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.            

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

 

Lettre test

Israel | Enough is Enough: Council should urgently launch investigations into violence against protesters in Palestine

17.05.2018

There are currently over seven million Palestinian refugees spread across the globe, including 1.3 million refugees in the Gaza Strip.[1] As the result of decades of dispossession, oppression and violations of international law, including 11 years of unlawful closure and blockade of the Gaza Strip, Palestinians therein and elsewhere in occupied Palestine have embarked on a six week campaign of largely peaceful protests, starting on 30 March 2018. The actions by the Israeli forces in response to the demonstrations, particularly those taking place in the eastern parts of the Gaza Strip, amount to excessive, indiscriminate and disproportionate use of lethal force. They may also amount to widespread wilful killings and may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity. On 28 April 2018, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that, “[i]n the context of an occupation such as Gaza, killings resulting from the unlawful use of force may also constitute wilful killings which are a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”[2]

Since the start of these large-scale protests, approximately 111 Palestinians have been killed, including 12 children, two journalists, and four persons with disabilities. During the same period, approximately 7,000 were injured, including 1,244 children, 253 women, 42 paramedics, and 60 journalists – at least 3,615 of whom were hit by live fire.[3] In response to the demonstrations, the Israeli military has allegedly been using live ammunition intentionally with the aim of killing and seriously injuring civilians, as demonstrated by the use of high-velocity, military-grade weapons that cause devastating, and in some cases life-changing injuries.

A video distributed by an Israeli soldier shows Israeli snipers celebrating the killing of Palestinians, illustrating a culture of impunity that is enjoyed by members of Israeli forces and emboldened by policy-level decisions. Further, the Israeli judicial system has demonstrated that it is unable and unwilling to ensure accountability for such serious crimes according to international standards.

In response to these events, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called for independent investigations[4] into the killings, while the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Bin Ra’ad, echoed this call and highlighted that “[e]very week, we witness instances of use of lethal force against unarmed demonstrators” while noting that “[w]arnings by the United Nations and others have seemingly gone unheeded, as the approach of the security forces from week to week does not seem to have changed.”[5] 

The Israeli government continues to disregard the numerous recommendations by UN officials to exercise restraint in its response to the protests in the Gaza Strip and elsewhere in occupied Palestine. In fact, the Israeli military has increased the use of force against the civilian population in violation of its obligations under international law to ensure the welfare and respect of the fundamental rights of the occupied population under its control. 

The escalating protests over the last six months intensified following the announcement of 6 December 2017 by US President Trump recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocating its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in blatant disregard for international law. On Monday, 14 May 2018, the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem entrenched and endorsed Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem, in violation of Article 2(4) of the Charter of the United Nations on the prohibition of annexation - a general principle of international law - and in breach of Israel’s obligations as an Occupying Power under Article 47 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which concerns the protection of the occupied Palestinian population from any measures of “annexation by the latter of the whole or part of the occupied territory.”

The undersigned organisations join the UN Secretary General and High Commissioner for Human Rights’ calls for action, and specifically demand that the UN Human Rights Council urgently establish a Commission of Inquiry with a view to: (i) ensuring legal accountability for perpetrators of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including for individual and command responsibility, and (ii) facilitating and expediting existing international investigations and examinations. The Human Rights Council should also encourage the International Criminal Court to urgently open a full investigation into alleged international crimes committed by the Occupying Power. Finally, the undersigned organizations call for an end to the 51 years- of occupation of Palestinian territory, including the immediate lifting of the closure and blockade of the Gaza Strip. In the words of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights “enough is enough.” [6]

 

Photo:Sebastian Baryli/Flicker 

Signatories:

Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT)

ActionAid International

ADDAMEER Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association

Al Mezan Center For Human Rights Rights

Aldameer Association for Human Rights

Algemene Centrale-ABVV /La Centrale Générale-FGTB 

Al-Haq

ALTSEAN-Burma

Article 1 Collective

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC)

Association ADALA pour le droit a un process equitable (ADALA)

Association AMAL pour La Femme et le Développement

Association Belgo-Palestinienne WB

Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS)

BADIL - Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights

Broederlijk Delen

Buliisa Initiative for Rural Development Organisation (BIRUDO)

Bytes For All, Pakistan

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR)

Center for Defense of Liberties and Civil Rights - Hurryyat

Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales - CELS

Christian Reformed Church Office of Social Justice

Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

CNCD-11.11.11

Coalition for Accountability and Integrity - AMAN

CODEPINK

Collectif Interuniversitaire pour la Coopération avec les Universités Palestiniennes

Comités pour le Développement et le patrimoine

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)

Community Action Center – Al-Quds University

Conectas Direitos Humanos

Corporate Accountability Lab

Defence for Children International - Palestine

DefendDefenders

EuroMed Rights

European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine

Fédération des Associations Marocaines en France

Filastiniyat Association

Geneeskunde voor de Derde Wereld

Gents Actieplatform Palestina (GAPP)

Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Human Rights Law Network, India

Immigration Developpement Democratie – France

Institut de recherche en droits humains (IRDH)

International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center

Kvinna till Kvinna

L’Association Marocaine des Droits Humains

L'Association Marocaine des Droits Humains

Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (LPHR)

Le Comité pour le Respect des Libertés et des Droits de l’Homme – Tunisie

Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP)

MIFTAH

MOC- Mouvement Ouvrier Chrétien

Moroccan Forum for Young Journalists (MFYJ)

Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l'amitié entre les peuples (MRAP)

Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD)

New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity Committee

Norwegian People's Aid

Odhikar

Otros Mundos AC/Chiapas, México

Palestina Solidariteit

Palestinian Bar Association

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights

Palestinian Coalition For Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Palestinian Journalist Syndicate

Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network

Pax Christi Flanders

Pax Christi International

Platform of French NGOs for Palestine (Plateforme des ONG Françaises pour la Palestine)

Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies

REF – Réseau Euromed France

Sahara Observatory for Peace and Democracy for Human Rights

Society of St. Yves

Solidarité Socialiste 

The Civil Commission for independence of the judiciary and rule of law (ISTIQLAL)

The Independent Commission for Human Rights (Ombudsman Office)

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA)

The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH)

The Rights Forum

The WoMin African Alliance

ToBe Foundation for rights and Freedoms

Trócaire

US Campaign for Palestinian Rights

Vrede vzw

Women in Black (Vienna)

Women's Centre for Legal Aid and Counseling

Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) 

Youth for sexual and reproductive rights (WAAI)

11.11.11

 

Pages

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

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