News

22 Sep

On 1 August 2018, ISHR filed a communication with the Commission on the Status of Women, calling for it to address U.S. visa denials of approximately 50 women invited to attend the CSW’s 62nd session last March. 

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 upcoming Human Rights Council elections, 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.

20 Sep

Human rights defenders must be able to access the UN freely and safely so that the UN can do its crucial work of monitoring countries’ compliance with human rights obligations and protecting victims from abuses. This requires States to stand up for defenders and denounce other States who attack and intimidate them. 

18 Sep

Governments should support the work of human rights defenders, not undermine it. Yet in Burundi, the situation of human rights defenders remains alarming and still deserves the Human Rights Council’s full attention. In Burundi, defenders are systematically criminalised in a deliberate and continuous attempt to silence civil society voices.

19 Sep

Last week in New York and Geneva, nine candidate States publically spoke to their pledges as an incoming Human Rights Council member for 2019 – 2021, they also faced questions on pressing human rights issues.

HRC Elections | How do the candidates for 2019 rate?

29.08.2018

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:

ELEMENT

SOURCE

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: https://www.upr-info.org

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: https://www.ishr.ch/sites/default/files/article/files/reprisals_joint_statement_sept_2015.pdf

And/or the joint statement at the 34th session of the Human Rights Council presented by Hungary:
https://www.ishr.ch/sites/default/files/documents/js_34_session_reprisals.pdf

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 s.hosseiny@ishr.ch or +41 79 596 76 75 (Geneva) and Tess McEvoy at t.mcevoy@ishr.ch (New York), International Service for Human Rights

 

 
 

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UN High Commissioner | General Assembly approves appointment of Michelle Bachelet

10.08.2018

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  p.lynch@ishr.ch or +41 76 708 4738

Photo:  Michelle Bachelet Official site

Pages

Opinion:

By Nicolas Agostini, Representative to the United Nations, DefendDefenders 

The world’s top human rights body needs members with a genuine commitment to protecting human rights. Electing States should ensure that candidates with a record of systematically violating rights and failing to cooperate with the Council receive no support in the ballot.

Browse our articles:

Region

Country

Topic

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