News

12 Jul

This is another historic victory, not only for communities of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, but for humanity as a whole: In a defining vote, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution to renew the mandate of the Independent Expert focusing on the protection against violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

11 Jul

In an unprecedented move, a cross-regional group of 22 States have urged China to uphold its international obligations and to allow independent observers to access and investigate grave human rights violations in Xinjiang.

08 Jul

Today marks the 4th anniversary of the '709 crackdown' against over 300 lawyers and legal rights defenders. Four years on, UN experts and the international community must speak out against arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances and deteriorating conditions for human rights lawyers in China.

09 Jul
#RenewIESOGI the campaign hashtag

Over 1300 NGOs from across the globe call for the renewal of the mandate of the Independent Expert on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and others highlight the situation of defenders working on these issues.

 

22 Jul

After starting the process in 2016, civil society in Niger, with the support of ISHR, presented a draft law for the promotion and protection of human rights defenders for debate and adoption to the government.  This draft law was substantially inspired from the model national law on the recognition and protection of human rights defenders developed by ISHR in 2016. 

HRC 40 | Accountability under attack in Guatemala

19.03.2019

The International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG) – created through an agreement between the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Government of Guatemala – has successfully held individuals in the highest positions of government to account.  It has provided means to revitalise and strengthen the national judicial system.  Government efforts to stop its work have been rejected by the Constitutional Court but its future in the country remains uncertain. 

CICIG must be defended, said ISHR and the International Platform Against Impunity in a statement delivered to the Human Rights Council.  

Attacks against CICIG are taking place in a context in which key achievements in strengthening the rule of law are threatened. 

Amendments to the National Reconciliation Law, if passed, will lead to impunity for grave internationally recognized crimes, including genocide and torture.  Convictions could be overturned and the important drive against impunity will be reversed.  

UN human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet has expressed deep concern about the initiative, noting, 

'This amendment, if passed, will represent a drastic set-back to accountability and the rule of law in Guatemala. At the same time, it will gravely endanger the progress made by the country to grapple with the legacy of the civil war and to prevent further violence.'  

Changes to other laws further threaten the struggle to secure justice and accountability.   The Law of NGOs for Development is amended, will impose increased inspection and registration requirements that would restrict the work of NGOs.  

'Guatemala stands at a cross roads, ' said ISHR and the International Platform Against Impunity in their statement.  'Those calling for key post- conflict human rights achievements to be respected and built upon are facing the likelihood of greater threats.' 

ISHR and the International Platform Against Impunity made the following three calls:  

1/  States must make public their support of the work of CICIG and to urge Guatemala to reengage with the processes of accountability CICIG promotes.  

2/ Amendments that seek to undermine laws that have provided for individuals to be held to account for the gravest of crimes must be rejected. 

3/  Guatemala must  ensure that human rights defenders’ rights are upheld, including during the upcoming period of Presidential elections in June. 

 

Contact: Eleanor Openshaw   e.openshaw@ishr.ch 

Photo:  Zero-CC0 Justice

 

 

ISHR Chad statement

CSW63 | No peace without women human rights defenders

15.03.2019

What peace means and how women human rights defenders contribute to achieving it, was at the heart of the debate at a packed ISHR side event held this week at CSW 63.  Speakers reflected in particular on experiences in Colombia, Chechnya and Yemen - all countries that are or have been on the agenda of the UN Security Council.  The event garnered significant, cross-regional backing from Security Council members Cote d’Ivoire, Peru and the UK, as well as Norway and Tunisia.  NGOs Amnesty International and Limpal also co-sponsored.

Journalist Safa Al Ahmad, reflecting on her work in Yemen, spoke of who those defending rights are. 

‘In most situations where you are in conflict, there are no official organisations, but there are women who take a stand everyday’, she noted. ‘Women are generally much better in conflict resolution. They have better understanding of the long time impact of war and conflict in society.’

Defending rights in conflict situations carries risks, as Diana María Salcedo Lopez from LIMPAL made clear. She spoke of the many murders of defenders in Colombia, and how ensuring a sustainable peace involved holding accountable those responsible.  

The risks for defenders extend to participating in events at the UN.  Gistam Sakaeva, a defender working to protect women from violence in Chechnya, said, ‘I’m openly speaking on this issue even though I may receive threats when I return.’

All the civil society panelists spoke of being accused of being terrorists. As if to illustrate the point, such an accusation was later levelled at panelist Safa Al Ahmad by a State delegate from Yemen from the floor.   This was roundly condemned in the room. 

‘There is no excuse for confusing human rights defenders with terrorism,’ said UK Ambassador Karen Pierce. ‘You may deplore what someone says but you should defend to the death their right to say it.’

In her intervention, the representative of Cote d’Ivoire spoke movingly about the years of conflict in her country and of the importance of women pushing forward to demand access to key decision-making spaces. 

This spoke to a key objective of the gathering - to increase understanding of why women human rights defenders' work on peace and security is so critical and must be enabled.  Ambassador of the Permanent Mission of Peru, Gustavo Mezo-Cuadra added that, ‘(w)ithout understanding that the role of women human rights defenders is a key element in sustaining peace, it is difficult to enhance their protection and create spaces (so they can) do their work.’  

The responsibility – and interest – of UN Member States and bodies to promote and enable the work of defenders was also addressed by Ambassador Meza Cuadra.  He quoted the Secretary General when he said: 

‘When human rights defenders are threatened, the principles of the UN are under attack.  Human rights defenders are a great asset in enhancing our work in sustaining peace. Let us embrace and support human rights defenders everywhere so they can continue their essential work.’  

Specific recommendations for the Security Council on promoting the work of defenders are contained in an upcoming ISHR paper, ‘Is Peace and Security Possible without Women Human Rights Defenders?’.  

In addition, the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders Michel Forst - just arrived from presenting his report on women human rights defenders to the Human Rights Council - shared the news that one of his last reports as Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders will focus on the experience of defenders working in conflict and post-conflict situations. 

As the event wrapped up, Gistam Sakaeva thanked all those present and the international community more widely.  ‘Without your support, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. It is hope for thousands of people whose family members are jailed and separated,’ she said. 

The Norwegian Minister for International Development, Dag-Inge Ulstein, added to this, urging those present to keep working to promote defenders’ work.

‘We need to be tougher, stronger and never rest. It’s our duty so that we can provide security for the kids, girls and women human rights warriors.’

Missed the event?  Watch the webcast!  https://bit.ly/2VWJDFG

 

For more information contact: Eleanor Openshaw e.openshaw@ishr.ch

 

Photo credit: © UK Permanent Mission to the UN/Jaclyn Licht

 

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Opinion:

Despite current circumstances being conducive to the opening of a healthy democratic space, doubts linger over whether the new authorities will seize this opportunity to put an end to impunity, bring its legislation into line with international standards and take concrete steps to promote and protect human rights.

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Mechanism

1984

ISHR commences work to develop an international Declaration on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders

1988

ISHR publishes first Human Rights Monitor, connecting human rights defenders on the ground with international human rights systems and developments

1993

ISHR facilitates global civil society engagement with the Second World Conference on Human Rights, which leads to the strengthening of women’s rights, the affirmation of universal rights, the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action and the establishment of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

1994

ISHR provides training, technical assistance and support to its 1000th human rights defender

1998

After 14 years of ISHR lobbying, advocacy and negotiation, the UN General Assembly adopts the landmark Declaration on Human Rights Defenders

2000

UN Secretary-General appoints Hina Jilani as inaugural UN Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders, strengthening protection of human rights advocates at risk worldwide.

2004

ISHR leads a successful campaign for the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

2005

ISHR co-founds and supports a range of international and regional human rights coalitions, including the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and the West African Human Rights Defenders Network

2006

ISHR contributes to the establishment and institution building of a new global peak body for human rights issues, the UN Human Rights Council

2007

ISHR leads and coordinates the development of the Yogyakarta Principles on sexual orientation and gender identity, strengthening legal recognition and protection of LGBT rights worldwide

2011

ISHR’s sustained advocacy on the issue of reprisals and intimidation faced by human rights defenders leads to adoption of landmark UN Human Rights Council resolution condemning and strengthening protections against reprisals

2012

Working with key NGO partners such as Amnesty International, ISHR leads civil society efforts to strengthen UN human rights treaty bodies, prevent their weakening and better connect their work with victims and human rights defenders on the ground

2013

Working with supportive states and NGOs, ISHR advocacy leads to adoption of historic Human Rights Council resolution calling on all States to review and amend national laws to respect and protect the work of human rights defenders