News

17 Oct

Venezuela has been voted onto the Human Rights Council by one of the smallest ever majorities, along with Brazil. Costa Rica – who put forward their candidacy only two weeks ago – was narrowly beaten.  All new members, including Venezuela, must now work to live up to the human rights standards that membership demands.   

14 Oct

ISHR has joined a coalition of 54 Venezuelan and international NGOs to express our serious concerns about Venezuela’s bid for a seat in the Human Rights Council. Venezuela's long and worsening record of grave human rights violations makes them unfit for membership to the world's premier human rights body. 

 

16 Oct

Human rights defenders are courageous people who act with humanity, serve humanity and bring out the best in humanity. None of them should have to spend their 50th birthday in prison. Before his imprisonment, Ahmed Mansoor was known as ‘the last human rights defender left in the UAE’ on account of his fearless work to document human rights violations in the country. Ahead of his 50th birthday, more than 140 human rights groups signed an open letter urging the Emirati authorities to release Ahmed Mansoor.

21 Oct

Restrictions of fundamental rights and freedoms have continuously forced human rights defenders to flee their place of residence to avoid threats and reprisals as a consequence of their human rights work. Defenders who have been forced into exile do not necessarily end up being safer and still face challenges to be able to continue their work in an enabling environment.

17 Oct

Human rights defenders in Fiji live in fear of harassment, threats and arbitrary arrests. As part of its upcoming Universal Periodic Review, ISHR and Rainbow Pride Foundation call on the Fiji Government to protect defenders and repeal legislation restricting their right to freedom of expression, assembly and association.

Florence report

Burundi joint statement

Burundi joint statement

HRC40| EHRD Resolution

HRC40 | Council unanimously recognises vital role of environmental human rights defenders

21.03.2019

The resolution meets many of the civil society demands ISHR expressed in a joint letter along with more than 180 groups. By formally acknowledging the important role of environmental human rights defenders, the Council highlights the legitimacy of their work, helps counter stigmatisation and can contribute to expanding their operating space.

Though the resolution falls short in some key areas, its adoption by consensus is a positive step towards better protection of environmental human rights defenders. It must now be followed by implementation at the national level by all relevant stakeholders, including States, UN agencies, businesses and development finance institutions.

'We all want to breathe clean air, drink safe water, and to be able to provide sustenance and a healthy, dignified life for our families. Human survival and well-being rest on a biodiverse and healthy environment and a safe climate', said Salma El Hosseiny, Human Rights Council Advocate at the International Service for Human Rights. 

'Environmental human rights defenders help us to achieve just that. Through this resolution, the Council recognises and celebrates their work. It will hopefully lead to more breathing space for defenders, and therefore for us all,' El Hosseiny said.

While the resolution needs to be translated from the paper adopted in Geneva to real action on the ground, this is the first time that the world's top human rights body has explicitly and with one voice called for the protection of environmental human rights defenders. It can be used by civil society as a lever to push for concrete action. 

The resolution was led and presented by Norway, on behalf of 60 States from all regions. In particular, many Latin American States strongly supported the resolution, which is significant given the dangerous situation for defenders in many of those countries. The consensus on the protection of environmental human rights defenders is a welcome sign of unity by the international community in recognising their vital contribution to a biodiverse and healthy environment, to peace and security, and to human rights.

‘We now look to States, business enterprises and development finance institutions to take rapid and decisive steps to address the global crisis facing environmental human rights defenders’, said Michael Ineichen, Programme Director at the International Service for Human Rights.

‘This means States need to create protection mechanisms which guarantee the security of defenders. States must also ensure that businesses put in place specific policies and processes allowing for the inclusion of human rights defenders and their concerns in due diligence processes’, Ineichen said.   

Key points of the resolution:

  • Expresses alarm at increasing violations against environmental defenders, including killings, gender-based violence, threats, harassment, intimidation, smear campaigns, criminalisation, judicial harassment, forced eviction and displacement. It acknowledges that violations are also committed against defenders’ families, communities, associates and lawyers;

  • Recognises that the protection of human rights defenders can only be achieved through an approach which promotes and celebrates their work. It also calls for root causes of violations to be addressed by strengthening democratic institutions, combating impunity and reducing economic inequalities;

  • Pays particular attention to women human rights defenders, by stressing the intersectional nature of violations and abuses against them and against indigenous peoples, children, persons belonging to minorities, and rural and marginalised communities;

  • Urges States to adopt laws guaranteeing the protection of defenders, put in place holistic protection measures for and in consultation with defenders, and ensure investigation and accountability for threats and attacks against environmental human rights defenders; and

  • Calls on businesses to carry out human rights due diligence and to hold meaningful and inclusive consultations with defenders, potentially affected groups and other relevant stakeholders.

While the resolution was adopted by consensus, the unity came at the price of a lack of specificity in certain areas. For instance, the resolution does not clearly recognise all of the root causes of the insecurity facing environmental human rights defenders, as documented by UN experts, nor comprehensively name the perpetrators or the most dangerous industries. It also fails to clearly spell out the human rights obligations of development finance institutions, and to detail the corresponding necessary steps to consult, respect and protect the work of environmental human rights defenders. 

Contact: Michael Ineichen, Programme Director, m.ineichen@ishr.ch, +41 78 82 777 86

Photo: Flicker Juliana Colussi  350Brasil

Pages

Opinion:

By Navi Pillay, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2008 - 2014.

The human rights treaty bodies are central to human rights reform efforts, but are burdened by inefficiencies. The upcoming UN review offers a chance to make them both more efficient and more effective.

This article was first published on OpenGlobalRights on 15 October 2019.

Browse our articles:

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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