Mali | Groundbreaking new law strengthens legal protection of human rights defenders

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ISHR, the Malian Coalition of Human Rights Defenders, Front Line Defenders and the West African Human Rights Defenders Network welcome the adoption of a human rights defenders law in Mali. After years of efforts and a demanding legislative process, they are hailing it as an important step towards defenders' protection. The Government must now establish and resource a protection mechanism to ensure the effective implementation of this law.

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HRC36 | NGOs call on Council Members to take a stand against intimidation and reprisals

26.09.2017

Click here to read the joint NGO letter.

The resolution on reprisals being negotiated at this Council session provides a timely and much needed opportunity for the Council to take a stand on 'worsening incidences of intimidation and reprisals', as reported in the Secretary-General's most recent report on reprisals. The Secretary General stressed that ‘any act of intimidation or reprisal is absolutely unacceptable’. 

‘The detention of Ibrahim Metwally in Egypt en route to the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances session is a clear example of the dire need to act now and ensure that the right of all people to communicate with the United Nations is protected’ says ISHR’s Director Phil Lynch.

The resolution tabled by the core group – comprising Ghana, Hungary, Ireland, Fiji and Uruguay – calls on various stakeholders. This call was echoed by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Right Defenders and by Peggy Hicks from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights during a side event on this issue last week as they urged:

  • Member States, in particular Council Members, to cooperate with the Council and its mechanisms;
  • States to take measures to prevent the occurrence of intimidation and reprisals;
  • The Human Rights Council President and Bureau to address and follow up on allegations of acts of intimidation and reprisal; and
  • All stakeholders to cooperate with the Assistant Secretary General on human rights regarding the mandate assigned to him by the Secretary General.

'It is incredibly concerning that a resolution seeking to assist the Council to take a stand on the abhorrent trend of threats and attacks against those engaging with the UN, is being challenged so strongly. It is imperative that the Council adopt a strong and substantive resolution, following positive developments in the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights', said Lynch.

Beyond the grave impact on the life of persons concerned and their relatives, intimidation and reprisals also constitute an 'attack on human rights, the rule of law, and the international and regional mechanisms themselves'. This was highlighted by ISHR in a statement to the Council earlier this session, when expressing deep regret that ‘four years since the detention and subsequent death of Cao Shunli, we continue to call on the President, this Council, the Assistant Secretary General and Chin to take action on her case’.

'Any proposal to weaken the resolution should be seen in the context of ongoing, systematic efforts in a number of States to restrict civil society space, the right to communicate with the United Nations and its effectiveness and legitimacy', said ISHR’s Legal Counsel and reprisals focal point Tess McEvoy.

‘If this is how defenders engaging at the UN are treated, it incidates a disturbing picture of the situation for defenders nationally. We call on all Member States to take action to address reprisals at the UN level in an effort to protect human rights on the ground’, added McEvoy.

Contact: Tess McEvoy, t.mcevoy@ishr.ch.

Photo: U.S. Mission Photo by Eric Bridiers.

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Opinion:

ISHR Director Phil Lynch reflects on civil society's highs and lows at the Human Rights Council in 2017, and offers some thoughts on opportunities to strengthen the Council and make it more accessible, effective and protective for human rights defenders and victims of violations in the year ahead.

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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