialogues. The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea noted the lack of progress in the situation of political prisoners in the country. The Special Rapporteur lamented those languishing in prisons with no prospect of release. Concerns were also voiced by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK who called for the release of all political prisoners. A call that was supported by several States, such as the Czech Republic and the EU, while Germany expressed concern about female detainees particularly vulnerable to sexual violence. The Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi stated that freeing defenders, journalists, political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, and guaranteeing the freedom of press and assembly were necessary steps to improve the human rights situation. In the run up to parliamentary elections in Somalia, the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia called on the government to strengthen democratic space by protecting the right to freedom of expression and assembly, free from harassment, intimidation or arbitrary arrest.

The protection of human rights defenders was another predominant theme in the interactive dialogues. The report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran focused on intimidation, harassment, arbitrary arrests and detention, and execution of protesters, defenders, environmentalists, and women human rights defenders. The Special Rapporteur regretted that in spite of steps to temporarily release prisoners since the COVID-19 outbreak, others had not been released, resulting in death. The Special Rapporteur called for the urgent release of human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, currently imprisoned under abysmal conditions, while Switzerland welcomed the release of defender Narges Mohammadi. Norway and the Czech Republic denounced the harassment and detention of defenders and called for their release, while Canada and Germany expressed concern about reprisals against defenders and their families. 

Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea stated that there would be no long term change to the human rights situation unless journalists and defenders were able to carry out their work. The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, the Special Envoy of the Secretary General on Myanmar, the EU, UK, US and Czech Republic spoke about the deteriorating situation for journalists, defenders, and civil society, including persecution, criminalisation and attacks in a culture of impunity. The Special Rapporteur expressed gratitude to defenders for their first-person perspective and role in fulfilling her mandate.

Once again we heard certain countries voice their opposition to these integral and important mandates - including Belarus, Burundi, China, Cameroon, DPRK, Eritrea, Russia, Iran, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. We encourage all States to cooperate with these all Special procedures mandate holders.

Contact: Tess McEvoy, t.mcevoy@ishr.ch

Photo: Photo: Joao Araujo Pinto 

GA75 | Civil society assess outcomes of Third Committee session

20.11.2020
Joint civil society statement on outcomes of the UNGA’s Third Committee 

As we continue to respond to  the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, civil society discuss various outcomes at this session of the Third Committee, despite additional challenges associated with the session being held mostly online. 

We welcome the joint statement on reprisals led by the United Kingdom and joined by a cross-regional group of 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. We welcome in particular the increased number of States joining this year (75 compared to 71 last year).

One highlight of this session was a powerful joint statement on China by a cross-regional group of 39 Member States. This statement represents a strong public rebuke of the Chinese government’s widespread human rights violations in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Tibet, and is further proof that a growing number of governments are braving Beijing’s threats of retaliation and voicing alarm. The joint statement endorsed an appeal from 50 UN human rights experts for the creation of a UN mechanism for monitoring human rights in China. It also urged China to allow the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights unfettered access to Xinjiang. We hope the Chinese government will heed the message of this statement and end the abuses, including in Xinjiang, Hong Kong.

We welcome a resolution on the right to privacy in the digital age. The resolution contends with many new and emerging challenges for the right to privacy worldwide, with strong language on biometric technologies and encryption, as well as recommendations on artificial intelligence. The resolution has also crucially strengthened the link between privacy, equality and non-discrimination and once again expressed concern about threats and harassment faced by those defending human rights. We urge all States to take heed of these developments and implement the resolution to its full extent at the national level.

We welcome the adoption of the resolution on Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions by a vote. The resolution aims to uphold the right to life, liberty and security for everyone and acknowledges that impunity continues to be a major factor in the continuation of these executions. We support the additional reference to human rights defenders and the fact that this session’s resolution once again highlighted the targeting of specific groups of persons including killings of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, killings of members of indigenous communities, killings of persons related to their activities as human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists or demonstrators, or because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. We welcome the successful rejection of an oral amendment proposed by a group of States attempting to remove the reference to particularly targeted groups by a vote.

We welcome support by an overwhelming majority of States for the resolution on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty proposed by Mexico and Switzerland (on behalf of an Inter-Regional Task Force of States). A total of 120 UN Member States voted in favor of the text - including for the first time Djibouti, Lebanon and South Korea - while 39 voted against and 24 abstained. The text reiterates calls made in previous resolutions, most prominently for a halt of executions with the view to abolishing the death penalty. It also includes additions on the importance of civil society in public debate on the issue, the role of UN treaty bodies, the discriminatory application of the death penalty on women and the need to ensure that children, families and legal representatives are provided with adequate information about a pending execution. 

We welcome the adoption of the resolution on Inclusive development for and with persons with disabilities, urging non-discrimination, accessibility and inclusion in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, including for women and girls with disabilities. In particular, we welcome the request for the Secretary-General to report on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on persons with disabilities, and on the implementation of the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy. 

We deeply regret the 30 amendments were proposed by Russia and the United States across various resolutions relevant to gender. At the heart of these amendments were attempts to break consensus, weaken references to sexual and reproductive health, and delete references to UNFPA and WHO in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are concerned by constant attempts to limit access to sexual and reproductive health services for women and girls, particularly as access to these services have been diverted in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also disconcerting to see persistent attempts to erode progress achieved through extensive negotiations among Member States, particularly in regard to rollover resolutions. 

We welcome the adoption by consensus of the resolution on Child, Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM). The resolution included updates related to the impacts of COVID-19 and response measures on girls and root causes and efforts to end CEFM. The resolution acknowledged that adolescent girls are most affected by the CEFM and called for transformative, participatory and adequately funded COVID-19 response measures, including uninterrupted access and funding for sexual and reproductive health-care services; adolescent-centered services; and redistribution of unpaid care and domestic work. Unfortunately, the resolution did not reference multiple and intersecting forms of violence and discrimination or include survivor-centered approaches. Further, we deeply regret the presentation of 8 amendments by the US and Russia, which suggest a deprioritization of this issue, especially as we have seen a surge in cases in the context of COVID-19 and associated response measures.

We commend the support of a majority of Member States for the resolution on Intensification of efforts to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, presented by France and the Netherlands, which was adopted by a vote. Although we are encouraged by the rejection of 10 amendments presented by Russia and the US, we deeply regret the attempt to break global consensus on an issue widely recognized as a gross human rights violation and a public health issue, particularly as this year’s text addresses increased violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. While ultimately no delegation voted against the resolution, it is discouraging that the balance reached on sensitive issues following weeks of negotiations was called to a vote. 

We welcome the adoption of the resolution on Intensifying global efforts for the elimination of female genital mutilation presented by Burkina Faso (on behalf of African Group) and the resolution on Intensifying efforts to end obstetric fistula presented by Senegal (on behalf of African Group). These resolutions were technical rollovers (with no substantive changes to the respective 2018 texts) ultimately adopted by consensus. While we are deeply disappointed by the amendments presented by the US to delete references related to sexual and reproductive health in both texts and to delete references to UNFPA and WHO in an attempt to disregard their leadership and contributions in efforts to end obstetric fistula, we are encouraged that the majority of Member States stood behind these essential references and rejected the amendments. 

We welcome the passage of the resolution on Women and girls and the response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) presented by Spain that underscores the fundamental role of women and girls in pandemic responses, and calls for a gender responsive action to the pandemic. The text sends a powerful message to promote and protect the human rights of all women and girls and to end all forms of discrimination. While the resolution was adopted by consensus, we regret the six amendments presented by Russia and the US aimed at debilitating and reversing long-standing global agreements regarding women’s sexual and reproductive health, as well as the fundamental importance of the outcome documents and reviews related to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the ICPD. 

We note the adoption without a vote of the resolution on Strengthening national and international rapid response to the impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on women and girls presented by Egypt (on behalf of Algeria, China, Saudi Arabia, and Zambia). We also commend the rejection of two amendments presented by the US to delete reference to the essential role played by the WHO and weaken the reference to sexual and reproductive health. However, we regret that the text falls short in addressing the impact of the pandemic on women and girls from a human rights perspective. The text fails to comprehensively address the sexual and reproductive health needs of all women and girls, turning a blind eye to the impact of lockdowns and quarantine measures on continued access to these essential services. We are disappointed that language from the General Assembly omnibus resolution on COVID-19 adopted by consensus barely two months ago on sexual and reproductive health in the pandemic was not included in the text.  

We welcome the adoption of the resolution on Trafficking in women and girls presented by the Philippines. While a technical rollover, we welcome additional references to COVID-19. The resolution calls on governments to establish or enhance preventive measures to address underlying causes, as well as risk factors that increase vulnerability to human trafficking - including poverty, gender inequality and stereotypes - and to allocate resources to programmes for the physical, psychological and social recovery of victims of human trafficking, including sexual and reproductive health-care services. While the resolution was adopted by consensus, we regret the attempt by the US to delete the reference to sexual and reproductive health-care services, which are essential for survivors, particularly given the same resolution in 2018 passed by consensus without any amendments presented.

We welcome the overwhelming cross-regional support to the resolution on the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This resolution recognises ongoing systemic and systematic human rights violations in the country, urging the Iranian authorities to hold those responsible to account. We remain deeply concerned by impunity for deliberate use of unwarranted lethal force by security forces during the November 2019 protests, mass arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment and unfair trials in relation to the protests, and the intimidation and silencing of victims’ families. Other violations remain unaddressed, including the death penalty, discrimination against women and girls and ethnic and religious minorities, and the repression of freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. These serious violations warrant continued scrutiny by the UN Secretary-General mandated by this resolution. We urge Member States to support the resolution when considered in the upcoming Plenary session.

The cross-regional support demonstrated by the adoption of the resolution on the situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic sends a strong message to the Syrian government, Russia and other parties to the conflict responsible for war crimes. The resolution underscores the essential role of cross-border aid mechanisms in bringing life saving humanitarian assistance, especially in light of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, urging the Security Council to reauthorize the use of border crossings of Bab al-Salam and al-Ya‘rubiyah. We welcome the condemnation of the government’s human rights violations, including use of sexual violence, attacks on schools and hospitals, denial of humanitarian access, arbitrary arrest of civilians, detention, torture and killing of detainees, as well as violations by anti-government groups. We welcome continued calls for accountability for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law and urge Member States to follow through on the resolution, and work within the Security Council and the General Assembly to ensure cross-border humanitarian assistance resumes.

We welcome the passage, by overwhelming support, of the resolution on the Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar. The resolution highlights the urgency of addressing root causes of human rights abuses and the critical need for accountability for violations of international law against the Rohingya and ethnic minorities in Chin, Shan, and Kachin states. With strong language on humanitarian access, statelessness, systematic and institutionalized discrimination, accountability for sexual and gender-based violence, the need for credible and transparent justice processes, and the need for free and inclusive elections, the resolution sends a timely message on the need for action by the Myanmar government, the UN Secretariat and Security Council.

The resolution on Situation of human rights in the Democractic People's Republic of Korea was adopted by consensus, with Belarus, China, DPRK, Russia, Syria and Venezuela disassociating. We welcome the condemnation of ongoing widespread and systematic violations of human rights in the DPRK and the importance of following up on recommendations contained in the 2014 report of the Commission of Inquiry. The resolution urges the Security Council to engage on the situation in DPRK and consider referring it to the International Criminal Court. 

We welcome the adoption by consensus of the resolution on the Human rights treaty body system. We regret that States were not able to ‘welcome’ the report of the co-facilitators of the 2020 review of the treaty body system. We urge all States to follow through with their reaffirmation of the formula contained in resolution 68/268, and allocate the corresponding financial and human resources in the Fifth Committee that the treaty bodies require to function effectively.

The slender opportunities for civil society to engage with the Third Committee became even fewer during Covid-19 times as in-person restrictions did away with encounters with States delegates and UN officials at UNHQ. Given this, it was deeply disappointing that more States did not extend an invitation to civil society organisations to join online informals and defend the presence of civil society as observers. Keeping abreast of the timing of informals was also challenging as this information was not included in the UN Journal as is generally the case. These additional challenges were particularly disappointing, given that well before the start of the Third Committee session in April, 14 civil society organisations called on UN agencies, mechanisms, and bodies to ensure that, in adapting their work to social distancing measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, they not limit the meaningful inclusion of civil society voices in UN discussions.

Watch a video of an abbreviated version the joint statement read by civil society here:

Access Now
Amnesty International
ARTICLE 19
Association for Progressive Communications - APC
CIVICUS
Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
Global Justice Center
Human Rights in China (HRIC)
Human Rights Watch
Impact Iran
International Disability Alliance
International Planned Parenthood Federation Western Hemisphere Region (IPPFWHR)
International Service for Human Rights
International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC)
OutRight Action International
Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights (UAF)

Conact: Tess McEvoy, t.mcevoy@ishr.ch

Photo: Screnshot of UNTV

 

UNGA75 | Council has shown the fight for human rights continues despite Covid-19, says President

02.11.2020

Covid-19 is not only a health emergency but a human rights crisis, and the Human Rights Council has shown itself to be ‘nimble and flexible’ in facing challenges - by introducing innovations to its ways of working, the President of the Human Rights Council told State delegates in a dialogue held with the UN’s Third Committee (human rights).  She also underlined the importance of the work of civil society in the work of the Council, and the coordination between the UN in New York and Geneva.

In regard to Council innovation over the last months, the President noted the use of digital tools for meetings and information apps.  Through the use of virtual meetings, many people around the world had been reached that the Council would otherwise not have, which was key to ensuring that people around the world could see that human rights were being promoted and protected despite the crises. These innovations in her view, should be retained beyond the span of the current crisis.

On the interaction between UN bodies in Geneva and New York, Tichy-Fisslberger said that ‘this is one UN system and the UN should deliver as one … in the world out there, nobody cares if it is one body or another’. Opportunities should be taken to compare analysis between delegates in different spaces, as these ‘add to the consistency, relevant and effectiveness of all our work’, she added.

In that regard, arguably the most interesting State interventions came in the form of questions on specific opportunities for greater synergy, such as Croatia’s enquiry as to how the Council should feed in to the General Assembly’s special session on Covid-19 in December.

The President spoke of civil society actors as the ‘cornerstone of the work of the Council’ making the Council’s work ‘more tangible and connected to the reality on the ground.’ Human Rights Council successes so far ‘would not be possible without the active participation of civil society’, she added.

Several States spoke of the supposed politicisation of the Council.  This the President pushed back against, requesting member States to engage with Special Procedures, for example, and voice their opinion rather than fail to engage and then accuse the mandate-holders of bias. 

Finally, Tichy-Fisslberger noted that the UN’s financial crisis has had its impact on the Council workings although Covid-19 had also allowed for savings related to conference services.  Over the next months she was keen to keep looking at means to increase Council efficiency and effectiveness. 

Contact: Eleanor Openshaw, e.openshaw@ishr.ch

Photo: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

UNGA75 | Vital work of women in promoting and protecting human rights must be recognised and safeguarded

21.10.2020

The Special Rapporteur opened by expressing concern for systematic repression of peaceful protests by States, citing diverse threats on civil society including restrictive laws, digital attacks, and criminalisation of human rights defence. His report highlighted the courage of women’s organisations and defenders, whose contribution remains underestimated, underfunded and discredited.

‘Women human rights defenders face patterns of State repression, as well as obstacles and reprisals from within communities and families, in public space, at work, or on the digital sphere. In addition to the risks of threats, attacks and violence faced by all defenders, women human rights defenders are exposed to specific risks, driven by deep-rooted discrimination against women and stereotypes related to gender and sexuality,’ said ISHR’s Tess McEvoy.

Women-led movements are integral to development and peace. The Special Rapporteur called on States to ‘take specific measures which will ensure that women’s movements are recognized, that we act to eliminate gender discrimination, and to ensure that women’s organisations are properly funded.’

Many States welcomed the report and reiterated the Special Rapporteur concerns. Several States echoed on the need to address gender-based violence and threats against women human rights defenders, both online and offline. Switzerland expressed particular concern regarding reports of sexual violence against women during demonstrations and consequent arrests, while the EU echoed calls for States to cease using Covid-19 as ruse to limit political participation. The Russian Federation, on the other hand, questioned the gender-oriented theme of the report and accused foreign States of interference in national matters by funding protesters.

Both the EU and the US raised concerns over restrictions on the right to freedom of association in specific countries. The EU noted reports of women’s movements in Belarus being limited, while the US raised concerns over restrictions in Belarus, Nicaragua, Cambodia and China. In response, China refuted these accusations and criticised systematic racial discrimination and police brutality in the US.

In his concluding remarks, the Special Rapporteur appealed to States to cease imposing restrictions on demonstrators and welcome open dialogue. He also called on those States with pending country visit invitations to respond.

Contact: Tess McEvoy, t.mcevoy@ishr.ch

Photo: ISHR

HRC45 | Evidence of crimes against humanity in Venezuela, conclude UN experts

17.09.2020

Update: The UN fact-finding mission on Venezuela delivered its report on 23 September and engaged in an interactive dialogue with States and civil society. The mission outlined how Venezuela had failed to respond to any of the requests made to meet or provide information, but this in no way undermined the rigourous nature of the methodology underpinning the report. The vast majority of States intervening supported the work of the mission and many spoke to the need for the mission’s work to continue. 

ISHR was pleased to deliver a statement along with Venezuela NGO Alfavic (watch the statement at the end of this page).

The UN fact-finding mission on Venezuela, provided with a year-long mandate by the Human Rights Council last year to assess a range of alleged human rights violations since 2014, could not have provided more damning findings at a time of interconnected and worsening human rights and humanitarian crises in the country.

The mission of independent experts have made public their report and shared their findings, which include:

  • Evidence of crimes against humanity planned and executed by Venezuelan authorities and security forces since 2014.
  • That these crimes against humanity are made evident in patterns of violations and crimes that are in highly coordinated in line with State policies and part of a widespread and systematic course of conduct. This is not ad hoc activity but coordinated.   
  • That President Maduro and the Ministers of the Interior and of Defence ‘gave orders, coordinated activities and supplied resources’ to promote the policies and programmes under which the crimes – crimes against humanity and others - were committed. 
  • That the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN) targeted political dissidents and human rights activists, and others considered to be against the Government.
  • That the vast majority of unlawful killings by security forces have not led to prosecutions, and 'at no stage have officials with command responsibility been brought to justice'.

Several of the findings of human rights violations and the context of an erosion of democratic institutions, the rule of law and judicial independence chime with those of other parts of the UN, including Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR).  Notably, the findings of crimes against humanity are also not new.  NGOs, such as Amnesty International have already shared similar conclusions.  In 2018 a panel of independent experts of the Organisation of American States concluded something similar.  In addition, Venezuela has been referred to the International Criminal Court. 

‘This report is unflinching. It does something very important – bear out what victims and civil society have been telling the world for many years,’ said ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw.

‘It is now for the Human Rights Council to keep the investigation going.  This report should be the start of deep reform in Venezuela to respect the rights of its people,’ she added.

The fact-finding mission will present its report to and hold a dialogue with the Human Rights Council on the 23rd September.  Follow at: UN web tv. 

Watch the statement here (in Spanish): 

 

Contact: Eleanor Openshaw  e.openshaw@ishr.ch

Photo: ISHR 

China l 300+ global rights groups call for international accountability mechanism

09.09.2020
Image for China and accountibility

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The United Nations should urgently create an independent international mechanism to address the Chinese government’s human rights violations, a coalition of more than 300 civil society groups from dozens of countries said today.

The signatories stressed the need to address rampant human rights violations across China, including in Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang.  They also highlighted the impact of China’s rights violations world-wide, including targeting human rights defenders, global censorship and surveillance, and rights-free development, with ensuing environmental degradation. 

'This global coalition joins together with 50 UN experts and dozens of governments to demand an end to China’s impunity at the UN Human Rights Council,' said John Fisher, Geneva director at Human Rights Watch. 'The UN needs to act on the growing chorus of voices calling for China to be held accountable for its rights abuses.'

The groups’ call echoes an unprecedented statement by more than 50 UN human rights experts, who in June 2020 detailed the Chinese authorities’ serious rights violations and called for 'decisive measures to protect fundamental freedoms in China'.

'China’s disdain for human rights no longer affects only its citizens—its support to dictators and efforts to rewrite international standards are making the work of defending human rights harder than ever', said Sarah Brooks, Asia Advocate at the International Service for Human Rights. 'This joint statement, for the first time, unites organizations from around the world standing up for their own communities'.

In their statement, the coalition highlighted China’s efforts to distort the mandate of the UN Human Rights Council by persecuting activists from China who use UN mechanisms to seek redress, and opposing initiatives to bring scrutiny of serious rights violations and international crimes in countries around the world. China typically rejects UN consideration of its human rights record as 'gross interference'.

'China has systematically persecuted rights defenders in reprisal for their cooperation with UN human rights operations—torture, enforced disappearance, imprisonment, stripping licenses from lawyers', said Renee Xia, director of Chinese Human Rights Defenders. 'The UN system should no longer tolerate such treatment'.

 The coalition echoes the UN experts’ calls for a special session of the Human Rights Council to evaluate the range of violations by China’s government, and an impartial and independent UN mechanism focused on China. The groups also urge UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to take responsibility for publicly addressing China’s sweeping rights violations.

'The international community can no longer sit back and allow the Chinese authorities to trample on human rights at home and abroad', said Joshua Rosenzweig, the head of Amnesty International’s China team. 'Without decisive action now, things will only get worse. It is urgent for UN member states to work together and ensure that violations committed by Beijing are officially monitored and meaningfully challenged.

'No State should be above the law'.

You can read the full letter below:

An open letter to: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, UN Member States

 

We, the undersigned organizations, join together to call for an international mechanism to address the Chinese government’s human rights violations, and urge you to take decisive action to achieve this goal.

On 26 June 2020, an unprecedented 50 United Nations experts called for “decisive measures to protect fundamental freedoms in China.” They highlighted China’s mass human rights violations in Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang,  suppression of information in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, and attacks on rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and critics of the government across the country.

Our organizations are also concerned about the impact of China’s rights violations world-wide. China has targeted human rights defenders abroad, suppressed academic freedom in countries around the world, and engaged in internet censorship and digital surveillance. We deplore China’s promotion of rights-free development and the ensuing environmental degradation at the hands of government-backed extractive industries, as well as the racist treatment of people in China, or by Chinese state actors in other parts of the world.

We are dismayed at China’s efforts to distort the mandate of the UN Human Rights Council by promoting  “cooperation” over accountability, and opposing initiatives to bring scrutiny of serious rights violations and international crimes in countries around the world. It has used its seat on the UN’s NGO Committee to baselessly deny accreditation to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), while accrediting government-organized NGOs (GoNGOs). It has sought to deny access to human rights defenders to UN premises, denounced speakers on NGO side events as “terrorists,” and threatened delegates to deter them from attending UN side events on rights violations, including abuses in Xinjiang.

When the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Special Procedures, and dozens of states urged China to comply with international human rights standards, China contended that they were “improper remarks” that “grossly interfered” with China’s sovereignty.

A state that tries to hold itself above any kind of scrutiny presents a fundamental threat to human rights.  That China—a state with extraordinary global power—expects such treatment affects us all. 

We therefore endorse the call by UN experts for a Special Session of the Human Rights Council to evaluate the range of violations by China’s government, and to establish an impartial and independent UN mechanism to closely monitor, analyze, and report annually on that topic.  We urge the UN Secretary-General to appoint a Special Envoy, consistent with his Call to Action on Human Rights, and we call on the High Commissioner for Human Rights to fulfil her independent mandate to monitor and publicly report on China’s sweeping rights violations. We support the call that UN member states and UN agencies use all interactions with Chinese authorities to insist that the government comply with its international human rights obligations.

We write in the spirit of global solidarity and partnership, urging that you act swiftly to counter and remediate grave human rights violations committed by Chinese authorities. No state should be above the law.

Illustration: ISHR 


Treaty Bodies | Welcome move towards predictable cycles of reviews

26.08.2020

In a joint submission to the co-facilitators of the 2020 review of UN Treaty Bodies (Switzerland and Morocco), the 10 Chairs of the UN Treaty Bodies shared their decision to review countries in accordance with a fixed schedule. The adoption of predictable cycles of State party reviews, which the UN Human Rights Commmittee has pioneered, means that all States parties will be periodically reviewed, whether they submit their reports on time or not.

"The adoption of fixed and predictable review cycles by all Treaty Bodies constitues a major breakthrough" says Patrick Mutzenberg of the Centre on Civil and Political Rights, an organisation that works closely with the Human Rights Committee, and a member of the TB-Net network. "With four out of five States currently failing to submit their periodic reports on time to the Treaty Bodies, the proactive adoption of a fixed calendar of reviews will significantly facilitate civil society engagement in the process".

The move towards fixed and predictable review cycles by the Treaty Bodies will also contribute to equality of treatment amongst States parties, notably between the minority of States parties that submit periodic reports on time, and those who don't. In opting for fixed cycles, the Treaty Bodies will follow established practices amongst other international human rights mechanisms such as the Universal Periodic Review, by which all States are reviewed according to a fixed calendar.

ISHR welcomes the move towards fixed review cycles. Nevertheless, ISHR remains concerned about the distinction in periodicity of reviews between the Covenant Committees and the other Convention Committees, currently envisaged in the Chairperson's submissionISHR voiced those concerns during the 28 August civil society briefing organised by the co-facilitators of the 2020 Treaty Body Strengthening Process.

In addition to the question of fixed review cycles, ISHR's statement addresses: elections and membership of the Committees; the capacity strengthening programme; in-country reviews; and digital tools.

Link to the Chairpersons' submission to the co-facilitators: https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/TB/HRTD/CoFacilitationProcess/o...

Link to the ISHR statement to the co-facilitators: https://www.ishr.ch/sites/default/files/documents/ishr_statement_28_aug_...

photo: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

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Opinion:

Civic freedoms, including freedom of expression, association and assembly are essential to stable, profitable and sustainable businesses and investment environments in which companies thrive and economies prosper, writes Andrés Zaragoza, Programme Manager (Business and Human Rights) with ISHR. Multinationals have a role to play in protecting the “shared civic space” in Myanmar. 

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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