Human Rights Monitor - Special Edition - Women Human Rights Defenders
Special Edition - June 2015
Women Human Rights Defenders

Also available in Spanish

ISHR is working to produce more of its news and publications in multiple languages. We are pleased to advise that this version of the Human Rights Monitor is also available in Spanish.
Defending the defenders: a daunting challenge

By Jody Williams, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 and Chair of the Nobel Women’s Initiative

Nobel Laureate Jody Williams speaks on women defenders following a conference in April at the Hague, which aimed to deepen the understanding of risks faced by women defenders and to develop strategies to strengthen efforts to defend women...more  

about this monitor

Women human rights defenders (WHRDs) around the world face a variety of violations, risks and constraints in carrying out their work, and yet they remain largely invisible and unacknowledged. Many of the violations they face are under-reported, and those that are reported remain unpunished.

WHRDs face heightened vulnerability to attacks from non-State actors, particularly their own communities. In instances where they face violations potentially unrelated to their gender, these have gendered consequences. It is of concern that the intimidation and harassment faced by WHRDs is increasingly becoming normalised under a prevailing culture of impunity.

In this edition of the Monitor, ISHR seeks to recognise the valuable work of WHRDs and their networks, understand their challenges and underscore their specific protection needs. 

Support women human rights defenders

Support gender equality and women's rights activists: A message from Navi Pillay

It takes bravery to fight against entrenched gender discrimination. Those who do so often face threats to their lives, their loved-ones and their reputations. They come up against repressive and discriminatory laws, criminalisation, arbitrary detention, stigmatisation and violence.
As a women’s rights activist myself, I know what it’s like to be discriminated against and threatened for challenging the status quo. I know the indignation and passion that drives us, and the very real threats that can overshadow us.

But as a decision maker, I have also witnessed the profound influence women human rights defenders can have in changing the prejudices of their own communities. The reality is there would be no progress towards gender equality, were it not for women's rights defenders... more

WHRDs in the human rights Systems

Human Rights Council:
Ensure explicit recognition and genuine participation of WHRDs 

ISHR calls on the Human Rights Council to ensure that WHRDs are explicitly recognised in the agenda of its upcoming 29th session, during which a resolution on combatting all forms of violence and discrimination against women will be adopted... more

Commission on the status of women:
Civil society calls states to account on failure to name or engage with WHRDs

This year’s Commission on the Status of Women marked the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Women’s rights and sexual rights groups have criticised the lack of civil society involvement in the drafting process and the content of the session’s outcome document... more 

a view from the regions

WHRDS from Asia Highlight Key Challenges to Carrying Out Human Rights Activities

By Saartje Baes, Human Rights Defenders Programme Officer at Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development

In December 2014, human rights defenders from 22 countries in Asia participated in the 6th Asian Regional Human Rights Defenders Forum in the Philippines. This event provided the opportunity for WHRDs in Asia to raise concerns with the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders related to harassment, threats and attacks that WHRDs in Asia are confronted with, which challenge discriminatory cultural, religious or social norms... more

Middle East & North Africa WHRD Coalition - A Glimpse of Hope

By Amal Elmohandes, Director of the Women Human Rights Defenders Programme at Nazra for Feminist Studies

Following an increase in systematic abusive application of security and legal procedures against women human rights defenders (WHRDs) in the Middle East and North Africa, WHRDs have identified a necessity for establishing a regional coalition to enhance protection measures for WHRDs... more

African WHRDs call for stronger protection mechanisms 

On the sidelines of the 56th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, women human rights defenders from the continent deliberated the findings and recommendations of the report on WHRDs also launched at the same session. They called on African States to pay due attention to the recommendations and to work closely with civil society to ensure effective protection mechanisms for human rights defenders which take into consideration the specific needs of women defenders...more 

Developments in the promotion and protection of human rights

Tie you up, Throw you into Men’s Prison, and let them Gang Rape you

Wu Rongrong, one of the Chinese Feminist Five, has talked about her suffering during the police interrogation and her detention... more

Angolan Journalist Rafael Marques de Morais Receives Six-Month Suspended Sentence

Less than a week after celebrating an apparent dismissal of all charges, Rafael Marques de Morais, who was sued for libel by a group of generals in connection to his book exposing corruption and human rights violations connected to the diamond trade in Angola, was handed down a six-month suspended sentence...more

URG Welcomes Advent of New Informal Council Briefings with High Commissioner

The Universal Rights Group welcomes the first informal briefing of the Human Rights Council by the High Commissioner. The briefing, resulting from requests from delegations and NGOs, improves the Council’s ability to effectively interact with the High Commissioner... more

Angola: Fabricated Charges and Continued Detention of Activists a Mockery of Justice

Amnesty International, Lawyers for Human Rights, the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, the International Commission of Jurists and the SADC Lawyers' Association call for the immediate release of two human rights defenders imprisoned in a move to oppress freedom of expression in Angola... more 

Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Freedom of Opinion and Expression

The Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression has published his latest report. The report includes important recommendations on human rights defenders, including that legislation and regulations protecting human rights defenders and journalists should also include provisions enabling access and providing support to use the technologies to secure their communications... more

Niger: Human Rights Defenders Held Without Charge: Moussa Tchangari and Nouhou Azirka

Two human rights defenders have been arrested, on 18 and 24 May, for making public statements on human rights violations during the state of emergency in the Diffa region in Niger and the poor working conditions of security forces. They are being detained without charge in Niamey... more 
Viet Nam: Release Tran Huynh Duy Thuc

Amnesty International, along with 36 national and international NGOs, calls for the release of prisoner of conscience Tran Huynh Duy Thuc who was imprisoned in May 2009 and is serving a 16 year sentence for blogging about political reform and human rights... more
For Judges Who Defy Turkey’s Leaders, Short Road to Jail

In the lead up to the general election in June, the Turkish Government’s authoritarian tendencies of jailing journalists has extended to judges and prosecutors who issue decisions the Government doesn’t like. Over the past month, three judges and four prosecutors have been put in pre-trial detention, for discharging their professional duties rather than on evidence of criminal activity... more

Turkmenistan: Growing Crackdown on Information Access
Turkmen authorities’ have expanded their campaign to remove private satellite dishes from private homes in residential areas in an effort to block access to alternative sources of information, violating the right to access to information and freedom of speech... more

Myanmar Jails Six Activists who Opposed Copper Mine: Lawyer

Six activists opposed to the controversial Chinese-backed Letpadaung copper mine have been sentenced to over four years in prison. Rights groups are concerned that this move, along with the arrest of dozens of protesters and a crackdown on media freedoms, indicates that reforms are stalling... more  

Peru Declares Emergency in Islay After Mine Protest Deaths

Peru declared a state of emergency in the coastal province of Islay, suspending constitutional rights – including freedom of transit and the right to hold meetings - after two months of protests of the construction of Southern Copper Corp.’s Tia Maria mine claimed a fourth life... more

Conferences and events

Human Rights Defenders and the Rule of Law

ISHR and the United Kingdom Mission in Geneva are holding an Panel discussion on ‘Human Rights Defenders and the Rule of Law’ on 8 June from 16.30 to 18.00 at The Graduate Institute, Maison de la Paix.

The Panel will discuss the importance of the rule of law in safeguarding the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly for human rights defenders and activists and the vital role of human rights defenders and international mechanisms in establishing, maintaining and promoting the rule of law. More information can be found here.

High Level Panel on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity

Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay are organising a high-level event on 11 June, 10.00-13.00 at Palais des Nations, Room XXVII. The event is focused on good practices by States for the promotion and protection of the rights of LGBTI people. The event will draw from the findings of the High Commissioner's report on the topic, which is to be presented at the upcoming 29th session of the Human Rights Council. 

#ICT4HR: Using information and communication technologies to protect human rights

ISHR is pleased to co-sponsor an event with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to promote human rights. The event will take place on 19 June, from 12.00 - 13.30 in room XXIII, Palais des Nations.

The event will follow the report by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, to the Human Rights Council's 29th session, on the use of ICTs for the protection of the right to life. 

The event is intended to sensitise those working at the Human Rights Council to the potential of this dynamic and growing field, with which official international mechanisms need to engage. It will also offer an opportunity for participants to highlight the challenges presented by new technologies and to consider the limitations of digital human rights work. More information can be found here.

Essex Human Rights Summer School

The Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex will offer its five day summer school on Human Rights Research Methods from 19 June to 3 July

merits decisions

Q v. Denmark (2001/2010)

Denmark violated its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in failing to provide sufficient reasons for refusing an application for naturalisation... more

A.H.G. v. Canada (2091/2011)
Canada’s deportation of an individual amounted to cruel and inhuman treatment

Canada found to be in violation of its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights for deporting an individual suffering from paranoid schizophrenia... more

WOMEN's rights networks

The need for protection networks for women human rights defenders
By Marusia López Cruz and Cristina Hardaga Fernández, JASS – Just Associates - Mesoamerican Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders

The Mesoamerican Women Human Rights Defenders Initiative builds and promotes protective networks for women human rights defenders. Networks such as these, save and strengthen the collective power of women who work for a better world...more
WHRD International Coalition Celebrates 10 Years

By Sarah Marland, Coordinator of the WHRD International Coalition

The campaign on Women Human Rights Defenders in 2005 created national and international recognition of women human rights defenders and their work. In 2008, the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition was established which has developed a three year strategic plan aiming to address the specific needs of women defenders and their movements…more

women human rights defender profiles

ISHR had the privilege of speaking with Ahlem Beladj, Alejandra Burgos, Mary Akrami and Pierre Fritznel. These women human rights defenders from across the world are working to combat gender-based violence, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, sexual and reproductive rights, and in contexts of transitional justice and disaster.

Each outlined the specific challenges they face in their human rights work and made recommendations to UN bodies, particularly the Human Rights Council and the Commission on the Status of Women, on strengthening their support for women human rights defenders.

Opportunities for NGO engagement

Human Rights Council

The 29th regular session of the Council will be held on 15 June – 3 July in the Palais des Nations. Information and updates will be published here.

The 15th session of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee will be held from 10 to 14 August in the Palais des Nations. The Advisory Committee functions as a think-tank for the Human Rights Council, focusing mainly on studies and research-based advice as requested by the Human Rights Council. NGOs in consultative status with ECOSOC may submit written statements relevant to the work of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee ahead of the relevant session. Information and updated will be published here

Universal Periodic Review

The following States will be reviewed at the 24th session of the UPR which will be held in Jan/Feb 2016: Namibia, Niger, Mozambique, Estonia, Paraguay, Belgium, Denmark, Palau, Somalia, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Latvia, Sierra Leone, and Singapore. The deadline for NGO submissions is 22 June. Guidelines for submissions are found here. Information about the UPR mechanism can be found here.

Special Procedures

The Annual Meeting of special rapporteurs, independent experts and chairpersons of the working groups of the special procedures will be held on 8 to 12 June.  Consultations with civil society will take place during this period. Information on consultations can be found here.

Treaty Bodies

The 26th session of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture will be held on 15 to 19 June on the 1st Floor of Palais Wilson. Information about the Subcommittee’s work and the associated Optional Protocol can be found here.

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women will meet in Geneva from 6 to 24 July for its 61st session. The Committee will review the reports of the following countries: Bolivia, Croatia, Gambia, Namibia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Senegal, Spain and Vietnam. The deadline for the submissions of information for both sessions is 12 June.

The pre-sessional working group of the 63rd session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women will take place from 27 to 31 July. It will consider the following State reports: Czech Republic, Haiti, Iceland, Japan, Mongolia, Sweden, United Republic of Tanzania and Vanauatu. The deadline for the submissions of information for both sessions is 12 June.

The 114th session of the Human Rights Committee will be held on 29 June to 24 July and will consider the following State reports: Canada, France, Spain, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Island, Crown Dependencies of the United Kingdom and Northern Island, Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom and Northern Island, Uzbekistan, Venezuela (the Bolivarian Republic of). The programme of work and other information is found here. NGO submissions should be made well in advance of the relevant session.

If you are unable to attend relevant treaty body meetings, you can now watch them live online. A group of Geneva-based NGOs, including ISHR, has coordinated to make this possible. The webcasts can be viewed here.


The 27th session of the Meeting of Chairpersons of the Human Rights Treaty Bodies will be held 22 to 26 June on the 1st Floor of Palais Wilson. Informal consultations with NGOs are a standard feature of the meeting. Submissions are also periodically accepted and NGOs are encouraged to contact the Secretariat for further information at: Information surrounding past and upcoming meetings is published here.

Requests for information

Getting down to business – a comparative survey of enabling environments for businesses and associations

The Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association seeks input, by way of a questionnaire, from civil society for his upcoming report to the UN General Assembly. The report will compare the treatment of businesses and associations with a view to assessing how States facilitate the exercise of the rights of freedom of peaceful assembly and of association for non-State actors. 

Responses may be sent by 5 June 2015 to

UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights

The Working Group can receive information on alleged human rights abuses or violations and intervene directly with States, business enterprises and others on such allegations. The Working Group intends to increase the number of communications it sends to States and business enterprises and for this reason is seeking assistance to raise awareness about the communication procedure.

More information on the communications procedure can be found here

Consultation - How to create and maintain civil society space? What works?

The High Commissioner for Human Rights is compiling a report of practical recommendations on how to create and maintain the space for civil society to work freely and independently. The High Commissioner is seeking (i) examples of ways to maintain civil society space; (ii) ways to continue working when limitations are imposed; and (iii) useful links, tools, resources and guides. Responses may be sent by 30 June 2015 by email:

U.S. National Action Plan: Still Time for Input

President Obama announced that the U.S. would begin drafting a National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct ("NAP") last September. In the intervening months, U.S. civil society and labour organisations, business groups, and the U.S. Government have held four separate meeting to facilitate input and engagement on the process and substance of the NAP. Written submissions can be sent to, and additional background information and an archive of civil society submissions can be found here.  

New Resources

Resources and NGO Toolkit for Fighting Civil Society Restrictions

The Defending Civil Society Project, a collaboration between the World Movement for Democracy and International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, provides information, tips, tools and strategies on how NGOs can best achieve their goals and seek reform in oppressive legal environments. The project also provides updates on NGO laws around the world. It is available in English, French, Spanish, Russian and Arabic.

Assembly and Association Briefing

The latest Assembly and Association Briefing – Issue 10 was released in February by UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai. The periodic briefing provides the Special Rapporteur’s insights and findings from his official visits over the December-January 2014 period, and other information associated with his mandate. You can subscribe to the newsletter and find all past issues here.

New Victorian Human Rights Charter Case Collection

Developed in collaboration with the Supreme Court of Victoria (Australia), the Judicial College of Victoria has released a collection of over 70 key case summaries and factual issues from 2007-2014 that were decided on the basis of the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities. The collection will be updated continually as new cases arise.

Global State of Freedom of Press

Freedom House has released Freedom of the Press 2015, providing key global and regional findings about press freedoms over 2014. Graphs, maps and summaries surrounding the report can be found here.

New Human Rights Council Country Voting Portal

The new Country Voting History Portal by the Universal Rights Group allows users to access the voting records of all States who have been members of the Human Rights Council. Each country page lists all resolutions which passed during that country's membership term.

E-Bulletin on the 54th Session of the Committee Against Torture

World Organisation Against Torture has published an E-Bulletin in English and Arabic on the 54th session of the Committee against Torture which took place from 20 April to 15 May 2015. It summarises the findings and recommendations of the Committee on the latest group of countries under review, follows up on previous recommendations, and looks ahead to next sessions.

Forum-Asia Annual Report 2014

This month FORUM-ASIA released its 2014 Annual Report and brief papers on its regional challenges and priorities, which introduce initiatives undertaken in the following areas:   Report on Systemic Sexual Violence Perpetrated by Egyptian Security Forces

In a new report, the International Federation for Human Rights has documented widespread and systemic sexual violence and abuse by Egyptian security forces against NGO representatives, human rights defenders and detainees in 2011-2014, particularly women, LGBT persons, students and minors. It also details the political underpinnings for the violence and reasons for continued impunity.

Special procedures' country visits

Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent
1 – 5 June 2015
Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
1 – 10 June 2015
Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt
29 June to 6 July
Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
3 – 12 August
Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography
1 – 10 September
Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice
1 – 11 September
Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association

21 – 30 September
To find out how you can support the visits, please contact the respective mandate-holder at their email, found in the directory
For more information, please visit our website: or contact us: