Treaty Bodies | UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination takes steps to protect human rights defenders


The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Form of Racial Discrimination, recently took up the issue of  reprisals against Russian human rights defenders cooperating with it and used its Early Warning and Urgent Action procedure in response to the arbitrary allegations of terrorist links of human rights defenders in the Philippines. In both cases, indigenous human rights defenders were subject to discrimination and mistreatment.

In a 10 May 2018 letter to the Russian government, CERD expressed grave concern about the mistreatment of Yana Tannagasheva and Vladislav Tannagashev, who are defenders fighting for rights of the indigenous people of Shor in the Kemerovo district of South Siberia, following their cooperation with the Committee. Tannagasheva and Tannagashev have been subject to intimidation and threats against them and their family members by the Kemerovo district authorities and the Yuzhnaya coal company. Police surveillance, tapped phones, suspected arson attack, arbitrary dismissal from work are some of the forms of harassment they were subject to. Both have had to flee the country accompanied by their children in pursuit of safety.

This case was the subject of a letter sent to the State party by CERD. The Russian government must now respond and take steps to ensure that human rights defenders engaging with the UN are able to do so safely, free from reprisals and intimidation.

"We urge the government of Russia to refrain from restricting the legitimate work of human rights defenders", said ISHR’s Madeleine Sinclair. "This is not the first time Russia has carried out reprisals against defenders engaging with the treaty bodies. We urge the CERD to continue to monitor the situation to ensure proper follow up.” The Russian government has been asked to respond to the allegations within 30 days.

On 14 May 2018, CERD decided under its Early Warning and Urgent Action procedure to urge the Filipino government to remove indigenous peoples and human rights defenders from a list of more than 600 individuals alleged to be affiliated with “terrorist organisations.”  The CERD was particularly alarmed by the inclusion of the UN Special Rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Joan Carling who is a former member of the UN Permanent Forum on the Indigenous Issues, as well as Jose Molintas, former member of the UN Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“We welcome the CERD’s decision to call this what it is—an attempt to intimidate people struggling for their rights and indigenous people defending their lands and part of a wider campaign to narrow the democratic space and to target various groups of persons,” said Sinclair. The Philippines has been requested to take effective measures to protect indigenous peoples and human rights defenders, and to foster a conducive environment enabling them to carry out their work without fear. In that regard, the Philippines has been asked to provide information no later than 16 July 2018.

Contact: Madeleine Sinclair,

Photo: ISHR


  • Asia
  • Europe
  • Human rights defenders
  • NGOs
  • Reprisals and intimidation
  • United Nations
  • Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
  • UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies
  • Philippines
  • Russia