General Assembly: States must not turn their backs on human rights defenders

24.11.2015

States should support a resolution by the General Assembly on "Recognizing the role of human rights defenders and the need for their protection" and reject amendments tabled by the African Group, China and Iran, designed to weaken the text, ISHR said today.

(New York) – States should support a resolution by the General Assembly on 'Recognizing the role of human rights defenders and the need for their protection' and reject amendments tabled by the African Group, China and Iran, designed to weaken the text, ISHR said today in a joint letter with over 150 other NGOs.

The General Assembly is currently negotiating the abovementioned resolution, which is scheduled to be adopted on 25 November 2015. ISHR has joined a group of over 150 human rights defenders and civil society organisations from around the world in calling on States to live up to their human rights commitments by supporting the resolution, by rejecting amendments designed to weaken it, and by taking concrete steps to protect human rights defenders.

The resolution comes on the heels of a report to the General Assembly by the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Michel Forst, who consulted this year with over 500 defenders from 111 States. The Special Rapporteur concluded that in the vast majority of States the situation for human rights defenders is deteriorating in law and in practice, and that a lack of awareness regarding their vital and legitimate work, combined with a lack of political commitment and weak institutional arrangements for their protection, is placing them, their organisations and families at elevated risk. 

‘It is deeply concerning that while defenders make vital contributions to the promotion and respect for human rights, democratic processes, securing and maintaining peace and security, and advancing sustainable development, they continue to face a range of violations and abuses by State and non-State actors. States must do more to acknowledge their role, the specific risks they face, and commit to ensuring their protection,’ said Madeleine Sinclair, ISHR Programme Manager. 

‘This resolution represents an opportunity for every Member State of the United Nations to show it is serious about supporting and protecting human rights defenders and enabling their work,’ Ms Sinclair said. ‘Unfortunately a number of States, including the African Group, China and Iran, have responded by attacking the draft resolution in the form of hostile amendments designed to weaken the text,’[1] she added.

The proposed amendments remove references to the legitimacy of the work of human rights defenders, delete or weaken language regarding the need for their protection, and delete whole paragraphs related to the need to combat impunity for violations and abuses against defenders and the need to ensure adequate procedural safeguards in judicial proceedings. The suggested amendments also propose to delete a call for the release of defenders detained or imprisoned in violation of international human rights law, for exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms. In addition, the proposed amendments introduce notions that States should only support and enable their work 'as appropriate', rather than in accordance with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and other obligations arising under international human rights law.

‘We call on all States to stand with human rights defenders and reject the amendments put forward to weaken and undermine the text,’ said Ms Sinclair.

Contact: Madeleine Sinclair, Legal Counsel, International Service for Human Rights, m.sinclair@ishr.ch, +1 (917) 544 6148

 

[1] The amendments are contained in UN documents A/C.3/70/L.69 - L.107, available here.

Category:

Region
  • Africa
Topic
  • Human rights defenders
  • United Nations
Mechanism
  • UN General Assembly
  • Third Committee of the UN General Assembly
Country
  • China
  • Iran