In newly published report, ISHR and four partner organisations assess China's lack of implementation of human rights commitments from its 2018 Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The report details the government's diverse strategies to silence and repress human rights defenders, lawyers, and journalists.
(Geneva) – States should adopt laws and policies to support civil society actors and organisations and end impunity for abuses and attacks against them, the Human Rights Council has said in an important and timely resolution.
The resolution – which was led by Ireland, together with Chile, Japan, Sierra Leone and Tunisia – emphasises the crucial role of a strong and independent civil society in promoting democracy, development and the rule of law, while condemning the continuing use of laws, such as those relating to counter-terrorism or limiting access to funding, to restrict and criminalise the vital work of activists and NGOs.
‘Coming just days after the arbitrary detention of Maryam Al-Khawaja in Bahrain, the imposition of travel bans against indigenous human rights defenders in Russia, the imprisonment of political dissidents in China, and the criminalisation of accessing foreign funds for non-governmental organisations in Egypt, this resolution is both timely and important,’ said ISHR’s Director of Human Rights Council Advocacy, Michael Ineichen.
‘We particularly welcome the resolution’s emphasis on protecting “persons belonging to minorities and vulnerable groups” and empowering people and organisations “espousing minority or dissenting beliefs and views”,’ Mr Ineichen said. ‘This is especially important in the context of ongoing attacks against women human rights defenders and the criminalisation of advocacy on LGBT rights in many countries around the world,’ Mr Ineichen said.
The resolution also urges States to ensure access to justice, accountability and an end to impunity for human rights violations and abuses against civil society actors, and welcomes recent initiatives by some States to enact specific laws and policies to protect and support human rights defenders and other civil society actors.
‘Impunity for attacks against civil society actors amounts to a further assault on human rights and the rule of law. We urge States to consider enacting specific laws to protect civil society, such as the recently enacted Côte d’Ivoire law on human rights defenders which explicitly enshrines the State’s legal obligation to investigate and pursue accountability for attacks,’ Mr Ineichen said.
The resolution also includes a welcome emphasis on the positive role that civil society actors and organisations can play in diverse areas, such as achieving transitional justice, combating discrimination, countering corruption and promoting corporate accountability, particularly where they are able to effectively participate in the development of laws and policies on such issues. Speaking in favour of the resolution, States including Sierra Leone and Tunisia highlighted the crucial role of civil society actors in ending conflict, and promoting transitional justice and democracy in their countries.
‘Mature governments see civil society as an indispensable asset, not a threat,’ Mr Ineichen said. ‘This is the case both at the national level, where civil society has a crucial role in the development of public policy, and at the international level, where the participation of NGOs in bodies such as the Human Rights Council is axiomatic to their effectiveness.’
Reflecting this, the resolution calls on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a compilation of practical recommendations to States to ensure a safe and enabling environment for civil society, drawing on good national laws and policies in this regard.
In addition to the core group of Ireland, Chile, Japan, Sierra Leone and Tunisia, States that spoke strongly in support of the resolution included Austria, Brazil, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Montenegro, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
States that introduced hostile amendments or spoke against the resolution included Algeria, China, Cuba, India, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Vietnam. A South African effort to remove a reference in the text to HRC Res 24/24 was strongly rejected, amounting to a strong reaffirmation of that landmark resolution on reprisals by the Council, despite efforts by some delegations in New York to undermine it.
During each ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (‘The African Commission’), Commissioners present their activity reports which provides an overview of the work done in between two sessions. On 23 November 2021, the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and Focal point on reprisals presented his report.
Despite Namibia taking several progressive measures to promote and protect human rights, the country continues to enforce repressive laws that infringe on the rights of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender (LGBT) community, commercial sex workers and other vulnerable groups.
On the last day of the NGO Forum, a panel was organised to officially launch the newly established Lusophone Platform for Human Rights in Africa.
In compliance with Article 62 of the African Charter, States have the obligation to report every two years on the legislative, administrative and political measures taken with a view to give effect to human rights guaranteed by the Charter. Despite the challenges of conducting the sessions online, it doesn't prevent the African Commission from holding States accountable to their human rights obligations.
The passage of a human rights defender resolution by the Third Committee of the GA by consensus, with 85 co-sponsors, is another important step in ongoing work to strengthen the promotion and protection of those who defend rights.
During its 76th session and in a move welcomed by civil-society, the Third Committee of the GA adopted by consensus a resolution recognising the rights of all people to participate in elections and public affairs, without discrimination, including on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
Concerned about the increase in the number of human rights defenders in exile in Africa, during its 27th Extraordinary session, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (‘the African Commission’) adopted resolution 439 mandating the African Commission to publish a report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in Exile in Africa.
Civil society calls for an end to attacks against Sudanese women protestors and WHRDs following the military coup.
On 16 November, ISHR delivered a statement on the situation of human rights in Africa, with a particular focus on the criminalisation and arrest of women defenders in Sudan, of LGBTI defenders in Namibia and the progress made on legislative protection of defenders in Benin and Mali.
As we celebrate 40 years since the adoption of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights which established the African Commission, the NGO Forum seized the opportunity to analyse the engagement of civil society with the Commission the past 40 years.
ISHR joins 15 NGOs in calling on Egypt to immediately communicate to Salah Soltan’s relatives his whereabouts, and release him from detention.