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Human Rights Monitor Monthly - February 2014 Download PDFDownload PDF
HUMAN RIGHTS MONITOR
February 2014

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OPINION
Five ways to a successful human rights campaign

Jo Becker, Human Rights Watch


The human rights movement has helped bring down dictators, reversed longstanding government practices, and transformed public perceptions on fundamental issues. But, while some efforts have succeeded, others have failed. What are the secrets of successful human rights campaigns?… more

UN Photo/Pierre Virot

our work to support human rights defenders

FORMER ISHR TRAINEE SUFFERS ATTACKS AND DEATH THREATS IN CÔTE D’IVOIRE

The government and officials in Côte d’Ivoire must take immediate steps to prevent, and ensure accountability for, attacks against those who defend the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons, the International Service for Human Rights and the West African Human Rights Defenders Network said, following death threats and attacks against a former ISHR trainee... more

NIGERIA SHOULD REPEAL LAW TARGETING LGBT RIGHTS AND DEFENDERS

A draconian law signed into force by the Nigerian President violates international law, will have wide-ranging and damaging impacts on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, and must be repealed, ISHR has said… more

STATES SHOULD STRENGTHEN LAWS AND POLICIES TO PROTECT HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS: UN EXPERT

Defending human rights is a critical but increasingly dangerous activity in many parts of the world, according to a new UN report. The report endorses many of the key recommendations made by ISHR and partners to protect defenders and support their courageous work… more

MALAYSIA MUST REVERSE BAN AGAINST LEADING HUMAN RIGHTS COALITION

Malaysian authorities should immediately reverse a ban issued against a leading coalition of human rights organisations, ISHR has said. The Coalition of Malaysian NGOs was declared illegal on 8 January on the basis of its support for LGBT rights… more

RUSSIA MUST END UNPRECEDENTED CRACKDOWN ON HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS

Russia must reform laws that restrict human rights defenders, rather than resort to cynical efforts to ease international pressure, said ISHR following the release of Pussy Riot member Maria Alekhina… more

UGANDAN PRESIDENT MUST VETO DRACONIAN ‘ANTI-HOMOSEXUALITY LAW’

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill passed by the Ugandan Parliament would have wide-ranging and devastating impacts on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. It flagrantly violates international law and should be vetoed by the Ugandan President, said ISHR… more

Our work to strengthen human rights systems

ISHR CALLS ON NEW COUNCIL PRESIDENT TO ENSURE SAFE CIVIL SOCIETY PARTICIPATION AT UN

ISHR has called on the new President of the Human Rights Council, Gabon, to uphold the right of civil society and NGOs to participate safely and effectively in the work of the Council, free from hindrance, intimidation or reprisals… more

UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY TURNS ITS BACK ON HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS

The African Group of States at the UN has led the General Assembly in a vote that puts on hold a Human Rights Council initiative to strengthen the protection of human rights defenders from attacks and reprisals. ISHR, together with Amnesty International, has expressed deep concern at the opposition to the protection of human rights defenders… more

Upcoming opportunities

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL 25TH SESSION

NGOs wishing to submit written statements to the 25th session of the Human Rights Council must do so online by 16 February. The online sign-up system for oral statements will open on 28 February at 2pm Geneva time, and the link will be made available here (see Quick links section). NGOs can also participate by submitting a video message. More information on NGO participation is available here.

General Assembly thematic debates and high level events

The General Assembly will hold thematic debates on water, sanitation and sustainable energy, 18 - 19 February; the role of partnerships and their contributions, 8 - 9 April; and ensuring peaceful and stable societies, 24 - 25 April. High-level events will also be held on contributions of women, the young and civil society, 6 - 7 March; and human rights and the rule of law, 17 - 18 June.

NEW DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSION TO 20TH SESSION OF THE UPR

The deadline for civil society to submit information for the 20th session of the working group (to be held from 27 October to 7 November) has been changed to 15 March 2014. Submissions should be sent using the new online UPR submissions system, which will open on 1 March.

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL ADVISORY COMMITTEE

The 12th session of the Human Rights Council’s Advisory Committee will take place from 24 – 28 February in the Palais des Nations, Geneva. NGOs are able to intervene under all thematic agenda items. The programme of work will be published here.

HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE

The Human Rights Committee will meet in Geneva from 10 – 28 March. NGOs should submit information on any of the countries under review by 14 February.

COMMITTEE ON ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCES

NGOs wishing to submit information on any of the countries to be reviewed at the upcoming session of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances, to be held in Geneva from 17 – 28 March, should do so by 3 February.

COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with disabilities will meet in Geneva from 31 March to 11 April. The deadline to submit information on any of the countries under review is 28 February.

COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF MIGRANT WORKERS

The deadline to submit information to the Committee on the Rights of Migrant Workers for any of the countries under review is 17 March. The Committee will meet in Geneva from 31 March to 11 April.

COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights will be in session in Geneva from 28 April to 23 May. The deadline to submit information on any of the countries under review is 17 March.

WEBCASTS OF THE TREATY BODY MEETINGS

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 at www.treatybodywebcast.org.

WORKING GROUP ON BUSINESS AND HUMAN RIGHTS

Submissions to the Working Group on business and human rights, alleging violations of human rights in relation to the Working Group’s mandate, are accepted throughout the year. The next session of the Working Group will be held in Geneva from 17 – 21 February 2014.

WORKING GROUP ON DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN

The Working Group on discrimination against women in law and practice accepts information on allegations of discrimination against women in law and practice throughout the year. The next session of the Working Group will be held in Geneva from 5 – 9 May.

new resources

BELFAST GUIDELINES ON AMNESTY AND ACCOUNTABILITY

A new set of guidelines on amnesty and accountability aim to balance the competing demands for amnesty and accountability in conflicts and political transitions. The guidelines set out a framework to evaluate the legality and legitimacy of amnesties in accordance with the multiple legal obligations faced by States undergoing conflict or political transition.

EXPANDED CRIMINALISATION OF HOMOSEXUALITY IN UGANDA: A FLAWED NARRATIVE

Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) has released an important report that examines some of the arguments that have been used to justify recent expansion of criminalisation of homosexuality in Africa. The myths examined include the idea that homosexuality is alien to Africa, and that criminalisation will prevent the spread of HIV and protect the traditional African family unit.

CASE NOTES ON DECISIONS FROM INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS BODIES

ALGERIA FOUND LIABLE FOR RIGHTS VIOLATED DURING CIVIL WAR

The Human Rights Committee found that Algeria violated its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in the case of the enforced disappearance of an individual during the Algerian Civil War… more

CANADA REQUIRED TO RECONSIDER INDIVIDUAL’S REQUEST FOR ASYLUM

By deporting a Pakistani man Canada would be in breach of its international human rights obligations, the Human Rights Committee found, holding that Canada must reconsider the individual’s claim to asylum… more

Human rights defender profile

SULEIMAN HUSSEIN, ERITREAN HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER

Suleiman Hussein is an Eritrean human rights defender, and chairman of Citizens for Democratic Rights in Eritrea (CDRiE). CDRiE came into existence five years ago when Suleiman and other like-minded individuals joined together to discuss the deteriorating conditions in the country and to explore more effective ways to contribute to the ongoing struggle for democratic change… more

Human rights developments

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL ACTS TO END VIOLATIONS AND PROMOTE ACCOUNTABILITY IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

The UN’s Human Rights Council has unanimously adopted a resolution calling on all parties to end the violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) and appointing an independent expert to examine the situation in the country. The resolution was made at its 20th emergency session, called at the initiative of the African Group and with the support of the CAR.

The session came on the same day that the EU agreed to send up to 1,000 soldiers to help stabilise the CAR and that the transitional parliament in the CAR elected Ms Catherine Samba-Panza as President… more

GA approves final UN budget

On December 27, after weeks of intense negotiations, the UN General Assembly approved the 2014-15 budget for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), as part of the biennial $5.53 billion UN budget. The new overall UN budget includes a 2 percent staffing cut, or 221 posts.

Despite these reductions, a crucial OHCHR post that had been targeted to go, the Head of Civil Society Unit, was saved. A coalition of NGOs including ISHR had called on Governments to retain this high-level post to ensure a continuation of OHCHR's crucial work on civil society cooperation.

The NGOs, together with a renowned human rights expert, had also urged governments to do more to support and sustain the UN human rights budget, which has a disproportionately small allocation of the overall UN budget. However, despite being one of the three main pillars of the UN, the human rights 2014-15 budget will retain the same 3 percent share - a figure the High Commissioner for Human Rights has called scandalous.

CAMBODIAN GOVERNMENT DEPLOYS PARATROOPERS AGAINST PROTESTORS

Thousands of Cambodian garment workers and monks joined in a week-long protest and strike to demand an increase in minimum wage for garment workers. In response to the protesters’ request of $160 per month, an elite unit of paratroopers was sent to suppress the protestors. Witnesses claim the clash began when a soldier outside a garment factory threw a water bottle toward a monk standing with the protesters. Protesters were angered by the rude gesture and retaliated by throwing stones at the troops. The soldiers then responded by attacking protesters, monks, and photographers with batons and steel pipes.

Human rights groups said at least four monks and 10 other protesters were held by the military and others are receiving treatment in hospital… more
 

HIGH COMMISSIONER DENOUNCES NEW ANTI-HOMOSEXUALITY LAW IN NIGERIA

President Goodluck Jonathan signed the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill into law earlier this January. The Act includes draconian provisions such as a 14-year prison term for anyone who enters into a same sex union, and a ten-year prison term for anyone who ‘administers, witnesses, abets or aids’ a same sex marriage or civil union ceremony.

'Rarely have I seen a piece of legislation that in so few paragraphs directly violates so many basic, universal human rights', the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay commented. This law not only reinforces existing prejudices towards members of the LGBT community, but may provoke an upsurge in violence and discrimination... more

NEW CHILDREN’S RIGHTS COMPLAINTS MECHANISM OPENS

As of 14 January 2014, 10 countries have ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure. This new development means that children or their representatives will soon be able to submit complaints to the Committee on Rights of the Child (CRC). If a violation is found, the CRC can then directly recommend to the State concerned to actively remedy the situation.

CRC Chair Kirsten Sandberg explains that this new complain procedure will allow children to more fully exercise their rights. It will also empower them to have access to international human rights bodies in the same way as adults under other human rights treaties. Ms Sandberg stressed that the Committee’s overriding concern in operation of the procedure would be the best interests of the child... more

HIGH COMMISSIONER EXPRESSES DISMAY AT INDIA’S RECRIMINALISATION OF SAME-SEX RELATIONSHIPS

Describing it as a violation of the right to privacy and to non-discrimination, Navi Pillay, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, expressed her dismay at the Indian Supreme Court’s overturning of the 2009 High Court ruling that struck down section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. Section 377 provides for the punishment of those found guilty of ‘unnatural offences’. 

The High Commissioner hopes the Court might exercise its review procedure to rehear the case before a larger panel of judges, allowing judges to reconsider whether the Supreme Court’s initial decision took sufficient account of all relevant arguments... more

NEW LEGISLATION THREATENS FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHTS IN UKRAINE

In response to violent clashes in the centre of Kiev, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, stressed the urgent need for constructive dialogue in Ukraine to prevent further unrest in the country. The High Commissioner expressed serious concern over new legislation that will potentially impose strict conditions for the exercise of fundamental rights such as freedom of association and assembly, and freedom of expression. A particularly concerning provision is the requirement on NGOs that receive international funding to register as ‘foreign agents’, essentially stripping them of their non-profit status.

The High Commissioner stressed that the right to peaceful assembly is a fundamental human right and welcomed the Ukrainian Ombudsman’s intention to conduct an analysis of provisions of the laws from the point of view of potential threats to international human rights standards... more

RUSSIA’S RECORD ON LGBT ISSUES FACES SCRUTINY BY UN COMMITTEE ON RIGHTS OF THE CHILD

For the first time, UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) questioned the Russian delegation on issues of children’s rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Despite their appearance at the CRC session, Russian representatives ignored the UN Committee’s questions on what measures the State has taken to prevent violence, a direct consequence of the laws on propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships, against LGBT adolescents.

In response to the question of forced treatment of LGBT adolescents, Russian representatives insisted that the violent treatment of children is impossible, and guaranteed that treatment is only conducted with the consent of the patient or his or her parents... more

UN COMMITTEE CONFRONTS VATICAN CITY ON SEXUAL ABUSE OF CHILDREN

On 16 January 2014, the Holy See appeared in front of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) for the first time since the child abuse scandal broke. In a series of hard-hitting questions, the Committee pressed Vatican officials on their lack of concrete measures to prevent future abuse, promote transparency, and ensure restitution for victims.

Vatican officials repeatedly emphasised that their policies serve the ‘best interest of the child’ and do not encourage cover-ups of clerical sexual abuses. However, NGOs expressed their frustration at the lack of specific answers regarding the release of statistics to the public and restitution for victims… more

NORTHERN CYPRUS ABOLISHES THE LAST LAW IN EUROPE CRIMINALISING HOMOSEXUALITY

On 27 January 2014, in response to a legal action brought by Human Dignity Trust, lawmakers voted to decriminalise homosexuality in Northern Cyprus and, effectively, in Europe. The final stage of the enactment process still requires the President’s assent, which is expected to be given within 15 days.

'This is a historic day for gay people in Europe and a major victory for human rights, equality and the Human Dignity Trust', the chief executive of the Human Dignity Trust said. 'We are proud to say that we have played a significant role in bringing this shameful chapter in European history to an end'... more

upcoming country visits by special procedures

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Special Rapporteur on independence of judges and lawyers, 28 January – 5 February
NEW ZEALAND
Working Group on arbitrary detention, 24 March – 7 April
UNITED KINGDOM
Special Rapporteur on violence against women, 31 March – 15 April
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: www.ishr.ch or contact us: information@ishr.ch