CIVIL SOCIETY SPACE IS ESSENTIAL FOR HUMAN RGHTS
PATRICIA O’BRIEN, AMBASSADOR OF IRELAND TO THE UNITED NATIONS IN GENEVA
Over the last two decades, civil society has significantly evolved. In many countries, civil society has grown and flourished, represented by a diverse range of individuals, communities and organisations.
Information technology in particular has opened up civil society space, energising and connecting many actors, allowing civil society to mobilise and play a critical role as supporters and facilitators of change... more
ISHR MEETS WITH UN SECRETARY-GENERAL
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the 25th session of the Human Rights Council with a strong call for the protection of those who promote and protect human rights. On the sidelines he met with ISHR to discuss further how to protect human rights defenders... read more & view photos
KEY DEVELOPMENTS AT THE COUNCIL
High Commissioner calls for decisive action on violations at presentation of final annual report
The Human Rights Council must find a way to galvanise the international community to act decisively on human rights violations, said the High Commissioner Navi Pillay at the presentation of her final annual report to the Council... more
CONDEMNATION OF ATTACKS ON HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS AS THE COUNCIL’S 25TH SESSION OPENS
‘No one should have to risk their life for standing up and speaking out on violations of human rights’, said the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the opening of the 25th session of the Human Rights Council. High Commissioner Navi Pillay joined the Secretary-General’s call for protection of human rights defenders, condemning in particular ‘intolerable’ reprisals against persons who cooperate with the United Nations’ human rights machinery.
Hungary, speaking during the ‘high-level segment’, during which Ministers address the Council, drew particular attention to the delay in appointing a focal point on reprisals, describing this as a blow to the creation of a safe civil society space. With civil society subject to increasing restrictions and attacks around the globe, Ireland called on States to recognise the ‘crucial importance’ of civil society in advancing the work of the UN and encouraged participation in the first formal Council debate on this subject to be held next week.
'TRADITIONAL VALUES' PLACED AGAINST UNIVERSAL HUMAN RIGHTS STANDARDS
Particular attention was given by Ministers who addressed the Council’s high-level segment to the situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people. Uganda jumped to the defence of its recently adopted anti-homosexuality law. It stated that the law was not intended to discriminate against homosexuals, but rather to protect children, to ensure that poor persons could not be enticed into homosexuality for financial incentives, and to discourage homosexuals from public sexual acts.
While Canada noted that traditions are often used to deny people their rights, pointing to the practice of child, early and forced marriage, Russia called for ‘traditions’ to be taken into consideration in the implementation of human rights and criticised ‘ultra-liberal’ values that demand ‘a revision of norms shared by all world religions’.
There was increasing urgency to the calls from some States for the Council to make its voice heard on this issue. Brazil urged States to ensure that momentum was not lost three years on from the Council’s adoption of a resolution on sexual orientation and gender identity, while Germany noted that there needs to be a permanent space for discussion of these issues at the Council.
HIGH LEVEL DIALOGUE ON PREVENTION EXAMINES ROLE OF CIVIL SOCIETY
Prevention is the most effective form of protection of vulnerable parts of society. The Human Rights Council held a high-level dialogue to discuss how it can work with other stakeholders to move the UN away from a culture of ‘reaction’ to one of ‘prevention’. Some States pointed to the Council’s mechanisms as important preventative tools, through providing a platform where awareness about developing on-the-ground situations can be raised. The importance of human rights defenders in ensuring that these mechanisms have the information to work effectively was pointed to, as was the corresponding need to ensure that defenders can engage safely with these mechanisms. Mr Wilder Taylor-Santo, Vice-Chairperson of the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture, highlighted the reprisals suffered by a group of defenders who engaged with the Committee against Torture. Norway emphasised the need to create a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders to ensure that defenders and broader civil society are able to provide the human rights information and analysis that is necessary for prevention.
HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL MUST COMBAT DISCRIMINATION, END IMPUNITY AND EXPAND CIVIL SOCIETY SPACE
The UN Human Rights Council must do more to combat discrimination, end impunity for attacks on human rights defenders, and protect and expand civil society space, ISHR has said in a statement to the Council... more
SILENCE IS NOT AN OPTION: CIVIL SOCIETY CALLS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL TO ACT ON EGYPT
The UN Human Rights Council should act to address the severe and worsening crackdown on peaceful political activists, human rights defenders and independent journalists in Egypt, a coalition of leading non-governmental organisations has said... more
HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL MUST DEMAND RELEASE OF DETAINED CHINESE HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER
The UN Human Rights Council should demand the release of detained Chinese human rights defender Cao Shunli and should also press China to ensure that Cao receives access to specialist medical treatment following a critical deterioration in her health while in detention, the International Service for Human Rights has said... more
SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS TO PRESENT FINAL REPORT TO COUNCIL
Margaret Sekaggya, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, will present her final report as mandate holder to the Human Rights Council on Monday 10 March.
Her report finds that human rights defenders – especially journalists, lawyers, trade unionists and those who work to promote women’s rights and the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons – face ‘extraordinary risks’. It highlights cases of defamation, attacks, detention, torture and even killings.
The report also documents an increased incidence of violations against people and communities opposed to mining, construction and development projects, with protesters attacked both by State and private security forces. It contains a range of recommendations to ensure that human rights defenders are able to operate in a safe and enabling environment, free from hindrance and attacks.
The session will see the negotiation of a resolution renewing the mandate for the next three years, as well as the appointment of Ms Sekaggya’s successor as mandate holder.
COUNCIL TO EXAMINE THE CAUSES OF SHRINKING CIVIL SOCIETY SPACE
The shrinking space for civil society will be the focus of a panel discussion to be held on 11 March. The panel will seek to address issues including the factors that contribute to the shrinking of civil society space, the concrete steps that States and other stakeholders can take, and how to ensure full integration of women and discriminated groups in participatory processes.
The panel marks the first time that the Council has turned its attention to the issue of civil society space as a human rights concern. It takes place in a context of increasing legislative and administrative restrictions on the operation of civil society which undermine its ability to alert the world to developing human rights violations, and prevent it from playing its critical role in advancing the work of the UN in promoting human rights.
SPECIFIC PROTECTION NEEDS OF WOMEN AND LGBTI PERSONS DURING PEACEFUL PROTESTS
The specific protection needs of women and LGBTI persons were discussed during a seminar on peaceful protests, held in December 2013. The report of the seminar will be presented by the High Commissioner to the Human Rights Council on 14 March. It was noted during the seminar that women were especially vulnerable during protests, being subjected to targeted attacks including sexual violence and arbitrary detention.
Participants stressed that peaceful protests are a form of direct democracy, and that all sectors of society must therefore be able to participate without discrimination or fear of violence, if a society is to be considered democratic. A recommendation is made that the Human Rights Committee may wish to consider drafting a general comment on the right of peaceful assembly in article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as part of the process of defining the human rights law dimensions of peaceful protest. An expert seminar could also be convened with this end in mind.
Human rights defenders and the shrinking space for civil society
10 March, 14:00, room 22