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.
(Geneva) – The UN Human Rights Council has adopted a resolution on the ‘Protection of the Family’ which ignores the reality that various forms of family exist, and does not comply with international human rights standards, the International Service for Human Rights said today.
Instead, the resolution seeks to impose a narrow, ‘traditional’ definition of family and subvert the protection of individual members of the family, including children and women, to the ‘rights’ of the family as a whole.
Human rights defenders around the world mobilized in recent days to call on their governments not to support the draft resolution, which was pushed by Egypt with strong support from Bangladesh, China, Côte d’Ivoire, El Salvador, Mauritania, Morocco, Namibia, Qatar, the Russian Federation, Sierra Leone, Tunisia and Uganda.
‘Families are important social units that can play a role in the promotion and protection of human rights. International law recognises this and obligates the State to give families the necessary support to ensure that the individual members of a family are able to fully realize their human rights’, said ISHR’s Pooja Patel. ‘Regrettably, this resolution completely misses the mark in addressing this fundamental point and opts instead to polarize the issue by taking on a narrow definition of the family and failing to recognise the rights of individual family members.’
Chile, Uruguay, Ireland and France proposed an amendment to the resolution to recognise that diverse forms of the family exist and ensure that the text complied with international human rights standards, including the right to non-discrimination and the rights of the child. This amendment was not considered, however, as Russia brought a ‘no-action motion’ – a procedural tactic designed to prevent the issue from even being discussed – which was supported by 22 member States, while 20 voted against and 6 abstained.
‘It is deeply regrettable that Russia used a procedural tactic to silence debate. It is perhaps even more regrettable that countries like South Africa, whose constitution enshrines the right to equality and prohibits discrimination on grounds including sexual orientation and gender identity, supported this tactic,’ Ms Patel said.
‘Rather than employing cheap tricks and theatrics to push their initiatives, States should consider the merits of each proposal in the spirit of dialogue, debate and freedom of expression that should pervade the Council’, said Ms Patel.
Saudi Arabia and Pakistan also proposed an amendment to the text that sought to restrict the definition of marriage to ‘a union between a man and a woman’. While this amendment was subsequently withdrawn, Ms Patel said that ‘It is grimly ironic that States such as Pakistan, which frequently appeal to notions such as national sovereignty and non-interference to resist the application of human rights standards at home, seek to impose their own restrictive notions of relationships on the world at large.’
Contact: Pooja Patel, International Service for Human Rights, at [email protected]
 26 in favour (Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Cote D’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gabon, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Maldives, Morocco, Namibia, Pakistan, Philippines, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, UAE, Venezuela and Viet Nam), 14 against (Austria, Chile, Czech republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Montenegro, Republic of Korea, Romania, UK, USA), 6 abstentions (Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru, Macedonia). No vote from Cuba.
 22 in favour (Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Cote D’Ivoire, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Morocco, Namibia, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, UAE, Venezuela), 20 against (Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Montenegro, Peru, Republic of Korea, Romania, Macedonia, UK, USA), 4 abstentions (Gabon, Maldives, Philippines, Viet Nam). No vote from Cuba.
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.
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.
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, along with 23 organisations, highlight attacks and targeting of trans and gender diverse defenders; the Independent Expert on SOGI examines the construction of gender in international law, a Group of Friends of the mandate of the Independent Expert is formed; and 27 States call on the Council to urgently protect the human rights of trans people.
10 years after the first SOGI resolution was passed at the Council, 27 States launch the Group of Friends of the mandate of the UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Tess McEvoy from ISHR and Gabriel Galil from ILGA World tell the story.
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.
In an online discussion organised by the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) and the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), Uyghur camp survivor Gülbahar Jalilova shared her story of long-term arbitrary detention. Her testimony echoes mounting evidence of human rights violations that call for systematic UN monitoring and public reporting.
Operating in a context of persistent insecurity and aggravated by the Covid19 crisis, human rights defenders in Burkina Faso are exposed to many risks. The law on the protection of defenders and its implementing decree were adopted in 2018, but its implementation and use remain a challenge for defenders.
In a context where Egyptian police routinely prosecute and arrest LGBTIQ+ people by using fabricated charges such as “immorality”, “incitement to immorality”, “misuse of social media” and “belonging to terrorist groups”, ISHR joined human rights organisations in calling on the Egyptian government to immediately stop arresting or detaining individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. No one should face discrimination, intimidation or imprisonment because of their sexual orientation or gender identity; and to ensure a safe and enabling environment for civil society organisations to work freely to serve this community.