News

03 Dec

In the context of mounting international pressure for UN human rights officials and experts to have unfettered access to the country, her final report should adopt a strong human rights-based approach in reviewing the national situation.

03 Dec

Human rights defenders are indispensable to sustainable and inclusive development, as well as addressing poverty and inequality. Their protection is central for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

26 Nov

This December, ISHR will raise money to provide invaluable skills and resources to courageous activists from around the world so they can share their hopes and agenda for a better world.

27 Nov

The expertise, insights and efforts of women human rights defenders are key to achieving a sustainable and effective response to conflict, says ISHR in a new report providing recommendations to the UN Security Council on how best to ensure such input is sought, heard and acted upon. 

05 Dec

A big thanks to everyone who’s getting behind our fundraising appeal and investing in a better world by supporting human rights defenders!

Joint Statement China

Strategic litigation

ISHR's legal team is made up of two passionate human rights lawyers. Our strategic litigation at international, regional and national levels aims at ensuring human rights defenders have the freedom to effectively and safely protect and promote human rights; that perpetrators are held accountable and victims are provided with adequate remedies when human rights violations occur. With pro bono support of leading international law firms, we file and manage cases and amicus briefs with international, regional and national courts and bodies. 

Our strategic advocacy and interventions pursue several objectives: 

  • at the international level: strengthen the recognition of the UN Declaration on human rights defenders and other international human rights instruments as reaffirming binding international law or as relevant to the interpretation and application of binding obligations as they apply to defenders. 
  • at the regional and national levels: ensure that national and regional instruments are interpreted, applied and developed, in conformity with the Declaration on human rights defenders; and ensure that the Declaration is judicially incorporated into regional and national laws.

CEDAW | ISHR files unprecedented legal submission on women survivors of enforced disappearances

10.01.2019

On 30 December 2018, ISHR and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) submitted a communication to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) on behalf of Angkhana Neelapaijit, regarding her situation following the enforced disappearance of her husband, Somchai Neelapaijit, a lawyer in Thailand. Somchai Neelapaijit disappeared on 12 March 2004, following his extensive work promoting the rights of those accused of terrorism and publically speaking out against actions taken by the Thailand government, especially regarding the treatment of Malay-Muslims in the Southern Provinces. 

The authorities took inadequate action to investigate the case, and significantly, no suspects were ultimately convicted for the disappearance. Despite Angkhana Neelapaijit’s numerous efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice, the investigation was repeatedly delayed, forensic evidence never tested, and suspects were finally only charged with minor offences such as coercion. 

ISHR’s communication to CEDAW argues that Thailand has violated Articles 2(b)(c)(f), 5(a)(b), 15(1) and 16(1)(c)(d) of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. These articles center on the right of women to equality in marriage and family and the rights to effective remedies. Specifically, Articles 16(1)(c) and (d) address the State’s obligation to ensure equality between spouses and that they have the same rights and responsibilities regarding their children. 

‘This communication provides CEDAW with a rare opportunity to address a significant issue affecting women defenders and victims of enforced disappearances,’ said Pooja Patel, ISHR’s Programme Director on women human rights defenders. ‘CEDAW has the opportunity to strengthen its focus on those who are left behind,’ she added.

The communication highlights the impact that enforced disappearances have on relatives of the disappeared. In Thailand, most victims of enforced disappearances are male. Thus, the aftermath of the enforced disappearance disproportionally impacts the spouses and relatives, especially the women survivors. 

These women are left to pick up the pieces, not only completely shouldering the financial and caretaking burdens of the family, but also to seek justice. Seeking justice often brings with it additional challenges. Angkhana Neelapaijit and her family were subject to threats, harassment, smear campaigns and increased isolation from their community—all while trying to bring justice to those who disappeared her husband. 

‘We call on CEDAW to find that Thailand is in violation of the Convention; recommend that the investigation into the disappearance of Somchai Neelapaijit is resumed; and call on the State to ensure the perpetrators identified are prosecuted and subject to impartial judicial proceedings,’ said Tess McEvoy, ISHR’s Legal Counsel and Programme Manager. ‘CEDAW’s determination in this case will have a significant impact on women defenders, relatives of the disappeared, as well as those who seek justice for the disappeared.’ 

Contact: Tess McEvoy t.mcevoy@ishr.ch.  

Photo: iLaw TH 

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Opinion:

By Armel Niyongere, a human rights lawyer and renowned civil society leader from Burundi. Armel contributed to a number of reviews of Burundi by the treaty bodies.

Treaty bodies showed their ability to take the right measures in situations of crisis like in Burundi. A coordination with the high-level bodies of the United Nations, such as the Security Council or the Human Rights Council, is necessary for similar situations.

This article was first published on OpenGlobalRights on 27 November 2019.

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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