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!

MoldovaScorecard-update

Reprisals | Submission: Reprisals against Maldives Human Rights Commission violate freedom of expression

12.06.2019

In October 2016, ISHR filed a communication with the UN’s Human Rights Committee on behalf of Ahmed Tholal and Jeehan Mahmood, former Commissioners of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM), to highlight the Maldives’ failure to ensure their right to share information freely with the UN without reprisal. Click here for the orginal article.

The HRCM was prosecuted in 2015 by the Supreme Court in the Maldives following a submission made by the HRCM on human rights in the Maldives to the UN’s Universal Periodic Review.

The Government of the Maldives replied to ISHR’s communication in April 2019, noting ‘the concerns and allegations’ raised by the authors and acknowledging ‘the subsequent operational adversities’ faced by the HRCM. Furthermore, the Maldives sought to assure the Committee that the effects of the Supreme Court judgment ‘will be taken into consideration’, that the Maldives have entered a ‘new era of democratic rule’, and that the new administration pledges to reform, reconstitute and transform all State institutions to, inter alia, reinstate respect for international obligations and promote operation of State institutions within the designated ambit of authority.

In its observations to the Maldives’ reply, ISHR acknowledged and welcomed the proposed legislative amendments, while also submitting that the proposed amendments do not provide an effective remedy for past violations.

‘We maintain that the Maldives breached Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by prosecuting the HRCM for the content of its communications to the UN and by limiting future communication between the HRCM and the UN,’ said Madeleine Sinclair, Legal Counsel for the International Service for Human Rights. ‘We furthermore request that the Human Rights Committee call on the State party to support, and the legislature to pass, the proposed Bill,’ said Sinclair.

 

Contact: Madeleine Sinclair, New York Co-Director and Legal Counsel, ISHR, m.sinclair@ishr.ch, +1-917-544-614

Photo:  Law/Flickr

 
 

Philippines l Human rights defender protection law passes three readings in the House of Representatives

07.06.2019

183 members of the House supported the passage of the Bill on human rights defenders through three readings, with no member opposing or abstaining from the vote. While a very welcome development, the Bill will only enter into force, however, if it is also passed by the Senate and approved by the President.

The Bill was developed in consultation with civil society and is based on the Model Law for the Recognition and Protection of Human Rights Defenders that articulates the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders into national law.

This is a significant step towards the recognition and protection of human rights defenders in one of the most dangerous countries in the world for activists. According to Front Line Defenders, the Philippines has the highest rate of killing of human rights advocates and activists outside of the Americas. National organisations - including Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of Human Rights, Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates and Task Force Detainees of the Philippines - report that 687 human rights defenders were killed in the country between 2001 and 2018. 

The passage of the Bill by parliamentarians comes as the President, Rodrigo Duterte, and members of his administration escalate a campaign of defamation and abuse targeting human rights defenders and institutions. Two weeks ago a group of international organisations urged the Government to respond to threats against human rights defenders by taking genuine and effective measures for their protection. The statement urged the international community to call for restrictive policies to be reversed and the UN Human Rights Council to advance accountability for human rights violations by establishing an independent international investigation into extrajudicial killings in the government's 'war on drugs', and to call for attacks on human rights defenders, independent media, and democratic institutions to end. This call was strongly endorsed by a group of independent UN experts who today condemned a ‘sharp deterioration in the situation of human rights across the country, including sustained attacks on people and institutions defending human rights.’

‘Given the scale and seriousness of the reported human rights violations, we call on the Human Rights Council to establish an independent investigation into the human rights violations in the Philippines,’ the experts said.

The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) and Front Line Defenders (FLD) welcome the significant role that the Makatao, or the ‘legislators of human rights’, in the House of Representatives – formed in March 2018 and constituting 13 founding members that cross party lines – have played in this process to improve the human rights situation.

Once signed into law, the Bill will create a Human Rights Defenders Protection Committee chaired by a Commissioner from the National Commission on Human Rights and six members who will be jointly nominated by concerned civil society organisations.

The law also defines a number of rights for human rights defenders, including:

  • the right to form organisations
  • the right to receive resources
  • the right to disseminate information
  • the right to communicate with international and regional bodies
  • the right to peaceful assembly.

The law further imposes a number of obligations on the State, including:

  • to respect and protect human rights defenders and facilitate their work
  • to protect and penalise intimidation or reprisals
  • refrain from derogatory labeling.  

A counterpart Bill has been pending with the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights since it was presented by Senator De Lima in February 2018.

While we welcome the passage of this Bill in the House of Representatives, we continue to urge the Government and Congress to take genuine and effective measures for the protection of human rights defenders, including calling on the Senate to approve the Senate version of the bill as one of its first actions in the 18th Congress starting in July.

A reconciliation of the Senate and House of Representatives Bills will ultimately constitute law in the Philippines. It is critical that the final law resulting from the reconciliation process of the Bicameral Conference Committee ensures the highest protections in law for human rights defenders.

While the advancement of this legislation is most welcome, ISHR and FLD insist that the Government cease its attacks and smear campaigns against human rights defenders immediately and call on the international community to remain vigilant of such attacks and supportive of Filipino civil society and human rights defenders in conducting their legitimate work.

Contact: Tess McEvoy (ISHR), t.mcevoy@ishr.ch; Adam Shapiro (FLD), adam@frontlinedefenders.org 

Photo: Denniz Futalan, pexels.com

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Opinion:

By Lena Hasle, Senior Advisor at the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Achieving strong provisions for women human rights defenders in the resolution passed by the UN General Assembly on 18 December was a key concern for Norway. The fact that many States were represented by women negotiators was important for the discussion, and for securing new language regarding the protection of women human rights defenders against sexual and gender based violence, as well as attacks online.

Browse our articles:

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Mechanism

 
 
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