News

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.

19 Sep

ISHR is pleased to launch its updated Reprisals Handbook in six languages, an essential resource for all stakeholders concerned about intimidation and reprisals against those cooperating with international or regional human rights systems.

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18 Sep

Despite Chinese denials, the internment of Uyghur and Kazakh minorities in Xinjiang has been put firmly in the Human Rights Council spotlight, with statements from governments and NGOs, including ISHR, calling urgently for the closure of internment centres and the release of those detained. 

18 Sep

Without effective democratic institutions and no brake on impunity, the criminalisation of dissent in Venezuela deepens.  Describing this glaring human rights crisis, human rights defenders make an urgent call to UN experts  to keep demanding access to the country and accountability from the State.            

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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

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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:

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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