Bahrain, India, Indonesia
, Pacific

UPR | States should make recommendations on defender protection during the 27th Universal Periodic Review

Following calls made by civil society during the pre-session, ISHR and partner organisations urge States to make recommendations for the protection of defenders and civil society space in the 27th Universal Periodic Review.


The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is the mechanism under which each States’ human rights situation is examined by all other UN Member States every five years. The UPR pre-sessions, organised by non-governmental organisation UPR Info, provide a platform for civil society to share first-hand testimonies and information with reviewing States, and encourage them to make relevant, clear and targeted recommendations to States under review during the UPR.

ISHR’s Programme Coordinator and Legal Counsel, Tess McEvoy, said civil society was key for an effective and impactful UPR. ‘Defenders are integral to ensuring that reviewing States are aware of the human rights situation on the ground. The UPR pre-sessions assist to make this possible’, McEvoy continued.

The pre-session for the 27th UPR session was held from 7 to 14 April 2017. During the session, concerns were repeatedly raised about the worsening situation of human rights defenders and restrictions on civil society space in several States under review.

‘We urge reviewing States to listen to calls from civil society during the pre-sessions and to make precise recommendations to States under review. There is a strong need for a safe environment for defenders to conduct their work during the 27th session of the UPR working group which is currently taking place,’ said McEvoy.  

The Philippines

Civil society also called for an end to escalating violence against defenders in the Philippines. ISHR’s briefing paper on the situation of human rights defenders in the Philippines, submitted jointly with  Medical Action Group and the Philippines Association for Human Rights Advocates, called for a national law to protect human rights defenders and promote their work. ‘The increased extra judicial killings, violence and harassment of human rights defenders following the election of President Duterte necessitate that the upcoming UPR be used to create a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders in the Philippines’ said ISHR Programme Manager Sarah Brooks.


Civil society highlighted limitations imposed on two human rights defenders in Bahrain preventing them from participating in the UPR pre-session; one defender was apprehended on the way to Geneva and the other declined to speak during the session for fear of reprisal. In this respect, ISHR welcomes comments made by States during Bahrain’s UPR yesterday raising the issue of reprisals against defenders and the crackdown on civil society space. In particular, ISHR welcomed Germany, Ireland and Switzerland’s condemnation of travel bans imposed on defenders from Bahrain, which mirror recent travel bans that restricted the participation of defenders from Bahrain in other UN spaces.


During the pre-session, civil society called for a strong national law in India to protect human rights defenders from harassment, intimidation and kidnappings.


Concern was raised about how national laws in Indonesia are used to suppress civil society by restricting fundamental freedoms – particularly in West Papua, where harassment, intimidation and killings of human rights defenders have been reported.

Contact: Tess McEvoy, Programme Coordinator and Legal Counsel, [email protected].

Photo: UN Photo

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