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.  

13 Mar

If the Human Rights Council cannot speak out against arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance in China, it will give a pass to one of the world's worst human rights violators, and send a worrying message to activists around the globe, ISHR said today. 

07 Mar

The sixty-third session of the Commission on the Status of Women will start today in New York. This session will focus on social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. It is essential that women human rights defenders are part of the conversations and outcomes. 

07 Mar

A cross-regional group of 36 States, including all EU Member States, have called today for the release of detained women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, sending a strong message to the Saudi authorities that the Council will hold its members accountable. The joint statement at the Council comes at a critical time as the Saudi Public Prosecution announced last week that some of the defenders will be referred to trial.

07 Mar

Governments and UN agencies and programmes must make the protection of human rights defenders a paramount priority in order to address harmful inequalities and ensure sustainable development for all. 

HRC Elections | How do the candidates for 2019 rate?


To coincide with the #HRCpledging events in New York and Geneva hosted by ISHR and Amnesty International, ISHR has published a 'scorecard' for each State standing for election to the UN Human Rights Council.

The scorecards offer a quick ‘at-a-glance’ objective comparison of the candidates, focusing on their cooperation with the Council, their support for civil society, their engagement with UN treaty bodies and Special Procedures, whether they have spoken out in concern about reprisals, and whether they have established a national human rights institution.

This year, a new criteria examines whether a candidate has taken a leadership role regarding country situations of concern or crisis - more specifically, whether the candidate initiated or significantly pushed an action which has raised at least two country situations in a qualitative and  informed way.  

It is now more important than ever for the Human Rights Council to ensure that it is the legitimate, influential body that the global human rights situation demands.

'If the Council is to fulfil its promise and mandate, it must be comprised of Member States that uphold the highest human rights standards and cooperate fully with the Council - as required by General Assembly resolution 60/251. Members must have a genuine commitment to promoting universal human rights and defending those who advocate for them,’ said ISHR’s Human Rights Council Advocate Salma El Hosseiny.

The scorecards and #HRCpledging events are an important contribution in this regard. The scorecards are intended to give a brief overview of the candidate’s relationship with UN mechanisms, and increase transparency in the elections.

However, ISHR acknowledges that data limitations and the need for objectivity mean that many of the criteria are concerned with form rather than substance.  

'For example, the fact that a State has accepted a high number of UPR recommendations says nothing about the extent to which recommendations have been implemented on the ground,' ISHR's Programme Manager and Legal Counsel Tess McEvoy stated. 

‘We encourage these 'at-a-glance' scorecards to be read in conjunction with the more in-depth reporting on country situations and human rights record such as the world reports produced by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and the election guide published by the Universal Rights Group,' said McEvoy. 

'More importantly, we urge voting States to treat human rights considerations as paramount in electing members to the Council, and to prioritise fundamental human rights over political or economic interests.’

Voting on candidates for the Human Rights Council will take place at the UN General Assembly in October 2018.  

Scorecards are available for:

Public pledges on a States’ candidacy are another valuable contribution. To date, the following candidate States have published a public pledge – Argentina, Austria, Bahamas, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Fiji, India, Italy and Uruguay

Scorecards from 2017 are available here

The sources and criteria for the scorecards are set out here and below:



Previous terms

OHCHR website, List of past members of the Human Rights Council

Submitted a public pledge on its candidacy

United Nations Documents Search

Pledged to strengthen Human Rights Council membership and adherence to membership standards

Signed the joint statement at the 35th session of the Human Rights Council presented by the Netherlands

Committed to applying an objective, human rights-based criteria in addressing situations of concern

Signed joint statement at the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council presented by Ireland, and by implication the joint statement at the 35th session of the Human Rights Council presented by the Netherlands, and/or otherwise made a public pledge to apply the objective criteria elaborated in these statements

Played a leadership role on country situations at the Council


Taken collective action to fulfill commitments regarding country situations at the Council - set out in the joint statement at the 32nd Council session presented by Ireland and the joint statement at the 35th Council session presented by the Netherlands - by demonstrating leadership with regards to at least one of the following, resulting in significant attention on at least two country situations: a joint statement, a resolution or a request for a special session. 

*This includes any country situation in respect of which the State has played a non-public leadership role resulting in collective action at the Council

Issued a standing invitation to Special Procedures

OHCHR website, Standing Invitations

Consistently responded positively to country visit requests (Less than 5 outstanding)

OHCHR website, Country visits and special procedures

*Country visits requests made more than 6 years ago without a reminder sent by the special procedures are not counted

Sent a reply to more than 80% of communications received from Special Procedures

OHCHR website, Country visits and special procedures


Accepted more than 70% of UPR recommendations

UPR Info website, Statistics of Recommendations:

Case of reprisals has never been highlighted in SG reports (2011-2016)

OHCHR website, Acts of intimidation and reprisal for cooperation with the special procedures

Spoken out expressing concern about reprisals

Signed the joint statement at the 30th session of the Human Rights Council presented by the Ghana:

And/or the joint statement at the 34th session of the Human Rights Council presented by Hungary:

The State has consistently sponsored Council and Third Committee resolutions on human rights defenders, civil society space and preventing reprisals

Sponsored more than 8 of the following resolutions:  Human Rights Council resolutions 13/13, 22/6 & 31/32 (human rights defenders), 24/21 (civil society space), 12/12, 24/24, 36/21 (reprisals), 25/18 & 34/5 (renewal of mandate of Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders); General Assembly resolutions: 66/164, 68/181, 70/161, 72/247

Ratified 10 or more international human rights treaties and protocols

Ratified 10 or more of the following international human rights treaties and protocols - ICCPRICCPR-OP1ICCPR-OP2ICESCRICESR-OPICRDCEDAWCEDAW-OPCRCCRC-OP-ACCRC-OP-SCCRC-OP-ICICMWCPEDCPRDCRPD-OPCATOP-CAT

OHCHR website, Ratification status

Has 3 or fewer outstanding treaty body reports

OHCHR website, Reporting Status


Has an NHRI in conformity with the Paris Principles (A-status)

GANHRI, Status of National Institutions


Sponsored both the Council and Third Committee resolutions on NHRIs

Sponsored both Human Rights Council resolution 27/18 and General Assembly resolutions 70/163 and 72/186

Contact: Salma El Hosseiny at or +41 79 596 76 75 (Geneva) and Tess McEvoy at (New York), International Service for Human Rights



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UN High Commissioner | General Assembly approves appointment of Michelle Bachelet


Today the UN General Assembly approved the UN Secretary General's nomination of Michelle Bachelet as the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Bachelet, ex-President of Chile and ex Executive Director of UN Women, will start her four-year term on 1 September. 

ISHR’s Executive Director Phil Lynch welcomed the appointment and emphasised the importance of the new High Commissioner making the protection of human rights defenders a top priority for the Office. 

'The work of human rights defenders makes the world and our communities more fair and just. Despite this, attacks and threats against defenders are on the rise. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights must be proactive and unstinting in the promotion and protection of the rights of defenders,’ said Lynch.

'As the UN's human rights chief, the High Commissioner needs to be the fiercest defender of human rights defenders.’   

ISHR offers the following recommendations to ensure that the situation of human rights defenders is placed at the fore of the concerns of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and promoted throughout the UN system. The High Commissioner should:

  • Be proactive in consulting and working in partnership with civil society on a regular basis
  • Speak out on cases of threats, attacks and reprisals against civil society and demand accountability, calling for and supporting impartial investigations and prosecution of perpetrators
  • Work with States to fulfil the promises of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, including through the development of specific laws, policies and mechanisms to protect defenders
  • Build strategic alliances with States, civil society, academics and business enterprises with a shared interest in human rights and the rule of law
  • Define an operating procedure at OHCHR to ensure that all the offices establish and apply minimum standards in regard to their work on human rights defenders (bearing in mind local context)
  • Work closely with the Secretary-General to ensure that all UN agencies contribute to the protection of defenders and an enabling environment for their work

This year is an important one for human rights defenders. 2018 marks the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the UN Declaration on human rights defenders. 

'The High Commissioner should consider kicking off her tenure with a clear and categorical statement about the vital work of defenders,' said ISHR's Co-Director in New York, Eleanor Openshaw. 'This would signal the significance of this year’s anniversary and the importance the new High Commissioner places on this issue.'

ISHR looks forward to the opportunity to engage directly with the new High Commissioner on a range of human rights concerns, including ensuring the respect of the rights of human rights defenders. 

'As High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet will have the support of a vibrant, committed and passionate global community of human rights defenders, dedicated to making the world fairer and more just for all. We look forward to working with her,' Lynch said.

With the end of the tenure of Zeid Ra'ad Zeid al-Hussein as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Lynch noted:

'Zeid Ra'ad Zeid al-Hussein has been a passionate and unstinting supporter of human rights defenders during his time as High Commissioner. He has been a principled, independent and outspoken champion of human rights for all. We would like to thank Mr al Hussein for his work and wish him well for the future.'

Contact:  Phil Lynch or +41 76 708 4738

Photo:  Michelle Bachelet Official site



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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