Human Rights Council must combat discrimination, end impunity and expand civil society space


(Geneva) - The UN Human Rights Council must do more to combat discrimination, end impunity for attacks on human rights defenders, and protect and expand civil society space.

(Geneva) - The UN Human Rights Council must do more to combat discrimination, end impunity for attacks on human rights defenders, and protect and expand civil society space, the International Service for Human Rights said today.

In a Statement to the Council's 25th session in response to the High Commissioner's Annual Statement and Report, ISHR expresses deep regret at the passage of laws in Russia, Nigeria and Uganda which effectively criminalise the work of defenders who advocate for equality and against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity.

'Such laws are one element of the worsening restrictions on civil society and are manifestly incompatible with the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, as well as the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly,' said ISHR Director Phil Lynch.

In its statement ISHR also says that while human rights defenders play a crucial role in combating impunity, they are themselves often victims of impunity. 'Ensuring that threats and attacks against defenders are properly investigated, and perpetrators held to account, is crucial to establishing a safe and enabling environment for their work,' Mr Lynch said.

The statement draws particular attention to the case of Chinese human rights defender Cao Shunli, who was disappeared, detained, and denied access to adequate health care in an effort to prevent her from participating in a UN review of China's human rights record. 'Intimidation and reprisals amount to an attack on civil society, the rule of law and the UN itself. They demand this Council's and the broader UN’s attention and response,' Mr Lynch said.

The statement also expresses concern at the disturbing pattern of attacks against human rights defenders who protest against business operations and major development projects, with recent examples in Mexico, Russia, Cambodia and Uganda. In this regard, ISHR calls on States to take specific measures to respect and protect the work of defenders who work on these issues, including by guaranteeing their rights to peaceful protest and participation in decision-making processes.

This is the last Annual Report that the current UN High Commissione for Human Rights, Naiv Pillay, will deliver before her term finishes on 31 August 2014. Thanking the High Commissioner fer her invaluable work, ISHR told Ms Pillay that 'throughout your term you have stood up for human rights defenders, been accessible to civil society, and pursued justice for victims. We look forward to your successor following the outstanding example you have set.'

Contact: Phil Lynch, Director, on or + 41 76 708 4738.


  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Europe
  • Latin America and Caribbean
  • Corporate accountability
  • Freedom of expression, association and assembly
  • LGBT rights
  • Reprisals and intimidation
  • Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
  • UN Human Rights Council
  • Cambodia
  • Mexico
  • Nigeria
  • Russia
  • Uganda