Human Rights Monitor Monthly - April 2016
HUMAN RIGHTS MONITOR
April 2016
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Human Rights Council adopts historic resolution on protection of defenders of economic, social and cultural rights

The Human Rights Council has adopted, by a resounding vote, a landmark resolution on the protection of human rights defenders working to promote economic, social and cultural rights. States and business enterprises must now act to implement the resolution at a national level... more

ISHR provided significant global and collective advocacy during the passage of the resolution. In an open letter to governments, a group of more than 150 NGOs worldwide stated that the resolution is a timely, balanced and important response to the worsening crackdown on human rights defenders... more

Human Rights Council - 31st session wrap up

ISHR Statements to the human rights council

Check out the latest videos of ISHR's interventions at the Human Rights Council - available online here.

Progress in protection of defenders and promotion of accountability in country situations

The 31st session of the Human Rights Council (the Council) concluded with the adoption of significant and positive resolutions on the protection of human rights defenders, the exercise of the right to peaceful protest, and the promotion of human rights and accountability for violations in North Korea, South Sudan and Myanmar. ISHR, along with six other NGOs, provided a closing address to the Council… more

COUNCIL SHOULD Develop institutional response to violations of LGBTI rights

Human rights defenders have been assaulted, arbitrarily detained and even killed for their work to promote and protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex persons. The Council must develop an urgent institutional response to these systematic attacks.

In a statement to the Council, ISHR highlighted that, since June 2015, the Special Procedures had responded to several allegations of violations perpetrated against human rights defenders and organisations working on the rights of LGBTI people… more

Côte d’Ivoire: Build on leadership in protection of human rights defenders

ISHR welcomed the leadership shown by a number of African States, including Côte d’Ivoire, in supporting the important resolution on the protection of human rights defenders adopted at the Council session. ISHR encourages Côte d’Ivoire to consolidate its role as an emerging leader in the protection of civil society and human rights defenders... more

South Sudan: New Commission on Human Rights a step towards accountability

The Human Rights Council’s establishment of a Commission for Human Rights in South Sudan is an important step towards human rights monitoring, reporting and accountability in the country. In a statement to the Council, ISHR called on South Sudan to adhere to its commitment to protecting and promoting defenders, especially given its support for the December 2015 GA resolution on defenders... more

Latin America: Council discusses need to protect defenders in Colombia, Guatemala and Honduras

States and NGOs expressed concern about the risks facing human rights defenders in Latin America, as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) presented its reports on Colombia, Guatemala and Honduras to the Council. In a statement to the Council, ISHR argued that the opportunity for transition presented by the forthcoming peace accords will be lost if Colombia fails to protect its defenders and ensure that businesses respect human rights... more

Burundi: Respect human rights and cooperate with Council or face membership repercussions

Burundi's failure to uphold high standards in the promotion and protection of human rights or to cooperate fully with the Council, of which it is a member, should precipitate discussion in the Council and the General Assembly about its eligibility for membership, ISHR said in a statement to the Council... more

Other RESOLUTIONS ADOPTED

Resolution on the promotion and protection of human rights in peaceful protests

In a resolution on peaceful protests, adopted by a vote of 31 to five with 10 abstentions, the Council encouraged all States to give due consideration to a recent expert report with practical recommendations regarding the protection of human rights in the context of assemblies. The resolution called upon all States to promote a safe and enabling environment for individuals and groups to exercise their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, of expression and of association, and to engage with all stockholders - including human rights defenders and business - in doing so.

The text, which was relatively procedural, also asked that States consider the more substantial Resolution 25/38, passed on the issue two years ago. Before adopting the resolution, the Council rejected a series of negative amendments tabled by Russia, Cuba and others.

Resolution on the promotion and protection of the environment

The Council adopted a resolution, tabled by Switzerland, Costa Rica, Maldives, Morocco, Slovenia and Switzerland, on the protection of the environment by consensus. The resolution calls on States to promote a safe and enabling environment, so those working on human rights and environmental issues can operate free from threats, and provide effective remedies for human rights violations related to the environment. 

This resolution provided an opportunity to address the grave risks facing what is one of the world's most vulnerable groups of defenders – those working for the protection of land and environmental rights.

Disappointingly – as a result of a number of States, including China, Vietnam, Cuba, Russia and Egypt, attacking the very concept of human rights defenders – the language on the protection of human rights defenders in the tabled resolution was weaker than initially proposed.

Resolution on the human rights situation in Myanmar

ISHR welcomes the Council's adoption by consensus of a resolution on human rights in Myanmar. This resolution reaffirms the importance of ongoing monitoring and assessment by the international community, by the Special Rapporteur and the OHCHR, including through the establishment of a country office with a full mandate. The text, however, is much shorter than in previous years and falls short of reflecting the substantive nature of ongoing violations and abuses. In this regard, the current report of the Rapporteur is a key tool for identifying benchmarks for progress on human rights moving forward. 

At the adoption, the Myanmar delegation took the floor of the Council to criticize key paragraphs: those noting the need for Constitutional reform and inclusion of ethnic minority groups including the Rohingya; calling for efforts to improve the climate for civil society and human rights defenders; and urging accountability for human rights violations and the implementation of international obligations. Despite the negative stance of the government, ISHR believes that the Council should respect the views of the more than 100 local civil society groups that pressed for the resolution, continue to encourage reforms toward democracy, and stand firm in its duty to protect and promote human rights in the country at this critical moment.

Opportunities for ngo engagement

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL

The organisational meeting for the 32nd regular session of the Human Rights Council will be held on 30 May at Palais des Nations, Room XX. Information and updates will be published here.

The Council’s 32nd regular session will be held in Palais des Nations from 13 June to 1 July. Information and updates will be published here.

The annual meeting of special rapporteurs/representatives, independent experts and chairpersons or working groups of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council will take place from 6 to 10 June, its 23rd session, at Palais des Nations, Room XXV.

UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW

The following States will be reviewed at the 25th session of the UPR which will be held on 2-13 May: Suriname, Greece, Samoa, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sudan, Hungary, Papua New Guinea, Tajikistan, United Republic of Tanzania, Antigua and Barbuda, Swaziland, Trinidad and Tobago, Thailand and Ireland. Guidelines for submissions are found here and are due on 21 September. Information about the UPR mechanism can be found here.

The tentative timetable for the 26th session of the UPR, which will be held from 31 October to 11 November, is now available here. States to be reviewed include Togo, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Lithuania, Uganda, Timor-Leste, Republic of Moldova, Haiti, South Sudan. Information about the UPR mechanism can be found here.

TREATY BODIES

The Meeting of Chairpersons of the Human Rights Treaty Bodies will hold its 28th session on 30 May to 3 June in New York. More information can be found here, which includes the annotated agenda and draft programme of work.

The 57th session of the Committee against Torture will be held from 18 April to 13 May. The provisional agenda and programme of work is available here. The Committee will analyse the following States reports: France, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Philippines, and Israel, as well as discussion on a draft revised General Comment on Article 3 of the Convention Against Torture. It will consider a list of issues from Sri Lanka and Turkmenistan, as well as a list of issues prior to reporting from Cyrus, Lithuania, United Kingdom, and Uruguay.

The 117th session of the Human Rights Committee will be held on 20 June to 15 July. The Committee will consider the following State reports during the session: Argentina, Burkina Faso, Denmark, Ecuador, Ghana, Kazakhstan, Kuwait. The Committee will also consider and adopt a list of issues for the following countries: Italy, Serbia, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Belgium, Lithuania, and Norway. Further information against from the secretariat is available here.

If you are unable to attend relevant treaty body meetings, you can now watch them live online here.

WORKING GROUPS

The Working Group on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises will hold its 14th session from 2 to 6 May at Palais des Nations, Room XII.

The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances will hold its 109th session from 9 to 18 May at Palais des Nations, Room XVI. 

conferences and events

ISHR HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER ADVOCACY PROGRAMME 2016

ISHR's Human Rights Defender Advocacy Programme (HRDAP) equips defenders with the knowledge and skills to make strategic use of the international human rights system. The training will take place between 8 and 22 June and provides defenders with opportunities to put their advocacy skills directly into action at the 32nd session of the UN Human Rights Council and the 23rd Annual Meeting of UN Special Procedures. The call for applicants is now closed.

NGO Briefing

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights will host an NGO briefing with Mr Martin Uhomoibhi, Joint Special Representative for Darfur and Head of African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur, on Thursday 7 April, from 9.30am to 10.30am in RI-01, OHCHR, 48 Ave Motta, Geneva.

A Civil Peace by Civil Society – Tunisian Experiences for the Future of the Region

The United Nations will host its 9th lecture in the series, titled: “A Civil Peace by Civil Society – Tunisian Experiences for the Future of the Region” with the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, Nobel Peace Prize laureate 2015 on Thursday 21 April from 4pm to 6pm in Room XX. Registrations close on 13 April.

CASE NOTES ON DECISIONS FROM INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS BODIES - MERITS DECISIONS

DENMARK: REFUSAL OF ASYLUM CLAIM VIOLATES RIGHT TO LIFE AND PROHIBITION ON ILL-TREATMENT

The Human Rights Committee found Denmark’s refusal of an asylum claim in violation of the rights to life and freedom from cruel and inhuman treatment protected under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights... more

Russia: Denial of compensation violates right to compensation for victims of unlawful detention

The Human Rights Committee found Russia in violation of its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in connection with its decision to deny an individual compensation for unlawful detention... more

HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER PROFILE 

Dr Denis Mukwege, Democratic Republic of Congo
 
Dr Denis Mukwege is a surgeon and one of the most prominent human and women’s rights defenders in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), his home country. 

On the occasion of the 2016 International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights in Geneva and screening of the documentary film The Man Who Mends Women, ISHR had the pleasure of meeting Dr Mukwege. We spoke to him about his activities to defend women’s dignity, and the risks and threats he faces due to his work... more

OUR WORK TO SUPPORT HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS

International NGOs call on Mexico to end stigmatisation of human rights defenders and mechanisms

In a move that was reported by several Mexican media outlets, national and international human rights organisations have come together to demand a response from the Mexican Government to the campaign of stigmatisation and defamation against human rights defenders in the country... more

Bahrain: Release Zainab Al-Khawaja and her 15-month-old son

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, together with the UN's expert on human rights defenders, Michel Forst, have supported calls by ISHR and other NGOs for the immediate release of Bahraini woman human rights defender Zainab Al-Khawaja. Ms Al-Khawaja was imprisoned for exercising her right to freedom of expression. Her 15-month-old son, Abdul-Hadi, has been detained with her... more

Our work to strengthen laws and systems

Success of 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda depends on women human rights defenders

At a Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) side event entitled ‘Empowering Women by Empowering Women Human Rights Defenders’, panellists highlighted that achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is only possible if women human rights defenders are genuinely involved in programmes for its implementation... more

African Commission Resolution calls for specific recognition and protection of women defenders

The Africa Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has adopted a landmark resolution on Measures to Protect and Promote the Work of Women Human Rights Defenders. The resolution highlights that women human rights defenders in Africa face particular barriers and risks when engaging in human rights work, calling on States to end impunity by adopting specific laws and relevant measures to promote and protect the work of defenders... more

Work of human rights defenders essential to just and favourable conditions of work for all

The work of human rights defenders is essential to secure just and favourable conditions of work for all persons, according to an authoritative new legal commentary published by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights... more

Key developments in the promotion and protection of human rights

Egypt: Escalating Judicial Harassment of Human Rights NGOs

Restrictions on Egyptian civil society have increased over recent years through legal requirements, harassment and stigmatisation in both public and private media. In a recent move, staff members of 41 Egyptian organisations have received court summons and are at risk of prosecution, while their organisations face threat of closure...more

Action needed to stop Honduras turning into a lawless killing zone of human rights defenders

On 18 March, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, urged the Government of Honduras to take immediate and concrete actions, or risk turning the country into a lawless killing zone of human rights defenders. In doing so, he recalled the obligation of States to guarantee security and protection for all human rights defenders within its borders...more

THAILAND: WOMEN RIGHTS DEFENDERS HONOURED BY THE NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

Women's human rights group Khon Rak Ban Kerd Group, working for the protection of community rights in connection with mining operations, has been awared the Women’s Human Rights Defenders Honorary Certificate by the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand. This represents a great success for women defenders in the field...more

Crackdown on human rights ngos in the drc

On 21 March, the Democratic Republic of the Congo's Minister of Justice announced that the Government would take measures against organisations operating without legal status. This coincided with parliament discussing a draft law prohibiting demonstrations in front of sensitive locations, such as government buildings. These measures threaten to restrict the role of civil society on the ground...more

New resources

ISHR Universal Periodic Review Briefing Papers

ISHR has launched a number of briefing papers on the situation of human rights defenders to assist States and other stakeholders to formulate questions and recommendations in the upcoming 25th session of the Universal Periodic Review, including in:
  • Thailand – the Government should remove legal restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, and freedom of association and peaceful assembly.
  • Ireland – the Government should demonstrate leadership by initiating the drafting of Human Rights Council resolutions and statements on country situations where defenders and other civil society actors are restricted or at risk. 
  • Tajikistan – the Government should protect defenders and journalists from being subject to violence, threats and harassment by officials, and intimidation and arbitrary arrest.
  • Hungary – the Government should promote and protect the right to safe and unhindered communication with international organisations and prevent and promote accountability for acts of intimidation or reprisal.

NEW UN EXPERT REPORT provides PRACTICAL ADVICE ON MANAGEMENT OF PROTESTS

The Special Rapporteur on assembly and association and the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions launched a major new report on the proper management of assemblies and protests. The report compiles applicable international legal standards, and discusses practical recommendations on how those principles might be implemented, with the aim of ensuring better protection of the rights of those engaged in assemblies.

POLICY ENGAGEMENT: HOW CAN CIVIL SOCIETY BE MORE EFFECTIVE? 

The Overseas Development Institute has produced a practical guide for civil society organisations focusing on how policy makers can make better use of evidence produced by civil society organisations; and how civil society organisations can engage more effectively in policy engagement and overcome key internal obstacles to be more effective and influential.

REPORT ON POLITICAL IMPRISONMENT IN MYANMAR

Amnesty International has released a report entitled New Expression Meets Old Repression: Ending the Cycle of Political Arrests and Imprisonment in Myanmar. The report highlights the pattern of politically motivated arrest and imprisonment since the start of 2014. It offers concrete recommendations to the new government to respect the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, and put an end to the repressive practices which fuel arbitrary arrests.

REPORT ON DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS AND SERVICES

Amnesty International has released a report entitled Encryption: A Matter of Human Rights. The report analyses the tension between the human right to privacy and the increasing threat of unjustified government surveillance in the digital age.

GOOD GIRLS DON’T PROTEST – WOMEN HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS

Human Rights Watch has released the report: Good Girls Don’t Protest: Repression and Abuse of Women Human Rights Defenders, Activists, and Protesters in Sudan. This report shows how protests, rights campaigns, social services, legal aid, journalism, and other public action are targeted - highlighting the wider context of gender inequality that makes activism by women defenders all the more challenging. The report documents the patterns of abuse women experience at the hands of government forces and the restrictive environment in which they work in Sudan.

JUSTICE REESTABLISHES BALANCE – ACCOUNTABILITY REPORT ON CôTE D’IVOIRE

Based on interviews conducted by Human Rights Watch, Justice Re-establishes Balance contains interviews with more than 70 people, including government officials, judiciary, and civil society. The report calls on the government to take steps to strengthen the independence of the judiciary; protect judges, lawyers, and witnesses involved in sensitive cases; and support legal reforms that would respect the fair trial rights of defendants.

CRIMINALISATON OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS – NEW REPORT

Protection International has released the new report entitled Criminalisation of Human Rights Defenders: Categorisation of the problem and measures in response. The report compiles more than a year’s research and discussion, categorising the various forms of criminalisation and judicial and administrative harassment suffered by human rights defenders – identifying the actors who contribute to this phenomenon and its consequences. 

COUNTRY VISITS BY SPECIAL PROCEDURES

CHILE
Special Rapporteur on the right to education
28 March - 4 April
INDIA
Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context 
11 - 22 April 
ZAMBIA
Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities 
18 - 28 April 
JAPAN
Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right of freedom of opinion and expression
12 - 19 April
UNITED KINGDOM
Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association
18 - 21 April 2016
SRI LANKA
Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers
Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment
29 April - 7 May
Find more information on these visits here. To find out how you can support the visits, please contact respective mandate-holders via their email address, as listed in the directory
For more information, please visit our website: www.ishr.ch or contact us: information@ishr.ch