13 Feb

A Sudanese refugee activist held in the Australian immigration detention and processing system for over five years, Abdul Aziz Muhamat, is the 2019 Martin Ennals Award Laureate. He was among three finalists, selected by a jury of ten of the world’s leading human rights organisations, together with Marino Cordoba Berrio (Colombia) and Eren Keskin (Turkey). The three of them were honoured today during a ceremony organised by the City of Geneva.

02 Feb

120 independent Venezuelan NGOs are urging the UN to ensure its agencies operating in the country keep the promotion and protection of human rights to the fore in their work.

30 Jan

ISHR joined today with over 36 organisations to launch a call on governments to adopt a resolution addressing human rights in China, with particular focus on Uyghur and other ethnic minority regions. This is the first time in over a decade that an organised effort has been made to use the Human Rights Council to seek access and lay the groundwork for accountability for violations in the country.

28 Jan

A credible, accessible and effective Human Rights Council is vital to promote and protect human rights and to hold perpetrators to account for violations, wherever they occur. ISHR presents below a blueprint for States with recommendations to some of the key issues the Human Rights Council will and should address in 2019. 

29 Jan

After over 1,200 days in incommunicado detention, Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang has been sentenced to four and a half years imprisonment. Trials have been held, and sentences handed down, for other high-profile cases recently. Efforts to cross these pending cases off the list ahead of the March session of the Human Rights Council are 'not a coincidence', says ISHR. 

UAE UPR submission

NGO Committee | Accusations of terrorism remain unretracted


The second 2018 session of the NGO Committee had barely started before China took the floor to make unfounded accusations of terrorism against Uighur human rights defender Dolkun Isa, and to seek to expel NGO 'Society of Threatened Peoples' (STP) from the UN.  

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) NGO Committee considers applications for accreditation, as well as the suspension and withdrawal of such consultative status.  ECOSOC accreditation provides NGOs with opportunities to access UN spaces and, in some cases, make oral statements and organise events.  

China sought the withdrawal of ECOSOC accreditation from the Society of Threatened Peoples (STP) on the basis that it had enabled Isa - who they accused of terrorism - to participate in the 2018 Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII).  China had made every effort to deny Isa's entry into the Forum - unsuccessfully- and in 2017 had him expelled from the Forum despite his registration for the event.  

At the NGO Committee session, several States, including Germany and the US, made strong statements rejecting China's accusations, but Isa himself was not given an opportunity to respond.  With the Committee session webcast live, the accusations made against him during the session were widely disseminated.  

‘We've now seen several cases in the NGO Committee or ECOSOC where an individual or NGO is accused of being a ‘terrorist’ as an apparent means to punish them and, in the case of accredited NGOs, seek to expel them from the UN’, said ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw. 'In most cases they are not provided the opportunity to respond'. 

China ultimately withdrew its attempt to secure the withdrawal of STP's accreditation, but noted that its original position - including its accusations against Isa - ‘remains unchanged’.  It also stated that it would ‘closely monitor STP’s activities in the UN including in the Human Rights Council’ to ensure, amongst other things, it ‘refrain from appointing any terrorist as its representative.’

‘The Society for Threatened Peoples was effectively put on notice, as was any organization that might look to ally itself with an individual China may call a ‘terrorist’’, said Openshaw. 

Following the decision, STP's Director Ulrich Delius said, '(t)he influence of authoritarian states in the world organization continues to grow. Non-governmental organizations must not be silenced just because they draw attention to serious human rights violations'.

These threats against Isa and intimidation of STP are simply the latest in Committee practice that has prompted concern by NGOs, and calls for reform.  

‘Clear principles and processes should underpin Committee practice to ensure that individuals and NGOs are never unduly maligned. These should include providing credible evidence in the case of  accusations of terrorism', said Openshaw.

‘The Chair of the Committee must take action. We call on him to make a statement to that effect on 11 June when the report of the most recent session of the NGO Committee is due to be adopted.’ 

Contact: Eleanor Openshaw, ISHR New York Office Co-Director. 

Photo: ISHR.


Reprisals | UN and States must do more to prevent and address reprisals


The report, intended to inform the Secretary-General's annual report on cooperation with the UN, its mechanisms and representatives in the field of human rights, (aka the ‘Reprisals Report’), documents a disturbing pattern of intimidation and reprisals. It includes alleged cases of travel bans in Cuba in the context of the Universal Period Review this May; disappearances and detention of defenders and lawyers, as well as intimidation of their families in China; and the detention of women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia following engagement with the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. 

The report also cites several cases of threats and attacks made against UN experts, which, beyond the impact on these individuals themselves, constitute an attack on the Human Rights Council and the UN human rights system more broadly.

The primary duty to prevent and remedy reprisals lies with States—who must do more to prevent, investigate and ensure accountability for reprisals. For the first time this September, States will have an opportunity, to engage in an interactive dialogue when the Secretary-General’s report is presented. ‘States should use the interactive dialogue to ensure adequate attention to the Secretary-General’s report on reprisals and to share good practices, challenges and lessons learned and effectively hold States accountable’, said Madeleine Sinclair. 

The UN itself also has a duty to step up. ‘Where States fail to adequately investigate and ensure accountability, the UN must step in to ensure defenders can cooperate safely. That means UN bodies and mechanism must recognise and act in conformity with their legal obligation to respect and protect the right of all persons to communicate with them and take all necessary steps to prevent, protect against, and promote accountability for any alleged acts of intimidation or reprisals’, said Sinclair 

‘Furthermore, prominent UN experts being attacked without consequence may deter civil society from engaging with the mechanisms and is likely to increase fear in those seeking the protection of the UN,’ said Sinclair. 

In the report ISHR called on UN bodies to take a more proactive role in combating reprisals and intimidation, and among other things, urged:
•    The Human Rights Council President and Bureau to clearly outlines steps the Council will take on receipt of information about credible risks of reprisals, and to adequately monitor the very concerning pattern of attacks of a personal nature against mandate holders and Commissions of Inquiries and make clear that attacks of this kind will not be tolerated. 
•    Treaty bodies to fully adopt and implement the San Jose guidelines.
•    The Assistant Secretary-General to adopt a clear, public-facing policy on how he addresses cases of reprisals and to ensure that rights holders and victims are kept regularly appraised of the status of their case.

Access the full report here

Contact: Madeleine Sinclair, Co-Director of ISHR’s New York Office & Legal Counsel,  


Photo: Wikipedia Commons


Lettre test

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)




Browse our articles:






ISHR commences work to develop an international Declaration on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders


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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


ISHR contributes to the establishment and institution building of a new global peak body for human rights issues, the UN Human Rights Council


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


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


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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