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12 Oct

Earlier today the General Assembly elected 18 new members to the Human Rights Council, the UN’s top human rights body, for the 2019-2021 term. Not only were countries that blatantly violate the required criteria among those elected, they received a substantial number of votes. 

24 Sep

The world’s top human rights body should only be composed of States who have a genuine commitment to protecting human rights. At the Human Rights Council elections to take place tomorrow in New York, UN Member States should refrain from voting for candidates that blatantly fail to uphold the highest standards of human rights and fail to fully cooperate with this Council.

11 Oct

We all possess the fundamental right to express our views, free from repression or attack. States should use Chad’s upcoming Universal Periodic Review as an opportunity to call on the government to stop the erosion of civil society space, and create a protective legislative framework for human rights defenders. 

31 Mar

Update 5 October 2018: CONGRATULATIONS to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize 2018 today! Both laureates were awarded for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict. Dr Denis Mukwege is a surgeon and one of the most prominent human and women’s rights defenders in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). ISHR spoke with him during his visit to Geneva.

02 Oct

With three countries adopting a national law for the protection of defenders in the past five years, West Africa has become a leading region on the continent. Guinea recently made some steps to possibly join them soon.

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Venezuela | Human rights defenders call on the United Nations to keep pressure on

18.09.2018

UPDATE: The Human Rights Council (HRC) has adopted a resolution calling on the UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet to investigate the grave situation in Venezuela. The resolution - led by members of the Lima Group and co-sponsored by at least 42 countries - expresses deepest concern at the serious human rights violations committed in a context of a political, economic, social and humanitarian crisis. It is the first resolution of the HRC ever to focus on Venezuela, a State that has put huge effort over the years into avoiding scrutiny at the international level, while actively seeking to weaken the UN human rights mechanisms. 

The resolution requests that the High Commissioner update the HRC on the human rights situation in Venezuela in March 2018, present a comprehensive report in June, and then provide a further update in September. In line with calls made by civil society, the HRC is urging the government to cooperate with the High Commissioner and mechanisms of the HRC, also calling upon Venezuela to accept humanitarian assistance in order to address the scarcity of food, medicine and medical supplies, the rise of malnutrition, especially among children, and the outbreak of diseases. ISHR welcomes the leadership shown by Latin American countries on this issue, and congratulates the human rights defenders who have worked so hard for this outcome, despite serious risks and the daily impact of the humanitarian crisis. Read the full text of the resolution here.

Over the last couple of years, criticism of the human rights situation in Venezuela within UN and regional fora has significantly increased, but a lack of cooperation by Venezuela with UN experts has limited the opportunities for discussion. Seizing an opportunity presented by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions’ spotlight on cases in Venezuela, a group of leading defenders have highlighted the context in which such detentions are taking place and called for action.

In a statement to the Working Group, the Venezuelan defenders note that cases of arbitrary detentions of human rights defenders and others, including social activists, students, academics, and journalists, were aimed, in part, to ‘intimidate, repress and inhibit the rest of society’. 

They are, however, just one example of attempts to crush dissent in the country.                                                       

‘Other verified practices include cases of enforced disappearance, torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment; the use of military courts to try civilians; violations of due process, and the illegitimate deprivation of liberty to people in receipt of a prison release form,’ note the defenders.

Defending human rights in Venezuela is taking place in a context of ‘persecution and discrimination’ of the population as a whole and ‘a complex humanitarian emergency’ informed by a lack of functioning democratic institutions and unrestrained impunity. 

The group of defenders call on the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions to follow up on their request to visit Venezuela, and on the Venezuelan State to accept and facilitate such a visit. 

Following the interactive dialogue the Working Group held at the current Human Rights Council session, ISHR’s Helen Nolan noted how essential it is that UN human rights experts request a visit to the country.

‘Venezuela has a very poor record of cooperation with UN experts - demonstrated yet again by its statement during the interactive dialogue. This should not deter parts of the UN system from demanding access to Venezuela to allow for the monitoring of the human rights situation there,’ said Nolan. 

Since 2003, eleven Special Procedures have put in requests to visit Venezuela, several reiterating their request up to four times. Recently Venezuela did permit access to the Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order.  However, in a statement delivered by ISHR, 82 NGOs publicly criticised the realisation of the visit for a lack of ‘time, transparency and balance’, indicating that this undermined the credibility of the conclusions. 

The Focus on Venezuela within the UN and regionally: 

The focus on Venezuela within the UN has increased considerably over the last couple of years, in response to the humanitarian and migration crisis, and a series of high-level human rights reports.  

Two reports by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) on Venezuela over the last two years have been influential, but have not been produced at the request of a UN political body.  This week, members of the Human Rights Council are negotiating a draft resolution calling for an official report from OHCHR the on the human rights situation in Venezuela.  

'This resolution would allow the Council to include discussion on Venezuela in their formal agenda as a means to keep pressure up on Venezuela,' said Nolan.   

Whether the resolution is adopted or not will be decided by 28th September.  

In regard to OHCHR, hearing the views of the new UN High Commissioner Bachelet - a Latin American - on the situation in Venezuela has been much anticipated.  Meeting with NGOs in the context of the Human Rights Council, Bachelet noted, 

'We'll continue working strongly on this.  We'll share info with the government even if they may criticise it. If there's a need to speak out, it will be done.' 

On a parallel track, earlier this month the Security Council held an informal discussion on Venezuela- the second convened by the US in two years – connecting corruption in the country with the issue of peace and security.  Several speakers stressed the importance of pursuing peaceful means to address the situation. 

At a regional level the focus on Venezuela has also significantly increased recently.  A recent Organisation of American States report finds 'reasonable grounds' for crimes against humanity committed by members of the Maduro regime. The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has opened preliminary examinations into such alleged crimes

'Whilst these initiatives have all provided an essential focus on Venezuela, none necessarily offer hope of a response to the human rights crises in the short term,' said ISHR's Eleanor Openshaw. 'So many - including human rights defenders - remain at great risk.'  

'UN and regional human rights mechanisms and State parties must take every opportunity to examine the situation in Venezuela and keep encouraging a larger and larger group of States to push the Venezuelan government toward positive change.' 

Contact:  Helen Nolan  h.nolan@ishr.ch (Geneva);  Eleanor Openshaw e.openshaw@ishr.ch (New York).

Photo:  Efecto Eco

 

 

 

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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