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.
Welcoming the steps taken by the Committee to recognise and protect defenders of economic, social and cultural rights, ISHR’s Javier Urizar highlighted the additional challenges brought to them during the pandemic.
Discussing the Committee’s methods of work
ISHR commended the Committee for its important efforts in continuing its work despite the pandemic, recognising the value of online meetings and communications, especially for those NGOs and individuals who may not be able to travel to Geneva for in-person meetings. ISHR asked whether the Committee would maintain its openness towards online communications once in-person meetings were a possibility again and received a positive answer.
ISHR also welcomed the Committee’s recent statements and guidance on the emergency measures taken to combat COVID-19 and their consequences on ESC rights; particularly welcoming the Committee’s focus on the impact caused to vulnerable populations.
Situtation of ESC rights defenders
Regarding the situation of ESC rights defenders, ISHR highlighted the risks that they are facing during these times.
Aside from affecting the right to health, the pandemic has indirectly damaged other ESC rights. Emergency powers have been used around the world (for example, in Malaysia and Venezuela) to silence human rights defenders, including defenders of ESC rights. Furthermore, lockdowns and quarantines have created a massive backlog in judicial processes and dispersed the resources necessary to enforce judicial decisions, resulting in ineffective judicial remedies. This, in turn, has contributed to a situation where attacks and reprisals against human rights defenders continue to be met with impunity. Such situations are occurring, for example, in Guatemala, Kenya, and the Philippines, where defenders of the rights to land, culture, and health have been victims of crimes for which no one is being held accountable.
Based on the Committee’s excellent statement of October 2016, ISHR urged the Committee to pay particular attention to the right to defend ESC rights and specifically, to consider the situation of land rights defenders in the context of the ongoing discussion about a new General Comment on rights related to land.
Photo credit: ISHR
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.
Human rights organisations* urge the immediate and unconditional release of Egyptian human rights defender Mohamed El-Baqer, who completes today two years in arbitrary detention.
On 17 September 2021, the UN Secretary-General released his annual report on reprisals and intimidation against individuals and groups seeking to cooperate with the UN on human rights. Once again, the report identifies a high number of threats and attacks aimed at retaliating against defenders and discouraging cooperation with the UN.
On 7 September 2021, the International Service for Human Rights facilitated a multi-stakeholder dialogue with United Nations experts, the International Chamber of Commerce and the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights to discuss about Business, Human Rights and Human Rights Defenders.
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.
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.
A new ISHR report maps China’s presence and influence in the UN economic and social affairs system, highlighting potential risks for civil society participation and the promotion and protection of human rights.