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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Invitation25June

Has the UN Declaration made a difference to the lives of human rights defenders?

19.06.2018

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The UN Declaration on human rights defenders provides an important articulation of the right to defend rights and State obligations to ensure the right is upheld.  Subsequent resolutions and recommendations from UN human rights mechanisms have provided policy detail and a push for action. 

The new report from ISHR, the Colombian Commission of Jurists (CCJ) and the Tunisian Human Rights League (LTDH) looks at whether commitments made in NY and Geneva have been translated into positive changes in policy and practice on the ground in Colombia and Tunisia. 

‘Declarations, resolutions and recommendations mean little if rights-holders experience ongoing violations and abuses,’ said ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw. 'A primary focus of our research was on whether States had systems in place for ensuring effective implementation.’

 

Tunisia

In Tunisia, the establishment of a body focused on follow up of recommendations, bringing together people from relevant ministries, has been a key development since the revolution.  However, defenders believe it must be strengthened to be impactful. 

‘Despite good will to implement recommendations, there is still an inexplicable lack of urgency on the part of the Minister in charge of Human Rights,' noted Bassem Trifi, of the Ligue Tunisienne des Droits de l’Homme. ‘In addition, there is a lack of involvement of civil society in the formal implementation processes.’ 

Colombia

In Colombia – a country where attacks against defenders have been relentless over many years –  recent positive changes are limited in their impact by the continued lack of presence of State entities in large areas of the country.

In a recent visit to the country, the UN Secretary-General Guterres called on the Colombian government ‘to accelerate the active presence of the State across the country.’ 

‘Colombia has passed a number of measures and established mechanisms to counter violence against human rights defenders,’ said Ana Maria Rodriguez, of the Colombian Commission of Jurists. ‘Unfortunately, the State has not looked at nor adopted an integrated and comprehensive approach to protection.  The international community must continue pressing Colombia to address the structural reasons for the risks human rights defenders face.’

The report provides a raft of recommendations for State officials, as well as UN bodies and mechanism in the country and in Geneva and New York. 

‘Effective implementation of international commitments requires clear laws, policies and protocols to inform, monitor and regulate the action of State officials, effective coordination amongst State entities and, ultimately, the political will and courage to make that happen,' said Openshaw. 

The 2017 UN General Assembly resolution on human rights defenders focuses on implementation of the Declaration. There will be a General Assembly high-level event this December – under the presidency of Ecuador – where risks, challenges and good practices regarding protection will be discussed. 

 

Contact: Eleanor Openshaw, NY Co-director:  e.openshaw@ishr.ch 

Photo: Wikimeida/ Basil D. Soufi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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:

Region

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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