News

10 Oct

The 65th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights will be held in Banjul, The Gambia from 21 October to 10 November 2019. The African Commission session will be preceded by the NGO Forum and 39th African Human Rights Book Fair, which will take place from 17 to 19 October 2019.​

03 Oct

Costa Rica has announced its candidacy for membership of the Human Rights Council in a direct challenge to  Venezuela. It cites UN findings of grave violations of human rights in Venezuela for its decision. Costa Rica’s candidacy makes competitive an election that would have otherwise likely seen Venezuela and Brazil effectively handed membership on a plate.  

01 Oct

Coming right on the back of last week's UN General Assembly’s 74th session high-level week, today the work of the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee kicked off. This year’s session will run for eight weeks from 1 October to 21 November. The Committee will be chaired by Christian Braun from Luxembourg. 

27 Sep

Civil society organisations welcomed significant outcomes of the HRC's 42nd session, including reaffirming its condemnation of reprisals and extending its scrutiny over Yemen, Venezuela, Cambodia, Burundi, Myanmar, and Sudan. This session witnessed heightened scrutiny of Council members by shedding light on the situation in Saudi Arabia, but it missed an opportunity to ensure scrutiny over situations in China, Kashmir and Egypt. 

01 Oct

Following the adoption of the law in 2014 and its implementing decree in 2017, the Ivorian civil society, in collaboration with the National Human Rights Council, engages in the process of setting up the protection mechanism for human rights defenders. Establishing this mechanism is a crucial step to keep reinforcing the protection of human rights defenders in Cote d'Ivoire.

The findings of the Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria

29.11.2011
 

Source: UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria presented its long-awaited report, as requested by the UN Human Rights Council. At a press conference in Geneva (Monday, 28 November), the authors of the report, Paulo Pinheiro (Chairperson), Yakin Ertürk and Karen Koning AbuZayd, shared their observations and recommendations with the media.

The Report Summary

“The deteriorating situation in the Syrian Arab Republic prompted The Human Rights Council to establish an independent international commission of inquiry to investigate alleged violations of human rights since March 2011. From the end of September until mid- November 2011, the commission held meetings with Member States from all regional groups, regional organizations, including the League of Arab States and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, non-governmental organizations, human rights defenders, journalists and experts. It interviewed 223 victims and witnesses of alleged human rights violations, including civilians and defectors from the military and the security forces. In the present report, the commission documents patterns of summary execution, arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, torture, including sexual violence, as well as violations of children’s rights.

The substantial body of evidence gathered by the commission indicates that these gross violations of human rights have been committed by Syrian military and security forces since the beginning of the protests in March 2011. The commission is gravely concerned that crimes against humanity have been committed in different locations in the Syrian Arab Republic during the period under review. It calls upon the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic to put an immediate end to the ongoing gross human rights violations, to initiate independent and impartial investigations of these violations and to bring perpetrators to justice. The commission also addresses specific recommendations to opposition groups, the Human Rights Council, regional organizations and States Members of the United Nations.

The commission deeply regrets that, despite many requests, the Government failed to engage in dialogue and to grant the commission access to the country. The Government informed the commission that it would examine the possibility of cooperating with the commission once the work of its own independent special legal commission was completed. The commission reiterates its call for immediate and unhindered access to the Syrian Arab Republic.”

Read the full report here.

African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

The African Commission on Human & Peoples’ Rights is Africa’s main human rights body, holding public sessions twice a year at which States’ compliance under the African Charter on Human & Peoples’ Rights is reviewed.

Preceding these sessions, human rights defenders gather at the NGO Forum to discuss human rights concerns and urge the Commission to take action. Such engagement is key to strengthening the African human rights system.

For over a decade ISHR has engaged actively with the Commission. Through lobbying, support to Special Rapporteurs, membership of Commission working groups and the NGO Forum Steering Committee, and by the publication of biannual reports and periodic Monitors on the NGO Forum and Commission sessions, ISHR contributes to building this human rights system.

ECOSOC and the NGO Committee

The Committee on NGOs oversees the implementation of ECOSOC resolution 1996/31, which is the legal framework governing civil society participation in the work of the UN. The Committee is tasked with considering the applications of NGOs for consultative status with the UN, and makes recommendations to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), which can accept or overturn a decision.

Consultative status provides NGOs with access to a range of fora at the UN, including the Human Rights Council, ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies, UN conferences, and events organised by the President of the General Assembly.

ISHR works to facilitate the accreditation of human rights NGOs, in particular those dealing with sexual orientation and gender identity, women’s rights, reproductive rights, minority issues, and freedom of expression and association.

ISHR runs campaigns advocating for improvement in the functioning and membership of the Committee and for the accountability of its members to the principles of the UN Charter and ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31. We also provide strategic advice and support to NGOs seeking accreditation by the Committee on NGOs, and to NGOs subject to disciplinary sanctions by the Committee.
 

UN General Assembly

The General Assembly is the main deliberative organ of the United Nations. It is composed of representatives of all member States and has a general mandate to discuss and make recommendations on any matters within the scope of the UN Charter. Under Article 13 of the Charter, the General Assembly is specifically mandated to ‘initiate studies and make recommendations for the purpose of assisting in the realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion’.

The plenary regular session of the General Assembly runs from September to December, but can reconvene at any time during the year. Each year the General Assembly addresses over 150 agenda items, which are considered either in the plenary or in one of its six committees.

The Third Committee (Social, Cultural, and Humanitarian) addresses most agenda items relevant to human rights defenders, including women's rights, children’s rights, indigenous peoples' rights, and the elimination of racism.

Numerous special procedures also report to the Third Committee on a number of these issues and engage in an interactive dialogue with States. After completing its work, the Third Committee submits draft resolutions to the General Assembly for final adoption.

Treaty Bodies

The treaty bodies are international committees of independent experts that monitor State parties’ implementation of the core international human rights treaties and their optional protocols.

The treaty bodies' functions include considering State parties' periodic reports, adjudicating individual complaints, conducting country inquiries, adopting general comments interpreting treaty provisions, and organising thematic discussions related to the treaties.

In carrying out their work, treaty bodies consider information provided by the State parties but also from other actors including UN agencies, national human rights institutions and NGOs. For further information on working with the treaty bodies, see ISHR’s Simple Guide to the UN Treaty Bodies.

ISHR supports human rights defenders and NGOs to access and leverage the treaty bodies to contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights on the ground. We also monitor and report on the treaty bodies’ examination of State reports and provide case notes on recent decisions on individual communications. ISHR is actively involved in advocacy around the ongoing treaty body strengthening process to ensure that the system is enhanced for the benefits of rights holders.

Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council

The Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council are independent human rights experts, appointed to monitor and report on human rights violations and to advise and assist in promoting and protecting rights.

ISHR works closely with the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and other mandates directly related to the concerns of defenders, such as the expert on freedom of assembly and association. We also advocate to ensure attention to human rights defenders by all experts, and to strengthen the overall work of the special procedures, including by advocating for the appointment of highly qualified, independent experts and by pushing States to implement their recommendations.

Photo credit: FlickR/UN Geneva

The Human Rights Council appoints an International Commission of Inquiry to investigate Syria

16.09.2011
 

On 12 September, the President of the Human Rights Council, Laura Dupuy Lasserre announced the appointment of three high-level experts as members of the Commission of Inquiry to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law since March 2011 in the Syrian Arab Republic.  The three Experts are Ms. Yakin Erturk, Mr. Sergio Pinheiro, and Karin Abu Zeid.  Mr. Pinheiro will serve as Chair of the Commission.

The Council resolved to establish the independent, international Commission of Inquiry at the end of its seventeenth Special Session on the human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic on 23 August 2011.

The Commission’s mandate is to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law since March 2011 in the Syrian Arab Republic, to establish the facts and circumstances that may amount to such violations and of the crimes perpetrated and, where possible, to identify those responsible with a view of ensuring that perpetrators of violations, including those that may constitute crimes against humanity, are held accountable.

The same resolution requested the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide the full administrative, technical and logistical support needed to enable the Commission to carry out its mandate.

The Commission is due to make public its findings to the Council as soon as possible, and in any case before end of November 2011.  In addition, the commission of inquiry will present a written update to the report on the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic in an interactive dialogue with the participation of the High Commissioner at the nineteenth session of the Human Rights Council in March 2012.

The President of the Human Rights Council, Ambassador Laura Dupuy Lasserre underlined the importance for the Syrian authorities to fully cooperate with the Commission.

To read more about the members of the Commission of Inquiry click here for the original press release.

UN Human Rights Council

The Human Rights Council is the world’s peak multilateral human rights body. It is comprised of 47 Member States and meets at least three times per year in Geneva. It is mandated to strengthen the global promotion and protection of human rights, and to address human rights violations and situations of concern.

ISHR works intensively at the Human Rights Council to support the work of human rights defenders. Our strategic combination of research, capacity building, policy development, and advocacy seeks to ensure that the Council is accessible to human rights defenders, protects them against intimidation and reprisals, and is an effective mechanism for change on the ground.

We also monitor and report on States’ cooperation with the Council and advocate to ensure that States that seek membership are held to account for their commitment to ‘uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights’.

Read more about our impact and vision in making progress and preventing regress for civil society at the UN.

Strengthening human rights systems

International and regional human rights laws and mechanisms can be used by human rights defenders to ensure accountability for human rights violations and to create and maintain pressure for human rights change.

Our work to strengthen human rights laws and systems focuses on four key issues:

  • Creating space for human rights defenders – Our research, policy development, advocacy and technical support help create and protect the space for human rights defenders, ensuring their voices are heard.
  • Enhanced legal recognition and protection - Our work seeks to strengthen the legal recognition and protection of human rights defenders at the international and regional levels and the implementation of relevant laws and standards at the national level.
  • Better protection from reprisals – Our work seeks to protect defenders from intimidation and reprisals, and to ensure that international and regional human rights systems have the mechanisms to prevent reprisals and ensure accountability where they occur.
  • Stronger membership and cooperation with human rights bodies – We monitor and report on States’ cooperation with UN treaty bodies, the Human Rights Council, the Universal Periodic Review, and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Our research, monitoring, lobbying and advocacy also helps to ensure that UN treaty body members, together with Special Rapporteurs of the UN and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, are independent, expert and qualified.
     

Human rights defenders in restrictive environments

ISHR supports human rights defenders working in restrictive and dangerous environments, contributing to their protection and amplifying their work to expose violations, seek accountability and increase pressure for change.

ISHR also assists human rights defenders working in States undergoing transition to ensure accountability for past human rights violations and the creation of new laws and institutions which uphold human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

Pages

Opinion:

The Global Climate Strike is happening now. Young people are calling on us to disrupt business as usual and join the strikes on Friday 20 and 27 September. While the media have mainly reported on demonstrations in major cities, young activists in all world regions are defending the environment. We talked to four young defenders to understand why the climate emergency matters to them. 

Browse our articles:

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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