Importance and impact of NGOs at the
Human Rights Council
By Joachim Rücker,
President of the Human Rights Council
Civil society is at the core of human rights and at the core of our work within the Human Rights Council. NGOs put issues on the agenda, provide vital information about human rights on the ground, and give a voice and face to human rights. NGOs assist to implement and monitor the implementation of the decisions and resolutions of the Council at the national level.
NGOs are thereby often bridging the gap between the international, regional and national levels, by helping to translate our work into action, by triggering change, and by reminding us to strive for accountability.
As President of the Human Rights Council, I am therefore proud that in resolutions 60/251 and 5/1 our founding fathers and mothers laid the basis for civil society participation, asking the Council to ensure that civil society can participate as effectively as possible... more
Counter-terrorism laws must not criminalise human rights defenders
At ISHR's Human Rights Council Side Event, a high-level panel called upon States to fully implement Council resolution 22/6 on protecting human rights defenders as a key aspect of combating extremism and countering-terrorism.
The manner in which defenders' activities across all regions are being restricted under counter terrorism and national security laws was analysed by ISHR's Phil Lynch, Special Rapporteur Michel Forst, Pakistani human rights lawyer Hina Jilani, FIDH's Americas Director Jimena Reyes, OMCT's Gerald Staberock plus human rights defenders Roselyn Hanzi from Zimbabwe and Tanele Maseko from Swaziland... Full coverage here
KEY DEVELOPMENTS AROUND THE COUNCIL
REMEMBERING AND DEMANDING ACCOUNTABILITY FOR CAO SHUNLI AND DETAINED CHINESE HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
China should ensure a full, independent and impartial investigation into the death of human rights defender Cao Shunli and immediately and unconditionally release five women's rights activists detained for campaigning against sexual harassment, ISHR said on 14 March, the first anniversary of Cao Shunli's death.
Cao Shunli died on 14 March 2014 after being arbitrarily detained and denied adequate access to health care and a lawyer as a reprisal for her efforts to raise the issue of human rights in China, both in Beijing and at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Prior to her death she was held under the spurious charges of 'picking quarrels and provoking trouble'.
In a disturbing parallel, five Chinese women human rights defenders remain arbitrarily detained after being arrested for 'picking quarrels and creating a disturbance' in association with their efforts to highlight sexual harassment on the occasion of International Women's Day on 8 March... more
REPORT OF, AND INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE WITH, SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR FOR HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS:
STATES SHOULD STRENGTHEN LEGAL PROTECTION AND END IMPUNITY FOR ATTACKS AGAINST DEFENDERS
The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst, should continue to focus on strengthening the legal and institutional protection of human rights defenders and promoting accountability and an end to impunity for attacks against them, key States and NGOs have told the UN Human Rights Council.
The report, which summarises the work undertaken by the Special Rapporteur since his appointment in June 2014 and outlines his strategic work-plan, was warmly received by civil society delegates and by the majority of State representatives present. An ISHR summary and analysis of the report was published online last month.
‘The Rapporteur is to be commended for his affirmation of the urgent need for action to combat impunity for threats, attacks and reprisals against defenders,’ said ISHR's Phil Lynch... more
two un events call on states to put protection of whrdS into practice
The protection of women human rights defenders remains woefully inadequate despite the obligations States have made in this regard. Two side events were held simultaneously, in parallel to important fora on human rights and the rights of women in Geneva and New York.
Each sought to draw attention to the urgent implementation by member States of obligations towards recognising and protection women human rights defenders, as expressed very clearly in the 2013 UN General Assembly resolution 68/181... more
MEXICO: STRENGTHEN MECHANISM TO PROTECT WOMEN HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
Mexico should strengthen its Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders to better respond to the situation and protection of women human rights defenders facing worsening violence in the country, ISHR said today.
The call came following an ISHR co-sponsored Human Rights Council side-event in Geneva on the context of violence in Mexico and its impact on women human rights defenders.
Visiting women defenders underlined the negative impact of the 'war on drugs' on their security and explained what is not being done to implement the national protection mechanism for defenders. The Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, meanwhile, expressed his intent to visit the country... more
STATES MUST RESPOND TO SPECIAL PROCEDURE COMMUNICATIONS PROMPTLY AND CONSTRUCTIVELY
The continual failure of States to cooperate with the Special Procedures mechanisms is gravely concerning, ISHR said today in a statement to the 28th session of the Human Rights Council.
In its statement, ISHR highlighted particularly egregious examples of reprisals against human rights defenders in the past year, such as the murder of five Peruvian defenders in relation to their land rights work, and 52 men, mostly minors, detained and ill-treated for peacefully protesting the regime in Egypt.
'None of these cases received a reply from the government concerned,' ISHR said... more
SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON HRDs: INCREASE POLITICAL COST OF ATTACKS AGAINST ACTIVISTS
The UN expert on human rights defenders should find ways of increasing the political cost of attacks and threats against human rights activists, the International Service for Human Rights said today.
In a statement delivered to the Human Rights Council, ISHR expressed concern about increasing legislative restrictions imposed on human rights defenders, observed in all regions of the world. Of particular concern in this regard are counter-terrorism measures used to criminalise defenders.
Welcoming the move by Brazil, Colombia, Cote d’Ivoire and Mexico - among other States - to enact specific laws and policies on the recognition and protection of human rights defenders, ISHR affirmed implementation remains patchy... more
IRAN: HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL SHOULD RE-APPOINT SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR
Over 30 leading human rights organisations has urged the UN Human Rights Council to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Iran to ensure continued international monitoring and reporting on the human rights situation there.
The organisations - which include international NGOs such as Human Rights Watch and ISHR, regional organisations such as the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, and NGOs focused on Iran such as Impact Iran and Iran Human Rights - said, 'the situation in Iran remains one of systemic human rights violations that are deeply rooted in laws, policies, and practices that require the sustained attention of the Council.
Renewal of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate will ensure that human rights in Iran remain a priority globally and for the Council... more
UPCOMING SIDE EVENTS
THE FOLLOWING PARALLEL EVENTS WILL TAKE PLACE AT THE PALAIS DE NATIONS, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
LGBTI children and human rights,16 March, lead by International Lesbian and Gay Association. This event is scheduled for 16:30 - 18:30 at Palais des Nations in Geneva in Room XXI.
Human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, 17 March, lead by Human Rights Watch. This event is scheduled for 17:00 - 18:30 at Palais des Nations in Geneva in Room XXVII.
Human rights in Iran, 13 March, led by East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project. This event is scheduled for 12.30 - 14:00 in Room XXIV.
Human rights protection of artists, 18 March, lead by Baha'i International Community (BIC). This event is scheduled for 15:00 - 17:00 at Palais des Nations in Geneva in Room XXIV.
Human rights in the European Union: Civil society space, 18 March, lead by CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation. This event is scheduled for 17:00 - 18:30 at Palais des Nations in Geneva in Room XXIV.
Human Rights in Myanmar, 18 March, lead by Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUMASIA). This event is scheduled for 17:00 - 18:30 at Palais des Nations in Geneva in Room XXII.
Legally binding instrument on business and human rights: EU Perspective, 19 March, lead by Franciscans International. This event is scheduled for 12:00 - 14:00 at Palais des Nations in Geneva in Room XXVII.
UPR for Egypt, 19 March, lead by Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. This event is scheduled for 15:00 - 18:00 at Palais des Nations in Geneva in Room XXII.
Media at the Human Rights Council, 19 March, lead by The Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations. This event is scheduled for 16:00 - 18:00 at Palais des Nations in Geneva in Room XXI.
Democracy in South Asia, 20 March, lead by International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR). This event is scheduled for 11:00 - 13:00 at Palais des Nations in Geneva in Room XXIV.
Against the backdrop of violent police crackdown against peaceful protesters in Burma this week, the Human Rights Council is negotiating a draft resolution which will extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Burma. Students protesting against new education policies seeking to impose undue restrictions to the formation of student and teacher unions, as well as curtailment of academic freedom, have faced crackdown by the authorities. Many have been arrested and charged under Section 18 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Act. During her recent visit, the Special Rapporteur stressed that 'the ability of people to assemble and voice their grievances is a necessary requirement for reform and accountability'. In anticipation of a general election and Constitutional referendum in Burma later this year, the government must ensure that democratic space is ensured. The Human Rights Council must strongly urge the government to fully respect the rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression. Furthermore, for democratic transition to be effective and meaningful, the international community must further encourage the government to establish an OHCHR presence which has a full mandate, including providing technical assistance and capacity-building as well as having a monitoring function.
COUNCIL TO ADOPT UPR OUTCOMES, STATES INCLUDE ITALY, GAMBIA, KAZAKHSTAN, ANGOLA, IRAN AND EGYPT
Between Wednesday and Friday of this week, the Council will consider and adopt the outcomes on 14 countries reviewed by the UPR Working Group during its 20th session, including the report of new Council members Bolivia and El Salvador.
At the Working Group stage Angola agreed to take steps to guarantee a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders, whilst Kazakhstan agreed to reform parts of its criminal code to ensure the right to freedom of assembly, in line with recommendations by ISHR. Italy, meanwhile, is examining recommendations made in relation to the protection of journalists.
Since the call for submissions to the UPR process last year, ISHR has documented how the crackdown on civil society space in Egypt and Iran have worsened, making the adoption of their reports all the more critical. Meanwhile, eyes will be on Kazakhstan, which has since been elected as Vice-President of the Human Rights Council’s bureau.
PANEL ON NATIONAL POLICIES AND HUMAN RIGHTS
Peru and Ecuador, on behalf of Algeria, Italy, Thailand and others, will present a panel discussion on National Policies and Human Rights on Thursday 19 March (currently planned to start at 12:00 GVA time).
The panel will focus on the findings of the report on ‘technical assistance and capacity-building options to integrate human rights into national policies’ prepared by the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR). The panel will draw on experiences and challenges identified in the report with the aim of elaborating recommendations that the Council could make to Member States to assist in overcoming obstacles when putting national policies into practice.
ISHR welcomes this discussion and strongly supports the examination of practical measures for the implementation of national mechanisms to address the gap between international standards accepted by States and the realities faced by defenders on the ground. National laws for the protection of human rights defenders are essential to ensure that human rights defenders can work in a safe, enabling environment and be free from attacks, reprisals and unreasonable legal restrictions.