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.
A law in Russia requires that an NGO receiving foreign funding and engaging in ‘political activity’ register as a ‘foreign agent’. ‘Foreign agents’ not only have to comply with cumbersome financial and reporting requirements, but the negative stigma associated with this label have been described as debilitating.
After submitting a report to the UN Committee Against Torture, Anti-Discrimination Centre (ADC) Memorial – an NGO at that time operating in Russia – was required to register as a foreign agent on the basis that submitting the report constituted ‘political activity’.
Following this, ADC Memorial brought a case against Russia in the European Court of Human Rights alleging that the administrative consequences associated with being labeled a foreign agent violate the rights to freedom of expression and association protected by the European Convention of Human Rights.
‘This case raises issues regarding meaningful protection the European Convention on Human Rights provides individuals exercising their right to freedom of expression and association with international human rights bodies and mechanisms’, says ISHR’s Legal Counsel Tess McEvoy. ‘It also demonstrates a serious and systematic human rights problem of reprisals and intimidation against those cooperating with the UN.’
ISHR submitted a third party intervention in the case of ADC Memorial. ‘The intervention is designed to assist the Court by providing an extended analysis of the scope of the rights to freedom of expression and association in international law to inform the interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights’, McEvoy states.
The analysis concluded that accessing and communicating with the UN is protected under the rights to freedom of expression and association enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, and that reprisals and intimidation against those cooperating with the UN would violate those rights.
‘It is vital that human rights defenders have the ability to communicate, publish and disseminate information to international human rights institutions to effectively promote and protect human rights. We call on the European Court to ensure that right is protected’.
UPDATE (January 9, 2019): In September 2017, Russia’s Ministry of Justice responded to the allegations in this case. Russia’s response alleges that their Foreign Agents Law is similar to other laws on this matter, such as those from the United States and the European Union. It also disagreed on the level of harm NGOs suffer once branded as a ‘foreign agent’. In response, in early 2018 the Applicants provided additional evidence of restrictions and harms to their activities following being labelled a ‘foreign agent’. It also pointed to the differences between the Russian law and the laws referred to in Russia’s response, demonstrating that the Russian law seeks only to limit the activities and rights of NGOs and their employees.
Now that there have been responses from both sides, the Court is investigating the alleged violations.
ISHR calls on the European Court of Human Rights to find the Foreign Agents Law as a major violation of the Convention and to push for its repeal. Concurrently, the Court should order reparations for NGOs that have suffered from fines and burdens imposed on them under the law. This case provides the Court with an opportunity to greatly assist NGOs around the world through its determination.
ISHR joins 15 NGOs in calling on Egypt to immediately communicate to Salah Soltan’s relatives his whereabouts, and release him from detention.
Following a rise in the use of platforms to dehumanise persons based on their sexual orientation or gender identity and foster intolerance, the UN Independent Expert presents two reports from complementary angles.
The international community must remain vigilant as Case 173 continues to interfere with the rights of WHRDs in Egypt.
Following the designation of six Palestinian CSO as terrorist organisations, the international community must support and protect and ensure a safe and enabling environment for Palestinian civil society and HRDs.
The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the risk of human rights violations online. Do technology companies have human rights obligations? What are they? Do these private actors have a duty to promote human dignity online?
Yesterday, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders presented her report at the General Assembly's Third Committee on the long-term detention of human rights defenders.
Today, UN member States elected members to the UN's top human rights body, the Human Rights Council, for the 2022-2024 term. 18 candidates ran for 18 seats, and all were elected, leaving civil society disappointed in a process that can hardly be called an election.
On 14 October 2021, the UK delivered a cross-regional statement on behalf of 80 countries, condemning intimidation and reprisals, and calling on States to prioritise and support the meaningful participation of civil society at the UN.
Futures thinking encourages us to identify small ‘signals of change’ which might help to identify and influence the futures that come to pass. At ISHR we’ve identified and, together with advocates and activists from around the world, helped contribute to a number of small but significant signals of positive human rights change in recent weeks.
ISHR together with 36 NGOs from around the world have called on member States of the UN General Assembly to sign on to a cross-regional joint statement on reprisals at the 76th session of the UNGA Third Committee.
During the interactive dialogue with the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights on the SG’s Reprisals Report, some States raised specific cases of reprisals, whilst others drew attention to the use of COVID-19 as a guise under which reprisals were committed and also raised the additional risks to human rights defenders online as a result of the pandemic.