Human Rights Council: Speak up on China and act against reprisals

14.09.2015

States must use the 30th session of the UN Human Rights Council to address worsening legislative and physical attacks on human rights defenders in China, Cambodia and Bahrain and ensure that human rights defenders, victims and witnesses who engage with the Council are protected from intimidation and reprisals, ISHR said today.

(Geneva) - States must use the 30th session of the UN Human Rights Council to address worsening legislative and physical attacks on human rights defenders in China, Cambodia and Bahrain and ensure that human rights defenders, victims and witnesses who engage with the Council are protected from intimidation and reprisals, ISHR said today.

Delivering a statement on the opening day of the Council in Geneva, ISHR noted that 14 September marks two years since Chinese human rights lawyer and defender Cao Shunli was disappeared in connection with her efforts to use the Council as a forum in which to expose human rights violations, promote good government, and exercise her fundamental right to freedom of expression.

'Two years on, there been no proper investigation or accountability in relation to Cao’s disappearance, detention and ultimate death. Instead, hundreds of human rights defenders and lawyers in China have been arbitrarily detained in recent months and the State has enacted or is developing laws on national security, counter-terrorism and the regulation of NGOs that will further profoundly restrict civil society space,' ISHR's Human Rights Council Director Michael Ineichen told the Council.

Speaking after the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights himself expressed strong concern at the situation in China, Mr Ineichen said 'We call on States to follow your lead in ensuring that this unprecedented crackdown receives the significant attention at this session that it demands.'

In addition to addressing the situation in China, ISHR's statement also outlined worsening attacks and restrictions on human rights defenders in many States and regions.

'In Bahrain, we are deeply concerned at the intensifying repression of human rights defenders, such as Zainab Al-Khawaja. It is imperative that the joint statement on Bahrain delivered just now be followed up with the release of political prisoners and all those detained in connection with exercising their rights to freedom of expression, public participation and protest,' Mr Ineichen said.

'In Cambodia, we call for the repeal of the recently enacted Law on Associations and NGOs and the substantial amendment of proposed laws on trade unions, cybercrimes and telecommunications. These laws are incompatible with both international human rights standards and with the national interest in a vibrant and independent civil society, concerns which should be explicitly reflected in the resolution on Cambodia to be considered this session.'

In addition to addressing country situations, the High Commissioner expressed grave concern at the continuance of reprisals, saying 'Some Member States have sought to prevent civil society actors from working with UN human rights mechanisms, including this Council. Session after session, they attempt to bar from accreditation - based on spurious allegations of terrorist or criminal activity - groups that strive to expose problems and propose remedies. Reprisals have targeted some activists who have participated in Council-related activities, undermining the legitimacy and credibility of the international human rights institutions'.

Welcoming this focus, ISHR's statement said that reprisals against human rights defenders, witnesses and family members for their engagement with the Council and its mechanisms constitute an attack on individual human rights and on the institutional integrity of this body and the UN. 'Whilst we have not yet seen the Secretary-General’s report, the joint communications report of the Special Procedures to be considered this session cites cases of arbitrary detention, travel bans and even torture against those engaging with the Council and its mechanisms in States including Honduras, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. We call on States both here in Geneva and in New York to take prompt, principled action to ensure a comprehensive, effective, system-wide response to, and accountability for, these violations,' Mr Ineichen said.

Contact: Michael Ineichen, International Service for Human Rights, on m.ineichen@ishr.ch

Category:

Region
  • Asia
  • Middle East and North Africa
Topic
  • Human rights defenders
Mechanism
  • Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
  • UN Human Rights Council
Country
  • Bahrain
  • Cambodia
  • China