News

27 Apr

NGOs and human rights defenders have until the end of May to submit cases of reprisals to the UN Secretary-General's report, covering the period June 2016 to May 2017.

19 Apr

In a positive development, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) today passed a resolution to webcast open sessions of the NGO Committee, unopposed. This victory for civil society participation at the UN was offset however, by an ECOSOC decision to close the door on a handful of NGOs from Turkey, or until recently based there. ECOSOC’s failure to reject Committee recommendations in these cases - which flouted established procedures - may have been unlawful. 

18 Apr

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) may act unlawfully if it accepts NGO Committee recommendations related to the accreditation of a group of Turkish NGOs and NGOs until recently based in Turkey. ECOSOC will consider these recommendations during its Coordination and Management Meeting on Wednesday morning, New York time.  

15 Apr

Webcasting the open sessions of the NGO Committee is on the agenda of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) next week.  A draft resolution for webcasting was tabled on Thursday, in name of 32 States.  This step comes after many years of calls by States and civil society to make the process for getting accreditation to the UN more transparent and accessible to NGOs.  

12 Apr

Following a series of shocks to the constitutional order in Venezuela, CIVICUS and ISHR have urged the Venezuelan government to ensure that fundamental freedoms, including that of peaceful assembly, be guaranteed.  

 

UN top rights body must demand end to criminal persecution of human rights activists

 

The UN Human Rights Council must act to reverse a global trend towards using the law to restrict and criminalise the work of human rights defenders, the International Service for Human Rights said today.

‘Around the world there is an alarming growth in the enactment and abuse of laws to restrict human rights activism,’ said Michael Ineichen of ISHR.

‘In the last months alone, Russia and the Ukraine have moved laws to criminalise so-called “homosexual propaganda”, Egypt has approved a law severely restricting public demonstrations, and Indonesia has proposed a bill curtailing the legitimate activities of non-government organisations,’ Mr Ineichen said.

According to Mr Ineichen a recent report by the UN expert on human rights defenders, Margaret Sekkaggya, further demonstrated that many governments use the legal system to restrict, intimidate and harass human rights defenders and undermine their work.

‘The UN expert’s report shows that the legal system is used and abused in a wide range of ways to target human rights defenders. This ranges from laws which restrict NGOs from receiving foreign funding, to a reliance on vague notions of “public morals” to curtail advocacy on issues such as sexual and reproductive health rights.’

‘This is despite the fact that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders impose legal obligations on states to protect human rights defenders and ensure that any limitations on their activities are strictly necessary, reasonable and proportionate.’

In response to this report, the UN Human Rights Council – the world’s peak human rights body which is currently meeting in Geneva – is considering a resolution calling for the elimination of laws which restrict the work of human rights defenders and the passage of laws which ensure that they are able to fully exercise their fundamental rights to freedom of expression, assembly, association and peaceful protest.

‘The Council should prove its value as the UN’s top human rights body and its support for human rights defenders by adopting this important resolution by consensus,’ said Mr Ineichen.

The resolution, being negotiated over the coming 10 days, is expected to be adopted on 21 March 2013. Unsurprisingly, initial consultations have shown that states with the most restrictive laws on their books are lobbying to oppose the resolution.

‘The diversity of situations in which governments misuse the legislative or judicial system to crush criticism as part of a more widespread campaign against human rights defenders underscores the need for concerted action by the international community’, Mr Ineichen concluded.

ISHR’s statement to the UN Human Rights Council is available here.

Contact: Michael Ineichen, Programme Manager, International Service for Human Rights, on  m.ineichen@ishr.ch / @ineichenM or +41 78 827 77 86.

Opinion: Ambassador Gerard Corr, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations

 

During this Human Rights Council Session we might remember and draw inspiration from human rights defenders in countries around the world who act to defend the voiceless and, in so doing, themselves become voices for their communities.  Many of them work tirelessly for the realisation of those words affirmed almost 65 years ago in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, that ‘all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.’ They go about their work not because they will receive admiration or even recognition for it, but because of their conviction that human rights are not bestowed upon us as a matter of privilege, but are inherent in each and every person simply by being human.  The protection of human rights defenders and ensuring an enabling environment for their work is fundamental to ensuring the promotion and protection of all human rights.

This has been a long standing priority for Ireland, as we firmly believe their important and legitimate work enables civil society to grow and flourish.  Human rights defenders are a critical dynamic in helping to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights. The challenge for governments is to realise their potential as facilitators and advocates of empowerment of people and communities. 

Ireland has a long tradition of supporting and funding the protection of human rights defenders.  We actively promote the EU 2004 Guidelines on human rights defenders and have also developed complementary guidelines for our embassies and diplomatic missions on human rights defenders. These guidelines describe practical steps that diplomatic missions can take to support human rights defenders and to seek to ensure that embassies properly monitor the situation of defenders abroad.  Through our overseas development policy, we promote the participation of human rights defenders in developing countries in the planning, implementation and monitoring of their country’s national development and poverty reduction strategies.

Governments have a key responsibility for creating the conditions that enable civil society to grow and flourish and ensure the protection of human rights defenders.  This includes the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and the right to freedom of expression.  In addition, the state can create positive conditions through legislation and regulation that support the role of civil society and encourage citizens’ participation. However, the introduction of legal, administrative and other restrictions in many countries undermines the work of human rights defenders and restricts the space for civil society.  Legislation inconsistent with international norms and the misapplication of legislation and misuse of the legal process has often had the effect of criminalizing the work of human rights defenders.  

Ensuring access to resources, including financial resources in order to carry out their important and legitimate work is vital to the work of human rights defenders.  Freedom of association is central to this work and legal, administrative and funding restrictions placed on individuals and associations working for the purpose of defending human rights violate that right. 

Restrictions on funding in particular undermines the credibility and value of the UN human rights structures and system - treaty-bodies, Special Procedures, Universal Periodic Review, the Human Rights Council itself - which are underpinned by the participation of civil society actors and human rights defenders through their contributions of expertise, awareness-raising, monitoring and reporting, development of new standards, mechanisms, and institutions as well as mobilisation of public support.

In order to face the challenges which lie before us, it is important for Government and human rights defenders to work together. This session presents us with an opportunity to send a strong message through the resolution led by Norway on protecting human rights defenders; that the Council will not stand for the intimidation, harassment and persecution of human rights defenders or accept undue restriction of their activities through legal, administrative or any other measures.

Ambassador Gerard Corr, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations

International community must speak out on human rights abuses and reprisals in Sri Lanka

 

(Geneva - 11 March 2013) - The world's peak human rights body should unequivocally condemn the latest effort by the government of Sri Lanka to silence dissent and intimidate human rights defenders, the International Service for Human Rights said today.

The UN Human Rights Council is currently meeting in Geneva and high on its agenda is a US-led push for credible and independent investigations into war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by both government and Tamil Tiger forces in the closing months of the civil war in 2009. A UN panel of experts estimates that over 40,000 civilians died during the final stages of that brutal conflict.

In articles published in the Sri Lankan press yesterday, a senior Sri Lankan government minister is reported to have said that plans are in place to arrest opposition parliamentarians and human rights advocates who are currently in Geneva lobbying for international support for the US-led accountability resolution. The reports cite the Minister as saying that the advocates are being closely surveilled by Sri Lankan intelligence forces and that they will be arrested on their return from Geneva if they "have made statements detrimental to the unitary character of the state".

According to ISHR Director Phil Lynch, "This latest attempt to intimidate human rights defenders is a continuation of a disturbing pattern, which has included targeting journalists and even impeaching a chief justice."

"Since the end of the war in 2009 the Sri Lankan government has systematically sought to silence dissent and the voices of human rights defenders calling for proper investigations and an end to impunity," Mr Lynch said.

According to Mr Lynch, Sri Lanka's systematic intimidation of human rights defenders at home is reflected in the government's conduct at the UN. "Last time human rights defenders from Sri Lanka came to the UN to support calls for an independent investigation into alleged war crimes a cabinet Minister personally threatened to 'break their limbs'." 

At the current session of the Council Sri Lanka has called for the UN accreditation of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to be suspended or withdrawn for deigning to screen a film, No Fire Zone, which graphically documents human rights atrocities in the north of the country.

"The time has come for the international community to loudly and unequivocally condemn this pattern of reprisals against human rights defenders," said Mr Lynch.

"As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has himself said, 'States have a responsibility to respect human rights and protect those who advocate for fundamental rights. When they fail to do so, the United Nations must stand up and speak out.' As the UN’s peak human rights body, the UN Human Rights Council must stand up and speak out."

"Speaking out in defence of human rights, democracy and the rule of law is itself a fundamental human right," said Mr Lynch. "When a state moves to systematically deny and violate this right the international community – both collectively and individually – has a responsibility to act. In the case of Sri Lanka, that time has come."

Contact: Phil Lynch, Director of the International Service for Human Rights, on p.lynch@ishr.ch or + 41 76 708 4738

UN Human Rights Council must act to stop attacks and reprisals on human rights defenders

 

(Geneva - 11 March 2013) - The world's peak human rights body should take decisive action to prevent intimidation, attacks and reprisals against human rights defenders, the International Service for Human Rights said today.

“Retaliation against human rights defenders for speaking out against human rights abuses is a widespread and popular method employed by governments intolerant of criticism,” said Michael Ineichen of ISHR.

“In recent months, we have witnessed a crackdown on bloggers in Vietnam, an escalation of attacks against journalists in Pakistan, Syria and Russia, and Sri Lankan attempts to silence human rights defenders at the UN,” Mr Ineichen said.

The UN Human Rights Council is currently meeting in Geneva and will today discuss a report outlining ways to prevent and address intimidation and reprisals against those who cooperate with the Council and other UN representatives and bodies.

According to Mr Ineichen, while the UN and many member states have spoken out on the issue of reprisals, they have so far failed to take adequate and decisive action.

“The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has himself said that when States fail to respect human rights and protect human rights defenders, ‘the United Nations must stand up and speak out.’ As the UN’s peak human rights body, the Human Rights Council must unequivocally condemn reprisals and hold states to account for all attacks against human rights defenders," Mr Ineichen said.

According to ISHR Director Phil Lynch, reprisals against human rights defenders who seek to hold their governments to account at the UN are particularly concerning, amounting to an attack on international human rights, the rule of law and the UN itself.

“We are appalled by recent reports in the Sri Lankan press that plans are in place to arrest opposition parliamentarians and human rights advocates who are currently in Geneva lobbying for international support for a UN resolution on the investigation of war crimes in Sri Lanka,” Mr Lynch said.

"This latest attempt to intimidate human rights defenders is a continuation of a disturbing pattern. Last time human rights defenders from Sri Lanka came to the UN to support calls for an independent investigation into alleged war crimes a cabinet Minister personally threatened to 'break their limbs'," Mr Lynch said.

"Speaking out in defence of human rights, democracy and the rule of law is itself a fundamental human right," said Mr Lynch. "When a state moves to systematically deny and violate this right the international community – both collectively and individually – has a responsibility to act."

  • ISHR’s statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council is available here

 

Contacts
Michael Ineichen (French, German, English) +41 78 827 77 86 • m.ineichen@ishr.ch
Phil Lynch (English) +41 76 708 47 38 • p.lynch@ishr.ch

Human rights defenders must be able to freely interact with human rights mechanisms

 

(Geneva – 13 March 2013) Human rights defenders must be able to communicate their concerns to human rights mechanisms without fear for their safety, says the International Service for Human Rights.  

‘The Declaration on Human Rights Defenders is unequivocal on the point that everyone has the right to communicate with international human rights bodies’, said Heather Collister of ISHR.  

‘Unfortunately human rights defenders who expose human rights abuses at regional or UN human rights bodies face retaliation from governments intolerant of criticism’, said Ms Collister.

Ms Collister’s comments come as ISHR launches a handbook on reprisals for human rights defenders. Drawing on ISHR’s expertise at the forefront of this issue at both UN and regional levels, the handbook is a timely tool for human rights defenders who fear reprisals through their interaction with human rights mechanisms.

The handbook comes as a group of over 50 states from all regions of the world made a statement to the UN Human Rights Council condemning reprisals against human rights defenders as an attack on the UN itself.

Ms Collister added, ‘It would be extremely detrimental to the effective functioning of both regional and UN human rights systems if, as a result of the risks faced, human rights defenders were to avoid interacting with them. There is a real need for facts about on-the-ground situations so that the human rights systems can act appropriately and effectively in response to developments.’

‘Defenders need however to be aware of the risks they face through interacting with human rights mechanisms, and to be informed about the avenues available to them that could mitigate those risks.’

‘ISHR’s handbook will assist those defenders who fear reprisals as a result of their interaction with the UN or regional human rights mechanisms, and who want to learn how they could leverage those mechanisms to generate some degree of protection.’

ISHR’s handbook on reprisals is available here

Contact: Heather Collister, Human Rights Officer at the International Service for Human Rights, on + 41 79 920 3805 • h.collister@ishr.ch .

UN High Commissioner calls for end to 'brutal reprisals' against human rights defenders

 

(Geneva - 14 March 2013) - Human rights defenders play a critical role in the promotion of human rights and must be protected from worsening attacks and reprisals, according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay.

Speaking at a diplomatic reception hosted by the International Service for Human Rights, the High Commissioner said, "Human rights defenders often face brutal reprisals. Women human rights defenders in particular face specific threats, because in many parts of the world, standing up and speaking out defies gender norms that prescribe women’s passivity."

The High Commissioner also emphasised the critical role that human rights defenders and NGOs have played in advancing accountability and the rule of law, including by addressing "violence against women as a human rights violation" and by giving "new recognition to discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity".

In her remarks, the High Commissioner recognised the "fundamental importance of human rights activists" and commended the International Service for Human Rights as "an organisation that provides invaluable contributions to the support of human rights defenders around the world".

Welcoming the speech, ISHR Director Phil Lynch thanked the High Commissioner and her office for their strong, principled and consistent support for human rights defenders.

"We thank the High Commissioner for standing up and speaking out for human rights defenders, particularly defenders at risk," said Mr Lynch.

"Around the world there are proliferating examples of the work of human rights defenders being unreasonably restricted and regulated, of human rights defenders being subject to intimidation and attacks, and of human rights defenders being subject to reprisal for standing up and speaking out."

"We call on all UN bodies and governments around the world to follow the High Commissioner's principled lead by supporting the critical work of human rights defenders."

The High Commissioner's speech is available here.

A new ISHR manual on preventing and redressing reprisals against human rights defenders is available here.

Contact: Phil Lynch, Director, International Service for Human Rights, on p.lynch@ishr.ch • +41 76 708 4738

Council reviews countries that seriously violate human rights

 

The Human Rights Council this week turned its attention to serious human rights violations in countries around the world. The Council has mandated experts to monitor the situations in Syria, Myanmar, Iran, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and report back at regular intervals to States. All these experts are due to have their mandates renewed through resolutions to be adopted on 21 and 22 March. The Council relies on the information received from these experts to take appropriate action in response to developments on the ground.

Lack of access for UN experts

In the cases of the commission of inquiry into the situation of Syria, and the Special Rapporteurs set up to monitor the situations in Iran and the DPRK, access to the countries concerned has never been granted by the authorities.

The lack of cooperation by these countries with the UN system came in for criticism by other States. Estonia and the US ‘deeply regretted’ the DPRK’s refusal to recognise the Special Rapporteur, while New Zealand urged cooperation with the Special Rapporteur as a means to guarantee the rights of its citizens.

Qatar and the EU denounced the Syrian regime’s denial of access to the commission of inquiry. Japan, Slovenia, the Netherlands, and Switzerland reiterated the appeal to Syrian authorities to allow the commission to enter Syria.

As for Iran, the US remained concerned that Iran refused access for the Special Rapporteur. Slovakia, France, the US, New Zealand, Belgium, and Macedonia all urged Iran to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur.

In contrast, Myanmar has granted access to the Special Rapporteur set up to monitor its own situation, and has extended an invitation to OHCHR to open an office in the country, an initiative that was supported during the dialogue by Germany, France, Demark, and the US.

Reprisals against human rights defenders who cooperate with the UN experts

The Special Rapporteur on the situation in Iran, Mr Ahmed Shaheed, noted that he relies on cross-checked evidence submitted to him by sources both inside and outside the country. He criticised Iran for, among other things, imprisoning people for providing him with information, including five Kurdish prisoners who have been charged with ‘contacting the office of the Special Rapporteur’.

UN experts attacked by States

Mr Shaheed was also attacked by Iran in the Human Rights Council, and his report was criticised as the product of an ‘unhealthy exercise’ initiated by the US and European allies, and as a result non-objective, unfounded, and in contradiction to the mandate of the Special Rapporteur.

The President of the Human Rights Council, Mr Remigiusz Henczel, intervened to reprimand Iran for its derogatory remarks. Mr Henczel stated that no personal attacks against the Rapporteur should be made, adding that everyone has the right to express his or her views about the report, but that this should remain with the accepted framework of ensuring respect.

Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba, the DPRK, Belarus, Zimbabwe, and Syria criticised country-specific mandates, holding that these mechanisms come about as a result of politicking. The DPRK accused the Special Rapporteur of using false material in his report, alleging that his information was fabricated and invented by hostile forces and was nothing less than a political plot to sabotage the DPRK’s socialist system under pretext of human rights protection. Syria accused the commission of inquiry of ignoring the geo-political situation in the region, and of emphasising partial information received from untrustworthy sources.

Calls for accountability

The need to ensure accountability for the violations in these countries was a common theme throughout the discussions. Mr Paulo Pinheiro, Chair of the commission of inquiry into the situation in Syria, held that the initiative by the UN and the Arab League Joint Special Representative for Syria, stating that the UN would be willing to facilitate negotiations between the parties, was a step in the right direction. However he called urgently for a sustained diplomatic initiative and a political settlement, including referral to justice for those responsible for grave violations. The commission’s report states that the Security Council should take appropriate action to secure justice, including possible referral to the International Criminal Court.

This call was reiterated by 63 countries from all regions of the world in a statement read by Libya, which emphasised the imperative need for accountability if sustainable peace is to be secured.

Calls for accountability were also made in the case of the DPRK. The Special Rapporteur on the DPRK called on member States of the Council to set up a mechanism of inquiry with the ability to carry out more in-depth investigations into the situation in the country. In response to this call, Syria accused the Council of ‘throwing sovereignty out of the window’, and of blocking efforts to towards sincere dialogue and interactive cooperation.

The Rapporteur listed nine key patterns of violations documented by the UN: violation of right to food, torture and other cruel treatment, arbitrary detention, violation of human rights associated with prison camps, discrimination, violation of freedom of expression, violation of right to life, restrictions on freedom of movement, and enforced disappearances. Although the majority of States condemned the atrocities in the DPRK, Belarus pushed the point of view that what the DPRK required was ‘technical assistance’.

Technical assistance

In contrast to the reports on the other countries, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar commended the country’s progress, praising the release of over 800 prisoners of conscience. However, the Rapporteur stated that on-going torture needs to stop, and that vulnerable people’s situations have not improved. Thailand on behalf of ASEAN stated that they welcomed positive developments, encouraged Myanmar to seek assistance, and reaffirmed ASEAN’s commitment to extend help. Thailand also made its own statement supporting Myanmar, as did Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. China noted that the government has taken effective measures to calm down the situation.

Heather Collister is a Human Rights Officer. Carlen Zhang is an Intern with the International Service for Human Rights. To follow developments in the UPR and at the Human Rights Council as they happen, follow us on Twitter: @ISHRglobal.

Opinion: "Reprisals against human rights defenders must stop"

 

By Remigiusz Achilles Henczel, President of the Human Rights Council

In my inaugural statement delivered on 10 December 2012 on the occasion of my election as the Human Rights Council’s President for 2013 I stressed the vital role played by civil society and national human rights institutions in enriching the Council’s work and exposing it to a vigilant reality check.

Indeed, civil society’s ongoing and strong engagement is of the utmost importance not only for the Council, but also for the whole UN human rights promotion and protection system. This special role is widely recognized in a number of the UN documents, including the Council’s founding resolution 60/251. As stipulated in this resolution the Council shall work in cooperation with Governments, regional organizations, national human rights institutions and civil society.

Civil society and national human rights institutions are essential in providing the Council with reliable and updated information directly from the ground. Without this information, the Council would not be as effective given its reliance on information provided by civil society. One ought not forget civil society’s engagement in the daily Council’s work through its participation in general debates, panels and informal consultations either. During my term as the Human Rights Council’s President, I will remain deeply committed to ensuring the fullest possible participation of civil society in the Council.

In that context, any instances of reprisals against persons or groups cooperating with UN mechanisms are unacceptable and must end. They not only violate human rights, but also undermine the UN human rights protection system, which in its work relies to a large extent on information provided by civil society and human rights defenders. All alleged cases of reprisals should be investigated without any delay and perpetrators should be brought to justice. It is the responsibility of the international community, particularly the Human Rights Council and the UN treaty bodies, to address this problem in a swift and effective manner. Building on the experience of my predecessor, Ambassador Laura Dupuy Lasserre from Uruguay, I will continue to speak out strongly against any cases of reprisals, particularly if they happen here in Geneva.

I shall count on civil society’s support and cooperation over the course of this year.

Human Rights Council must take an unequivocal stand against traditional values

 

(Geneva - 18 March 2013) - The UN’s peak human rights body must unequivocally clarify that under no circumstances can human rights be restricted to protect so-called ‘traditional values’, the International Service for Human Rights said today.

‘Traditional values often impose patriarchal, mono-cultural norms that discriminate against minority and marginalised individuals, be they indigenous people, persons with a disability, individuals with a non-conforming gender identity, or religious minorities’, said Heather Collister of ISHR. 

‘The Human Rights Council’s own expert advisory body has clearly set out that States have a responsibility to take sustained and systematic action to eliminate stereotypes and negative, harmful and discriminatory practices justified by traditional values’, Ms Collister said.

According to Ms Collister, the traditional values agenda represents one of the biggest threats to the implementation of universal human rights standards today.

‘The traditional values agenda is often promoted as one of inclusivity – it is far from being so. Instead traditional values are used by those who want to maintain the status quo at the expense of marginalised and disenfranchised groups’, Ms Collister said.

The traditional values agenda has been gaining increased traction at the Council and elsewhere. The Commission on the Status of Women has just ended in New York with difficult negotiations towards the adoption of an outcome document, including attempts by the Holy See, Iran, and Russia to remove language asserting that religion, custom, and tradition cannot be used as an excuse by governments to avoid their human rights obligations.

Meanwhile at the Council, Egypt together with cosponsors including the Russian Federation, last week tabled a resolution on ‘the protection of the family’, a clear attempt to promote one ‘traditional’ form of the family over others. Latin American and Western States emphasised that any resolution on the family must take account of the varied forms that family can take.

Ms Collister said, ‘The Human Rights Council, as the world’s peak human rights body, has a responsibility to ensure that it does not promote an agenda that further marginalises and harms vulnerable groups. The Council must take a strong stand for the universality of human rights and make clear that the notion of ‘traditional values’ has no place within the universal human rights framework.’

ISHR’s statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council is available here

Contact: Heather Collister +41 79 920 3805 • h.collister@ishr.ch

UN adopts landmark resolution on protection of human rights defenders

 

(Geneva - 21 March 2013) - The use and abuse of national law to impair, restrict and criminalise the work of human rights defenders is a contravention of international law and must end, according to a landmark resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council today.

The resolution, which was led by Norway and adopted by consensus, calls on all states to support the work of human rights defenders and to protect them from harassment, threats and attacks.

'The work of human rights defenders is essential to uphold democracy and the rule of law,' said Michael Ineichen of the International Service for Human Rights.

Introducing the resolution, Norway's Ambassador to the UN, Steffen Kongstad, said he was 'gravely concerned by the serious nature of risks faced by human rights defenders' and called on all states to 'facilitate their work' and ensure it is not 'criminalised or stigmatised'.

'A safe and enabling environment for the work of human rights defenders should be a fundamental objective of any society,' Ambassador Kongstad said.

ISHR's Michael Ineichen welcomed the resolution and praised Norway's leadership on its development. ISHR was closely involved with the development of the text, spearheading input from human rights defenders from around the world.

'The adoption of this resolution is a strong response from the world's peak human rights body to an alarming global growth in the enactment and abuse of laws to restrict human rights activism,’ said Mr Ineichen.

'The resolution is a clear affirmation that national law must conform with international human rights law. The resolution demands the amendment of national laws which target human rights defenders, including laws which restrict NGOs from receiving foreign funding, which criminalise "homosexual propaganda", or which limit freedom of expression or assembly on discriminatory grounds.'

Mr Ineichen highlighted that the resolution is consistent with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, both of which impose legal obligations on states to protect human rights defenders and ensure that any limitations on their activities are strictly necessary, reasonable and proportionate.

Contact: Michael Ineichen, International Service for Human Rights, on m.ineichen@ishr.ch or +41 78 827 7786

Article year: 
2013

Pages

Opinion:

Human rights defenders play a key role in advancing the rule of law, yet they are often at risk because of their work. Sierra Leone has the potential to show international leadership by becoming the first anglophone country in West Africa to enact a specific human rights defender protection law, writes Irish Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Her Excellency Catherine Campbell.

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