News

20 Mar

Threats of reprisal by the US Secretary of State against lawyers, judges, prosecutors and investigators examining alleged violations by the US or by US allies undermine human rights and the rule of law and demand a strong response from the UN. 

19 Mar

Guatemala faces a grave crisis as efforts to hold the powerful to account following decades of conflict are being undermined.  Key achievements must be safeguarded and the rights of defenders protected, said ISHR in a statement to the Human Rights Council.  

15 Mar

At all stages of conflict women human rights defenders seek to secure a sustainable peace.  Documenting violations, supporting victims, demanding solutions grounded in the respect of rights: women defenders are essential actors.  At a packed side event at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York, three defenders spoke of working in conflict and post-conflict contexts and demanded backing for their and colleagues’ work.  

12 Mar

We all want to breathe clean air, drink safe water, and to be able to provide sustenance and a healthy, dignified life for our families. Human survival and well-being rests on a biodiverse and healthy environment and a safe climate. Environmental human rights defenders help us to achieve that - they defend the planet and their communities from the impact of harmful resource extraction or pollution by unscrupulous companies or governments. Their work is essential to attaining the sustainable development goals and ensuring that no-one is left behind.  

20 Mar
Room XX of the Human Rights Council

ISHR and Amnesty International have called on the Human Rights Council President to push for responses where States have failed to reply to UN experts' requests for information on alleged human rights violations, including reprisals.

LGBTI rights | Factsheets on UN Special Procedures

10.12.2018
Rainbow flag photo credit: Common Wikimedia Ludovic Bertron

ISHR and ILGA have looked through the work of 39 UN Special Procedures over the last seven years to compile factsheets listing the references and recommendations made by these experts regarding LGBTI persons, sexual orientation, sex characteristics, gender identity and expression.

Focusing on the Special Procedures that have made the most regular and in-depth references to issues affecting LGBTI persons, the factsheets examine all thematic reports, reports arising from country visits, and communications sent to different States between January 2011 and November 2018.

The experts on leprosy, albinism, mercenaries, environment, and right to food, have not yet included any references to LGBTI persons or issues related to sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or sex characteristics.

Photo credit: Common Wikimedia Ludovic Bertron

HRC40| EHRD Resolution

HRC40 | Council unanimously recognises vital role of environmental human rights defenders

21.03.2019

The resolution meets many of the civil society demands ISHR expressed in a joint letter along with more than 180 groups. By formally acknowledging the important role of environmental human rights defenders, the Council highlights to legitimacy of their work, helps to counter stigmatisation and can contribute to expanding their operating space.

Though the resolution falls short in some key areas, its adoption by consensus is a positive step towards better protection of environmental human rights defenders. It must now be followed by implementation at the national level by all relevant stakeholders, including States, UN agencies, businesses and development finance institutions.

'We all want to breathe clean air, drink safe water, and to be able to provide sustenance and a healthy, dignified life for our families. Human survival and well-being rests on a biodiverse and healthy environment and a safe climate', said Salma El Hosseiny, HRC Advocate at the International Service for Human Rights. 

'Environmental human rights defenders help us to achieve just that. Through this resolution, the Council recognises and celebrates their work. It will hopefully lead to more breathing space for defenders, and therefore for us all,' El Hosseiny said.

While the resolution needs to be translated from the paper adopted in Geneva to real action on the ground, this is the first time that the world's top human rights body has explicitly and with one voice called for the protection of environmental human rights defenders. It can be used by civil society as a lever to push for concrete action. 

The resolution was led and presented by Norway, on behalf of 60 States from all regions. In particular, many Latin American States strongly supported the resolution, which is significant given the dangerous situation for defenders in many of those countries. The consensus on the protection of environmental human rights defenders is a welcome sign of unity by the international community in recognising their vital contribution to a biodiverse and healthy environment, to peace and security, and to human rights.

‘We now look to States, business enterprises and development finance institutions to take rapid and decisive steps to address the global crisis facing environmental human rights defenders’, said Michael Ineichen, Programme Director at the International Service for Human Rights.

‘This means States need to create protection mechanisms which guarantee the security of defenders. States must also ensure that businesses put in place specific policies and processes allowing for the inclusion of human rights defenders and their concerns in due diligence processes’, Ineichen said.   

Key points of the resolution:

  • Expresses alarm at increasing violations against environmental defenders, including killings, gender-based violence, threats, harassment, intimidation, smear campaigns, criminalisation, judicial harassment, forced eviction and displacement. It acknowledges that violations are also committed against defenders’ families, communities, associates and lawyers;

  • Recognises that the protection of human rights defenders can only be achieved through an approach which promotes and celebrates their work. It also calls for root causes of violations to be addressed by strengthening democratic institutions, combating impunity and reducing economic inequalities;

  • Pays particular attention to women human rights defenders, by stressing the intersectional nature of violations and abuses against them and against indigenous peoples, children, persons belonging to minorities, and rural and marginalised communities;

  • Urges States to adopt laws guaranteeing the protection of defenders, put in place holistic protection measures for and in consultation with defenders, and ensure investigation and accountability for threats and attacks against environmental human rights defenders; and

  • Calls on businesses to carry out human rights due diligence and to hold meaningful and inclusive consultations with defenders, potentially affected groups and other relevant stakeholders.

While the resolution was adopted by consensus, the unity came at the price of a lack of specificity in certain areas. For instance, the resolution does not clearly recognise all of the root causes of the insecurity facing environmental human rights defenders, as documented by UN experts, nor comprehensively name the perpetrators or the most dangerous industries. It also fails to clearly spell out the human rights obligations of development finance institutions, and to detail the corresponding necessary steps to consult, respect and protect the work of environmental human rights defenders. 

Contact: Michael Ineichen, Programme Director, m.ineichen@ishr.ch, +41 78 82 777 86

Photo: Flicker Juliana Colussi  350Brasil

HRC 40 | Accountability under attack in Guatemala

19.03.2019

The International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG) – created through an agreement between the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Government of Guatemala – has successfully held individuals in the highest positions of government to account.  It has provided means to revitalise and strengthen the national judicial system.  Government efforts to stop its work have been rejected by the Constitutional Court but its future in the country remains uncertain. 

CICIG must be defended, said ISHR and the International Platform Against Impunity in a statement delivered to the Human Rights Council.  

Attacks against CICIG are taking place in a context in which key achievements in strengthening the rule of law are threatened. 

Amendments to the National Reconciliation Law, if passed, will lead to impunity for grave internationally recognized crimes, including genocide and torture.  Convictions could be overturned and the important drive against impunity will be reversed.  

UN human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet has expressed deep concern about the initiative, noting, 

'This amendment, if passed, will represent a drastic set-back to accountability and the rule of law in Guatemala. At the same time, it will gravely endanger the progress made by the country to grapple with the legacy of the civil war and to prevent further violence.'  

Changes to other laws further threaten the struggle to secure justice and accountability.   The Law of NGOs for Development is amended, will impose increased inspection and registration requirements that would restrict the work of NGOs.  

'Guatemala stands at a cross roads, ' said ISHR and the International Platform Against Impunity in their statement.  'Those calling for key post- conflict human rights achievements to be respected and built upon are facing the likelihood of greater threats. Their rights to call for accountability must be respected and they must be heard.' 

ISHR and the International Platform Against Impunity made the following three calls:  

1/  States must make public their support of the work of CICIG and to urge Guatemala to reengage with the processes of accountability CICIG promotes.  

2/ Amendments that seek to undermine laws that have provided for individuals to be held to account for the gravest of crimes must be rejected. 

3/  Guatemala must  ensure that human rights defenders’ rights are upheld, including during the upcoming period of Presidential elections in June. 

Watch our statement here: 

 

Contacts:

Salma El Hosseiny [Geneva]: s.hosseiny@ishr.ch

Eleanor Openshaw [New York]: e.openshaw@ishr.ch 

Photo:  Zero-CC0 Justice

 

 

HRC 40 | Accountability under attack in Guatemala

19.03.2019

The International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG) – created through an agreement between the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Government of Guatemala – has successfully held individuals in the highest positions of government to account.  It has provided means to revitalise and strengthen the national judicial system.  Government efforts to stop its work have been rejected by the Constitutional Court but its future in the country remains uncertain. 

CICIG must be defended, said ISHR and the International Platform Against Impunity in a statement delivered to the Human Rights Council.  

Attacks against CICIG are taking place in a context in which key achievements in strengthening the rule of law are threatened. 

Amendments to the National Reconciliation Law, if passed, will lead to impunity for grave internationally recognized crimes, including genocide and torture.  Convictions could be overturned and the important drive against impunity will be reversed.  

UN human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet has expressed deep concern about the initiative, noting, 

'This amendment, if passed, will represent a drastic set-back to accountability and the rule of law in Guatemala. At the same time, it will gravely endanger the progress made by the country to grapple with the legacy of the civil war and to prevent further violence.'  

Changes to other laws further threaten the struggle to secure justice and accountability.   The Law of NGOs for Development is amended, will impose increased inspection and registration requirements that would restrict the work of NGOs.  

'Guatemala stands at a cross roads, ' said ISHR and the International Platform Against Impunity in their statement.  'Those calling for key post- conflict human rights achievements to be respected and built upon are facing the likelihood of greater threats.' 

ISHR and the International Platform Against Impunity made the following three calls:  

1/  States must make public their support of the work of CICIG and to urge Guatemala to reengage with the processes of accountability CICIG promotes.  

2/ Amendments that seek to undermine laws that have provided for individuals to be held to account for the gravest of crimes must be rejected. 

3/  Guatemala must  ensure that human rights defenders’ rights are upheld, including during the upcoming period of Presidential elections in June. 

 

Contact: Eleanor Openshaw   e.openshaw@ishr.ch 

Photo:  Zero-CC0 Justice

 

 

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Opinion:

The relationship between any State and its civil society should be one of collaboration and protection, in the interest of all citizens. Yet, it is not easy being a human rights defender or civil society organisation in Nigeria,  as the government continues to interfere with the work of defenders and NGOs through restrictive legislation.

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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