11 May

NGOs and human rights defenders have until the 18th of May to submit cases of reprisals to the UN Secretary-General's report, covering the period June 2017 to May 2018.

15 May

By Urgent Latin Fund for Latin America and the Caribbean UAF-LAC

As they confront not only powerful economic and political interests, but the systematic and specific violence against them, women environmental activists face particular risks, threats and attacks, such as sexual violence and other gender-related offenses. However, documentation on this issue is insufficient and lacks of a feminist and intersectional approach. 

09 May

On 24 April, ISHR organised a meeting between the African Commission's Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and the defenders participating in the NGO Forum.

08 May

We're thrilled to launch ISHR's latest annual report, outlining our key impacts during 2017 and our bold vision for 2018 and the years ahead. These impacts, and the achievement of our vision, would be impossible without you – fellow defenders, decision-makers, diplomats and donors who share and promote our mission and who contribute the resources, expertise and influence necessary to make our vision a reality. Thanks for supporting ISHR and making human rights change happen! 

03 May
Image of Tashi Wangchuk

As the world recognises the importance of a free press, ISHR joins with global NGOs to urge China to release Tibetan activist Tashi Wangchuk. It is also a moment to highlight recommendations to China on media freedoms and freedom of expression, part of a new joint report from ISHR and the Committee on the Protection of Journalists.

Council renews mandate on Cambodia amidst concerns over draft NGO law


On 28 September 2011, the Human Rights Council (the Council) held an interactive dialogue, under agenda item 10, with Professor Surya Prasad Subedi, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia. Mr Subedi was generally pleased with the efforts Cambodia has made since the country began its peace process with the Paris Peace Agreements in 1991. However, Mr Subedi expressed concern about the overall state of human rights issues, including freedom of expression, and land and housing rights. Mr Subedi also expressed his concern about a draft law that would limit the activities of NGOs within the country. States commended Cambodia for its achievements but noted that much work still needed to be done to improve the human rights situation in the country. Although there was little discussion on an extension to the Special Rapporteur’s mandate, States seemed to implicitly support such an extension as indicated by their endorsement of Mr Subedi’s reservations over the NGO draft law as well as numerous other substantive human rights issues.

Despite being pleased with the social and political progress made in Cambodia since the Paris Peace Agreements, Mr Subedi cautioned that 'the peace process cannot be regarded as complete until the democratic institutions created under the Constitution are able to work effectively and independently'. Mr Subedi continued by reflecting on land rights in the country, saying that while Cambodia had made some progress last year in protecting and promoting land rights, the recent demolition of five houses in the Boeung Kak area in the capital city of Phnom Penh was a regression. Mr Subedi called on Cambodia to resist carrying out the practice of forced evictions and displacing families without notice. Mr Subedi also highlighted the decreasing space for freedom of speech, which has seen targeting of human rights defenders and activists, and a number of individuals charged, tried, and jailed for producing and sharing materials critical of the Government.

Most troubling of all to Mr Subedi was the introduction of a draft law by the Ministry of the Interior, on 15 December 2010, on Associations and Non-Governmental Organisations. While Mr Subedi stated that he was encouraged by the consultations on this draft law carried out by the Ministries of Interior and of Foreign Affairs, he warned against finalising a law that would restrict the activities of NGOs, rather than enabling them to strengthen their activities. Mr Subedi urged Cambodia not to proceed with the current draft NGO law as it may impede the legitimate work of NGOs by placing burdensome requirements on them.

Finally, Mr Subedi returned to the issue of freedom of speech, saying that while the notions of pluralism and liberalism are enshrined in Cambodia’s Constitution, individual members of Parliament are unable to fully exercise freedom of speech when questioning the executive or defending the rights of their constituents. Mr Subedi said he has offered a series of recommendations to Cambodia in hopes that State implementation of those recommendations will protect freedom of speech in Parliament.

Speaking as the concerned State, Cambodia thanked the Special Rapporteur for his work and recommendations. Cambodia said it was making efforts to improve its judiciary, combat corruption, and promote democratic development, including at the grassroots level. It stated that it had a vibrant civil society, tallying nearly 2000 NGOs and other organisations that enjoy the Government’s full cooperation and that play a key role in ensuring good governance and in facilitating the provision of social services. Cambodia underscored its pledge to individual freedoms as one of the fundamental components of democracy and emphasised that it was continuing to protect and promote all human rights, including the right to freely express one’s self.

During the interactive dialogue most States[1] praised Cambodia for the progress made. This did not, however, prevent States from also claiming that Cambodia still had a long way to go. Australia shared the Special Rapporteur’s concerns on the curtailing of basic freedoms and felt the NGO draft law could hamper freedom of association and expression, a concern that was also mentioned by Japan, the US, Ireland, the UK, France, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, and Canada. Romania encouraged Cambodia to seek a comprehensive solution to the issue of property rights, and the US referred to property right violations cited in the Special Rapporteur’s report. Indonesia said that based on its own experience, it understood the development challenges experienced in Cambodia. Indonesia called on Cambodia to improve the implementation of laws already passed that were designed to advance human rights. Norway expressed concern about forced evictions, denial of the human rights of the victims of evictions, and ‘unfounded charges’ made against individuals who protested against the evictions. France said it was worried by the intimidation used against human rights defenders as well as against victims of land right disputes.

There was suprisingly little mention during the interactive dialogue of the future of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia. Viet Nam asked the Special Rapporteur for his personal advice regarding the duration of his mandate. The Philippines expressed reservations about extending the Special Rapporteur’s mandate for an additional two years because they felt this did not comply with the Institution Building text, in resolution 5/1, which states that country mandates are generally renewable for one year at a time.  Viet Nam, Indonesia, and Myanmar made similar arguments, calling on the Council to respect resolution 5/1. Switzerland and Canada explicitly supported an extension to the Special Rapporteur’s mandate, with Canada saying it wanted to see a two-year extension to the mandate. The resolution was introduced to the Council a few days later, and the Council decided by consensus to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for a further two years. The Russian Federation and China, while not breaking from consensus, dissociated themselves from paragraph 9 of the resolution, which sets out the two year extension.

Overall, States were generally supportive of Cambodia and commended it for its cooperation with the Special Rapporteur as well as with the international community. The Asian States were most supportive in their comments.  Viet Nam said it was happy that Cambodia was becoming a free and democratic country. The Philippines cited Cambodia’s 6% economic growth over the last year as being impressive given the current global economic climate. Thailand welcomed Cambodia’s efforts to protect and improve the human rights of its citizens. Malaysia said the international community should appreciate Cambodia’s achievements so far and it should be afforded more space to continue its reform process. China called on States to continue providing Cambodia with technical assistance. Nepal commended Cambodia for improving the standard of living in the country. Other States noted the development challenges faced in Cambodia but also felt that more could be done to further human rights protection in the country.

Mr Subedi concluded his comments by saying he was encouraged by the steps Cambodia was taking to implement his recommendations. He said a review of the NGO draft law was currently being under-taken by the Ministry of the Interior and he hoped the Ministry would consult all relevant parties to avoid drafting a law that would prevent civil society organisations from continuing to serve the Cambodian people. Mr Subedi asked Cambodia to examine his recommendations on parliamentary participation so that all Members of Parliament could exercise freedom of speech. Regarding his future, Mr Subedi was brief, and said he intended to continue working with the Government to strengthen institutions such as Parliament, to achieve rule of law, and to conclude implementation of the Paris Peace Agreements begun in 1991.


[1] The following States issued comments during the Interactive Dialogue: Australia, Japan, European Union, Viet Nam, Romania, Singapore, Philippines, Ireland, United States, Czech Republic, Thailand, Algeria, United Kingdom, Malaysia, France, Indonesia, Norway, Switzerland, China, Sweden, Myanmar, Nepal, and Canada.


Video: developments at the Human Rights Council's 21st session


If you missed our reporting on the Human Rights Council's 21st session, or want to refresh your memory of some of the main developments, see our video below.

The video outlines five of the most significant developments and discussions that took place at the session. You can also read more about the session from the news items listed at the bottom of this page.

If you have trouble viewing the video, try this link.


Call for civil society submissions for report on peaceful protests


Civil society organisations are requested to submit information for a report being prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, on 'effective measures and best practices to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests'.

The deadline for these submissions is 15 November. They should be provided in electronic format to and a copy to rhusbands@ohchr.orgClick here to read a letter on this subject.

The report is being prepared prior to the 22nd session of the Human Rights Council, in accordance with Resolution 19/35.

Open letter to candidates to the Human Rights Council on membership standards


In advance of the elections to the Human Rights Council on 12 November 2012, thirty-five NGOs from around the world have called on candidates to 'uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights' and 'fully cooperate with the Council', in accordance with the General Assembly resolution that created the Council. 

NGOs are concerned about the failure of some candidates to comply with these criteria. Non- compliance by Council members undermines the credibility of the Council as a body that promotes and protects human rights and its authority to call for cooperation with its mechanisms. NGOs have called on the candidates to uphold these criteria, particularly with regard to cooperation with Special Procedures and reprisals against those cooperating with the UN human rights system.

Click here to read the full letter


Council's new President pledges support for human rights defenders at organisational session


The incoming President of the Human Rights Council (the Council) – Polish Ambassador Mr Remigiusz Henczel – pledged to continue the efforts of his predecessors in ensuring full participation of civil society and human rights defenders in the work of the UN’s main human rights body. He added that to make human rights a reality, the work of human rights defenders must be fully supported by the work of the Council.

These positive remarks were made during the Council’s 7th organisational session (10 December) for the next cycle, which will start on 1 January 2013. The organisational session was the first meeting with the Council members newly elected by the General Assembly on 11 November 2012.

The new members are (by region):

  • Africa: Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Sierra Leone
  • Asia: Japan, Kazakhstan, Republic of Korea, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates
  • Eastern Europe: Estonia, Montenegro
  • Latin America and Caribbean: Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela
  • Western Europe and Others: USA, Germany, Ireland

The members leaving at the end of 2012 are (by region):

  • Africa: Cameroun, Djibouti, Mauritius, Nigeria, Senegal
  • Asia: Bangladesh, China, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Saudi Arabia
  • Eastern Europe: Hungary, Russian Federation
  • Latin America and Caribbean: Cuba, Mexico, Uruguay
  • Western Europe and Others: Belgium, Norway, USA

In her closing remarks as the outgoing President, Ambassador Dupuy Lasserre of Uruguay highlighted some of the successes and challenges of her 18-month term. She underscored the need for the Council to drive important ‘unpoliticised messages’ while involving a wide range of actors to promote and protect human rights. The President also highlighted the importance of strengthening the stance taken by the Council on reprisals to prevent intimidation against human rights defenders.

In terms of institutional strengthening, she made reference to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which enjoyed 100% attendance in its 1st cycle. This was a clear reference to the President’s recent letter to Israel, inviting the country to participate in the second cycle of the UPR, which is uncertain following Israel’s decision of May 2012 to ‘suspend its relationship with the Human Rights Council’.

In addition to the incoming President, Ambassador Henczel, representing the Eastern European Group, the Council also elected its new Bureau, composed of Vice-Presidents from the other four regional groups. They are:

  • Mr. Luis Gallegos Chiriboga, Ambassador of Ecuador (Rapporteur)
  • Mr. Cheikh Ahmed Ould Zahaf, Ambassador of Mauritania
  • Ms. Iruthisham Adam, Ambassador of the Maldives
  • Mr. Alexandre Fasel , Ambassador of Switzerland

It was notable that the Deputy High Commissioner used the organisational session to congratulate President Dupuy Lasserre – the first woman President of the Council – reflecting the important contribution she made during her term.

Though many States were complimentary in their statements, Belarus expressed concern about the election of a Polish diplomat as the next President of the Council and the ‘overrepresentation’ of EU members in important mandates. This discontent was clearly influenced by Poland’s leading role in the creation of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus earlier this year.

ISHR delivered a statement requesting the incoming President to build on the efforts of President Dupuy Lasserre in ensuring the Council remains a forum where all voices can be heard, and in particular, in combating reprisals against those who cooperate with UN human rights mechanisms.

The Council’s draft annual programme of work was circulated, and will be adopted on 14 January 2013 at the organizational meeting for the 15th session of the UPR. The draft programme of work of the Council’s 22nd session in March 2013 is available on the OHCHR extranet and here.

Concern surrounds Israel’s potential non-participation in UPR


Israel’s potential non-participation in its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was the key concern at an organisational meeting held by the Human Rights Council (the Council) on 14 January 2013. The purpose of the meeting was to select the troikas (the groups of States that facilitate each review) for next week's UPR.

Last May Israel sent a letter to the President of the Council, declaring that it formally suspended its relationship with the Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Since then Israel has not attended Council sessions, it has not submitted a national report for its UPR, and it did not appear for the selection of its UPR troika. The worry is that it will also not appear for its UPR, due to be held on 29 January. If it does not, it will be the first time a State has not presented itself as scheduled for its UPR, setting a dangerous precedent.

At the meeting on 14 January States discussed how to handle this situation. States agreed that the drawing of the troika could still take place even if the State under review was not present. The President proposed that the organisational meeting then be suspended until 29 January, the scheduled date of Israel’s review. If Israel’s representative is not present on 29 January, the organisational meeting will be resumed so that the Council can decide how to proceed.

The President asked States for input. All States that spoke (Pakistan on behalf of the OIC, Canada, Costa Rica, Germany, Ireland on behalf of the EU, Gabon, and the United States) supported the proposal to suspend the organisational meeting until 29 January. However, Pakistan also emphasised that the Council should ensure that it has made a decision before 29 January about what to do should Israel not appear.

The 15th session of the UPR will take place from 21 January to 1 February. The timetable of reviews is available here.

Troikas for the 15th session of the UPR


States selected: Congo, Kuwait, Italy


States selected: Angola, Pakistan, Costa Rica


States selected: Kenya, Qatar, Czech Republic


States selected: Angola, United Arab Emirates, Montenegro


States selected: Uganda, Austria, Poland


States selected: Pakistan, Costa Rica, Gabon


States selected: India, Benin, Republic of Moldova


States selected: Japan, Peru, Romania


States selected: Mauritania, United States, Estonia

United Arab Emirates

States selected: Ethiopia, Thailand, Germany


States selected: Sierra Leone, Maldives, Venezuela


States selected: Libya, Brazil, Spain


States selected: Malaysia, Cote d’Ivoire, Argentina


States selected: Republic of Korea, Chile, Switzerland

Russia: Scrap draft “homosexual propaganda” law which would contravene human rights and target human rights defenders


A draft law to criminalise “homosexual propaganda”, currently being considered by the Russian parliament, flagrantly violates international human rights laws and standards, says the International Service for Human Rights.

“International law prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. It also enshrines the fundamental rights of freedom of association and expression,” said Heather Collister of ISHR.

ISHR is particularly concerned that the law will be used to target, intimidate or harass human rights defenders and those who speak out on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.

“States have an obligation not only to respect and protect human rights, but also to respect and protect those who stand up and speak out for human rights. Russia’s draft law is manifestly incompatible with this obligation,” said Ms Collister.

“The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, together with the international Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, make clear that all persons have the right to freedom from discrimination, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to advocate the acceptance of human rights and freedoms.”

According to Ms Collister, the draft law reflects a concerning international trend towards restricting human rights in the name of protecting so-called “traditional values”.

“The notion of ‘traditional values’ is completely illegitimate so far as it is invoked in any way to restrict the enjoyment of rights guaranteed under international human rights law or standards, or to criminalise or impede activities in defense of them,” she said.

ISHR’s statement comes as three United Nations Independent human rights experts have also called on Russian parliament to scrap the draft Bill.

In a joint statement issued by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and the Special Rapporteur on the right to health, the experts said, “The draft legislation could further contribute to the already difficult environment in which these defenders operate, stigmatizing their work and making them the target of acts of intimidation and violence, as has recently happened in Moscow.”

The UN experts further urged Russian parliamentarians to “exercise leadership by scrapping the bill to ensure the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Russia.”

For further comment, contact Heather Collister, International Service for Human Rights, on + 41 79 920 3805 or

Join an online conversation on Engaging the United Nations Human Rights Council


February 11 to 15, 2013

Join the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) and the New Tactics online community for an online conversation on Engaging the United Nations Human Rights Council from February 11 to 15, 2013.

The Human Rights Council (HRC) is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system made up of 47 States responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe. When utilized strategically, the HRC can be a powerful force for change.

This online conversation will be an opportunity to exchange experiences, lessons-learned and ideas among practitioners who have successfully engaged the HRC.  The HRC starts its main session on February 25 so this is a great opportunity to reflect on your strategy and tactics for engaging this UN body. Join us for this important exchange of tactics and ideas!

Link to conversation:

How can you participate?

This online conversation is open to anyone interested in sharing their experiences and ideas on this topic. All you need to do is join the New Tactics online community by going to and add your comments to the dialogue.

For more information about our online conversations, visit these FAQs:

What is a New Tactics online conversation?

How to participate in an online conversation?

If you have trouble, contact Kristin Antin, the New Tactics Online Community Builder, at

Council Alert: Human Rights Council to negotiate landmark resolution on laws affecting human rights defenders


The UN Human Rights Council’s 22nd session will be held from 25 February to 22 March 2013 and consider a range of significant thematic and country-specific human rights issues and actions.

The purpose of this Alert is to provide timely and expert information as to some of the issues and actions likely to arise during the course of the Session.

Human rights defenders

For human rights defenders there are several relevant initiatives. Norway will lead negotiations on a resolution focusing on legislation that affects human rights defenders with the goal of improving the protection of human rights defenders and eliminating laws which impair their work. ISHR has watched the development of this resolution closely and will continue to engage in line with our mandate to support and strengthen human rights defenders. The resolution will build on the report of the Special Rapporteur, Ms Margaret Sekaggya, to the UN General Assembly in 2012. This report considered the issue of the ‘criminalisation’ of human rights defenders through laws which are used or misused to hinder, obstruct or render unlawful actions to promote and protect human rights.

ISHR will organise a side event with the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders on 5 March (from 12pm – 2pm) which will provide an interactive space for further discussion of the issue of criminalisation and the specific impacts this has on human rights defenders around the world.

The Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders will also present her latest report to the Human Rights Council, the subject of which is the role of national human rights institutions in the promotion and protection of human rights. She will also report on country visits made to HondurasTunisia, and Ireland (report not yet available).

Based on the thematic calendar of resolutions, a resolution on peaceful protests is also likely to be negotiated at this session.

Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action

Another relevant and significant initiative will be the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (VDPA).

The VDPA reaffirmed many of the tenets that underlie the work of human rights defenders including the universality, interdependence, and indivisibility of human rights, as well as recognising the crucial and legitimate role played by NGOs in protecting human rights, and their need for ‘protection in national law.’ Austria is organising a panel discussion to commemorate this anniversary, giving space for States and civil society to offer their own perspectives on the main achievements of the VDPA and the challenges ahead for implementation. ISHR board member Mr Gustavo Gallon from the Colombian Commission of Jurists will be amongst the panellists. The panel discussion will take place on 25 February.

Panel discussions

There will also be panels held on the following themes during the session:

  • Human rights mainstreaming, with the aim of promoting a human rights based approach to the post-2015 development agenda, and in particular ensuring that human rights education is integrated into that agenda
  • Human rights and persons with disabilities, focusing on work and employment
  • Rights of the child, discussing the challenges to the realisation the right of children to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health
  • Impact of corruption on human rights, with a view to producing recommendations on how to protect human rights in the fight against corruption, and how to strengthen anti-corruption efforts through a human rights-based approach
  • Promoting technical cooperation, including sharing best practices and challenges, to strengthen the judiciary and the administration of justice in order to ensure human rights and the rule of law

Provisional dates for all these discussions are included in the programme of work for the session.

High-level segment

The session is particularly busy with 17 special procedures presenting reports to the session. The four-week session also includes the ‘high-level segment’ where dignitaries from States will address the Council. The general segment of this part of the Council’s programme gives space to four representatives from civil society to address the Council, to highlight concerns of victims of human rights violations and offer their own perspective on what the Council could bring to the promotion and protection of human rights.

While the high level segment does not offer space for dialogue and does not contribute directly to the debates ongoing at the Council, it provides an opportunity, on the sidelines, for discussion of human rights issues between States at the highest level. The readiness of States to send dignitaries to address the Council also attests to the significance that States attach to the Council. This year Germany’s President will address the Council, the first time a sitting president has done so.

Country situations

Other potential highlights of the session include a resolution on Sri Lanka, announced by the United States. The resolution will focus on the promotion of reconciliation and accountability in the country. Sri Lanka was reviewed by fellow States on its human rights record last September, at the 14th session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The outcome of that review will be considered for adoption by the Human Rights Council at this session, along with the outcomes of the reviews of the 13 other countries considered at the 14th session of the UPR. 

The Commission of Inquiry into the situation in Syria will present its latest report for discussion at this session. The Chair of the Commission, Mr Pablo de Grieff will participate in an interactive dialogue with States on the findings of the report. The report is not yet available. The fact-finding mission on Israeli settlements will also report to the session.

Human rights and ‘traditional values’

The Advisory Committee will submit its report on traditional values to this session of the Council. The report emphasises the universality of human rights and notes that traditional values can play a role in the promotion and protection of international human rights standards through human rights education and training. At the same time, the report concludes that States also have a responsibility to take action against stereotypes and negative, harmful and discriminatory practices justified by traditional values. The presentation of the report to the Council is an opportunity for States and civil society to reflect on these conclusions and to reach an understanding as to where traditional values fit within the universal human rights framework that was reaffirmed in the VDPA.

Renewal of special procedure mandates

The following special procedure mandates also need to be renewed by States at this session, through the negotiation and adoption of a resolution:

  • Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran
  • Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism
  • Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief
  • Special Rapporteur on the right to food

Useful documents for the session

List of resolutions to be introduced at the 22nd session as announced by States during the organisational meeting


  • Prevention of genocide


  • Rights of persons belonging to minorities


  • Rights of children whose parents have been sentenced to death, calling for a panel on the 24th session of the Council


  • Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance, with focus on education as a tool to address this problem


  • Right to food, including extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food
  • Composition of the staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights


  • Torture and other cruel and degrading treatment and punishment, focusing on rehabilitation and redress


  • Synergies between the Human Rights Council and the Universal Periodic Review, and the role of parliamentarians, requesting a panel at a later session of the Council


  • Freedom of religion and belief, including extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief

Iran (NAM)

  • Enhancement of international cooperation and human rights


  • Protection of human rights in the fight against terrorism, including extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on promoting and protecting human rights while countering terrorism

New Zealand, Mexico

  • Right to work and employment of persons with disabilities


  • Protection of human rights defenders

Pakistan (OIC)

  • The situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories
  • Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related forms of intolerance


  • Education as a tool to prevent racism


  • Iran, extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation in the country


  • Birth registration and the right of everyone to recognition as a person before the law

Uruguay (GRULAC), EU

  • Right of the child to enjoy the highest possible level of health


  • Human rights and humanitarian activities post-conflict and post-natural disaster, requesting a study from the Human Rights Council’s Advisory Committee

United States

  • Promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka

UN must protect human rights defenders and ensure accountability for human rights violations


The UN Human Rights Council must act to protect human rights defenders and ensure accountability for human rights violations, the International Service for Human Rights will tell a high-level meeting of senior officials from around the world today.

The officials are gathered in Geneva to reflect on achievements in the protection of human rights since the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (VDPA) in 1993 and to commit to actions in the years ahead.

‘Twenty years ago the VDPA set out that the “promotion and protection of human rights is a matter of priority for the international community” and that the realisation of human rights must be “the first responsibility of governments”,’ said ISHR Director Phil Lynch.

‘This session of the Human Rights Council the strength of the international community’s action on country situations such as those in Sri Lanka, Syria, North Korea, Mali, Burma and Iran will help determine whether, two decades on, this statement remains rhetoric or becomes reality.’

‘The Council must support the UN High Commissioner’s call for “an independent and credible international investigation into alleged violations of human rights and humanitarian law” in Sri Lanka.’

According to Mr Lynch, the Human Rights Council will also be called on to take action on a number of thematic priorities identified by the VDPA.

‘The VDPA made a crucial contribution to the development of human rights laws and institutions. It affirmed that human rights are universal and highlighted the links between human rights, democracy and development. It also re-affirmed the rights of equality and non-discrimination, and the inalienable rights of women and girls.’

Mr Lynch said that, in accordance with these principles, the Human Rights Council should be careful to ensure that human rights – particularly women’s rights and LGBT rights – are not restricted in the name of protecting so-called ‘traditional values’.

‘The notion of “traditional values” is completely illegitimate so far as it is invoked to restrict the enjoyment of rights guaranteed under international human rights law, or to criminalise or impede activities in defense of them,’ said Mr Lynch.

ISHR will also call on the Council to take concrete steps and measures to support non-government organisations and protect human rights defenders from attacks, intimidation and reprisals

‘Twenty years ago, the VDPA recognised the “important role of non-governmental organizations in the promotion of all human rights.” Two decades on it is imperative that the Council and other UN human rights mechanisms ensure that they are open and accessible to non-government voices. They must also hold states accountable for all forms of harassment and attacks against human rights defenders.’

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

Contact: Phil Lynch, Director, International Service for Human Rights, on


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