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.            

HRC | Council must be strengthened from ground up to enhance impact

20.04.2018

The report, “Strengthening the UN Human Rights Council from the Ground Up,” outlines the discussions and key recommendations during a dialogue convened by the organisations in February. The dialogue brought together a broad range of human rights defenders from various regions working at the national, regional, and international levels with representatives of national human rights institutions, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The focus was on making concrete and implementable recommendations that do not require institutional reform.

Tawanda Mutasah, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International, said: “To be credible, any discussion of Council strengthening should focus primarily on enhancing its contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights – its impact on the ground. As the Council’s Bureau launches discussions this year on enhancing the efficiency of the Council, we reiterate that measures to strengthen the Council’s efficiency should not, and cannot, be separated from efforts to enhance its effectiveness.”

Salma El Hosseiny, ISHR’s Human Rights Council Advocate, added: “It is therefore imperative that discussions on strengthening the Council – and making it more efficient – be informed by the experience and expertise of national and regional level actors, including rights-holders, human rights defenders and other civil society actors, victims, survivors (and their representatives), national human rights institutions and UN country teams.”

Many participants at the February dialogue affirmed the value and relevance of the Council in responding to human rights crises and in encouraging a broad range of human rights reforms and commitments by individual countries.  At the same time, they shared concerns about issues that limit the Council’s ability to effectively deliver on its mandate.

“The Human Rights Council plays a vital role in addressing many human rights concerns, but its impact is limited and credibility eroded when it fails to address grave human rights violations for primarily political reasons,” said John Fisher, Geneva director at Human Rights Watch. “Individual countries should strengthen the Council’s ability to promote and protect human rights on the ground, particularly through prevention, implementation and accountability.”

Maryam Al Khawaja, Special Advisor on Advocacy at the Gulf Center for Human Rights and ISHR board member, said: “The selectivity and politicisation of the Council’s response to country situations allow some governments to escape scrutiny for serious human rights violations.”

Hassan Shire, Executive Director of DefendDefenders, said: “Having States that commit gross and systematic human rights violations sitting on the Council negatively impacts its credibility in the eyes of people around the world.”

Gustavo Huppes, Officer for Democratic Space at Conectas said: “To have impact on the ground, follow-up and implementation are key, though often neglected priorities of the Council”.

Yashasvi Nain, Program Officer at the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, said: “An effective Council is one that is accessible and visible to a broad range of actors, including victims, rights-holders, civil society, and human rights defenders.”

Read the full report here.

Update: On 24 May 2018, ISHR, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International convened a panel in New York City on the topic of strengthening the Human Rights Council, along with Venezuelan defender Ligia Bolivar, OHCHR representative Craig Mokhiber, and Cynthia Soohoo, a CUNY Law School professor and member of the U.S. Human Rights Network.

After discussing the report, the panel turned to specific opportunities to enhance the Council’s work, zeroing in on improvements that could be made without broad structural reforms. Several panelists brought up the issue of Council membership and its effect on the body’s credibility, with Ms Bolivar stressing the importance of having competitive elections and screening candidates on their human rights records.

Panelists also discussed implementation and how the work of the Human Rights Council could be made more relevant to activists and defenders. Mr Mokhiber urged a renewed focus on protection and an annual Council report on the state of human rights globally. Louis Charbonneau from Human Rights Watch suggested a mandate for UN country teams to report to the Council, which would require resident coordinators and country teams to be aware of the human rights developments in their countries of work.

Photo: Anne Laure Lechat- UN Photo

 

Burkina Faso | Implement the law on human rights defenders and ensure a safe working environment

10.04.2018

Burkina Faso is scheduled to be reviewed at the 30th session of the Universal Periodic Review on 5th May. During its last review, Burkina Faso accepted two recommendations calling on the State to promote and encourage the work of civil society in the country and pursue a regular dialogue with civil society to promote the importance of equality between women and men. Despite accepting these recommendations, human rights defenders still have to work in a hostile environment.

In 2015, the coup d’état had a disastrous impact on fundamental freedoms, by imposing unnecessary restrictions, in particular to the right to freedom of expression. During that time, journalists covering the events or publishing dissident opinions have been victims of threats, intimidation, physical attacks and their offices have been ransacked.

Further, while the National Transition Council adopted three consecutive laws decriminalising some press offences and eliminating prison sentences for some other offences, it also considerably increased fines for defamation, slander and insult which could seriously impede the rights to freedom of expression and the press with the risk that media professionals and civil society organisations are forced out of business.

A law for the protection and promotion of human rights defenders has been voted by the National Assembly on 27 June 2017 but we still note that this law fails to acknowledge the specific risks faced by women human rights defenders in their work.  In addition, Burkina Faso has not yet created its protection mechanism, which would aim at monitoring the implementation of the law, because its National Human Rights Commission is still not functional.

This Briefing Paper on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in Burkina Faso - developed by ISHR, and our national partners the Burkinabe Coalition for Human Rights Defenders - is intended to assist States and other stakeholders to formulate questions and recommendations regarding the protection of human rights defenders during the UPR.

Key recommendations that should be made to Burkina Faso at the UPR include:

  • Ensure that all alleged attacks against human rights defenders are promptly and thoroughly investigated, that perpetrators are held accountable, and that victims have access to effective remedies.
  • Amend the law for the protection of human rights defenders to ensure the establishment and resourcing of a national protection mechanism for defenders, to include protections for women and disabled human rights defenders and repeal or reform article 16, which provides the power to expel defenders considered threats to national security.
  • Review the composition of the High Council of Communication to ensure a higher number of members of professional media groups.
  • Support the compliance of the newly established National Human Rights Institution with the Paris principles, including through guarantees of independence, expertise and adequate funding.

For further information about the Briefing Paper, please contact ISHR’s Adélaïde ETONG a.etong@ishr.ch

Photo: Flickr_RFI

Annual Report 2018

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