News

10 Dec
Rainbow flag photo credit: Common Wikimedia Ludovic Bertron

ISHR and ILGA have updated their factsheets on different UN experts – check out the references to LGBTI persons and recommendations that these Special Procedures have made.

14 May

In light of a further smear campaign targeting human rights defenders in the Philippines, a joint NGO statement calls for an international investigation into extrajudicial killings in the 'war on drugs', and for an end to attacks on human rights defenders, independent media, and democratic institutions.

06 May

Defenders bring crucial information and perspectives regarding human rights situations on the ground and international and regional mechanisms depend on that knowledge and input to make informed decisions. However, many defenders still face unacceptable risks and are unable to cooperate safely with the UN and regional human rights bodies and mechanisms.

10 May

During the 64th session of the African Commission, ISHR delivered a statement highlighting the difficult environment in which defenders of people on the move work in Africa and shed a light on the violations committed by the Egyptian government against national defenders, as well as those who dared to engage with the African Commission.

09 May

On 22 April, ISHR, in collaboration with the Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network, organised a panel during the NGO Forum. The panel aimed at giving an overview of the situation of defenders working on the rights of people on the move in Africa, the restrictions they faced and the correlation with the current tendency of states to restrict civic space. 

GA 73 | Key voting updates to human rights resolutions

18.12.2018

On 17 December, the General Assembly plenary took place to vote on human rights resolutions previously passed by the Third Committee. To see ISHR’s prior coverage of these resolutions, see the Third Committee Wrap Up piece here.

The freedom of peaceful assembly and association resolution passed with much stronger support. Eleven States joined in favour of the resolution - more than in the previous vote, bringing the total number to 154 in favour, 0 against, and 35 abstentions. New supporters included South Sudan, Djibouti, Mauritania and Eritrea

‘It is very encouraging for us that more States joined in supporting the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, rights vital for the work of defenders,’ Eleanor Openshaw, ISHR’s New York Office Co-Director, stated.

The resolution on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions also gained support. The resolution gained 15 States voting in favour, bringing the number of votes to 125 in favour, 0 against, and 60 abstentions.

However, despite the support, Sudan took the floor to make a statement on its vote of abstention. Basing its decision on the language regarding the protections based on sexual orientation and identity, Sudan stated that in no other resolution is there language on gender relating to killings. 

‘It’s unfortunate that States won’t support these protections,’ lamented Tess McEvoy, ISHR Legal Counsel and Programme Manager. ‘While the resolution passed with more support, there is still more work to be done in this regard,’ she added. 

Other resolutions passed, such as the Human Rights Council Report resolution with a vote of 121 in favour, 4 against and 60 abstentions.

As for the child, early and forced marriage resolution, the resolution itself passed without a vote, but it also experienced some trouble. A vote was requested by the United States for the deletion of preambular paragraph 23 and operative paragraphs 14, 17 and 18. 

The United States cited its concern with the definition of ‘sexual and reproductive health,’ stating that it does not recognise abortion as a method of family planning. 

The paragraphs were overwhelmingly supported with 134 votes in favour, 2 against and 32 abstentions. As a result of the vote, the United States disassociated itself from these paragraphs. 

There were no votes on the bullying and the rights of the child resolution. 

The resolutions on Myanmar and Stevastopol were not voted on, as they are still being considered by the 5th Committee, which handles monetary budget issues regarding resolutions.

 

Contact: Eleanor Openshaw at e.openshaw@ishr.ch

Photo Credit: IIP Photo Archive.

Campaign Management Advert

Business | Major companies say human rights defenders and civic freedoms are essential for profitable business

10.12.2018

From the murder of Jamal Khashoggi to politically-motivated charges against Cambodian trade unionists, attacks on human rights defenders and civic freedoms across the world increasingly worry the business community.

The statement is the first of its kind, with supporters ranging across the mining, apparel, banking, jewellery and footwear sectors, and stresses that when human rights defenders are under attack, so is sustainable and profitable business.

On the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the statement sends a clear message that the current wave of attacks is unacceptable for leading companies and investors.

Unilever, adidas, Primark, ABN AMRO, Anglo American, Leber Jeweler, Domini and the Investors Alliance on Human Rights are among the supporters.

These business and investors “affirm the crucial role of human rights defenders and [their] firm commitment to the protection of civic freedoms” and recognise the responsibility of businesses and investors to respect human rights defenders. Supporters of the statement commit “to find effective ways business can positively contribute to situations where civic freedoms and human rights defenders are under threat”.

As Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever & chair of The B Team, said: “Given the increasing vulnerability of human rights defenders and shrinking space where they can operate safely, business has a role and a responsibility to defend and promote fundamental rights and freedoms.”

We stand firmly behind these principles, which are aligned with our own published approach to safeguarding human rights defenders and our longstanding belief in free, fair and open societies, where freedom of expression and assembly is the norm, not the exception”, said William Anderson, vice president social and environmental affairs Asia Pacific at the Adidas Group, the first company in the world to issue a stand-alone policy on human rights defenders.

''ABN AMRO is very happy to receive positive signals from clients after sharing our support for this statement. Many of our clients - especially NGOs - experience restrictions on their civic freedoms as well as access to financial services. This problem can only be effectively addressed in collaboration between governments, civil society and business”, said Maria Anne van Dijk, global head of environmental, social and ethical risk and policy at ABN AMRO.

Nearly six in ten countries are seriously restricting people’s fundamental freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression, while only 3% of people on the planet live in countries with truly ‘open civic space’, according to research by CIVICUS.

The work of civil society and human rights defenders to protect fundamental freedoms continues to be undermined by governments and actors in the private sector through a range of tactics, including threats and physical attacks, judicial harassment, burdensome administrative requirements, and limitations on the receipt of funding, among others.

Today’s statement stresses the crucial role of human rights defenders in identifying risks or problems in business activities, encouraging due diligence and in the provision of remedy.

Phil Bloomer, Executive Director of the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC), said: "Hats off to these ground-breaking companies and investors. In a context of worsening attacks on civic freedoms worldwide, this international group of companies speaks up to protect civic freedoms, human rights defenders, and rule of law. This is vital to workers and communities and wider society. It is also crucial to stable, profitable, and sustainable business. Other responsible businesses and investors should follow rapidly. There is no time to lose.”

Michael Ineichen, Programme Director of the International Service for Human Rights, said: “Human rights defenders work to ensure that every person has access to quality education, a decent job, secure housing, a healthy environment and a doctor when we’re sick. By standing alongside human rights defenders, leading companies protect this critical contribution to a more positive future.”

A recent report from The B Team found clear evidence that limits on important civic freedoms are linked to negative economic outcomes. Countries with higher degrees of respect for civic rights experience higher economic growth rates as well as higher levels of human development.

These ideas are further explored in a recent guidance document released by BHRRC and the International Service for Human Rights. It sets out the normative, business, and moral cases for action, and proposes a decision framework to guide companies on how to support civic freedoms and defenders.

Contact: Michael Ineichen, Programme Director, m.ineichen@ishr.ch, +41 78 827 77 86 

BIznet statement

LGBTI l New report highlights challenges faced by LGBTI defenders deprived of liberty

04.12.2018

ISHR welcomes the new monitoring guide published by The Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT): ‘Towards The Effective Protection Of LGBTI Persons Deprived of Their Liberty: A Monitoring Guide’ It is designed for any institution or organisation that carries out visits and inspections to places of deprivation of liberty, such as prisons, police custody and immigration detention facilities.  

‘ISHR is happy to have contributed to the development of this important tool, which highlights the situation of human rights defenders working to protect the rights of LGBTI persons,’ says Pooja Patel of ISHR.

This guide intends to strengthen the capacities of detention monitoring bodies – including National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs), National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), international and regional bodies, and civil society organisations – to identify and address risk factors contributing to torture and other ill-treatment of LGBTI persons deprived of liberty. It raises awareness of specific risks of abuse and discrimination these individuals face.

Specific risks for LGBTI defenders

The guide makes references to the Yogyakarta Principles and the Yogyakarta Principles plus 10 throughout the text, and underlines the aggravated forms of violence and discrimination faced by human rights defenders working on issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity. It discusses LGBTI defenders in three particular contexts:

  • the impact of criminalisation of LGBT persons,
  • discriminatory profiling and violence during arrest or apprehension, and
  • the role of law enforcement during public demonstrations involving LGBTI persons.

ISHR’s Helen Nolan explains that the guide emphasises the fact that threats and risks faced by LGBTI defenders are exacerbated in countries that criminalise same-sex relations and non-conforming gender identities or expression, as defenders may face harassment, prosecution and imprisonment only because of their work and activism.

‘Human rights defenders who are LGBTI themselves are doubly exposed, as they are not only targeted because of their work, but also because of who they are,’ says Nolan.

The new guide stresses that LGBTI individuals are at greater risk of being arbitrarily arrested, harassed, extorted, and subjected to excessive use of force by police, than the general population. Risks are further magnified for LGBTI human rights defenders.

Patel also highlights the guide’s discussion of the role and duties of law enforcement during public demonstrations involving LGBTI persons.

‘We are pleased to see that the guide underlines the duty of law enforcement officers to take appropriate measures to ensure the protection of persons participating in LGBTI demonstrations, such as pride events,’ says Patel.  

Read the full report here.

History and impact 2017

Facilitated by ISHR and Arc International, a group of 33 international experts release the Yogyakarta Principles Plus 10, an authoritative set of new principles on international human rights law relating to sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics, including in relation to LGBTI rights defenders.

History and impact 2018

Parliament of Mali adopts national law on the protection of defenders, following two-year advocacy campaign and provision of substantial technical assistance by ISHR and our local partner, the Coalition Malienne des Défenseurs des Droits Humains.

Donate | It's time to give back to human rights defenders

27.11.2018

They work to ensure every person has access to quality education, a decent job, secure housing, a healthy environment and a doctor when we’re sick.

They work to ensure that none of us is harassed, imprisoned or even killed because of what we say or believe, who we love, or the colour of our skin.

Supporting these defenders for greater impact on the ground – and protecting them against those governments, corporations and fundamentalists whose currency is prejudice, profit or privilege – is what ISHR does best. We consult closely with defenders. We speak out and pursue accountability when they are attacked. We push for laws and mechanisms to protect them at the national level. And we ensure that the UN human rights system is safe, accessible and effective for them.

Watch the video below to learn more about our mission and impact!

All this work servicing defenders worldwide is only possible with the support of people like you, who are passionate about human rights. On Giving Tuesday, what better way to contribute to a better world than making a donation to help fund our training and mentorship programme?

Making human rights a reality for all depends on the work of defenders. With freedom and dignity under attack, the work of ISHR and your invaluable support have never been more important. 

It’s time to #GiveBack.

Pages

Opinion:

Après les performances décevantes des leaders européen.nes ces dernières semaines, y compris lors de la 40ème session du Conseil des droits de l'Homme, à Genève, le dialogue Union Européenne(UE)-Chine sur les droits de l'Homme qui aura lieu le 1er avril, sera la dernière chance pour l’UE de mettre l’accent sur les droits humains en Chine et d'assurer la transmission de ce message lors du sommet de Bruxelles du 9 avril.

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