News

18 Dec

On International Migrants Day, can you share hope and show compassion? Donate the equivalent of a daily cup of coffee to support a migrant rights defender, by joining our monthly donation scheme today!​

18 Dec

In the last six months, upwards of a hundred individuals have been harassed, detained or disappeared for supporting workers to exercise their basic rights, and calling on the Chinese government to enforce their own laws. Twenty-nine remain in custody as of today. A solidarity letter signed by ISHR and more than a dozen civil society groups around the globe calls for their release, and an end to the crackdown on rights defence in China. 

11 Dec

The United Nations should ensure an urgent and robust system-wide response to credible reports that the Egyptian authorities have attacked people who engaged with the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, said six* human rights organisations.

17 Dec

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Commission) held its 63rd ordinary session from 24 October to 13 November 2018. This session was marked by the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the 20 years of the UN Declaration on human rights defenders.

12 Dec

Five years after the kidnapping of human rights defender Razan Zaitouneh and her colleagues, 15 NGOs* stand in solidarity to remember them and call on the UN and international and regional actors to actively facilitate an investigation into what happened to the four human rights defenders. Join the world in acknowledging Zaitouneh’s outstanding contribution to human rights by visiting and sharing a website documenting her work. 

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

UNGA 73 | Key Voting Updates to Human Rights Resolutions

18.12.2018

On December 17, the General Assembly plenary took place to vote on human rights resolutions previously passed by the Third Committee. To see ISHR’s prior coverage of these resolutions, see the Third Committee Wrap Up piece here.

 

The freedom of peaceful assembly and association resolutionpassed with much stronger support. Eleven States joined in favour of the resolution than in the previous vote, bringing the total number to 154 in favour, 0 against, and 35 abstentions. New supporters included South Sudan, Djibouti, Mauritania and Eritrea
 

‘It is very encouraging for us that more States joined in supporting the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, rights vital for the work of defenders,’ Eleanor Openshaw, ISHR’s New York Office Co-Director, stated.
 

The resolution on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executionsalso gained support. The resolution gained 15 States voting in favour, bringing the number of votes to 125 in favour, 0 against, and 60 abstentions.
 

However, despite the support, Sudan took the floor to make a statement on its vote of abstention. Basing its decision on the language regarding the protections based on sexual orientation and identity, Sudan stated that in no other resolution is there language on gender relating to killings. 
 

‘It’s unfortunate that States won’t support these protections,’ Tess McEvoy, ISHR Legal Counsel and Programme Manager lamented. ‘While the resolution passed with more support, there is still more work to be done in this regard,’ she added. 
 

Other resolutions passed, such as the Human Rights Council Report resolution with a vote of 121 in favour, 4 against and 60 abstentions.
 

As for the child, early and forced marriage resolution, the resolution itself passed without a vote, but it also experienced some trouble. A vote was requested by the United States for the deletion of preambular paragraph 23 and operative paragraphs 14, 17 and 18. 
 

The United States cited its concern with the definition of ‘sexual and reproductive health,’ stating that it does not recognise abortion as a method of family planning. 
 

The paragraphs were overwhelmingly supported with 134 votes in favour, 2 against and 32 abstentions. As a result of the vote, the United States disassociated itself from these paragraphs. 
 

There were no votes on the bullyingand the rights of the child resolution. 
 

The resolutions on Myanmarand Stevastopol were not voted on, as they are still being considered by the 5thCommittee, which handles monetary budget issues regarding resolutions.
 

Contact: Eleanor Openshaw at e.openshaw@ishr.ch

Photo Credit: IIP Photo Archive.

Campaign Management Advert

Business | Major companies say human rights defenders and civic freedoms are essential for profitable business

10.12.2018

From the murder of Jamal Khashoggi to politically-motivated charges against Cambodian trade unionists, attacks on human rights defenders and civic freedoms across the world increasingly worry the business community.

The statement is the first of its kind, with supporters ranging across the mining, apparel, banking, jewellery and footwear sectors, and stresses that when human rights defenders are under attack, so is sustainable and profitable business.

On the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the statement sends a clear message that the current wave of attacks is unacceptable for leading companies and investors.

Unilever, adidas, Primark, ABN AMRO, Anglo American, Leber Jeweler, Domini and the Investors Alliance on Human Rights are among the supporters.

These business and investors “affirm the crucial role of human rights defenders and [their] firm commitment to the protection of civic freedoms” and recognise the responsibility of businesses and investors to respect human rights defenders. Supporters of the statement commit “to find effective ways business can positively contribute to situations where civic freedoms and human rights defenders are under threat”.

As Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever & chair of The B Team, said: “Given the increasing vulnerability of human rights defenders and shrinking space where they can operate safely, business has a role and a responsibility to defend and promote fundamental rights and freedoms.”

We stand firmly behind these principles, which are aligned with our own published approach to safeguarding human rights defenders and our longstanding belief in free, fair and open societies, where freedom of expression and assembly is the norm, not the exception”, said William Anderson, vice president social and environmental affairs Asia Pacific at the Adidas Group, the first company in the world to issue a stand-alone policy on human rights defenders.

''ABN AMRO is very happy to receive positive signals from clients after sharing our support for this statement. Many of our clients - especially NGOs - experience restrictions on their civic freedoms as well as access to financial services. This problem can only be effectively addressed in collaboration between governments, civil society and business”, said Maria Anne van Dijk, global head of environmental, social and ethical risk and policy at ABN AMRO.

Nearly six in ten countries are seriously restricting people’s fundamental freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression, while only 3% of people on the planet live in countries with truly ‘open civic space’, according to research by CIVICUS.

The work of civil society and human rights defenders to protect fundamental freedoms continues to be undermined by governments and actors in the private sector through a range of tactics, including threats and physical attacks, judicial harassment, burdensome administrative requirements, and limitations on the receipt of funding, among others.

Today’s statement stresses the crucial role of human rights defenders in identifying risks or problems in business activities, encouraging due diligence and in the provision of remedy.

Phil Bloomer, Executive Director of the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC), said: "Hats off to these ground-breaking companies and investors. In a context of worsening attacks on civic freedoms worldwide, this international group of companies speaks up to protect civic freedoms, human rights defenders, and rule of law. This is vital to workers and communities and wider society. It is also crucial to stable, profitable, and sustainable business. Other responsible businesses and investors should follow rapidly. There is no time to lose.”

Michael Ineichen, Programme Director of the International Service for Human Rights, said: “Human rights defenders work to ensure that every person has access to quality education, a decent job, secure housing, a healthy environment and a doctor when we’re sick. By standing alongside human rights defenders, leading companies protect this critical contribution to a more positive future.”

A recent report from The B Team found clear evidence that limits on important civic freedoms are linked to negative economic outcomes. Countries with higher degrees of respect for civic rights experience higher economic growth rates as well as higher levels of human development.

These ideas are further explored in a recent guidance document released by BHRRC and the International Service for Human Rights. It sets out the normative, business, and moral cases for action, and proposes a decision framework to guide companies on how to support civic freedoms and defenders.

Contact: Michael Ineichen, Programme Director, m.ineichen@ishr.ch, +41 78 827 77 86 

BIznet statement

LGBTI l New report highlights challenges faced by LGBTI defenders deprived of liberty

04.12.2018

ISHR welcomes the new monitoring guide published by The Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT): ‘Towards The Effective Protection Of LGBTI Persons Deprived of Their Liberty: A Monitoring Guide’ It is designed for any institution or organisation that carries out visits and inspections to places of deprivation of liberty, such as prisons, police custody and immigration detention facilities.  

‘ISHR is happy to have contributed to the development of this important tool, which highlights the situation of human rights defenders working to protect the rights of LGBTI persons,’ says Pooja Patel of ISHR.

This guide intends to strengthen the capacities of detention monitoring bodies – including National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs), National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), international and regional bodies, and civil society organisations – to identify and address risk factors contributing to torture and other ill-treatment of LGBTI persons deprived of liberty. It raises awareness of specific risks of abuse and discrimination these individuals face.

Specific risks for LGBTI defenders

The guide makes references to the Yogyakarta Principles and the Yogyakarta Principles plus 10 throughout the text, and underlines the aggravated forms of violence and discrimination faced by human rights defenders working on issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity. It discusses LGBTI defenders in three particular contexts:

  • the impact of criminalisation of LGBT persons,
  • discriminatory profiling and violence during arrest or apprehension, and
  • the role of law enforcement during public demonstrations involving LGBTI persons.

ISHR’s Helen Nolan explains that the guide emphasises the fact that threats and risks faced by LGBTI defenders are exacerbated in countries that criminalise same-sex relations and non-conforming gender identities or expression, as defenders may face harassment, prosecution and imprisonment only because of their work and activism.

‘Human rights defenders who are LGBTI themselves are doubly exposed, as they are not only targeted because of their work, but also because of who they are,’ says Nolan.

The new guide stresses that LGBTI individuals are at greater risk of being arbitrarily arrested, harassed, extorted, and subjected to excessive use of force by police, than the general population. Risks are further magnified for LGBTI human rights defenders.

Patel also highlights the guide’s discussion of the role and duties of law enforcement during public demonstrations involving LGBTI persons.

‘We are pleased to see that the guide underlines the duty of law enforcement officers to take appropriate measures to ensure the protection of persons participating in LGBTI demonstrations, such as pride events,’ says Patel.  

Read the full report here.

History and impact 2017

Facilitated by ISHR and Arc International, a group of 33 international experts release the Yogyakarta Principles Plus 10, an authoritative set of new principles on international human rights law relating to sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics, including in relation to LGBTI rights defenders.

History and impact 2018

Parliament of Mali adopts national law on the protection of defenders, following two-year advocacy campaign and provision of substantial technical assistance by ISHR and our local partner, the Coalition Malienne des Défenseurs des Droits Humains.

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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