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. 

UPR of Tajikistan: Even with moratorium, concerns over capital punishment remain

10.10.2011
 

On 4 October 2011, the Working Group on the UPR examined the human rights situation in Tajikistan. The delegation was led by Mr Khudoyarov Bakhtiyor, Minister of Justice, who was accompanied by six other delegates. In his opening statement the Minister asserted that Tajikistan has made significant progress in the area of freedom of the press, religious tolerance, and education – particularly with regard to women’s education. He also responded to several advance written questions concerning the Government's use of the death penalty: although the court system will continue to have the death penalty as a potential sentence, there is now a moratorium on all punishments of this severity, and life in prison is now the accepted substitute for capital punishment. The interactive dialogue largely focused on this issue, however also covered child labour, corruption in the judiciary, and domestic violence.

Specific recommendations, comments, and questions focused on the following issues:

  • Calls for Tajikistan to formally abolish capital punishment and move toward the international standards found in article 1 of the Convention Against Torture (CAT).  This includes the ratification of CAT’s optional protocol, which provides a mandate for both an independent national preventative mechanism for torture and regular inspections of detention facilities.
  • Concerns over the need for tighter monitoring and enforcement of child labour laws, particularly in areas of the country with a high percentage of low-income families. Tajikistan was called on to raise its legal standards to the levels set by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
  • The need to address the continued Government crackdown on freedom of the press, including the recent attacks against two foreign media journalists held in custody without charges.
  • Calls for a more specific classification of domestic violence in the penal code , so that it is treated as a specific crime rather than, as is currently the case, falling under a general assault or degrading human dignity charge.
  • Requests that Tajikistan step up efforts in targeting and arresting human traffickers, particularly those abusing women and young girls.

Mr Bakhtiyor reiterated that he and his delegation would respond in written form to any question they had not been able to answer due to time constraints. Generally, the delegation responded frankly and openly to the questions posed by the States. In particular, the delegation acknowledge that Tajikistan is a 'transit' country for human traffickers, and currently does little to deter this illegal practice due to budget constraints within law enforcement. In defence of their record on domestic violence, the delegation argued that reports of incidents have dropped significantly since the 1990s. However, they admitted more work needed to be done and informed States that a new law was currently being drafted by the Government. Of the recommendations made, 70 were immediately accepted, 7 were rejected, and 50 required further review. The delegation will give their position on this last set at the 19th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2012.

UPR of Ireland: child rights and prison conditions key areas of concern

10.10.2011
 

The Working Group on the UPR met on 6 October 2011 to review the human rights situation in Ireland.  The Irish delegation was made up of five men and two women, and was headed by Mr Alan Shatter, the Minister for Justice and Equality.  In his introductory speech, the Minister expressed Ireland’s commitment to the UPR process, describing the UPR as one of the outstanding achievements of the Human Rights Council.  He referred to several changes that have occurred since the submission of the national report in July, including the intention to hold the Constitutional Referendum on Children’s Rights next year.  He also emphasised that it was important that those States asking questions should have a bedrock of respect for human rights within their own country, to prevent the dialogue being used in an opportunistic or political manner.

The main issues that were recognised and elaborated on by the Irish delegation were those of children’s rights, particularly with respect to the past abuse of children within the country; the consolidation of structures to promote human rights, such as the merging of the Irish Human Rights Commission with the Equality Commission; and the issue of high levels of imprisonment.  The challenges of high migration were also discussed, as well as the potential effect of the country’s current fiscal difficulties on the protection of human rights.  These issues were noted by States in the interactive dialogue, and the following recommendations, questions, and comments were the focus of the review.

  • Recommendations to ratify or accede to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Convention on Enforced Disappearances, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers.
  • Recommendations to improve sanitation and reduce overcrowding in prisons to bring Ireland into line with international obligations on inhumane and degrading treatment.
  • Concern over Ireland’s highly restrictive abortion laws, and recommendations to change this, specifically by implementation of the decision of the European Court in A, B and C v Ireland.[1]
  • Recommendations to further women’s involvement in public life, reduce the gender pay gap, and to strengthen efforts to reduce domestic violence.
  • Concerns regarding the country’s immigration policy, including the issue of family reunification and the detention of failed asylum seekers in normal prisons.
  • Concern over the potential effect of budget cuts in society, particularly a lack of resources for the human rights commission and the possibility of an increase in racism due to the tension caused by budget cuts and unemployment, and reduced funding to anti-racism campaigns.
  • Questioning of the Government’s hesitation in declaring the traveller community an ethnic minority.
  • Recommendations to ensure non-discrimination in access to education for all faiths and ethnicities.
  • Recommendations from several Muslim countries to ensure the rights of Muslims in Ireland to practice their religion freely.
  • Concern over the growing number of sham marriages taking place (particularly involving vulnerable young women from Eastern Europe), which amount to human trafficking and should be prosecuted and punished as such.
  • Commendations on the investigations into past child abuse within the country and encouragement of further work on this issue.

The delegation responded openly to the issues raised by States, and provided a detailed account of the human rights structures in the country, and the developments currently taking place.  They referred to the constraints placed on them by their current fiscal situation, but confirmed that there was a comprehensive system in place to protect the rights of vulnerable persons. The delegation rejected claims of racial profiling by police, and stated that constitutional provisions ensured freedom of religion in the country. Ireland was praised for its comprehensive national report and its creation of a special UPR website for the process, as well as its standing invitation to UN special procedures, and its record of extensive foreign aid contributions.

Of 126 recommendations made during the review, 62 were accepted, 15 were rejected, and 49 will be reviewed before the 19th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2012. In its closing comments the Irish delegation said it will continue working with civil society throughout the implementation process.

 

UPR of Antigua and Barbuda: notable achievements in education but concerns over LGBTI rights

07.10.2011
 

On 4 October 2011 the Working Group on the UPR considered the human rights situation in the Antigua and Barbuda. The delegation comprised of the Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Mr Conrad Hunt and the Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mr Justin Simon who presented the report. Mr  Simon reiterated Antigua and Barbuda’s commitment to enhancing the promotion and protection of human rights of its ‘citizens and residents’, but reminded delegations that their efforts in this regard should be considered in the context of the country being a third world, developing State with limited resources.

Antigua and Barbuda’s report highlighted its work in realising human rights.  This included efforts to fight human trafficking, such as adopting the Trafficking in Persons (Prevention) Act 2010; its focus on implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child in particular addressing the situation of vulnerable and at risk children; creating a HIV/AIDS Secretariat working on prevention, education, treatment and counselling, as well establishing a human rights desk addressing discrimination against infected persons; and the Government’s extensive work on education in Antigua and Barbuda, which includes using education to address gender inequality.

In the interactive dialogue that followed, specific recommendations, questions and comments included:

  • Recommendations that Antigua and Barbuda ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its first and second protocols, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and other key human rights Conventions to which the State is not party.
  • Praise for the Government‘s efforts to provide free education at both the primary and secondary levels and assisting students from under-developed areas with lunches, uniforms, textbooks and transport.
  • Criticism of the Government’s maintenance of the death penalty in its legislation, despite the fact the last execution was carried out in 1991.
  • Criticism of ongoing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and calls for Antigua and Barbuda to decriminalise homosexual relations between consenting adults.
  • Criticism of the poor prison conditions in Antigua and Barbuda, which are overcrowded and lack basic physical amenities.
  • Criticism of the detention of juvenile offenders in the same facility as adult prisoners.
  • Recommendations that the Government prohibit corporal punishment, particularly against children in schools and homes.
  • Praise on the work done to ensure the rights of elderly persons, persons with disability and persons infected with HIV/AIDS.
  • Calls that the Government raise their age of criminal responsibility, which currently stands at eight years of age, in order to comply with international standards.
  • Recommendations that the State establish a National Human Rights Institution in line with the Paris Principles (Principles Relating to the Status and Functioning of National Institutions).
  • Calls to Antigua and Barbuda to extend open invitations to the special procedures.

In his conclusion, Mr Simon assured delegations that the government would look into these recommendations. He argued that the country did not have the political mandate to abolish the death penalty or decriminalise homosexual relations, but would seek to use education and awareness raising to change public opinion on these matters. He recognised the State’s criticisms of the prison system, but argued that with their limited resources they should be forgiven for putting matters such as health and education above the construction of a new prison facility. He also said that they would follow suggestions that they seek international assistance, and would be approaching OHCHR to ask for technical assistance and capacity building.

At the adoption of the report, the delegation accepted 34 recommendations and rejected 22. The remaining 33 recommendations were to be discussed by the Government and civil society and a position decided by the 19th session of the Council in March 2012. Mr Simon reiterated the argument that it is the citizens of Antigua and Barbuda who determine the priorities of the Government in relation to human rights, but gave assurances that those recommendations that had been accepted would be implemented as soon as possible. In conclusion Mr Simon said that his Government appreciated the offers for technical assistance that had been made and that they would follow up on these offers.

Human Rights Council takes important decisions on transitional justice and reprisals

03.10.2011
 

The Human Rights Council finished its 18th Session on 30 September 2011, with the adoption of a record number of resolutions. Taking a step back from the positive record of the June and March sessions, the Council’s consideration and response to country situations, remains one of its biggest challenge including in the Middle-East & North Africa, Sri Lanka, and Belarus. 

Of note for human rights defenders are important advances in the area of transitional justice – with the creation of a Special Rapporteur on Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence – and reprisals. On the latter theme, the Council will hold a panel discussion in September 2012 to find ways in which to address harassment and intimidation of people cooperating with the UN system.

Watch also ISHR’s wrap-up video or download our joint NGO end-of-session statement.

Human Rights Council considers the worsening situation in Somalia

30.09.2011
 

On 28 September at the 18th session of the Human Rights Council, Independent Expert, Mr Shamsul Bari, presented his report on the situation in Somalia. Mr Bari began by pointing out that in the few months since completing his report the situation has worsened. Recent droughts in the Horn of Africa have further exacerbated the famine in Somalia. In combination with the ongoing armed conflict, the result is the worst case of human deprivation in Somalia that Mr Bari has reported on in the past three years. Mr Bari said it was of crucial importance that the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Somalia makes a strong commitment to improving conditions in Somalia, to show people the difference between life under the Government and life under Al-Shabab rule. Of course, as he also stressed, this could not be achieved without immediate, coordinated, and substantial financial and technical assistance from the international community. Mr Bari also pointed to the successful review of Somalia in its recent UPR and the signing of a roadmap by Somali leaders towards creating a strong Government and constitution.

The Somali representative, responding to the report, also highlighted their recent participation in the UPR, and the fact that Somalia accepted in full 151 recommendations and in part the remaining four. He called for financial and technical assistance from the international community, so that Somalia could begin to implement these recommendations and work towards the promotion and protection of human rights. He said that Somalia was very eager to fix the many issues facing it today, and that they had invited a number of Special Rapporteurs to visit the State to assist with this process.

All State speakers recognised the very serious situation currently facing the Somali people. Of primary importance is the need to address the immense famine facing the country. Other matters of concern included: large numbers of internally displaced persons and the lack of human rights afforded to them; the issue of refugee camps in bordering countries and the many dangers facing Somali people in the camps; the forced disappearances, torture and summary executions currently being carried out against human rights defenders and journalists; the issues of piracy, illegal fishing and dumping of toxic waste; the difficulties faced by humanitarian workers trying to enter Somalia; problems of human trafficking; violations of women’s and children’s rights, including a failure to provide education for children and the use of child soldiers; and large numbers of civilian deaths in the armed conflict.

Many States commended Somalia on its acceptance, in full or in part, of all of the UPR recommendations. The potential of the roadmap as a means of securing human rights was also noted. The European Union urged those involved with implementing the roadmap to ensure that it leads to the creation of a State in which human rights can be upheld. The Czech Republic made the same point, saying that the TFG should make use of the constitution-building process to make strong laws that promote and protect human rights in Somalia. Canada highlighted the importance of a democratic government being created in this process.

Many States recognised the need for the international community to cooperate and provide further assistance to Somalia and several, including Australia and the United States, supported the Independent Expert’s call for the UN and African Union to coordinate their efforts in Somalia. Senegal, speaking on behalf of the African Group, pointed out that the current efforts being made by the international community were minimal considering the gravity of the situation in Somalia, and called on the international community to react rapidly, strongly, and in cooperation to address the many problems facing Somalia.

The various NGOs that spoke, such as Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International, also noted the need for the international community to react immediately and in cooperation. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International also called for an increase in the monitoring and documentation of human rights violations occurring in Somalia, so that those responsible can be held accountable in the future.

In his concluding remarks, Mr Bari stressed that the main priority of the TFG should be to ‘raise the flag’ of human rights as much as possible. He said that the people of Somalia have lived too long without a real concept of human rights, and they needed to be reminded that they do have basic rights and that the Government will work to promote and protect these. He also pointed out the need for the Government to create a national human rights institution, and for priority to be placed on rebuilding schools and hospitals, with generations of Somali children having grown up without access to education. He stressed that the Somali people need to be involved in every step of rebuilding the country and creating a constitution and a strong government if it is to succeed. Mr Bari said the current prime minister seemed committed to establishing a rule of law, to combating corruption, and to creating transparency; and that the international community should aid him to achieve this. He also highlighted the urgent need to assist the many displaced persons and refugees, and to address issues of impunity and accountability. As Mr Bari noted, it will cost the international community to assist Somalia, but there is a very real need for States to take the chance to work with the current Government and address the many issues facing Somalia.

Human Rights Council debate on the OPT focuses on bid for statehood

30.09.2011
 

On 26 September 2011 the Human Rights Council (the Council) held a general debate on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied territories. Mr Bacre Ndiaye, Director of the Human Rights Council and Special Procedures Branch, introduced two reports under agenda item 7. The first was in response to Council Resolution 16/32 which requested the Secretary-General present a report on progress made in the implementation of the recommendations of the Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict. The second report was in response to the Council’s request that the High Commissioner present a report on the implementation of resolution 16/32.

The session lacked balance as Israel, one of the concerned States, chose not to issue a statement. Few Western States spoke at the session, most notably the European Union and the US. Instead, a large number of States from the Arab Group, Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and African Group, expressed support for Palestine’s bid for statehood at the Security Council in New York. These States repeatedly condemned Israel, calling for Israel, among other things, to implement the fact-finding mission’s recommendations and to end occupation of Palestinian and Syrian territory.

Palestine was the first concerned State to speak and it affirmed that it had taken appropriate action to implement the suggestions of the UN fact-finding mission. Palestine brought attention to alleged human rights violations committed against its people by Israel and called on the international community to put an end to rhetoric and take concrete action. Palestine called on Israel to negotiate a fair and amicable resolution to the dispute that would result in the parties co-existing peacefully side-by-side as two States. Palestine expressed its wishes for the end of occupation, for East Jerusalem to be the capital of the Palestinian State and for refugees to have the right to return back to Palestinian territory. Palestine concluded by saying it was not seeking to isolate Israel, but was rather seeking a multilateral solution to the dispute.

Syria, also speaking as concerned country, accused Israel of building a ‘racist’ wall that separates Israel from Syria and that Israel has committed ‘State terrorism’ that has defied the Human rights of Arabs in the region.

The Arab Group, OIC and African Group States continually highlighted Israeli human rights violations and called on the international community to endorse Palestine’s bid for statehood and for a return to the 1967 borders.1 A number of other States also expressed solidarity with the Palestinians.2 States generally called for Israeli implementation of the fact-finding mission’s recommendations, an end to Israeli occupation, the lifting of the blockade in Gaza, an end to Israeli settlement activity and for an end to Israel’s construction of a separation wall.

Switzerland, India, Spain, and Italy took more nuanced approaches. Switzerland expressed concern over Israeli expansion of settlements and Israeli discrimination of Bedouins, and also called for the Palestinian authorities to put an end of rocket fire from Gaza. India said that both sides had to sit down and shoulder the responsibility for creating a lasting peace and urged both parties, including armed Palestinian groups, to implement the recommendations made by the fact-finding mission. Spain said that it respected Israel’s security needs, and that the culture of impunity on both sides was leading to increasing human rights violations. Spain also said that the construction of settlements in East Jerusalem was illegal under international law and it was concerned with the increase of settlements on illegally occupied land. Italy said the parameters were in place for a long-lasting peace and that further delays on a peace agreement would only exacerbate the conflict.

1 Egypt (on behalf of the Arab Group), Senegal (on behalf of the African Group), Egypt (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Pakistan (on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference), Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Kuwait, Maldives, Bangladesh, Qatar, Jordan, Indonesia, Turkey, Algeria, Morocco, Iran, Bahrain, Egypt, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Sudan, League of Arab States, South Africa, Lebanon, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and Tunisia.

2 China, Russia, Cuba, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and Venezuela.

 

Belarus criticises politicisation of the Council during interactive dialogue on the country

27.09.2011
 

On 20 September 2011 the Human Rights Council (the Council) held an interactive dialogue under item 4 on the High Commissioner’s oral report on the human rights situation in Belarus. The dialogue saw stark disagreement between the European Union (EU) States on the one hand, and Belarus with support from Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and China, on the other hand, about the effectiveness of country-specific resolutions in this particular case, and in general. The EU called on the Government authorities to immediately release all political prisoners and journalists, abolish the death penalty, and adhere to the provisions of resolution 17/24, which was adopted at the 17th Human Rights Council session. On the other hand, Russia, Cuba, China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe strongly opposed the adoption of such resolutions and targeted this aspect of the work of the Council as being politicised and involving double standards. States made several concrete recommendations as to how the human rights situation in Belarus could be addressed, but these were not well-received by Belarus. Belarus took the opportunity to explain its reluctance to implement resolution 17/24.

Speaking before the Council, Deputy High Commissioner, Ms Kyung-wha Kang, requested the Government authorities to accept the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) mission in Belarus and allow the investigation of the circumstances in which people were detained. Ms Kang criticised the Government for their reluctance to release all political activists, journalists, and human rights defenders, noting in particular Mr Aliaksandr Bialatski, Vice-President of the Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l'Homme (FIDH), and condemned violations of freedom of expression and assembly. Additionally, Ms Kang stressed the need for the Government to abolish capital punishment and to cooperate with the special procedures, the UPR, and the Council of Europe. Ms Kang highlighted the crucial need for OHCHR to gain access to the country and provide not only technical assistance but also to assess the situation and compile the report requested for the 20th session of the Council.

In his statement to the Council, Mr Mikhail Khvostov, Ambassador of the Republic of Belarus, stated that the country-specific resolution on Belarus contradicts the principles contained in the institution-building package of the Council, including impartiality, objectivity, and non-selectivity. He described country-specific resolutions as a politicised working method. The Ambassador outlined the reasons for the reluctance to cooperate with OHCHR on resolution17/21, including the fact that Belarus perceives the EU's policy as being to present Belarus as a special case of non-compliance in the field of human rights. Additionally, Mr Khvostov claimed that the resolution is driven by the political motive of overthrowing the Government, and thus cannot serve as a basis for collaboration with the Council.

The Ambassador also concurred with criticism made of the High Commissioner's report. In particular, he indicated that although the arguments and positions of Belarus in relation to the events of 19th December 2010 were provided to OHCHR, these were not reflected in the report. Mr Khvostov expressed his further regret that OHCHR did not adhere to the official document issued by the Government of Belarus in regards to post-election events in December, and instead relied on ‘secondary sources’, resulting in the biased account of the events of 19th December 2010 contained in the report.

Moreover, the Ambassador expressed his disagreement with the EU’s definition of the concept of peaceful demonstration. In particular he noted that assaulting a government’s building is a criminal offence and not a peaceful event as claimed by the EU. The Ambassador indicated that the 19th December 2010 protests were organised by those seeking power by force, who violated the legislation of Belarus and international law. In response to the concerns about those detained, the Ambassador referred to the decision by the Prosecutor-General and the Supreme Court of Belarus, which inspected the legality of the detentions, the treatment of prisoners, and the validity of their sentences. In his closing remarks, Mr Khvostov highlighted that the Government had accepted most of the UPR recommendations made to it, and is willing to cooperate with the UN and maintain open dialogue.

During the interactive dialogue Russia, along with Cuba, China, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, supported Belarus’ position and criticised country specific resolutions as being often based on political motives. Cuba in particular raised its voice about the continuing politicisation of the Council and argued that the country-specific resolution perpetuates the negative stereotyping of Belarus, instead of promoting open dialogue and collaboration. This view was shared by the Russian Federation, which also highlighted Belarus’ willingness to cooperate with the Council as demonstrated by its acceptance of most of the UPR recommendations that the country received in May 2010.

The EU disagreed with these positions and emphasised the need for Belarus to cooperate fully with the special procedures and allow them to visit Belarus. France argued that no improvement had been made in Belarus since the adoption of resolution 17/24 and stressed the need for the special procedures to be able to visit the country to investigate the human rights situation. This view was shared by the Scandinavian States, in particular Norway and Sweden. These States also urged the Government to release political prisoners and abolish the death penalty, which is still in force in the country. Iran on the other hand provided suggestions for establishing independent national human rights mechanism to help implement human rights policies in Belarus and encourage dialogue between the Council and the country concerned. The majority of States agreed that it is crucial that the immediate and unconditional release of political prisoners, human rights defenders, and other civil society actors should be the next step taken by the Government of Belarus. In addition to this, the Government was recommended to have a moratiorium on capital punishment. States called on Belarus to show willingness to cooperate with the Council by addressing these recommendations.

In his response, Mr Khvostov expressed his appreciation for those who objected to the adoption of a country-specific resolution on Belarus and reiterated the counter-productivity of having such resolutions at the Council. The Ambassador also stated that the Government is willing to cooperate with OHCHR and has sent invitations to eight special thematic procedures of the Council as well as having issued an invitation in August 2011 for the High Commissioner to visit Minsk. However, no response was given in regards to the release of political prisoners and the abolition of the death penalty.

The main concern for OHCHR was the need for access to Belarus to continue investigations into those detained and the human rights situation in the country, in order to compile the report requested for the 20th session of the Council. Belarus has not yet given permission for the OHCHR mission to enter the country. It did, however, state its willingness to cooperate with the Council such as through the invitations it had sent to eight special procedures, which indicates some possibility for the continuation of the dialogue between the Council and the country concerned.

States welcome the High Commissioner's report on Yemen

23.09.2011
 

On 19 September 2011, the Human Rights Council (the Council) held an interactive dialogue with Ms Kyung-wha Kang, the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, on the situation of human rights in the Republic of Yemen. At the June 2011 session the Council adopted procedural decision 17/117 on Yemen, requesting the High Commissioner to report on the situation in the country. In April 2011, the High Commissioner proposed a mission by a delegation from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to Yemen to assess the human rights situation. OHCHR visited Yemen from 28 June to 6 July 2011. In accordance with procedural decision 17/117, the High Commissioner was to report back to the Council on the Yemen mission.

The Deputy High Commissioner presented the report, and noted with appreciation the cooperation the mission had received from the Yemeni government, which had provided full access and enabled the mission to meet with a range of stakeholders including Government ministers, the judiciary, and civil society actors.

She highlighted the challenges in Yemen which have further complicated the human rights situation in the country. She pointed to alleged Al-Qaeda sects, a strong secessionist movement in the south of Yemen, and numerous resignations of senior officials as examples.

She also raised a number of concerns and alleged human rights violations. Of particular concern were reports of excessive and disproportionate use of lethal force by Yemen against peaceful protestors. A number of specific incidents were highlighted in which security forces had killed dozens of peaceful protesters. The report suggested that security forces had not been properly trained or equipped to deal with peaceful protests. Ms Kang also noted the arbitrary arrest and torture of protesters, and withholding of medical treatment from protesters. Concern was raised over the deterioration of socioeconomic conditions and general standards of living. Basic services including electricity and water had been cut off. The Deputy High Commissioner reported that the Yemeni Government had argued that the cutting of such services was due to acts of sabotage by armed opponents, however those interviewed had stated their belief that the cutting of services was by the Government in an attempt to punish protesters. Vulnerable groups had also suffered. Women and children had been subjected to the same violence experienced by men, and children had been recruited by armed forces.

The Deputy High Commissioner also noted the report’s finding that armed opponents of the Government were partly to blame for the human rights crisis in Yemen.

The Yemeni Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Abubakr Abdullah Alqerbi, was present to respond to the presentation of the report. Overall, that response was constructive. Dr Alquerbi affirmed Yemen’s commitment to human rights and to working with OHCHR to address the current human rights situation in Yemen. Dr Alquerbi also affirmed Yemen’s belief in democracy and referred to the latest Presidential elections, which had been internationally commended, as support for this.

The Minister pointed to the fact that the President and the Government have made a number of proposals in an effort to meet the demands of protestors, including reforming the system of government from a presidential system to a parliamentary system, electoral reform, and the formation of a national accord government. These proposals have all been rejected by the opposition.

Dr Alquerbi also noted evidence presented by the Yemeni Government purporting to prove that many allegations of wrongdoing by Government security forces were false. Evidence had also been provided to show that some investigations and referrals to the judiciary regarding the security forces had taken place.

Dr Alqerbi expressed Yemen’s willingness to deal positively with the report of the mission and to implement those recommendations made in the report which are consistent with the Yemeni Government's own policies and steps towards protecting human rights.

However, the Minister rejected the recommendation of OHCHR for international, transparent and independent investigations into credible allegations of human rights abuses committed by Government security forces.i It was argued that the recommendation was inconsistent with OHCHR’s recommendation that the Yemeni political parties seek to resolve their political differences through open and transparent dialogue.ii However, the Minister proposed an alternative to the recommendation by OHCHR to launch independent investigations, and suggested the establishment of an independent and neutral national commission formed by all Yemeni political parties so as to undertake an evidence-based investigation into violations of human rights.

Dr Alquerbi requested international cooperation and assistance to support Yemen in addressing its human rights situation, including through combatting terrorism, fostering a national dialogue, bulding respect for human rights, and achieving sustainable development. This call was echoed by a number of States, including Thailand, the United Kingdom (UK), and the United Arab Emirates, who urged greater support from the international community to assist Yemen in this regard.

States commended the cooperation of Yemen with the mission and thanked the Minister for being present at the interactive dialogue. States welcomed the report of the High Commissioner and overwhelmingly supported its recommendations. A number of concerns were picked up on by States including the disproportionate use of force against peaceful protesters by Government security forces and the lack of independence of the Yemeni judiciary.

In her concluding remarks Ms Kang stated that Yemen’s immediate priority should be to take action to end attacks against peaceful protestors, to implement independent domestic investigations, and to end the use of child soldiers. OHCHR would work closely with Yemen to assist with affecting these immediate priorities. Ms Kang noted that although OHCHR had no official presence in Yemen at the current time, information was continually being sourced from the ground. Accordingly, the situation in Yemen was closely being monitored, albeit via secondary information.

The UK questioned the Deputy High Commissioner on what action was needed for the strengthening of the right to freedom of expression and assembly. According to Ms Kang, it was important that all those who had been detained for exercising that right be released by the Yemeni authorities. Visits to Yemen by relevant Special Rapporteurs was also considered necessary to strengthen the right to freedom of expression and assembly, through reporting on the right and how it was being implemented.

Concerns were raised by some States that the report failed to take into consideration the comments of the Yemeni government. Ms Kangnoted that the report reflected both the position of the Government and the opposition. OHCHR had shared a draft report with the Government and revised it to ensure the Government’s position was noted.

i Report of the High Commissioner on OHCHR’s visit to Yemen, Advanced Unedited Version, [77], UN Doc. A/HRC/18/21 (2011) at http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/YE/YemenAssessmentMissionReport.pdf

ii Ibid, [99].

 

Interactive dialogue with Independent Expert on Sudan sees States divided

23.09.2011
 

The interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on Sudan took place over the 19th and 20th of September at the 18th session of the Human Rights Council (the Council). The dialogue began with a presentation from the Independent Expert, Mohamed Chande Othman, of his report on the human rights situations in Sudan and the newly established State of South Sudan. He began by commending Sudan and South Sudan on their successes in the field of human rights, with the successful referendum on the right to self-determination and subsequent creation of South Sudan being of greatest significance. Sudan’s successful participation in the Universal Periodic Review, a reduction in violence and tribal conflict in both Sudan and South Sudan, and the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and of the Doha Agreement were also highlighted.

However, Mr Othman’s report also drew attention to the many human rights problems facing the region. These include: an absence of any independent human rights mechanism, the cessation of the human rights forums that had been set up during the Independent Expert’s visits, censoring of the press, unlawful detention, a failure to provide freedom of speech, indiscriminate bombing, forced disappearances, large numbers of displaced persons, the failure of the referendum on the Abyei region, issues of impunity, gender and sexually based violence, and a lack of access to the region for humanitarian workers. Mr Othman called on the international community to seek ways to support Sudan and South Sudan, particularly in the provision of technical assistance and capacity building, so that the States can work towards the successful promotion and protection of human rights.

While all States welcomed the developments made by Sudan and South Sudan and also shared concern over the many human rights issues detailed in the report, they were divided on how the Council should proceed in assisting Sudan and South Sudan on their path to a stable human rights system. Many States highlighted the high concentration of human rights violations in Southern Kordofan, Abyei, and the Blue Nile region. They recognised the need for these to be addressed and for those responsible to be held accountable. However, they were divided as to how this should be achieved. States such as the United States (US), the United Kingdom (UK), France, Slovenia, the Republic of Korea, Belgium, and Spain called for these issues to be dealt with through the creation of an international, independent investigation into human rights violations in Sudan and South Sudan. However, Egypt (both individually and behalf of the Arab Group), the Maldives, the Syrian Arab Republic, and Pakistan (on behalf of the OIC) all argued that there was no need for an investigation of that kind, and that Sudan and South Sudan should be left to deal with these issues on their own terms.

States were also divided as to whether or not the mandate of the Independent Expert should be extended. Sudan argued that the mandate limited its development in other areas as it presented a barrier to the provision of financial assistance from alternate sources. Both Sudan and South Sudan felt they would be better equipped to deal with their human rights issues themselves if they were provided with technical support, rather than having the presence of an Independent Expert. Qatar, Egypt, Bahrain, Kuwait, Ethiopia, China, the Syrian Arab Republic and several other States agreed that the mandate should not be extended. They agreed that, with international support, including technical assistance and capacity building, Sudan and South Sudan should be left in control of dealing with their human rights issues.

Conversely, the European Union, the US, Denmark, Norway, and Switzerland voiced their strong belief that the mandate should be extended for Sudan. They also supported the call for provision of technical support and capacity building. They argued that it was of fundamental importance that there remain a UN presence in the fight against the current human rights violations occurring both in Sudan and South Sudan. This view was supported by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

In his concluding remarks, Mr Othman said that South Sudan had shown that it was open to dialogue and to improving its human rights situation, but that it faced many challenges. He called for the international community to provide assistance so that they could get their law enforcement agencies functioning, reduce human rights violations, and achieve effective, democratic governance. He also recommended the inclusion of a human rights component in resolution 1990 of the Security Council, which asks for the Secretary General to monitor the situation in South Kordofan. In their final remarks, both Sudan and South Sudan repeated their request for the international community to provide technical assistance and capacity building to assist them in their efforts to improve their human rights situations. Sudan asked to be given the autonomy to continue addressing its human rights situation without an extension of the mandate of the Independent Expert. South Sudan also asked for international support in the form of technical assistance and capacity building, but said that there is no need for a mandate for an Independent Expert in its State. This denial from South Sudan that they need an Independent Expert will make it difficult to convince other States to support a call for such a mandate. As the public negotiations on the resolution to renew the mandate get underway it remains to be seen whether the mandate will be renewed and in what form, for example, whether it will be moved from Item 4 to Item 10, with a focus on technical support and capacity building.

Libyan National Transitional Council pledges full cooperation with Commission of Inquiry

23.09.2011
 

On 19 September 2011 the Human Rights Council (the Council) held an interactive dialogue under item 4 with Judge Philippe Kirsch, a member of the Commission of Inquiry on Libya. Despite the significant changes in Libya since June, the debate did not add much new information to what had been discussed during the 17th regular session in June. Substantive dialogue was generally avoided as most States used their allotted time to express their support for the new Libya. Several States called for Libya’s full membership rights at the Council to be reinstated.

Speaking before the Council, Mr Kirsch said that there have been significant changes on the ground in Libya since the Commission’s last report to the 17th session of the Council in June, and that most parts of the country are now under the control of the National Transitional Council (NTC). Mr Kirsch noted that the Commission’s report only contained allegations of human rights violations which have yet to be confirmed by the Commission itself due to its lack of presence in the country.

In his briefing to the Council, Mr Kirsch listed numerous alleged human rights violations committed by both pro-Gaddafi forces and by the NTC. Pro-Gaddafi forces are alleged to have arbitrarily detained, kidnapped, and killed civilians. The Commission also received reports of extra-judicial killings by both pro-Gaddafi and by NTC forces. Mr Kirsch summarised a number of allegations of NTC violations against persons of dark-skin in Libya, many of whom have been accused of being pro-Gaddafi mercenaries. According to reports, Mr Kirsch said, a large number of migrant workers from Chad, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Sudan, as well as dark-skinned Libyans, have been arbitrarily arrested by NTC security forces in Tripoli and many have not been brought before judges to review the legality of their detention. Mr Kirsch also mentioned that troops loyal to Gaddafi as well as NTC forces ‘have besieged towns and cities such as Misrata, Tripoli, Sirte, and Bani Walid’, and cut off essential supplies, which has caused considerable hardship to the civilian population. The Commission has recently been unable to send members in to Libya due to the ongoing conflict and due to security concerns. However, Mr Kirsch said that the Commission has received a positive response from the NTC and intends on sending investigators to Tripoli towards the end of September.

Speaking on behalf of Libya, for the first time since the General Assembly’s recognition of the NTC as the country’s representation to the UN, Mohammed Al-Allagi, Minister of Justice and Human Rights of Libya, expressed gratitude to the international community for assisting his nation during the ‘dark’ period in Libyan history. Mr Al-Allagi stated that ‘no sensible person can deny there have been human rights violations’ and that the NTC was willing to fully cooperate with the Commission to investigate the alleged violations. Mr Al-Allagi admitted that rebels were responsible for some of the human rights violations but noted that they did not receive orders from the NTC to carry out violations and that they were individual acts. The Minister also acknowledged the human rights violations committed against African migrant workers and dark-skinned Libyans and stated that although Gaddafi hired mercenaries to fight the rebels, this did not mean that people in Libya should be targeted based on race. Mr Al-Allagi called on the international community to continue supporting his country during its transition, and asserted that the new Libya would protect and promote all human rights. Finally, he extended an invitation to the High Commissioner for Human Rights and all special procedures to visit his country.

During the interactive dialogue, a large number of States expressed support to the Libyan people and the NTC,[1] discussing a wide range of topics.

Most of the comments focused on next steps to be taken in Libya and by the international community. The US urged the High Commissioner to send members of the Commission to Libya as soon as possible in wake of the ongoing crisis in the country. Nigeria urged the NTC to take necessary steps to prevent further human rights violations of black Africans accused of being pro-Gaddafi mercenaries. Norway said that while support from the United Nations was crucial in rebuilding the country, the Libyans themselves must ultimately lead the reform process. Several States also called for an immediate end to violence, and encouraged the NTC to begin the process of national reconciliation. Several States, including Morocco, Qatar, Algeria, Egypt, UAE, Kuwait, Lebanon, Tunisia, and Sudan explicitly or in an implied way suggested that Libya’s membership rights in the Human Rights Council should be reinstated soon.

The debate not only focused on the human rights situation in Libya, but also touched on wider political sensitivities. The Russian Federation expressed concern with the ongoing events in Libya and said that this prolonged conflict would have consequences for the entire region. Cuba (on behalf of Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua) said that ‘the West’ and NATO had forced regime change in Libya, have used the UN to implement their own agenda, and that NATO had repeatedly ignored calls by the African Union for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Venezuela condemned the use of violence and did not recognise the NTC because it was propped up by foreign intervention.

NGO voices were also somewhat divided. Human Rights Watch said that the motive of the rebellion against Gaddafi was to overcome human rights abuses and the NTC must make sure it upholds this motive. Others implied that the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime by foreign powers goes against the UN Charter.

Italy, Turkey and Belgium made mention of their financial contributions to Libya. India (on behalf of Brazil and South Africa) commended Tunisia and Egypt for accepting Libyan refugees. The European Union, Norway, and the Republic of Korea welcomed the NTC’s comments on giving women a greater role in Libyan society.

In his responses, the Libyan Minister once again expressed his appreciation to those who have recognised his Government’s legitimacy and reiterated the NTC’s desire to protect and promote fundamental human rights.

Mr Kirsch said that the NTC’s commitment to human rights is encouraging. To conclude, Mr Kirsch offered several suggestions. Mr Kirsch noted that the Libyan constitution is currently suspended so he felt it would not be too difficult for the NTC to include international legislation in the domestic framework. He also stressed that the NTC needs to establish full and complete control over all groups working for it to ensure that further human rights violations are not committed. Mr Kirsch called for international assistance to help Libya put national mechanisms in place to address past violations and tackle impunity, including in particular assistance in documenting such past human rights violations. Finally, Mr Kirsch stated the issue of accountability was not studied extensively during the Commission’s first visit to Libya but was an issue to be addressed prior to the end of its mandate.


[1] Italy, Thailand, Switzerland, Japan, Czech Republic, Morocco, Jordan, Vietnam, France, Egypt (on behalf of the Arab Group), Turkey, the European Union, China, Maldives, Germany, Belgium, Canada, Austria, India (on behalf of Brazil and South Africa), the US, Nigeria, Croatia, Mexico, Chile, Spain, Australia, Denmark, Norway, Qatar, Algeria, Egypt, the UAE, Portugal, Indonesia, Iraq, UK, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kuwait, Lebanon, Slovakia, Tunisia, Sudan, Botswana, Republic of Korea.

 

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.

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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