Sarah Brooks, International Service for Human Rights
In a year that began with the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and has seen stepped up targeting of civilians and infrastructure, the discussion of States’ duties to protect against these acts is central to this Council session’s work.
While there is a broad international consensus on the need to combat these acts while fully respecting human rights and humanitarian law, divergent political approaches threaten to weaken this consensus and enable the so-called War on Terror to be used as a subterfuge to mount attacks on human rights defenders and dissidents... more
Human Rights defender profile
Elsa Saade – Human rights defender from the Gulf Center for Human Rights
Elsa Saade spoke to ISHR about the risks and challenges faced by women human rights defenders in the Gulf and neighbouring countries.
‘Without human rights defenders, the reality would remain hidden. There is a clash between three concepts: reality, delusion and myth. You have the myth, the image that the State wants to portray; the delusion, as people keep quiet to put bread on the table; and the reality on the ground. Human rights defenders, be they journalists, bloggers, lawyers, teachers or women defenders, portray this reality. They are the ones who ask for accountability, for independent judges, for basic human rights.’... more
HIGH COMMISSIONER REPORT ON SOGI DENOUNCES DISCRIMINATORY LEGISLATIVE PROVISIONS
ISHR welcomed the report of the High Commissioner on ‘Discrimination and violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity’, which was presented to the Council on 22 June. Speaking on behalf of ISHR, Joshua Sehoole of Iranti-org, based in South Africa, concurred with the report that in all regions of the world, ‘LGBTI human rights defenders are more vocal and visible’. He noted advances in Kenya and Botswana in allowing for the registration of organisations working on the rights of LGBTI people. However, as also outlined in the study, he added that many more organisations around the world working on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression are denied registration, barred from receiving funding and blocked from conducting their legitimate activities, with their offices raided and their members attacked.
The report highlights that current arrangements to protect the human rights of LGBTI persons are inadequate, and the pattern and scale of abuses warrant a concerted response from governments and all stakeholders including the UN system. Despite repeated civil society calls to the Council to ensure a systematic and comprehensive international approach to the human rights situation of persons based on their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, there continues to be a lack of genuine discussion towards this end.
STATES: RESPOND PROMPTLY AND SUBSTANTIALLY TO UN HUMAN RIGHTS EXPERTS
In this session, 36 States have not responded to communications from Special Procedures, which undermines the integrity of the Council. ISHR suggested that unresponsive States should be given the floor during future interactive dialogues... more
SPAIN SHOULD IMPLEMENT UPR RECOMMENDATIONS AND PROTECT SPACE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISM
As the Council adopted Spain's final UPR report, ISHR called on the country to heed recommendations regarding the protection of civil society space and prevent regressive new laws from entering into force... more
KENYA MUST HELP RAISE THE VOICES OF HRDs
ISHR expressed great concern about the increasingly restrictive environment for human rights defenders in Kenya. ISHR called on the government to safeguard and encourage the essential voices of defenders, as the Council adopted Kenya’s final UPR report... more
KUWAIT SHOULD STOP CRIMINALISING HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
In the Council’s adoption of Kuwait's UPR report, ISHR called on the country to take immediate steps to protect the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly in law and practice… more
STATE IMPLEMENTATION OF UPR RECOMMENDATIONS ON HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS SHOULD BE A PRIORITY
It is crucial that States receiving recommendations on ensuring a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders implement them as a matter of priority. ISHR calls on those States that have made such recommendations to act to ensure their implementation... more
HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL EXAMINES COUNTRY SITUATIONS
ISHR followed the UPR reports considered by the Human Rights Council on the human rights situation in Guinea, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lesotho, Armenia, Guinea-Bissau, Sweden, Grenada, Turkey and Guyana… more
VOICES OF LGBTI DEFENDERS
Panelists at a side event focusing on reprisals and attacks against human rights defenders urged for impunity to be dealt with beyond regional and territorial boundaries and the establishment of minimum standards on addressing attacks on human rights defenders... more
Leading up to the 29th session
Informal briefing with the High Commissioner for Human Rights
For the first time, the organisational meeting for the 29th session of the Council was followed by an informal Human Rights Council briefing with the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. The informal offers an important new platform for the Council to respond rapidly to global human rights concerns, and to interact more effectively with the High Commissioner... more
2014 Annual report of the OHCHR
In presenting the OHCHR 2014 Annual Report, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, spoke of successes in terms of civil society space, but expressed his concern for the human rights violations in Azerbaijan and Burundi... more
Special Procedures: Recommendations to strengthen State cooperation and combat reprisals
At the 22nd Annual meeting of Special Procedures, ISHR called on Special Procedures mandate holders to protect those who cooperate with the UN from acts of intimidation and reprisal, and to be more active in publicly exposing States that engage in such acts... more
UPCOMING SIDE EVENTS
All these events are held at Palais des Nations, Geneva
Civil society reactions, 30 June, led by the Centre for Civil and Political Rights. This event is scheduled for 14:00 – 16:00 at Palais des Nations in Room IX.
Civil society and the commonwealth, 1 July, led by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI). This event is scheduled for 13:00 – 15:00 at Palais des Nations in Room XXIII.
Please note – this is a selection of the events from the full program of NGO parallel events (as at 4 June 2015) which can be found here.
RESOLUTION ON THE IMPACT OF CORRUPTION ON THE ENJOYMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS
The draft resolution on the ‘negative impact of corruption on the enjoyment of human rights’, while representing a small step forward in the Human Rights Council’s consideration of the issue, remains limited in its approach.
Despite the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee’s recognition of the protection needs of human rights defenders, the resolution fails to acknowledge the threats, attacks and criminalisation faced by human rights defenders working to combat corruption.
Although some States proposed language to this effect, the core group (Morocco, Austria, Poland, Indonesia, Brazil and Ethiopia) was unwilling to include it.
This absence of the recognition of defenders and the risks they face is even more regrettable given that two members of the core group are EU members and as such should be guided by their obligations under the EU guidelines on the protection of human rights defenders to adopt an inclusive definition of defenders, and further their protection.
The resolution, if adopted, asks UN human rights experts to consider the issue of corruption in their mandates, and will lead to a report on ‘best practice’ in fighting corruption compiled by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
RESOLUTION ON THE ELIMINATION OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN IN LAW AND PRACTICE
Colombia and Mexico have tabled a draft resolution on the elimination of discrimination against women, focusing on cultural and family life. The resolution calls upon States to tackle root causes for such forms of discrimination including by eliminating customary practices and making legislative reforms.
It also recognises the work of civil society and human rights defenders in promoting equality in all aspects of life. Regrettably, the resolution merely notes the report of the Working Group on the elimination of discrimination against women in law and practice, whose study on cultural and family life provided an excellent overview of applicable international human rights standards.
RESOLUTION ON ACCELERATING EFFORTS TO ELIMINATE ALL FORMS OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: ELIMINATING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
For the first time, the Council will deliberate on a resolution concerning domestic violence. Led by Canada, the draft text is comprehensive and addresses a number of key concerns including sexual and reproductive health and rights, comprehensive sexuality education as well as victims' access to justice. It further recognises the work of women human rights defenders in these areas. Despite much debate, the resolution as tabled retains language on State responsibility and due diligence in relation to abuses carried out in private spheres, as well as on marital rape and intimate partner violence.
RESOLUTION FOR THE RENEWAL OF THE MANDATE OF THE INDEPENDENT EXPERT ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN CÔTE D'IVOIRE
The presentation of the first report of the Independent Expert on Côte d’Ivoire coincides with the renewal of his mandate. The resolution mandating the renewal, tabled by Algeria on behalf of the African group under Item 10, does not include any changes to the mandate. However, civil society organisations have called for a stronger mandate to assist the country to overcome its human rights challenges.
The mandate is expected to be renewed for a period of one year. The mandate requests that the Independent Expert submits a report to the Human Rights Council at its 31st session, as well as a final recommendation at its 32nd session
INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE WITH THE INDEPENDENT EXPERT ON CÔTE D’IVOIRE
The Independent Expert on Côte d’Ivoire, Mohammed Ayat, will present his first report to the Human Rights Council on 30 June following the oral update provided at the 28th session. The report summarises the situation of human right in Côte d’Ivoire since his appointment in 2014.
The report acknowledges the improvement in the human rights situation in Côte d’Ivoire since the election post-crisis in 2012. The report also points out some challenges, including the fight against impunity; the lack of fair trials; the need to review the law establishing the National Human Rights Institution to comply with the Paris Principles; and the need to adopt an executive decree to implement the law on the protection of Human rights defenders.
COUNTER-TERRORISM PANEL DISCUSSION: CORRECTING THE NARRATIVE
In efforts to counter terrorism and violent extremism, States must champion the role of civil society in addressing root causes, and must maintain and indeed expand space for these organisations to continue their work.
On Tuesday 30 June, the Human Rights Council will host a panel discussion on 'the effects of terrorism on human rights', called for in a divisive resolution 28/17 last March. This panel must be a platform for States and civil society to emphasise the critical role of respect for human rights and the rule of law.
Drawing from the important consensus established about the need to protect defenders and civil society space, ISHR and other NGO voices will highlight the actions of some Council members that seek to use 'counter-terrorism' to justify the misuse of national security laws to target defenders and the heavy-handed and intrusive regulation of independent organisations.
WILL THE HRC REQUEST AN OHCHR FACT FINDING MISSION IN SOUTH SUDAN?
A draft resolution co-sponsored by the USA, UK, Paraguay and Albania,expressed deep concern at the human rights situation in South Sudan and at reports of atrocities committed since the outbreak of violence in December 2013. The resolution notes an increasing reduction of the democratic space in South Sudan, including through restrictions on the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association, as well as limitations on the operation of civil society and the media, including arbitrary detention, harassment, excessive use of force, and reported torture. The resolution stresses the importance of accountability and requests OHCHR “To undertake a Fact Finding Mission and comprehensive investigation into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights in South Sudan and related crimes, and to establish the facts and circumstances of such alleged violations, abuses and related crimes perpetrated with a view to avoiding impunity and ensuring accountability”. The resolution is still under discussion for adoption this week.