20 Oct

How can defenders improve the protection of human rights at the national level through their engagement with international and regional human rights mechanisms? That was the main question of the 3 days training on international and regional human rights systems organised in Banjul ahead of the 63rd session of the African Commission.

19 Oct

The 63rd ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights will be held in Banjul, The Gambia from 24 October to 7 November 2018. The African Commission session will be preceded by the NGO Forum and 37th African Human Rights Book Fair  from 20 to 22 October 2018.

19 Oct

In her first dialogue with the General Assembly’s human rights committee, the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet placed the importance of civil society and their protection front and center. 

17 Oct

The freedom to share our views without fear of punishment is crucial to the safety, development and prosperity of any society. States should call on Saudi Arabia to immediately release all detained defenders and reform its legislative framework to ensure that civil society can carry out their work without any hindrance. 

16 Oct

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Burundi’s protracted efforts to prevent a UN body mandated to monitor the human rights situation in the country from reporting, were thwarted today by a vote in the General Assembly’s human rights committee.

Israel | Enough is Enough: Council should urgently launch investigations into violence against protesters in Palestine


There are currently over seven million Palestinian refugees spread across the globe, including 1.3 million refugees in the Gaza Strip.[1] As the result of decades of dispossession, oppression and violations of international law, including 11 years of unlawful closure and blockade of the Gaza Strip, Palestinians therein and elsewhere in occupied Palestine have embarked on a six week campaign of largely peaceful protests, starting on 30 March 2018. The actions by the Israeli forces in response to the demonstrations, particularly those taking place in the eastern parts of the Gaza Strip, amount to excessive, indiscriminate and disproportionate use of lethal force. They may also amount to widespread wilful killings and may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity. On 28 April 2018, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that, “[i]n the context of an occupation such as Gaza, killings resulting from the unlawful use of force may also constitute wilful killings which are a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”[2]

Since the start of these large-scale protests, approximately 111 Palestinians have been killed, including 12 children, two journalists, and four persons with disabilities. During the same period, approximately 7,000 were injured, including 1,244 children, 253 women, 42 paramedics, and 60 journalists – at least 3,615 of whom were hit by live fire.[3] In response to the demonstrations, the Israeli military has allegedly been using live ammunition intentionally with the aim of killing and seriously injuring civilians, as demonstrated by the use of high-velocity, military-grade weapons that cause devastating, and in some cases life-changing injuries.

A video distributed by an Israeli soldier shows Israeli snipers celebrating the killing of Palestinians, illustrating a culture of impunity that is enjoyed by members of Israeli forces and emboldened by policy-level decisions. Further, the Israeli judicial system has demonstrated that it is unable and unwilling to ensure accountability for such serious crimes according to international standards.

In response to these events, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called for independent investigations[4] into the killings, while the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Bin Ra’ad, echoed this call and highlighted that “[e]very week, we witness instances of use of lethal force against unarmed demonstrators” while noting that “[w]arnings by the United Nations and others have seemingly gone unheeded, as the approach of the security forces from week to week does not seem to have changed.”[5] 

The Israeli government continues to disregard the numerous recommendations by UN officials to exercise restraint in its response to the protests in the Gaza Strip and elsewhere in occupied Palestine. In fact, the Israeli military has increased the use of force against the civilian population in violation of its obligations under international law to ensure the welfare and respect of the fundamental rights of the occupied population under its control. 

The escalating protests over the last six months intensified following the announcement of 6 December 2017 by US President Trump recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocating its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in blatant disregard for international law. On Monday, 14 May 2018, the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem entrenched and endorsed Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem, in violation of Article 2(4) of the Charter of the United Nations on the prohibition of annexation - a general principle of international law - and in breach of Israel’s obligations as an Occupying Power under Article 47 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which concerns the protection of the occupied Palestinian population from any measures of “annexation by the latter of the whole or part of the occupied territory.”

The undersigned organisations join the UN Secretary General and High Commissioner for Human Rights’ calls for action, and specifically demand that the UN Human Rights Council urgently establish a Commission of Inquiry with a view to: (i) ensuring legal accountability for perpetrators of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including for individual and command responsibility, and (ii) facilitating and expediting existing international investigations and examinations. The Human Rights Council should also encourage the International Criminal Court to urgently open a full investigation into alleged international crimes committed by the Occupying Power. Finally, the undersigned organizations call for an end to the 51 years- of occupation of Palestinian territory, including the immediate lifting of the closure and blockade of the Gaza Strip. In the words of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights “enough is enough.” [6]


Photo:Sebastian Baryli/Flicker 


Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT)

ActionAid International

ADDAMEER Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association

Al Mezan Center For Human Rights Rights

Aldameer Association for Human Rights

Algemene Centrale-ABVV /La Centrale Générale-FGTB 



Article 1 Collective

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC)

Association ADALA pour le droit a un process equitable (ADALA)

Association AMAL pour La Femme et le Développement

Association Belgo-Palestinienne WB

Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS)

BADIL - Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights

Broederlijk Delen

Buliisa Initiative for Rural Development Organisation (BIRUDO)

Bytes For All, Pakistan

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR)

Center for Defense of Liberties and Civil Rights - Hurryyat

Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales - CELS

Christian Reformed Church Office of Social Justice

Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation


Coalition for Accountability and Integrity - AMAN


Collectif Interuniversitaire pour la Coopération avec les Universités Palestiniennes

Comités pour le Développement et le patrimoine

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)

Community Action Center – Al-Quds University

Conectas Direitos Humanos

Corporate Accountability Lab

Defence for Children International - Palestine


EuroMed Rights

European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine

Fédération des Associations Marocaines en France

Filastiniyat Association

Geneeskunde voor de Derde Wereld

Gents Actieplatform Palestina (GAPP)

Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Human Rights Law Network, India

Immigration Developpement Democratie – France

Institut de recherche en droits humains (IRDH)

International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center

Kvinna till Kvinna

L’Association Marocaine des Droits Humains

L'Association Marocaine des Droits Humains

Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (LPHR)

Le Comité pour le Respect des Libertés et des Droits de l’Homme – Tunisie

Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP)


MOC- Mouvement Ouvrier Chrétien

Moroccan Forum for Young Journalists (MFYJ)

Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l'amitié entre les peuples (MRAP)

Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD)

New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity Committee

Norwegian People's Aid


Otros Mundos AC/Chiapas, México

Palestina Solidariteit

Palestinian Bar Association

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights

Palestinian Coalition For Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Palestinian Journalist Syndicate

Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network

Pax Christi Flanders

Pax Christi International

Platform of French NGOs for Palestine (Plateforme des ONG Françaises pour la Palestine)

Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies

REF – Réseau Euromed France

Sahara Observatory for Peace and Democracy for Human Rights

Society of St. Yves

Solidarité Socialiste 

The Civil Commission for independence of the judiciary and rule of law (ISTIQLAL)

The Independent Commission for Human Rights (Ombudsman Office)

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA)

The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH)

The Rights Forum

The WoMin African Alliance

ToBe Foundation for rights and Freedoms


US Campaign for Palestinian Rights

Vrede vzw

Women in Black (Vienna)

Women's Centre for Legal Aid and Counseling

Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) 

Youth for sexual and reproductive rights (WAAI)



HRC | Council must be strengthened from ground up to enhance impact


The report, “Strengthening the UN Human Rights Council from the Ground Up,” outlines the discussions and key recommendations during a dialogue convened by the organisations in February. The dialogue brought together a broad range of human rights defenders from various regions working at the national, regional, and international levels with representatives of national human rights institutions, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The focus was on making concrete and implementable recommendations that do not require institutional reform.

Tawanda Mutasah, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International, said: “To be credible, any discussion of Council strengthening should focus primarily on enhancing its contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights – its impact on the ground. As the Council’s Bureau launches discussions this year on enhancing the efficiency of the Council, we reiterate that measures to strengthen the Council’s efficiency should not, and cannot, be separated from efforts to enhance its effectiveness.”

Salma El Hosseiny, ISHR’s Human Rights Council Advocate, added: “It is therefore imperative that discussions on strengthening the Council – and making it more efficient – be informed by the experience and expertise of national and regional level actors, including rights-holders, human rights defenders and other civil society actors, victims, survivors (and their representatives), national human rights institutions and UN country teams.”

Many participants at the February dialogue affirmed the value and relevance of the Council in responding to human rights crises and in encouraging a broad range of human rights reforms and commitments by individual countries.  At the same time, they shared concerns about issues that limit the Council’s ability to effectively deliver on its mandate.

“The Human Rights Council plays a vital role in addressing many human rights concerns, but its impact is limited and credibility eroded when it fails to address grave human rights violations for primarily political reasons,” said John Fisher, Geneva director at Human Rights Watch. “Individual countries should strengthen the Council’s ability to promote and protect human rights on the ground, particularly through prevention, implementation and accountability.”

Maryam Al Khawaja, Special Advisor on Advocacy at the Gulf Center for Human Rights and ISHR board member, said: “The selectivity and politicisation of the Council’s response to country situations allow some governments to escape scrutiny for serious human rights violations.”

Hassan Shire, Executive Director of DefendDefenders, said: “Having States that commit gross and systematic human rights violations sitting on the Council negatively impacts its credibility in the eyes of people around the world.”

Gustavo Huppes, Officer for Democratic Space at Conectas said: “To have impact on the ground, follow-up and implementation are key, though often neglected priorities of the Council”.

Yashasvi Nain, Program Officer at the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, said: “An effective Council is one that is accessible and visible to a broad range of actors, including victims, rights-holders, civil society, and human rights defenders.”

Read the full report here.

Update: On 24 May 2018, ISHR, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International convened a panel in New York City on the topic of strengthening the Human Rights Council, along with Venezuelan defender Ligia Bolivar, OHCHR representative Craig Mokhiber, and Cynthia Soohoo, a CUNY Law School professor and member of the U.S. Human Rights Network.

After discussing the report, the panel turned to specific opportunities to enhance the Council’s work, zeroing in on improvements that could be made without broad structural reforms. Several panelists brought up the issue of Council membership and its effect on the body’s credibility, with Ms Bolivar stressing the importance of having competitive elections and screening candidates on their human rights records.

Panelists also discussed implementation and how the work of the Human Rights Council could be made more relevant to activists and defenders. Mr Mokhiber urged a renewed focus on protection and an annual Council report on the state of human rights globally. Louis Charbonneau from Human Rights Watch suggested a mandate for UN country teams to report to the Council, which would require resident coordinators and country teams to be aware of the human rights developments in their countries of work.

Photo: Anne Laure Lechat- UN Photo


Burkina Faso | Implement the law on human rights defenders and ensure a safe working environment


Burkina Faso is scheduled to be reviewed at the 30th session of the Universal Periodic Review on 5th May. During its last review, Burkina Faso accepted two recommendations calling on the State to promote and encourage the work of civil society in the country and pursue a regular dialogue with civil society to promote the importance of equality between women and men. Despite accepting these recommendations, human rights defenders still have to work in a hostile environment.

In 2015, the coup d’état had a disastrous impact on fundamental freedoms, by imposing unnecessary restrictions, in particular to the right to freedom of expression. During that time, journalists covering the events or publishing dissident opinions have been victims of threats, intimidation, physical attacks and their offices have been ransacked.

Further, while the National Transition Council adopted three consecutive laws decriminalising some press offences and eliminating prison sentences for some other offences, it also considerably increased fines for defamation, slander and insult which could seriously impede the rights to freedom of expression and the press with the risk that media professionals and civil society organisations are forced out of business.

A law for the protection and promotion of human rights defenders has been voted by the National Assembly on 27 June 2017 but we still note that this law fails to acknowledge the specific risks faced by women human rights defenders in their work.  In addition, Burkina Faso has not yet created its protection mechanism, which would aim at monitoring the implementation of the law, because its National Human Rights Commission is still not functional.

This Briefing Paper on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in Burkina Faso - developed by ISHR, and our national partners the Burkinabe Coalition for Human Rights Defenders - is intended to assist States and other stakeholders to formulate questions and recommendations regarding the protection of human rights defenders during the UPR.

Key recommendations that should be made to Burkina Faso at the UPR include:

  • Ensure that all alleged attacks against human rights defenders are promptly and thoroughly investigated, that perpetrators are held accountable, and that victims have access to effective remedies.
  • Amend the law for the protection of human rights defenders to ensure the establishment and resourcing of a national protection mechanism for defenders, to include protections for women and disabled human rights defenders and repeal or reform article 16, which provides the power to expel defenders considered threats to national security.
  • Review the composition of the High Council of Communication to ensure a higher number of members of professional media groups.
  • Support the compliance of the newly established National Human Rights Institution with the Paris principles, including through guarantees of independence, expertise and adequate funding.

For further information about the Briefing Paper, please contact ISHR’s Adélaïde ETONG

Photo: Flickr_RFI


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