This week ECOSOC members could break years of deadlock for civil society participation at the UN through a vote that would give consultative status to six civil society groups.
The 17th and 18th March saw Venezuela’s human rights record back in the spotlight at the Human Rights Council with interactive dialogues held with the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission.
The High Commissioner noted that some progress had been made from addressing overcrowding in pre-trial detention centres, to the conclusion of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. The High Commissioner emphasized that all announced reforms had to be implemented in ‘a meaningful, genuine and effective manner, to address past human rights violations and prevent their recurrence’ and stressed that the Office was standing by to offer technical advice on how this could best be done. No mention was made of the ongoing question of establishing a permanent OHCHR presence in the country.
Restrictions on civil society were reported on by the High Commissioner, who highlighted the case of Javier Tarazona, Director of NGO Fundaredes, who has now been arbitrarily detained for 271 days.
The phenomenon of the arbitrary detention of government opponents was highlighted by María Ramírez Romero. The Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions has called for her husband Juan Pablo Saavedra to be released.
‘There is no rule of law in the country,’ noted the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights during the dialogue. This was echoed by the Fact-Finding Mission in their oral update to the Council. Their report to the Council is due in September. The majority of States and NGOs intervening spoke favourably about the work of the Fact-Finding Mission with several noting the importance of the Mission’s mandate being renewed in September.
The importance of the continued work of both the Office and the Fact-Finding Mission as independent and complementary mechanisms remains clear as a result of the Council dialogues, according to ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw.
‘There is still so far to go in implementing UN recommendations related to addressing the human rights and humanitarian crises in the country. The work of OHCHR and the Fact-Finding Mission are focused on providing monitoring and reporting on the situation and providing technical’, she noted.
‘For that reason the UN must keep supporting the work of the Office and the Fact-Finding Mission and keep them both focused on the situation in the country.’
At their review before UN rights committee, representatives from Hong Kong dodged questions on the implications of the 2020 National Security Law and refused to address fears of reprisals against civil society actors taking part in the process.
In the case of ‘Ecodefence and Others v. Russia’, the European Court of Human Rights found the Russian ‘Foreign Agents Act’ incompatible with rights to freedom of expression and association.