11 May

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.

03 May

ISHR's flagship Human Rights Defenders Advocacy Programme (HRDAP) is bringing together 19 inspiring activists from around the globe through the brand-new HRDAP Platform on the ISHR Academy.

05 May

The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) held its 68th ordinary session virtually between 14 April and 4 May 2021. Once again, the session was convened in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, which continues to have an appalling impact on human rights in Africa. 

30 Apr

In a landmark decision, the UN CEDAW committee found that Libya violated the rights of a woman human rights defender and issued recommendations to better respect, protect and support the work of women defenders.

22 Apr

In order for the international human rights system to function to its fullest potential, human rights defenders must be able to share crucial information and perspectives, safely and unhindered. However, many defenders still face unacceptable risks and are unable to cooperate safely with the UN. 

HRC45 | Evidence of crimes against humanity in Venezuela, conclude UN experts


Update: The UN fact-finding mission on Venezuela delivered its report on 23 September and engaged in an interactive dialogue with States and civil society. The mission outlined how Venezuela had failed to respond to any of the requests made to meet or provide information, but this in no way undermined the rigourous nature of the methodology underpinning the report. The vast majority of States intervening supported the work of the mission and many spoke to the need for the mission’s work to continue. 

ISHR was pleased to deliver a statement along with Venezuela NGO Alfavic (watch the statement at the end of this page).

The UN fact-finding mission on Venezuela, provided with a year-long mandate by the Human Rights Council last year to assess a range of alleged human rights violations since 2014, could not have provided more damning findings at a time of interconnected and worsening human rights and humanitarian crises in the country.

The mission of independent experts have made public their report and shared their findings, which include:

  • Evidence of crimes against humanity planned and executed by Venezuelan authorities and security forces since 2014.
  • That these crimes against humanity are made evident in patterns of violations and crimes that are in highly coordinated in line with State policies and part of a widespread and systematic course of conduct. This is not ad hoc activity but coordinated.   
  • That President Maduro and the Ministers of the Interior and of Defence ‘gave orders, coordinated activities and supplied resources’ to promote the policies and programmes under which the crimes – crimes against humanity and others - were committed. 
  • That the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN) targeted political dissidents and human rights activists, and others considered to be against the Government.
  • That the vast majority of unlawful killings by security forces have not led to prosecutions, and 'at no stage have officials with command responsibility been brought to justice'.

Several of the findings of human rights violations and the context of an erosion of democratic institutions, the rule of law and judicial independence chime with those of other parts of the UN, including Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR).  Notably, the findings of crimes against humanity are also not new.  NGOs, such as Amnesty International have already shared similar conclusions.  In 2018 a panel of independent experts of the Organisation of American States concluded something similar.  In addition, Venezuela has been referred to the International Criminal Court. 

‘This report is unflinching. It does something very important – bear out what victims and civil society have been telling the world for many years,’ said ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw.

‘It is now for the Human Rights Council to keep the investigation going.  This report should be the start of deep reform in Venezuela to respect the rights of its people,’ she added.

The fact-finding mission will present its report to and hold a dialogue with the Human Rights Council on the 23rd September.  Follow at: UN web tv. 

Watch the statement here (in Spanish): 


Contact: Eleanor Openshaw

Photo: ISHR 

China l 300+ global rights groups call for international accountability mechanism

Image for China and accountibility


The United Nations should urgently create an independent international mechanism to address the Chinese government’s human rights violations, a coalition of more than 300 civil society groups from dozens of countries said today.

The signatories stressed the need to address rampant human rights violations across China, including in Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang.  They also highlighted the impact of China’s rights violations world-wide, including targeting human rights defenders, global censorship and surveillance, and rights-free development, with ensuing environmental degradation. 

'This global coalition joins together with 50 UN experts and dozens of governments to demand an end to China’s impunity at the UN Human Rights Council,' said John Fisher, Geneva director at Human Rights Watch. 'The UN needs to act on the growing chorus of voices calling for China to be held accountable for its rights abuses.'

The groups’ call echoes an unprecedented statement by more than 50 UN human rights experts, who in June 2020 detailed the Chinese authorities’ serious rights violations and called for 'decisive measures to protect fundamental freedoms in China'.

'China’s disdain for human rights no longer affects only its citizens—its support to dictators and efforts to rewrite international standards are making the work of defending human rights harder than ever', said Sarah Brooks, Asia Advocate at the International Service for Human Rights. 'This joint statement, for the first time, unites organizations from around the world standing up for their own communities'.

In their statement, the coalition highlighted China’s efforts to distort the mandate of the UN Human Rights Council by persecuting activists from China who use UN mechanisms to seek redress, and opposing initiatives to bring scrutiny of serious rights violations and international crimes in countries around the world. China typically rejects UN consideration of its human rights record as 'gross interference'.

'China has systematically persecuted rights defenders in reprisal for their cooperation with UN human rights operations—torture, enforced disappearance, imprisonment, stripping licenses from lawyers', said Renee Xia, director of Chinese Human Rights Defenders. 'The UN system should no longer tolerate such treatment'.

 The coalition echoes the UN experts’ calls for a special session of the Human Rights Council to evaluate the range of violations by China’s government, and an impartial and independent UN mechanism focused on China. The groups also urge UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to take responsibility for publicly addressing China’s sweeping rights violations.

'The international community can no longer sit back and allow the Chinese authorities to trample on human rights at home and abroad', said Joshua Rosenzweig, the head of Amnesty International’s China team. 'Without decisive action now, things will only get worse. It is urgent for UN member states to work together and ensure that violations committed by Beijing are officially monitored and meaningfully challenged.

'No State should be above the law'.

You can read the full letter below:

An open letter to: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, UN Member States


We, the undersigned organizations, join together to call for an international mechanism to address the Chinese government’s human rights violations, and urge you to take decisive action to achieve this goal.

On 26 June 2020, an unprecedented 50 United Nations experts called for “decisive measures to protect fundamental freedoms in China.” They highlighted China’s mass human rights violations in Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang,  suppression of information in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, and attacks on rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and critics of the government across the country.

Our organizations are also concerned about the impact of China’s rights violations world-wide. China has targeted human rights defenders abroad, suppressed academic freedom in countries around the world, and engaged in internet censorship and digital surveillance. We deplore China’s promotion of rights-free development and the ensuing environmental degradation at the hands of government-backed extractive industries, as well as the racist treatment of people in China, or by Chinese state actors in other parts of the world.

We are dismayed at China’s efforts to distort the mandate of the UN Human Rights Council by promoting  “cooperation” over accountability, and opposing initiatives to bring scrutiny of serious rights violations and international crimes in countries around the world. It has used its seat on the UN’s NGO Committee to baselessly deny accreditation to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), while accrediting government-organized NGOs (GoNGOs). It has sought to deny access to human rights defenders to UN premises, denounced speakers on NGO side events as “terrorists,” and threatened delegates to deter them from attending UN side events on rights violations, including abuses in Xinjiang.

When the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Special Procedures, and dozens of states urged China to comply with international human rights standards, China contended that they were “improper remarks” that “grossly interfered” with China’s sovereignty.

A state that tries to hold itself above any kind of scrutiny presents a fundamental threat to human rights.  That China—a state with extraordinary global power—expects such treatment affects us all. 

We therefore endorse the call by UN experts for a Special Session of the Human Rights Council to evaluate the range of violations by China’s government, and to establish an impartial and independent UN mechanism to closely monitor, analyze, and report annually on that topic.  We urge the UN Secretary-General to appoint a Special Envoy, consistent with his Call to Action on Human Rights, and we call on the High Commissioner for Human Rights to fulfil her independent mandate to monitor and publicly report on China’s sweeping rights violations. We support the call that UN member states and UN agencies use all interactions with Chinese authorities to insist that the government comply with its international human rights obligations.

We write in the spirit of global solidarity and partnership, urging that you act swiftly to counter and remediate grave human rights violations committed by Chinese authorities. No state should be above the law.

Illustration: ISHR 

Treaty Bodies | Welcome move towards predictable cycles of reviews


In a joint submission to the co-facilitators of the 2020 review of UN Treaty Bodies (Switzerland and Morocco), the 10 Chairs of the UN Treaty Bodies shared their decision to review countries in accordance with a fixed schedule. The adoption of predictable cycles of State party reviews, which the UN Human Rights Commmittee has pioneered, means that all States parties will be periodically reviewed, whether they submit their reports on time or not.

"The adoption of fixed and predictable review cycles by all Treaty Bodies constitues a major breakthrough" says Patrick Mutzenberg of the Centre on Civil and Political Rights, an organisation that works closely with the Human Rights Committee, and a member of the TB-Net network. "With four out of five States currently failing to submit their periodic reports on time to the Treaty Bodies, the proactive adoption of a fixed calendar of reviews will significantly facilitate civil society engagement in the process".

The move towards fixed and predictable review cycles by the Treaty Bodies will also contribute to equality of treatment amongst States parties, notably between the minority of States parties that submit periodic reports on time, and those who don't. In opting for fixed cycles, the Treaty Bodies will follow established practices amongst other international human rights mechanisms such as the Universal Periodic Review, by which all States are reviewed according to a fixed calendar.

ISHR welcomes the move towards fixed review cycles. Nevertheless, ISHR remains concerned about the distinction in periodicity of reviews between the Covenant Committees and the other Convention Committees, currently envisaged in the Chairperson's submissionISHR voiced those concerns during the 28 August civil society briefing organised by the co-facilitators of the 2020 Treaty Body Strengthening Process.

In addition to the question of fixed review cycles, ISHR's statement addresses: elections and membership of the Committees; the capacity strengthening programme; in-country reviews; and digital tools.

Link to the Chairpersons' submission to the co-facilitators:

Link to the ISHR statement to the co-facilitators:

photo: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

HRC45 l Keep the pressure on Venezuela for human rights change


85 national, regional and international organisations have put their name to a call to the Human Rights Council to renew and strengthen the mandate of the fact-finding mission to Venezuela, which will report to the Council at the upcoming session in September. 

In their statement to the Council, the organisations note that, given the lack of judicial independence in Venezuela resulting in rampant impunity, an international accountability process is urgently needed. 

Renewing and strengthening the mandate of the fact-finding mission would allow it to go beyond its more limited current mandate to then  'collect, consolidate, preserve and analyze evidence for future prosecutions or other accountability purposes, including international justice mechanisms, in order to avoid impunity for crimes under international law and gross human rights violations committed in Venezuela.’

Venezuela has been the subject of two recent Council resolutions requesting, amongst other things, reports from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights which now has a small temporary presence in the country.  Establishing a permanent presence through a re-negotiated Memorandum of Understanding is also on the table for September.

‘Venezuela is the focus of several UN initiatives currently,’ noted ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw. ‘In all cases, the analysis and recommendations of national level human rights organisations should be sought and considered – these can act as a steer for effective action,’ she added. 

The fact-finding mission’s report on Venezuela, prepared without the Venezuelan State allowing the UN experts access to the country, is expected to be published on 8 September.  The Council runs from 14 September – 6 October with final decisions generally made in the final two days of the session.

Contact: Eleanor Openshaw

Photo: Jean-Marc Ferré- UN Photo

The full NGO statement on the renewal and strengthening of the fact-finding mission on Venezuela:

Venezuela: Human rights organizations call on UN Human Rights Council to extend and strengthen Fact-Finding Mission

Today, 85 national and international human rights organizations have launched a call on states at the UN Human Rights Council to renew and strengthen the important mandate of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela during the upcoming Council session in September. States should ensure that the Fact-Finding Mission has sufficient funding and is empowered to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyze evidence for future prosecutions or other accountability purposes, including international justice mechanisms, in order to avoid impunity for crimes under international law and gross human rights violations committed in Venezuela.

The Fact-Finding Mission was launched by the Human Rights Council through resolution 42/25 on September 27 of 2019, with a mandate to investigate human rights violations, including extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment since 2014, with a view to ensuring accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims. Although the Mission was not allowed to enter Venezuela, it will present its report to the Human Rights Council in September 2020, when its current mandate ends.

The need for this international mechanism to continue to investigate and report on crimes under international law and human rights violations in Venezuela is clear in a context where they continue unabated, despite heightened international scrutiny, and impunity for these crimes at a national level is the rule.  

Millions in Venezuela continue to suffer violations of the rights to life, freedom, physical and mental integrity or access to justice. The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded and worsened the humanitarian emergency in the country, where many people face difficulties in accessing health care services, water, food, fuel, electricity and gas, all of which hamper their ability to protect themselves from the pandemic. More than 5.2 million Venezuelans have fled the country due to the human rights, humanitarian, political and economic crisis in their country. Meanwhile, the pandemic has also served as a twisted justification for Nicolás Maduro’s government to continue and expand its crackdown on dissent, including health care workers and journalists. 

These serious human rights violations and crimes under international law are facilitated by generalized impunity at the national level. As many organizations have reported, and a recent UN High Commissioner for Human Rights report has made clear, Venezuela’s justice system lacks independence and systemically fails to provide impartial justice to victims of human rights violations. Instead, Maduro’s administration is using it to criminalize and control the population. 

The publication of the Fact-Finding Mission’s first report in September will mark an important first step on the path to accountability in Venezuela through the documentation of the participation of those suspected of criminal responsibility. It is critical that the Human Rights Council respond meaningfully to the findings and recommendations in the report. States need to ensure the full renewal and strengthening of the Fact-Finding Mission’s mandate and make sure it has adequate resources to continue its critical investigations.

A.C. Reforma Judicial

Acceso a la Justicia

Acción Solidaria

ACCSI Acción Ciudadana Contra el SIDA

Alerta Venezuela

Alianza de Familiares de Víctimas del 2017 (ALFAVIC2017)

Amnesty International

Asociación Civil Fuerza, Unión, Justicia, Solidaridad y Paz (FUNPAZ)

Asociación Civil Mujeres en Línea

Asociación Gremial Pensionados y Jubilados en Venezuela residentes en Chile

Asociación Venezolana en Chile

Aula Abierta

Caleidoscopio Humano

Canada Venezuela Democracy Forum

Cátedra de Derechos Humanos de la Univerisidad Centrooocidental Lisandro Alvarado

Catedra de la Paz y Derechos Humanos Mons Oscar Arnulfo Romero de la Universidad de los Andes

Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL)

Centro de Acción y Defensa por los Derechos Humanos

Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Católica Andrés Bello (CDH-UCAB)

Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Metropolitana (CDH-Unimet),

Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos "Segundo Montes Mozo SJ" (CSMM)

Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)

Centro de Formación para la Democracia CFD

Centro de Justicia y Paz (CEPAZ)

Centro para los Defensores y la Justicia (CDJ)

Centro para los Derechos Civiles y Políticos (CCPR)

CISFEM (Centro de Invetig. Soc. Formación y Estudios de las Mujeres.

Civilis Derechos Humanos

Clínica Jurídica de Migrantes y Refugiados de la Universidad Diego Portales

Clínica Jurídica para Migrantes y Centro de Estudios en Migración, Universidad de los Andes



Comisión de Derechos Humanos de la Facultad de Ciencias Jurídicas y Políticas de la Universidad del Zulia

Conectas Direitos Humanos

Control Ciudadano para la Seguridad, la Defensa y la Fuerza Armada Nacional

Convite AC

Defensa en Acción

Defiende Venezuela

EPIKEIA. Observatorio Universitario de Derechos Humanos

Espacio Público

EXCUBITUS Derechos Humanos en Educación

Foro Penal



Fundación Aguaclara

Fundación Apure Lidera

Fundación colombo venezolana Nueva Ilusión

Fundación para el Desarrollo Integral FUNDESI

Fundación Ramón Devia


Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P)


Gritemos con Brío



LGBTI Rights | ISHR intervenes in regional legal proceedings against Honduras in case of transfemicide of defender Vicky Hernández


This week, on 11 November, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights heard the case of Vicky Hernández and Family v. Honduras. Vicky Hernandez (she / her), a trans woman, sex worker and  human rights defender working for the protection of trans rights with Unidad Color Rosa, Colectivo TTT.  On 28 June 2009, Vicky Hernández was the victim of an extrajudicial killing. On 18 June, ISHR submitted a third-party intervention to the Court in relation to the case. 

Over a decade later, Honduras has failed to conduct an adequate investigation, ignoring critical evidence and failing to identify or prosecute those who murdered Vicky Hernández at a time when the streets were almost exclusively occupied by State officers. Her family have yet to be provided with the truth about her death and with the redress to which they are entitled.

Hernández’ transfemicide occurred in the context of widespread deadly violence against LGBTI individuals, and particularly trans defenders and sex workers, in Honduras. Six of the seven women who founded Unidad Color Rosa Colectivo TTT have been murdered. To this day, Honduras fails to protect LGBTI persons, and in particular LGBTI rights defenders.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) found Honduras’ failure to investigate, identify and prosecute the perpetrators of Vicky Hernández’ transfemicide, among other things, to be in violation of the American Convention on Human Rights. After Honduras failed to comply with its recommendations, the IACHR presented Hernández’ case, which is being litigated by  La Red Lésbica Cattrachas and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on 30 April.   

ISHR’s intervention is intended to assist the Inter-American Court by providing an extended analysis of the scope of the rights under the American Convention on Human Rights. It also demonstrates that Honduras also violated its obligations under the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the Yogyakarta Principles, which apply existing human rights standards to the specific issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity.

‘The Honduran authorities’ failure to prevent,  investigate and hold perpetrators accountable for Hernández’ murder, especially in the context of widespread violence against trans persons and trans rights defenders, was a flagrant violation of Honduras’ obligation to take measures to prevent and provide protection from all forms of discrimination, violence and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,' said ISHR’s Legal Counsel and Programme Manager Tess McEvoy.

‘Hernández’ right to life and right to defend rights are clearly articulated in the American Convention, the Yogyakarta Principles and the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, as is Honduras’ obligation to ensure protection of its citizens against threats, attacks, or discrimination as a consequence of the exercise of those rights,’ McEvoy added.

ISHR’s intervention urges the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to rule that Honduras has violated the American Convention on Human Rights, informed by the Yogyakarta Principles and the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. ISHR also urges the  Court to recommend that Honduras enact and implement laws and policies that protect trans persons and trans rights defenders, and enables LGBTI defenders to safely carry out their activities.

ISHR was provided with expert pro bono assistance in the preparation of the third party intervention by leading international law firm Allens.

Contact: Tess McEvoy,

Photo: Flickr / Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos

UAE | The United Arab Emirates must be held accountable for torture and ill-treatment of human rights defenders


The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE (ICFUAE) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) have released their submission to the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT), which was postponed this year due to the COVID-19 crisis until April 2021 at the CAT’s  71st session. 

“The upcoming review of the UAE is all the more urgent in light of the country's persistent non-compliance with the Convention against Torture,” says Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General. “Despite the State ratifying the Convention in 2012, torture continues to be widespread in the UAE criminal justice system, from arrest and interrogation to detention.” This initial review comes almost eight years after the UAE’s ratification of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Degrading or Inhuman Treatment or Punishment.

“We’re particularly concerned that human rights defenders, including GCHR’s Advisory Board member Ahmed Mansoor, are being kept in permanent solitary confinement in unhygienic conditions, which puts their mental and physical health in jeopardy,” says Khalid Ibrahim, GCHR Executive Director. In addition, with the spread of COVID-19 in UAE prisons, the lives of all prisoners are currently at risk, whether they are held in isolation or in overcrowded cells. 

According to the report, “The UAE authorities have prosecuted and imprisoned scores of human rights defenders, political activists, journalists and critics, and systematically silenced peaceful dissenting voices. The crackdown on the right to freedom of expression has been so severe that, today, freedom of speech and civic space are virtually non-existent in the country.” 

“Under the pretext of national security, the UAE authorities have subjected human rights defenders and activists to arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, prolonged isolation, torture and other ill-treatment, unfair trials and harsh prison sentences, solely for their peaceful human rights activities, including engaging with UN mechanisms,” says Salma El Hosseiny, ISHR Human Rights Council Programme Manager.

“Such practices reflect the authorities’ utter disregard for fundamental rights and human dignity, and inflict an immeasurable mental and physical toll on prisoners’ health. As such, we remain deeply concerned about Maryam Al-Balushi, a young Emirati woman, who after years of suffering degrading treatment and solitary confinement was left with no choice but to attempt suicide in an isolation cell in Al-Wathba prison,” says Sofia Kaltenbrunner, ICFUAE Campaign Manager. 

In this report, GCHR, ICFUAE, ISHR and OMCT summarise the situation concerning torture in the UAE, including its laws and international obligations; the practice of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in prisons in the UAE, with specific cases of human rights defenders and other prisoners including women; the use of forced confession; the lack of redress for victims of torture; and the reaction of the State to reports of torture; in addition to providing recommendations to the UAE. 

Click here to read the full report.


Impact | Independent external review of ISHR


The independent evaluation report describes ISHR as ‘the ‘go-to’ organisation when civil society is engaging with the UN human rights system’; ‘an effective and influential organisation which is strengthening the work of human rights defenders by providing training, capacity-building, collaborative advocacy initiatives and access to international and regional mechanisms and policymakers.’
Working in coalitions is described as being ‘part of ISHR’s DNA’. The report also cites the Model Law on the protection of human rights defenders as ‘an excellent example of how international commitments can be translated and contextualised into impact at the national level.’
Additionally, the report highlights that:

  • Being the secretariat for the HRCnet bears witness to ISHR's central position and reputation for being the bridge between the international and national (grassroots) levels.
  • ISHR’s training programmes, including its flagship Human Rights Defender Advocacy Programme (HRDAP), are seen by all interlocutors as an integral component of its overall support for human rights defenders and as a highly relevant aspect of its work.
  • ISHR’s reporting in progress reports and annual reports are very accessible and combine ‘looking back’ accountability and results with ‘looking forward’ (new/amended goals) in a manner that may be inspirational for other organisations.
  • The reporting from ISHR is thorough and precise with clear performance indicators and means of verification given, qualitative or quantitative. There seems to be a sound culture for learning and evaluation practices, with ‘real-time’ and ‘near-time’ evaluation praised in one evaluation. The annual reports include month by month human rights developments and ISHR contributions to these.

 ‘Independent evaluations are crucial to our institutional monitoring and learning processes’ says ISHR’s Vincent Ploton. ‘We regularly commission evaluations of specific ISHR projects and publish the findings on our website. What’s particularly valuable with this independent evaluation is that it covers nine international NGOs active in the human rights field. We have taken a range of measures in accordance with the findings of previous external reviews, and we look forward to engaging in future similar processes,’ Ploton concludes.


ISHR stands in solidarity with all those calling for racial justice and radical reform


We are inspired by the leadership and courage shown by those organising peaceful protests to call for change and by the human rights defenders and journalists working on the frontlines to document violations and defend rights. We are appalled by attacks against them by law enforcement officers and public officials.

Journalists and human rights defenders must be safe and free to do their vital work. Indeed, law enforcement officers and public officials are tasked with ensuring their rights are respected - not violated. Attacks against journalists and human rights defenders must be fully and independently investigated and perpetrators held accountable, in the U.S. and everywhere they occur. 

The rights to equality and non-discrimination, to freedom of expression, to freedom of assembly and protest, and to defend human rights are all indispensable to fair, safe and just communities in the U.S. and across the world. These rights must be respected and protected. We pledge to work within ISHR and with our colleagues in human rights movements to address issues of racism and systemic discrimination, to promote diversity and inclusivity, and to support human rights defenders, including those working on police brutality, in their demands for justice.

ISHR is committed to highlighting how the voices of the families of those killed by police in the U.S., including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Michael Brown, and the organisations supporting them are driving the UN to call for action to stop the killings and address deep-seated racism and inequality. This is necessary but not sufficient; we echo the call of the UN independent human rights experts and the Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination that ‘this is a time for action and not just talk’.

This is why we've joined more than 600 organisations, from the U.S. and around the world, in calling on the UN Human Rights Council to hold a Special Session on the situation of human rights in the U.S.

The international community has a critical role to play in advancing independent, expert inquiry into systemic racism in law enforcement in the U.S., starting with the uprising in Ferguson, Missouri, and the concerns of excessive use of force against protestors and journalists since George Floyd's murder.


Photo: Flickr / Miki Jourdan













Supporter profile l Patricia Schulz

Picture of Patricia Schulz - Donor for the International Service for Human Rights

As a young woman, I participated in feminist organisations in Geneva and also financially supported Geneva-based organisations engaged in achieving gender equality. I value social justice, equality, respect, fairness and dignity. Later, donating was for me a ‘compensation’ for not being an activist myself anymore - due to my profession and subsequent lack of time.

My parents didn’t attend university, but they created an enterprise and worked together. They always told me and my brother that if we wanted to study, they would support us. They were happy and proud that both of us succeeded in our university studies and went on to have interesting careers. I don’t have children, but I am aware that due to poverty and inequality, far too many parents must experience desperation at not being able to provide their children with good education, food, health care, as my parents could. This thought has been with me all the time and that’s why I engaged with children’s sponsorship programmes, as well as projects for rural development, water and literacy, especially for women and girls.

About five years ago, I decided to donate 10% of my income each year to local, Swiss and international non-governmental organisations as an expression of solidarity and gratitude for the luck I’ve had in my life. To have an impact, NGOs need money.

I first came across ISHR in 2011, when I joined the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), tasked with monitoring how States implement the Convention on non-discrimination of women and gender equality. I discovered and admired the work of ISHR and decided to become a regular donor two or three years ago.

When I was the director of the Swiss Federal Office for Gender Equality, I collaborated with women’s organisations and valued their contribution to the realisation of gender equality and non-discrimination in Switzerland. As a member of the CEDAW Committee, I dealt frequently with the appalling retaliation against women human rights defenders by States, private corporations and various armed groups. I measured how vital the voices of women human rights defenders were, and how profoundly NGOs help the treaty bodies accomplish their mission to support implementation of human rights in all countries.

The work of NGOs like ISHR is indispensable, even if they cannot fully compensate for the lack of, or insufficient, public policies and competent State institutions in a country to ensure civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights for all the people. Donating makes me feel connected to other donors and mainly to the people at the receiving end, who resist acts of violence, engage to overcome climate change and extreme weather conditions, and fight to obtain basic necessities and rights such as food, good education and health systems or decent housing and access to justice. I wish to share with others - and to do this by supporting NGOs I trust, such as ISHR, because I know that their work has an invaluable impact on the ground.


If you are interested in becoming a regular supporter or would like to make a donation, please contact our Fundraising officer Eva Homolkova, or donate on our website.

HRC44 | Three key principles should guide UN's work on civil society, says new report


With countless recent examples of restrictive and repressive measures taken to silence or discredit civil society actors, the UN’s new report drawing together examples of some good practices across the UN, is timely. Re-stating the vital contribution of civil society actors, the report goes on to cite examples of good practices of UN entities engaging with and protecting civil society. The report recommendations – aimed at encouraging improvement across the UN system as well as by States - echo several which ISHR has consistently voiced .

ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw said that good practice examples to inspire reform by the UN and States were valuable.

‘In days where we’ve seen journalists being arrested in Minneapolis and an increasing number of defenders murdered in Colombia – as just two such examples - we need States and UN bodies to revise and strengthen their practice to ensure the voice of civil society is heard and safeguarded,’ she noted.

The new UN report repeatedly states the value of the contribution of civil society.  It cites examples of UN bodies working at country level to build capacity of local civil society actors; challenging barriers to the participation of civil society in decision-making positions in country, or calling for the protection of the lives of protestors. It also cites several examples of bodies that have defined policies and guidelines for engaging with civil society.

‘The report contains examples where discussion between different stakeholders has been formalized and where their input is part of the process from policy inception to implementation,’ noted Openshaw.

One such example is the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), created by the UN General Assembly which styles itself as ‘a unique inter-agency forum for coordination, policy development and decision-making involving the key UN and non-UN humanitarian partners’.

‘This example of civil society having a seat at the table in recognition of the experience and expertise they bring to the issue makes more evident the lack of such opportunities in other spaces, particularly in human rights bodies,’ said Openshaw.

The report also highlights clear gaps. One of the key findings is the absence in 2/3 of UN mechanisms of means to contest restrictions on civil society participation or access to information.

Whilst the report makes no explicit reference to Covid-19, having sought input prior to the onset of the pandemic, it does contain recommendations that speak to shifts in practice the pandemic has engendered.It notes how the impact of any modifications should be assessed to ensure civil society is not disadvantaged or disproportionately affected.This is one of several recommendations ISHR and other civil society have been making over time.

‘It's great to see that the UN has reflected the recommendations of civil society groups such as ISHR, who have experience working with defenders and engaging with UN and regional organisations,’ noted Openshaw. ‘It’s but one example of civil society expertise adding value.’

The need for the UN to improve and make more consistent its work to promote, engage with and safeguard civil society has been a long-term call.The Secretary General made such a recommendation in his 2018 report on the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, and again in his recent Call to Action for Human Rights. This new UN report was as a result of the request made by the Human Rights Council in 2018

A resolution on civic space is due to be negotiated this June at the Human Rights Council, although the modalities for the session are still being confirmed.

‘States must be categorical in their promotion and defence of the work of civic society, and encourage the UN and regional bodies to improve their practice,' noted Openshaw. 'We’d like to see the UN now move to defining a UN-wide strategy for working with and for civil society.'

‘We face so many challenges and civil society should be right at the heart of defining solutions,’ she added.

Along with the full report, the UN has produced a one-pager summarizing key report recommendations.

Contact: Eleanor Openshaw

Photo: Joao Araujo Pinto




Browse our articles:






ISHR commences work to develop an international Declaration on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders


ISHR publishes first Human Rights Monitor, connecting human rights defenders on the ground with international human rights systems and developments


ISHR facilitates global civil society engagement with the Second World Conference on Human Rights, which leads to the strengthening of women’s rights, the affirmation of universal rights, the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action and the establishment of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights


ISHR provides training, technical assistance and support to its 1000th human rights defender


After 14 years of ISHR lobbying, advocacy and negotiation, the UN General Assembly adopts the landmark Declaration on Human Rights Defenders


UN Secretary-General appoints Hina Jilani as inaugural UN Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders, strengthening protection of human rights advocates at risk worldwide.


ISHR leads a successful campaign for the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights


ISHR co-founds and supports a range of international and regional human rights coalitions, including the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and the West African Human Rights Defenders Network


ISHR contributes to the establishment and institution building of a new global peak body for human rights issues, the UN Human Rights Council


ISHR leads and coordinates the development of the Yogyakarta Principles on sexual orientation and gender identity, strengthening legal recognition and protection of LGBT rights worldwide


ISHR’s sustained advocacy on the issue of reprisals and intimidation faced by human rights defenders leads to adoption of landmark UN Human Rights Council resolution condemning and strengthening protections against reprisals


Working with key NGO partners such as Amnesty International, ISHR leads civil society efforts to strengthen UN human rights treaty bodies, prevent their weakening and better connect their work with victims and human rights defenders on the ground


Working with supportive states and NGOs, ISHR advocacy leads to adoption of historic Human Rights Council resolution calling on all States to review and amend national laws to respect and protect the work of human rights defenders