This week in an online event, 10 candidate States publicly spoke to an audience of around 200 people on their pledges as incoming Human Rights Council members for 2022 – 2024. They also faced questions on pressing human rights issues from both States and civil society organisations.
Vanessa Mendoza, President of Associació Stop Violències, is facing at least two judicial proceedings related to her activism. In one case where she received formal notification, she is facing charges of slander against the government, defamation against the co-princes and crimes against the State institutions due to statements she made to the media and her engagement with CEDAW. These charges carry up to four years imprisonment. In a separate case in relation to organising a protest in September 2019 calling for decriminalising abortion, she was brought before the police to testify in November 2019, but has not yet received a formal notification of the charges she is facing
During the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Andorra, which took place on 5 November 2020, the State delegation of Andorra said that Mendoza ‘is not risking in any case a jail sentence’. ISHR urges Andorra to drop all charges against Mendoza, provide assurances that she will no longer face any intimidation, threats or judicial harassment, and guarantee her right to an effective remedy for the reprisals that she was subjected to.
ISHR welcomes the Netherlands’ and Luxembourg’s statements at the UPR raising concerns about the reprisals against Mendoza for her engagement with CEDAW, and recommending that the Andorran government ‘stop the judicial harassment, the reprisals and intimidation against human rights defenders in relation to the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms and engagement with the UN’, and “guarantee rights in the area of sexual and reproductive health by providing access without obstacles to information, education and services on sexual and reproductive health, ensuring that persons in this sector can work without fear of reprisals”, respectively.
The UN Secretary-General, in his 2020 annual report on reprisals, documented that the Andorra Government is taking ‘disproportionate measures’ against Stop Violències and its President for their participation with the CEDAW.
ISHR welcomes the Council’s historic consensus decision, led by the Africa Group, to adopt a resolution mandating an independent international expert mechanism to address systemic racism and to promote racial justice and equality for Africans and people of African descent. The adoption of this resolution is testament to the resilience, bravery and commitment of victims, their families, their representatives and anti-racism defenders globally.
At the 47th session of the Human Rights Council, ISHR along with the Informal Sector Service Center presented a joint statement in Nepal’s Universal Periodic Review expressing concern about the situation of human rights defenders in the country.
Faced with the appropriation of their name, Peruvian NGO Madres en Acción is pushing back, filing a legal action to recover it. In an amicus brief in support of the action, ISHR argues that trademark law is being used to attack defenders and this must stop.
With three more human rights defenders detained arbitrarily in recent days, once again the Human Rights Council was asked to do more to put pressure on Venezuela to allow dissenting voices in the country to be heard. Independent civil society makes a critical contribution to the construction of societies built on the respect of human rights.
In the first case on violence against trans people heard by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Court held Honduras responsible for the transfemicide of human rights defender Vicky Hernández.
Public servants, journalists, and indigenous defenders have suffered targeting and reprisals from an increasingly brazen government, confirming the urgent need to adopt legal mechanisms for the protection of human rights defenders.
ISHR joined 74 civil society organisations from across the world in urging Egypt to release researcher Ahmed Samir Santawy, and to ensure that, pending his release, he is granted immediate and regular access to his family and lawyers, provided with adequate healthcare, and protected from torture and other ill-treatment.
Beyond the discrimination and indignation that ordinary women suffer, indigenous women in Africa continue to be marginalised and denied the full recognition and protection of their rights. Decisively, the long-awaited National Human Rights Institutions’ (NHRIs) Forum organised by the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (NANHRI) convened on 8 and 9 April 2021 to discuss the role of NHRIs in promoting the realisation of indigenous women’s rights in Africa. The Forum was convened ahead of the 68th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human & Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). The result of the deliberations was a final draft Statement on the “Rights of indigenous women in Africa” that will be submitted to the ACHPR.
ISHR joins human rights organisations from across the globe in calling for the unconditional and immediate release of prominent Bahraini human rights defender Abdul-Hadi al-Khawaja, who turned 60 on 5 April.
The Martin Ennals Foundation has granted Yu Wensheng, a leading Chinese human rights lawyer, the 2021 Martin Ennals Award. Lawyer Yu was among the three finalists to the Award selected by a jury of ten global human rights organisations - among which ISHR -, along with Loujain AlHathloul from Saudi Arabia and Soltan Achilova from Turkmenistan.
It's difficult to encapsulate such a complex year in a word, but "interconnected" is one that comes to mind when reflecting on 2020. We are proud to have remained deeply interconnected with defenders and to have supported, protected and amplified their work at the national, regional and international levels. With them, the "essential workers" of our times, we strive for a 2021 full of freedom, equality, dignity and justice.