News

22 Sep

On 1 August 2018, ISHR filed a communication with the Commission on the Status of Women, calling for it to address U.S. visa denials of approximately 50 women invited to attend the CSW’s 62nd session last March. 

24 Sep

The world’s top human rights body should only be composed of States who have a genuine commitment to protecting human rights. At the upcoming Human Rights Council elections, UN Member States should refrain from voting for candidates that blatantly fail to uphold the highest standards of human rights and fail to fully cooperate with this Council.

20 Sep

Human rights defenders must be able to access the UN freely and safely so that the UN can do its crucial work of monitoring countries’ compliance with human rights obligations and protecting victims from abuses. This requires States to stand up for defenders and denounce other States who attack and intimidate them. 

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.

UAE UPR submission

NGO Committee | Accusations of terrorism remain unretracted

05.06.2018

The second 2018 session of the NGO Committee had barely started before China took the floor to make unfounded accusations of terrorism against Uighur human rights defender Dolkun Isa, and to seek to expel NGO 'Society of Threatened Peoples' (STP) from the UN.  

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) NGO Committee considers applications for accreditation, as well as the suspension and withdrawal of such consultative status.  ECOSOC accreditation provides NGOs with opportunities to access UN spaces and, in some cases, make oral statements and organise events.  

China sought the withdrawal of ECOSOC accreditation from the Society of Threatened Peoples (STP) on the basis that it had enabled Isa - who they accused of terrorism - to participate in the 2018 Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII).  China had made every effort to deny Isa's entry into the Forum - unsuccessfully- and in 2017 had him expelled from the Forum despite his registration for the event.  

At the NGO Committee session, several States, including Germany and the US, made strong statements rejecting China's accusations, but Isa himself was not given an opportunity to respond.  With the Committee session webcast live, the accusations made against him during the session were widely disseminated.  

‘We've now seen several cases in the NGO Committee or ECOSOC where an individual or NGO is accused of being a ‘terrorist’ as an apparent means to punish them and, in the case of accredited NGOs, seek to expel them from the UN’, said ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw. 'In most cases they are not provided the opportunity to respond'. 

China ultimately withdrew its attempt to secure the withdrawal of STP's accreditation, but noted that its original position - including its accusations against Isa - ‘remains unchanged’.  It also stated that it would ‘closely monitor STP’s activities in the UN including in the Human Rights Council’ to ensure, amongst other things, it ‘refrain from appointing any terrorist as its representative.’

‘The Society for Threatened Peoples was effectively put on notice, as was any organization that might look to ally itself with an individual China may call a ‘terrorist’’, said Openshaw. 

Following the decision, STP's Director Ulrich Delius said, '(t)he influence of authoritarian states in the world organization continues to grow. Non-governmental organizations must not be silenced just because they draw attention to serious human rights violations'.

These threats against Isa and intimidation of STP are simply the latest in Committee practice that has prompted concern by NGOs, and calls for reform.  

‘Clear principles and processes should underpin Committee practice to ensure that individuals and NGOs are never unduly maligned. These should include providing credible evidence in the case of  accusations of terrorism', said Openshaw.

‘The Chair of the Committee must take action. We call on him to make a statement to that effect on 11 June when the report of the most recent session of the NGO Committee is due to be adopted.’ 

Contact: Eleanor Openshaw, ISHR New York Office Co-Director. 

Photo: ISHR.

 

Reprisals | UN and States must do more to prevent and address reprisals

05.06.2018

The report, intended to inform the Secretary-General's annual report on cooperation with the UN, its mechanisms and representatives in the field of human rights, (aka the ‘Reprisals Report’), documents a disturbing pattern of intimidation and reprisals. It includes alleged cases of travel bans in Cuba in the context of the Universal Period Review this May; disappearances and detention of defenders and lawyers, as well as intimidation of their families in China; and the detention of women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia following engagement with the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. 

The report also cites several cases of threats and attacks made against UN experts, which, beyond the impact on these individuals themselves, constitute an attack on the Human Rights Council and the UN human rights system more broadly.

The primary duty to prevent and remedy reprisals lies with States—who must do more to prevent, investigate and ensure accountability for reprisals. For the first time this September, States will have an opportunity, to engage in an interactive dialogue when the Secretary-General’s report is presented. ‘States should use the interactive dialogue to ensure adequate attention to the Secretary-General’s report on reprisals and to share good practices, challenges and lessons learned and effectively hold States accountable’, said Madeleine Sinclair. 

The UN itself also has a duty to step up. ‘Where States fail to adequately investigate and ensure accountability, the UN must step in to ensure defenders can cooperate safely. That means UN bodies and mechanism must recognise and act in conformity with their legal obligation to respect and protect the right of all persons to communicate with them and take all necessary steps to prevent, protect against, and promote accountability for any alleged acts of intimidation or reprisals’, said Sinclair 

‘Furthermore, prominent UN experts being attacked without consequence may deter civil society from engaging with the mechanisms and is likely to increase fear in those seeking the protection of the UN,’ said Sinclair. 

In the report ISHR called on UN bodies to take a more proactive role in combating reprisals and intimidation, and among other things, urged:
•    The Human Rights Council President and Bureau to clearly outlines steps the Council will take on receipt of information about credible risks of reprisals, and to adequately monitor the very concerning pattern of attacks of a personal nature against mandate holders and Commissions of Inquiries and make clear that attacks of this kind will not be tolerated. 
•    Treaty bodies to fully adopt and implement the San Jose guidelines.
•    The Assistant Secretary-General to adopt a clear, public-facing policy on how he addresses cases of reprisals and to ensure that rights holders and victims are kept regularly appraised of the status of their case.

Access the full report here

Contact: Madeleine Sinclair, Co-Director of ISHR’s New York Office & Legal Counsel, m.sinclair@ishr.ch.  

 

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

 

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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.

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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