13 - 17 June 2016


At a side event tomorrow, ISHR will be launching a Model Law that all States can adopt to provide better legal recognition and protection of human rights defenders.


How can the Human Rights Council be better in its second decade than in its first? International human rights expert and ISHR board member, Chris Sidoti, sets out five key proposals to make the Council more principled and effective in its work. 

Looking back on the Council over the decade since then, I see it as having been significantly better than I had feared and expected but far less than it could and should be...


BOSE Agbonmerele Iro-Nsi: Human rights defender from nigeria

Bose Agbonmerele Iro-Nsi, the founder and team leader of Women’s Rights and Health Project, provides insight into the objectives and existential challenges associated with her human rights work in Nigeria promoting community and women’s rights, reproductive health and development... more

ishr advocacy

Human Rights Council at 10: Building a Council for the future

To mark the Human Rights Council's 10th anniversary, ISHR has provided a range of spaces for human rights defenders and decision makers to discuss progress, take stock of achievements, reflect on shortcomings, and to look ahead to how the Council could be improved... more

Human Rights Council: Call for protection for defenders working on business and human rights

ISHR delivered a joint NGO statement to the UN Working Group on business and human rights. The statement endorsed by the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, Migrant Forum Asia, PODER, Justicia Global, expressed frustration at the slow pace of effective remedies becoming available for victims when their rights are violated by businesses... more

ISHR and ICAR launch new guide for States regarding business and human rights policies

At a Human Rights Council side event last week, ISHR and the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable launched a new guide on how States should consult human rights defenders in the development of National Action Plans on business and human rights, and ensure that these plans include protections for defenders... more

Agenda 2030: Women defenders call for inclusion, accountability and justice

Women human rights defenders must be protected and supported, and attacks against them prevented and prosecuted, if States are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and make progress towards just and equitable communities worldwide, the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition and ISHR have told the Human Rights Council... more

Bahrain told to end reprisals against human rights defenders and lift travel bans to Geneva

ISHR joined with 20 NGOs to call on the Human Rights Council to push Bahrain to release arbitrarily detained human rights defenders and lift unlawful travel bans which restrict defenders from travelling to Geneva and participating in the work of the Council... more

Strengthen response to reprisals and country situations of concern

The publication of a new ISHR report to the UN Secretary-General on the need to prevent and ensure accountability for acts of intimidation and reprisals for cooperating with the UN, coincided with the High Commissioner’s revelation that a Russian State representative made a serious online threat against a human rights defender during the last Human Rights Council session... more

upcoming side event

Protecting civil society space through a Model National Law on the protection of human rights defenders

Tuesday 21 June 2016, 15.00 - 16.00, Palais des Nations, Room XXIII, Geneva

The legal recognition and protection of defenders is crucial to ensuring they can work in a safe and enabling environment and be free from attacks, reprisals and unreasonable legal restrictions. Despite this, only a few States have incorporated the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders comprehensively into national law.

This event will officially launch a Model Law for the Recognition and Protection of Human Rights Defenders, developed in consultation with human rights defenders and human rights experts from all regions of the world.

The Model Law will provide comprehensive and authoritative assistance to States to implement their obligations under the Declaration, together with key recommendations arising from the High Commissioner's report. For more information go here




Today the High Commissioner presented an important new report spelling out the essential ingredients to respect and protect civil society and ‘optimise its transformative potential’ when it comes to peace, security and development.

The report coincides with the launch by ISHR of a ground-breaking Model National Law on the protection of human rights defenders which will substantially assist States implement this recommendation.

The model law was developed in consultation with over 500 defenders and endorsed by 27 high-level legal experts, including past and present Special Rapporteurs and High Commissioners for human rights. It provides authoritative guidance and technical assistance to States to implement the Declaration on human rights defenders and relevant Council resolutions, and a tool for civil society to promote and evaluate implementation. (See details of launch event below or here.) 

Enhanced interactive dialogue on south sudan

At the 31st session of the Council, resolution 29/13 was adopted to establish a Commission for Human Rights in South Sudan. The evidence informing Member States at the time was captured in a harrowing report published by the Office of the High Commissioner for human rights. It included shocking and disturbing reports of human rights violations and abuses, as well as violations of international humanitarian law.

The Commission is scheduled to present a comprehensive written report to the Council at its 34th regular session, in March 2017.

At the enhanced interactive dialogue on South Sudan at this session of the Council scheduled to take place on 22 June, ISHR will welcome these developments and call on the transitional Government to avoid further delays in establishing the hybrid criminal court and other key institutions mandated by the peace agreement.

ITEM 4 General Debate

As always, the importance of the Council in recognising and naming human rights violations, their victims and perpetrators, is irrefutable. As a tool for human rights defenders on the ground, it insists on visibility, generates international pressure and above all demonstrates solidarity.  What will your country say? Who will talk about the violations you see on the ground? And above all, how can you and your organisations use this visibility - by leveraging media, allied groups, and friendly governments - to amplify calls for justice on the ground?

Universal Periodic Review Outcomes

The report of the Working Group as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of each of Paraguay, Niger, Singapore and Sierra Leone will be adopted this week. Following which the delegations of each State will indicate their responses to recommendations received during their respective reviews. States and NGOs will then be given the opportunity to make follow-up statements.

For information on the situation of human rights defenders in each of these countries see ISHR’s briefing papers on Paraguay, Niger, Singapore and Sierra Leone.

  • Paraguay

During January's UPR Working Group, several States made comments and recommendations relating to the threats and obstacles facing human rights defenders in Paraguay. ISHR had delivered a report to the UPR documenting grave risks facing, in particular, those working on indigenous, land and campesino rights. Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Macedonia, the United States and Norway spoke out, with the latter asking that Paraguay recognise the legitimate participation of defenders, whilst creating and maintaining an environment ‘safe and conducive for human rights defenders and journalists to carry out their legitimate work without threat of violence or reprisal’. Local civil society will be watching closely this week at the Human Rights Council, in the hope that Paraguay accepts these recommendations and articulates how it intends to implement them. 

  • Singapore

At its UPR In January 2016, to which ISHR and local organisations submitted a joint briefing paper, Singapore heard a number of recommendations from various States. The acceptance of many recommendations, and their implementation would go a long way to improving the environment for human rights activists and others in the country - in particular on defamation, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association and others. The adoption of the UPR report on Friday 24 June will be a litmus test for Singapore’s commitment to action towards an enabling environment for civil society.

  • Sierra Leone

At the adoption of the UPR report of Sierra Leone on 24 June 2016, ISHR will deliver an oral statement calling on the country to accept recommendations for the repeal of restrictive laws on freedom of expression and assembly. ISHR urges Sierra Leone to accept recommendation by Japan, Canada and Costa Rica calling on the Government to ‘ensure prompt and transparent investigations and accountability in relation to all attacks and violations against human rights defenders.’ For further information on the situation of human rights defenders in the country, see ISHR’s briefing paper on Sierra Leone.

  • Niger

The Working Group report highlights human rights challenges that the country is experiencing, including terrorist threats and trafficking of migrants, as well as intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders and journalists. The dialogue with Niger provides an opportunity to follow up on the progress made by the country in the implementation of recommendations received during its last UPR. Such recommendations include the establishment of the National Human Rights Commission, the creation of a high authority to combat corruption, and the adoption of a national policy on justice and human rights. 

The dialogue with Niger further provides an opportunity for States and NGOs to call on the country to accept recommendations to respect the right to freedom of expression and media by preventing harassment and undue detention of journalists, as well as the rights to freedom of association and freedom of assembly, in particular in the context of measures undertaken to respond to violent extremism. Finally that Niger protect human rights defenders and ensure they can carry out their work free from harassment and intimidation. 

  • UPR General Debate

The UPR has emerged as one of the key rallying points for civil society engagement within the UN human rights system. Many civil society organisations have used it to gain recommendations needed for national level advocacy.

However, a lack of follow-up mechanisms, procedural weaknesses and patchy implementation have exacerbated fears that the mechanism risks degenerating into a purely ‘ritualistic’ review.

As the UPR reaches the end of its second cycle, ISHR has developed a strategy detailing measures that would enhance the UPR’s ability to fulfil its potential and achieve a greater vision for the process during its third cycle. 

A snapshot of this strategy which is intended to ensure that the UPR’s outputs have a more positive impact on the behaviour of State and non-State actors, including by strengthening civil society’s role at all stages in the process, will be presented during the Item 6 General Debate.

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ISHR thanks Irish Aid for its generosity in making this publication possible.