News

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.

Reprisals | CEDAW endorses San Jose Guidelines on Intimidation or Reprisals

12.09.2018

Human rights defenders must be able to access the UN freely and safely so that the UN can in turn do its crucial work of monitoring countries’ compliance with human rights obligations and protecting victims from abuses. At its last session held in July 2018, CEDAW endorsed the San Jose Guidelines. These guidelines are crucial for human rights defenders. Reports of reprisals and intimidation against defenders engaging with the UN are on the rise and treaty bodies must do more to address them.

The Guidelines emphasise the responsibility of States to avoid committing acts of intimidation and reprisals, and to ‘prevent, protect against, investigate and ensure accountability’. The Guidelines then spell out actions for UN treaty bodies to take when addressing reprisals, including raising concerns with State officials and relevant UN and regional human rights mechanisms, security measures on UN grounds, and exposing instances of reprisals through the media.

The Guidelines also call for focal points to be appointed in each treaty body to address allegations of intimidation or reprisals. The role of focal points is to assess allegations and determine the appropriate course of action. The CEDAW appointed Nahla Haidar and Gladys Acosta as its focal points.

The Guidelines were initially endorsed by the annual meeting of treaty body chairpersons in 2015. Until now, CEDAW was one of two United Nations treaty bodies that had not yet endorsed the Guidelines. The  Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) is now the only treaty body not to have endorsed the Guidelines.

Madeleine Sinclair, ISHR’s Legal Counsel and New York Office Director, praised CEDAW’s endorsement: 'Endorsing the Guidelines is an important step toward ensuring that defenders can engage with the UN without fearing attacks or intimidation, and all treaty bodies must not only endorse them, but also implement them to the fullest extent', Sinclair said. She added ‘It is crucial that all treaty bodies commit to the Guidelines and addressing reprisals and intimidation to the fullest extent—defenders engaging with the UN system should not face different risks depending on which treaty body they engage with’.

Contact: Madeleine Sinclair at m.sinclair@ishr.ch.

Photo: UN Photo Martine Perret

Flyer_WHRDsideevent_HRC39

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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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