News

11 May

NGOs and human rights defenders have until the 18th of May to submit cases of reprisals to the UN Secretary-General's report, covering the period June 2017 to May 2018.

15 May

By Urgent Latin Fund for Latin America and the Caribbean UAF-LAC

As they confront not only powerful economic and political interests, but the systematic and specific violence against them, women environmental activists face particular risks, threats and attacks, such as sexual violence and other gender-related offenses. However, documentation on this issue is insufficient and lacks of a feminist and intersectional approach. 

09 May

On 24 April, ISHR organised a meeting between the African Commission's Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and the defenders participating in the NGO Forum.

08 May

We're thrilled to launch ISHR's latest annual report, outlining our key impacts during 2017 and our bold vision for 2018 and the years ahead. These impacts, and the achievement of our vision, would be impossible without you – fellow defenders, decision-makers, diplomats and donors who share and promote our mission and who contribute the resources, expertise and influence necessary to make our vision a reality. Thanks for supporting ISHR and making human rights change happen! 

03 May
Image of Tashi Wangchuk

As the world recognises the importance of a free press, ISHR joins with global NGOs to urge China to release Tibetan activist Tashi Wangchuk. It is also a moment to highlight recommendations to China on media freedoms and freedom of expression, part of a new joint report from ISHR and the Committee on the Protection of Journalists.

HRC| Enough is Enough: Council should urgently launch investigations into violence against protesters in Palestine

17.05.2018

There are currently over seven million Palestinian refugees spread across the globe, including 1.3 million refugees in the Gaza Strip.[1] As the result of decades of dispossession, oppression and violations of international law, including 11 years of unlawful closure and blockade of the Gaza Strip, Palestinians therein and elsewhere in occupied Palestine have embarked on a six week campaign of largely peaceful protests, starting on 30 March 2018. The actions by the Israeli forces in response to the demonstrations, particularly those taking place in the eastern parts of the Gaza Strip, amount to excessive, indiscriminate and disproportionate use of lethal force. They may also amount to widespread wilful killings and may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity. On 28 April 2018, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that, “[i]n the context of an occupation such as Gaza, killings resulting from the unlawful use of force may also constitute wilful killings which are a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”[2]

Since the start of these large-scale protests, approximately 111 Palestinians have been killed, including 12 children, two journalists, and four persons with disabilities. During the same period, approximately 7,000 were injured, including 1,244 children, 253 women, 42 paramedics, and 60 journalists – at least 3,615 of whom were hit by live fire.[3] In response to the demonstrations, the Israeli military has allegedly been using live ammunition intentionally with the aim of killing and seriously injuring civilians, as demonstrated by the use of high-velocity, military-grade weapons that cause devastating, and in some cases life-changing injuries.

A video distributed by an Israeli soldier shows Israeli snipers celebrating the killing of Palestinians, illustrating a culture of impunity that is enjoyed by members of Israeli forces and emboldened by policy-level decisions. Further, the Israeli judicial system has demonstrated that it is unable and unwilling to ensure accountability for such serious crimes according to international standards.

In response to these events, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called for independent investigations[4] into the killings, while the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Bin Ra’ad, echoed this call and highlighted that “[e]very week, we witness instances of use of lethal force against unarmed demonstrators” while noting that “[w]arnings by the United Nations and others have seemingly gone unheeded, as the approach of the security forces from week to week does not seem to have changed.”[5] 

The Israeli government continues to disregard the numerous recommendations by UN officials to exercise restraint in its response to the protests in the Gaza Strip and elsewhere in occupied Palestine. In fact, the Israeli military has increased the use of force against the civilian population in violation of its obligations under international law to ensure the welfare and respect of the fundamental rights of the occupied population under its control. 

The escalating protests over the last six months intensified following the announcement of 6 December 2017 by US President Trump recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocating its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in blatant disregard for international law. On Monday, 14 May 2018, the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem entrenched and endorsed Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem, in violation of Article 2(4) of the Charter of the United Nations on the prohibition of annexation - a general principle of international law - and in breach of Israel’s obligations as an Occupying Power under Article 47 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which concerns the protection of the occupied Palestinian population from any measures of “annexation by the latter of the whole or part of the occupied territory.”

The undersigned organisations join the UN Secretary General and High Commissioner for Human Rights’ calls for action, and specifically demand that the UN Human Rights Council urgently establish a Commission of Inquiry with a view to: (i) ensuring legal accountability for perpetrators of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including for individual and command responsibility, and (ii) facilitating and expediting existing international investigations and examinations. The Human Rights Council should also encourage the International Criminal Court to urgently open a full investigation into alleged international crimes committed by the Occupying Power. Finally, the undersigned organizations call for an end to the 51 years- of occupation of Palestinian territory, including the immediate lifting of the closure and blockade of the Gaza Strip. In the words of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights “enough is enough.” [6]

 

Photo:Sebastian Baryli/Flicker 

Signatories:

Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT)

ActionAid International

ADDAMEER Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association

Al Mezan Center For Human Rights Rights

Aldameer Association for Human Rights

Algemene Centrale-ABVV /La Centrale Générale-FGTB 

Al-Haq

ALTSEAN-Burma

Article 1 Collective

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC)

Association ADALA pour le droit a un process equitable (ADALA)

Association AMAL pour La Femme et le Développement

Association Belgo-Palestinienne WB

Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS)

BADIL - Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights

Broederlijk Delen

Buliisa Initiative for Rural Development Organisation (BIRUDO)

Bytes For All, Pakistan

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR)

Center for Defense of Liberties and Civil Rights - Hurryyat

Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales - CELS

Christian Reformed Church Office of Social Justice

Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

CNCD-11.11.11

Coalition for Accountability and Integrity - AMAN

CODEPINK

Collectif Interuniversitaire pour la Coopération avec les Universités Palestiniennes

Comités pour le Développement et le patrimoine

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)

Community Action Center – Al-Quds University

Conectas Direitos Humanos

Corporate Accountability Lab

Defence for Children International - Palestine

DefendDefenders

EuroMed Rights

European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine

Fédération des Associations Marocaines en France

Filastiniyat Association

Geneeskunde voor de Derde Wereld

Gents Actieplatform Palestina (GAPP)

Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Human Rights Law Network, India

Immigration Developpement Democratie – France

Institut de recherche en droits humains (IRDH)

International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center

Kvinna till Kvinna

L’Association Marocaine des Droits Humains

L'Association Marocaine des Droits Humains

Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (LPHR)

Le Comité pour le Respect des Libertés et des Droits de l’Homme – Tunisie

Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP)

MIFTAH

MOC- Mouvement Ouvrier Chrétien

Moroccan Forum for Young Journalists (MFYJ)

Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l'amitié entre les peuples (MRAP)

Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD)

New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity Committee

Norwegian People's Aid

Odhikar

Otros Mundos AC/Chiapas, México

Palestina Solidariteit

Palestinian Bar Association

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights

Palestinian Coalition For Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Palestinian Journalist Syndicate

Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network

Pax Christi Flanders

Pax Christi International

Platform of French NGOs for Palestine (Plateforme des ONG Françaises pour la Palestine)

Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies

REF – Réseau Euromed France

Sahara Observatory for Peace and Democracy for Human Rights

Society of St. Yves

Solidarité Socialiste 

The Civil Commission for independence of the judiciary and rule of law (ISTIQLAL)

The Independent Commission for Human Rights (Ombudsman Office)

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA)

The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH)

The Rights Forum

The WoMin African Alliance

ToBe Foundation for rights and Freedoms

Trócaire

US Campaign for Palestinian Rights

Vrede vzw

Women in Black (Vienna)

Women's Centre for Legal Aid and Counseling

Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) 

Youth for sexual and reproductive rights (WAAI)

11.11.11

 

HRC | Council must be strengthened from ground up to enhance impact

20.04.2018

The report, “Strengthening the UN Human Rights Council from the Ground Up,” outlines the discussions and key recommendations during a dialogue convened by the organisations in February. The dialogue brought together a broad range of human rights defenders from various regions working at the national, regional, and international levels with representatives of national human rights institutions, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The focus was on making concrete and implementable recommendations that do not require institutional reform.

Tawanda Mutasah, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International, said: “To be credible, any discussion of Council strengthening should focus primarily on enhancing its contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights – its impact on the ground. As the Council’s Bureau launches discussions this year on enhancing the efficiency of the Council, we reiterate that measures to strengthen the Council’s efficiency should not, and cannot, be separated from efforts to enhance its effectiveness.”

Salma El Hosseiny, ISHR’s Human Rights Council Advocate, added: “It is therefore imperative that discussions on strengthening the Council – and making it more efficient – be informed by the experience and expertise of national and regional level actors, including rights-holders, human rights defenders and other civil society actors, victims, survivors (and their representatives), national human rights institutions and UN country teams.”

Many participants at the February dialogue affirmed the value and relevance of the Council in responding to human rights crises and in encouraging a broad range of human rights reforms and commitments by individual countries.  At the same time, they shared concerns about issues that limit the Council’s ability to effectively deliver on its mandate.

“The Human Rights Council plays a vital role in addressing many human rights concerns, but its impact is limited and credibility eroded when it fails to address grave human rights violations for primarily political reasons,” said John Fisher, Geneva director at Human Rights Watch. “Individual countries should strengthen the Council’s ability to promote and protect human rights on the ground, particularly through prevention, implementation and accountability.”

Maryam Al Khawaja, Special Advisor on Advocacy at the Gulf Center for Human Rights and ISHR board member, said: “The selectivity and politicisation of the Council’s response to country situations allow some governments to escape scrutiny for serious human rights violations.”

Hassan Shire, Executive Director of DefendDefenders, said: “Having States that commit gross and systematic human rights violations sitting on the Council negatively impacts its credibility in the eyes of people around the world.”

Gustavo Huppes, Officer for Democratic Space at Conectas said: “To have impact on the ground, follow-up and implementation are key, though often neglected priorities of the Council”.

Yashasvi Nain, Program Officer at the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, said: “An effective Council is one that is accessible and visible to a broad range of actors, including victims, rights-holders, civil society, and human rights defenders.”

Read the full report here.

 

Photo: Anne Laure Lechat- UN Photo

 

Burkina Faso | Implement the law on human rights defenders and ensure a safe working environment

10.04.2018

Burkina Faso is scheduled to be reviewed at the 30th session of the Universal Periodic Review on 5th May. During its last review, Burkina Faso accepted two recommendations calling on the State to promote and encourage the work of civil society in the country and pursue a regular dialogue with civil society to promote the importance of equality between women and men. Despite accepting these recommendations, human rights defenders still have to work in a hostile environment.

In 2015, the coup d’état had a disastrous impact on fundamental freedoms, by imposing unnecessary restrictions, in particular to the right to freedom of expression. During that time, journalists covering the events or publishing dissident opinions have been victims of threats, intimidation, physical attacks and their offices have been ransacked.

Further, while the National Transition Council adopted three consecutive laws decriminalising some press offences and eliminating prison sentences for some other offences, it also considerably increased fines for defamation, slander and insult which could seriously impede the rights to freedom of expression and the press with the risk that media professionals and civil society organisations are forced out of business.

A law for the protection and promotion of human rights defenders has been voted by the National Assembly on 27 June 2017 but we still note that this law fails to acknowledge the specific risks faced by women human rights defenders in their work.  In addition, Burkina Faso has not yet created its protection mechanism, which would aim at monitoring the implementation of the law, because its National Human Rights Commission is still not functional.

This Briefing Paper on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in Burkina Faso - developed by ISHR, and our national partners the Burkinabe Coalition for Human Rights Defenders - is intended to assist States and other stakeholders to formulate questions and recommendations regarding the protection of human rights defenders during the UPR.

Key recommendations that should be made to Burkina Faso at the UPR include:

  • Ensure that all alleged attacks against human rights defenders are promptly and thoroughly investigated, that perpetrators are held accountable, and that victims have access to effective remedies.
  • Amend the law for the protection of human rights defenders to ensure the establishment and resourcing of a national protection mechanism for defenders, to include protections for women and disabled human rights defenders and repeal or reform article 16, which provides the power to expel defenders considered threats to national security.
  • Review the composition of the High Council of Communication to ensure a higher number of members of professional media groups.
  • Support the compliance of the newly established National Human Rights Institution with the Paris principles, including through guarantees of independence, expertise and adequate funding.

For further information about the Briefing Paper, please contact ISHR’s Adélaïde ETONG a.etong@ishr.ch

Photo: Flickr_RFI

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Mechanism

1984

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

1988

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

1993

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

1994

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

1998

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

2000

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

2004

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

2005

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

2006

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

2007

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

2011

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

2012

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

2013

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