Human Rights Monitor Monthly - May 2016
HUMAN RIGHTS MONITOR
May 2016
CIVIL SOCIETY LAUNCHES PLAN TO STRENGTHEN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL

Twenty leading human rights organisation from across the world have come together to develop a concrete plan to make the UN Human Rights Council more accessible to rights holders, more protective for victims of human rights violations, and more effective in holding States and non-State actors to account... more

 
OPINION 
Women human rights defenders and the parallel worlds of the un
By Mari Claire Price, Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition 

The lack of consistency throughout the UN system on the recognition and protection of women human rights defenders, as well as the unwillingness of some Member States to build on historic achievements and agreements adopted through consensus, is endangering the lives of thousands of women human rights defenders around the world... more

OPINION

national human rights institutions AND  the commission on the status of women  
 
By Penny Morton, First Secretary of the Permanent Mission of Australia to the UN in New York
 
The Commission on the Status of Women  became the first UN mechanism to implement a landmark General Assembly resolution calling for enhanced participation of national human rights institutions in relevant UN mechanisms and processes... more
 
Protecting rural women human rights defenders  

By Mayra Gomez, Co-Executive Director of the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
 
Many rural women across the globe are at the front lines of human rights advocacy, fighting for a better life for themselves, their families and communities. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women has recently issued General Recommendation No. 34 on the Rights of Rural Women acknowledging the risk faced by rural women defenders... more

OUR WORK TO SUPPORT HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS

PRESTIGIOUS HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER AWARD SHEDS LIGHT ON CHINA, ETHIOPIA and Syria
 
Prominent human rights defenders from China, Ethiopia and Syria have been honoured for their courageous work in the face of great personal risk, with the announcement of the final nominees for the Martin Ennals Award 2016. These awards are conferred annually to highlight the work of human rights defenders and provide protective publicity to those at risk... more  
 
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Press for the release of detained defenders in gulf region  

ISHR and 10 leading NGOs have called on US President Barack Obama to  press for the release of all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained across the Gulf region as a result of their peaceful and legitimate human rights work. The call was launched ahead of his meeting with the Gulf Cooperation Council... more

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 Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has recently published an updated information bulletin concerning how NGOs can participate in the Council session. Written statements and parallel event room requests are now open, with a deadline of 30 May.

The annual meeting of Special Rapporteurs/Representatives, Independent Experts and Chairpersons or Working Groups of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council will meet for their 23rd session from 6 to 10 June 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, and South Sudan. Information about the UPR mechanism can be found here.
 

TREATY BODIES

 
The meeting of Chairpersons of the Treaty Bodies will hold its 28th session from 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. It will also discuss a draft revised General Comment on Article 3 of the Convention. 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 from 20 June to 15 July. The Committee will consider the following State reports: Argentina, Burkina Faso, Denmark, Ecuador, Ghana, Kazakhstan, and 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 from the secretariat is available here.

The 64th session of the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women will be held from 4 to 22 July. The Committee will consider the following State reports: Albania, France, Mali, Myanmar, Philippines, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, and Uruguay. The proposed programme of work is available here. The report of the pre-sessional working group is available here.

The Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women will also hold its 66th pre-sessional Working Group from 25 to 29 July at Palais des Nations, room XVIII, and will consider the following State reports: El Salvador, Germany, Jordan, Federated States of Micronesia, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, and Ukraine. It will also consider the list of issues prior to reporting for Israel.

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 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.

The Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and practice will hold its 16th session from 18 to 22 June in New York. 

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

Belarus condemned for arbitrary arrest of participant in  political meeting 

The Human Rights Committee finds Belarus in breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in connection with the arrest and detention of a participant in an unauthorised political meeting... more

NEW RESOURCES

ISHR UNIVERSAL Periodic Review Briefing Papers
 
ISHR has launched a number of briefing papers on the situation of human rights defenders. Their purpose is to assist States and other stakeholders to formulate questions and recommendations in the upcoming 25th session of the UPR, to be held on 2-13 May.
  • Thailand - the Government should remove legal restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, and freedom of association.
  • Ireland - the Government should demonstrate leadership by initiating the drafting of a Human Rights Council resolution and statement 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, harassment, intimidation and arbitrary arrest by officials.
  • 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.
‘THEY SET THE CLASSROOMS ON FIRE’ – Attacks on education in northeast nigeria  

Human Rights Watch has released a report entitled ‘They Set the Classrooms on Fire’: Attacks on Education in Northeast Nigeria. It documents Boko Haram’s increasingly brutal assaults on schools, students and teachers since 2009. Between 2009 and 2015, more than 910 schools were destroyed, while at least 1,500 more were forced to close, 611 teachers were killed, and more than 2,000 civilians were abducted.
 
PROTECTING SURVIVORS AND WITNESSES – AN ONLINE TACTICAL DIALOGUE

New Tactics in Human Rights has published its April online conversation and tactical dialogue on human rights defenders: ‘Protecting Survivors and Witnesses’. The conversation discusses strategies to protect witnesses and survivors of human rights violations. Through practical experience and success stories, protection mechanisms are evaluated, challenges discussed and the role of civil society explored. 
 
COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD: GUIDE TO THE GENERAL COMMENT ON BUSINESS   

The International Commission of Jurists and CRIN have released The practical guide on how to use the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child’s 16th General Comment. The guide provides advice on how to work towards implementation of the Committee’s recommendations, providing examples of successful NGOs interventions, as well as advice on litigation, monitoring, advocacy and activism.
 
un experts welcome new africa guidelines on counter-terrorism and human rights  

A group of UN Independent Experts welcomed the Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights while Countering Terrorism in Africa launched this year by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The Principles and Guidelines are based on international human rights law, as well as decisions, standards and resolutions of the Security Council, the UN Human Rights Council and the African Commission… more

HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER PROFILE 

TUISINA YMANIA BROWN, SAMOA 

Tuisina Ymania Brown from the Samoa Fa’afafine Association represents and promotes the rights of indigenous lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in Samoa. Ymania talks to ISHR about her involvement in the UPR process, as well as the limitations imposed on the rights of LGBTI people in Samoa... more 

Our work to strengthen laws and systems

National
 
CHINA: THREE THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE DRAFT NGO LAW
 
Despite significant concerns raised by a range of stakeholders over the past year, including ISHR, Chinese lawmakers have adopted a regressive new law governing the activities of NGOs as part of a dangerous change in approach to the regulation of civil society, in particular advocacy organisations... more

Cambodia: Serious shortcomings in Trade Union Law demand international response

A wide range of UN and NGO stakeholders, including ISHR, have criticised the Cambodian National Assembly's adoption of a highly problematic trade union law. This law constitutes a clear example of a restrictive legal instrument that can be used to shut down civil society space and criminalise the activities of defenders... more

International 
 
INCREASED INTERNATIONAL PROTECTION NEEDED FOR women human rights defenders   

Despite mounting evidence of targeted violence against women human rights defenders, particularly those working on development issues, the Commission on the Status of Women has failed at ensuring their adequate protection, ISHR said... more

resolution ON Counter-terrorism sends wrong message at wrong time
 
A new counter-terrorism resolution adopted by the 31st session of the Human Rights Council is not a green light for States to target civil society space in the name of preventing terrorist activity. In the wake of the Belgium terror attacks, States must ensure full respect for international human rights laws and human rights defenders who play key roles in preventing violent extremism... more
 
un secretary-general: historic informal dialogues BETWEEN CANDIDATES AND NGOS  

For the first time in the history of the UN, candidates to the role of UN Secretary General have participated in informal dialogues with Member States ahead of the election. The President of the General Assembly ensured that civil society was part of this process, acknowledging that it is indispensable to transparent, accountable UN processes... more
 
UNITED STATES: WELCOME SUPPORT FOR CIVIL SOCIETY AT UN BUT TOO FEW ALLIES  

The US has shown strong leadership and support for civil society space and the participation of NGOs at the UN, but had a disappointing lack of allies at the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Coordination and Management Committee meeting, ISHR said... more
 
ECOSOC must defend NGOs’ rights to freedom of expression and association  

ECOSOC should reject the decision of its subsidiary body, the Committee on NGOs, to summarily dismiss an NGO application for access to the UN, without affording that NGO due process. Such a decision amounts to a  violation of the rights to freedom of expression and association, ISHR said... more

Key developments in the promotion and protection of human rights

HONDURAS defenders' MURDERS: UN EXPERT URGES INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION 
 
The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst urged Honduras to set up an independent investigation into the murders of Berta Cáceres and Nelson Garcia in March... more
 
EGYPT: Mass arrests in ‘ruthlessly efficient’ bid to block peaceful protest
 
Security forces arbitrarily arrested at least 238 people on 25 April to prevent demonstrators from gathering in Cairo and elsewhere. The proposed protests were in response to the Government ceding two islands in the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia – a move condemned by civil society groups as unconstitutional and lacking transparency... more
 
Burundi: One year on, CIVILIANS pay the price of entrenched human rights crisis  

One year on from the crisis in Burundi, the human rights environment continues to deteriorate, without accountability. Over the last year, the Government has continued to crack down on protesters, opposition politicians, journalists, human rights defenders and others perceived to be critical of the ruling party... more
 
Bangladesh: LGBTI editor's brutal murder shows failure to stop killing spree  

The editor of an LGBTI publication and his friend were hacked to death late April in Bangladesh, while four other activists  and their associates have been murdered over this month. The continued hostile legal environment and threats faced by the Bangladeshi LGBTI community has forced many activists into exile... more
 
Saudi Arabia: stop using counter terrorism to assault civil society's activists 

Human rights activist Issa al-Hamid has been sentenced to nine years in prison and a travel ban. Al-Hamid was convicted by Saudi Arabia’s Specialised Criminal Court, a secretive counter-terror court increasingly used by the authorities to sentence human rights defenders to lengthy prison terms, often following unfair trials, under the guise of fighting ‘terrorism’... more
 
KYRGYZSTAN: UN calls for immediate release of human rights defender Azimjan Askarov  

In a recent media bulletin, the Human Rights Committee called for the immediate release of Azimjan Askarov, a human rights defender who was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2010. The Committee confirmed Askarov was tortured, subject to inhuman conditions in pre-trial detention, and did not receive minimum international fair trial standards... more
 
Turkey: end witch-hunt against academics and researchers 

Four human rights defenders will appear before the Istanbul 13th Heavy Penal Court on charges of ‘terrorist propaganda’ after denouncing human rights violations in a press statement and petition titled: ‘We will not be a Party to This Crime’. The petition was supported by more than 1000 academics throughout Turkey and abroad... more

CONFERENCES AND EVENTS

ISHR HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER ADVOCACY PROGRAMME 2016
 
ISHR's Human Rights Defender Advocacy Programme 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.
 
EXPERT WORKSHOP ON THE RIGHT TO PARTICPATE IN PUBLIC AFFAIRS
 
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human rights is organising an expert workshop on the right to participate in public affairs on 18 May from 10am to 1pm and from 3pm to 6pm, at the Palais des Nations, room VII. The workshop will have three sessions: Session 1 - The right to participate in public affairs and existing guidance; Session 2 - Current challenges to the implementation of the right to participate in public affairs; Session 3 - Innovations and trends on the right to participate in public affairs.
 
CALL FOR APPLICATIONS – OHCHR MINORITIES FELLOWSHIP PROGRAMME  

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has opened the call for applications for its Minorities Fellowship Programme 2016. The deadline for applications is 22 May. The Programme aims to give persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities an opportunity to gain knowledge of the UN system and mechanisms dealing with international human rights in general and minority rights in particular.

CONSULTATION – COOPERATION bETWEEN UN HUMAN RIGHTS TREATY BODIES AND CIVIL SOCIETY

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights will hold a consultation of the treaty body chairpersons with civil society representatives on 2 June from 10 to 11am in room 6, UN Headquarters, New York.

The objective of the consultation is to exchange views on enhancing the cooperation between the UN human rights treaty bodies and civil society organisations, particularly in the context of the human rights challenges related to the current conflicts around the globe, and implementation of GA resolution 68/268 on strengthening and enhancing the effective functioning of the human rights treaty body system.

COUNTRY VISITS BY SPECIAL PROCEDURES

MAURITANIA
Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights
2 - 11 May
ANGOLA
Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants
3 - 10 May 
COSTA RICA
Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons
9 - 18 May 
BRAZIL
Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children 
10 - 19 May
AZERBAIJAN
Working group on arbitrary detention 
16 - 25 May
ARGENTINA
Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance
16 - 23 May 
HUNGARY
Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice 
17 - 27 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