Human Rights Monitor Monthly - March 2016
HUMAN RIGHTS MONITOR
March 2016
Alert to the Human Rights Council’s 31st session

ISHR's overview of what to look out for as the world's top human rights body meets this month, online here

Stay up-to-date:
Follow @ISHRglobal and #HRC31 on Twitter, and look out for our weekly Human Rights Council Monitor.

OPINION
Strengthening the impact and effectiveness of the UN Human Rights Council

At a meeting of senior civil society representatives, Ambassador of Belgium and Vice-President of the Human Rights Council Bertrand de Crombrugghe reflects on the Council's effectiveness and how to strengthen its impact as it enters its 10th anniversary year… more

OUR WORK TO STRENGTHEN LAWS AND SYSTEMS

National

 

Australia: Withdraw proposed law criminalising lawful protest


Proposed anti-protest laws in Western Australia are unfair and unnecessary and would violate basic democratic freedoms such as free speech and freedom of assembly. The law targets defenders of land rights, privileging business interests over environmental interests and democratic freedoms, the Human Rights Law Centre and ISHR told UN human rights experts… more
 

Thailand: Remove legal restrictions on the right to freedom of expression and association

 
Human rights defenders in Thailand - particularly those expressing dissent - have faced significantly more risk since the military junta took power in May 2014. States should encourage Thailand to protect defenders by removing legal restrictions on their rights, ISHR, FORUM-ASIA and TEA  said in the lead up to Thailand's Universal Periodic Review (UPR)… more
 

Tajikistan: Combat impunity and ensure the protection of human rights defenders

 
ISHR highlights concerns about political activists and journalists being subject to violence  and frequently threatened and harassed by officials in Tajikistan. ISHR urges States to call on the country to combat impunity and ensure the protection of human rights defenders in its next UPR… more 

International
 

China: Increased engagement at Human Rights Council calls for increased scrutiny


An ISHR analysis of China's engagement with the last session of the UN Human Rights Council demonstrates that the State is increasingly using multilateral fora to advance perceived national interests, while simultaneously stepping up the crackdown on civil society actors who engage these mechanisms or express dissenting views at home… more
 

Myanmar: At historic moment, Council must sustain momentum

 
Ongoing impunity and the need for structural reforms in Myanmar are major concerns for civil society and require sustained attention by the Human Rights Council; both the Special Rapporteur and the OHCHR have continuing key roles to play promoting, protecting and contributing to the realisation of rights in the country, says ISHR… more
 

URGENT NEED FOR A  SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON SOUTH SUDAN

 
The UN Human Rights Council should appoint a UN expert on the human rights situation in South Sudan. Their mission will be to investigate, publicly report on and promote accountability for 'severe, widespread and ongoing violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law committed in South Sudan', say leading African and international human rights organisations… more
 

Ireland: KEEP TAKING THE LEAD ON PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS

 
Ireland has demonstrated a sound commitment at both the international and national levels to ensuring a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders. ISHR calls on the State to continue to make UPR recommendations and support UN resolutions on the protection of civil society space, the prevention of reprisals and the protection of defenders… more 

KEY  DEVELOPMENTS IN THE PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS 

Good practices in the protection of human rights defenders: major new report 

A major new report by the UN expert on human rights defenders, Michel Forst, documents good practices and policies in the protection of defenders. It also makes concrete recommendations to States, business enterprises, national human rights institutions, donors, civil society organisations and other stakeholders to ensure a safe and enabling environment for defenders' work... more

Uzbekistan: Stop harassing Uktam Pardaev

The Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, International Partnership for Human Rights, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, and Human Rights Watch have called on the Uzbek authorities to immediately stop harassing human rights defender Uktam Pardaev and lift the unlawful restrictions on his fundamental rights imposed by police... more

Thailand: judicial harassment against  Sirikan Charoensiri continues

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and the International Federation for Human Rights highlight the continued judicial harassment of human rights lawyer Ms Sirikan Charoensiri and express their concern for her physical and psychological integrity... more

Travel bans systematically used to silence Human Rights defenders in Egypt

A joint statement by 9 NGOs highlights an extensive list of travel bans placed of numerous human rights defenders in Egypt. The report urges both domestic and international communities to take action against this continued institutional harassment of defenders... more

Youth activists rounded up at strike in democratic republic of the congo 

Human Rights Watch reports on the arbitrary detention of youth activists and at least 30 political opposition supporters in connection with a national strike to protest delays in organising presidential elections... more

Bahraini Opposition Leader Sentenced to One Year in Jail

In response to the Bahraini opposition leader, Ibrahim Sharif, being sentenced to one year in jail, Human Rights First urged the US to renew the call for his release. The sentencing reveals a human rights crisis in Bahrain , with the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression being restricted... more

Burundi: Abductions and Killings Spread Fear

Human Rights Watch has documented an alarming new pattern of abductions and possible disappearances in Burundi. Armed opposition groups have also increased their attacks, and cases of recruitment and military training of Burundian refugees in Rwanda have been reported... more

Angola: Sentencing and arbitrary detention of Manuel Nito Alves

Pro-democracy activists were arrested last year while participating in a book club meeting to discuss human rights violations in Angola. Recently, their house arrest was extended, while one of them, Mr Manuel Nito Alves, has been sentenced and arbitrarily detained for his objections to their trial, FIDH reports... more

'Ghost Protest' In Seoul to denounce demonstration ban 

A ‘ghost protest’ was organised by Amnesty International in Korea after a demonstration was not approved by officials on the grounds it would ‘disrupt traffic’. The hologram protest was in response to recent police suppression of freedom of assembly... more

Israel: bill targeting international funding for NGOs passes the first reading in Parliament

The Israeli Parliament has approved a controversial bill that would require NGOs that receive 50 percent or more of their funding from foreign governments to publicly detail those sources... more
 

NEW RESOURCES

ISHR Treaty body briefing papers 

Philippines: End killings of defenders working on economic, social and cultural rights

The specific and increasingly heightened risks facing defenders of economic, social and cultural rights in the Philippines should be a priority issue during the country’s forthcoming examination by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, according to a joint submission by ISHR and seven other NGOs.

ISHR UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW BRIEFING PAPERS 

ISHR has launched 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.
  • 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. 
  • 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.
  • Thailand: the Government should remove legal restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, and freedom of association and peaceful assembly.
  • Tajikistan: the Government should protect defenders and journalists from being subject to violence, threats and harassment by officials, and intimidation and arbitrary arrest.

REVOLUTIONARY NEW TOOL TO SEARCH AND DISCOVER HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL RESOLUTIONS


Searching and utilising Human Rights Council documents has previously required costly resources to the exclusion of many defenders. This month HURIDOCS launched RightDocs; a revolutionary new search tool that makes Council related documents accessible to all, faster and more efficient than ever. Information can be accessed dynamically – users can filter by topic, State, agenda item, session, and date. Read more about the publication

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REPORT 2015/16: THE STATE OF THE WORLD'S HUMAN RIGHTS

Amnesty International has published its annual report on the human rights situation in the world. The report discusses the events of 2015 and contains a foreword by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres. 

“I Just Sit and Wait to Die”

Human Rights Watch has released a report on reparations to victims of sexual violence in the post-election period of 2007-2008 in Kenya. The report documents grave human rights abuses conducted against women and girls, as well as men and boys, with many survivors still in need of medical care. The International Criminal Court’ proceedings in connection to the violence are also discussed.  

BRIEFING: Business & human rights challenges in Eastern Europe & Central Asia

The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre has released a briefing on business and human rights challenges in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The report discusses how a shrinking civil society space threatens corporate accountability activists. The findings are based on documentation from May 2014 to December 2015, highlighting concerns, progress, and legal and regulatory developments. 


Frontline Defenders Annual Report: Stop Killing HUman Rights Defenders


Frontline Defenders has released its yearly report highlighting global and regional trends in attacks against human rights defenders. The report demonstrates heightened dangers and increased challenges for defenders in carrying out their legitimate work.

Dispatches 2015

A report has been released by Frontline Defenders that evaluates the organisation’s work in 2015. It highlights the troubles the organisation faces in its work to protect human rights defenders, especially when it comes to achieving fast and efficient support for defenders at risk.
 

LIVING IN A TIME OF DECEPTION


The historical memoir of Dr Poh Soo Kai, a man of medicine and a founding member of the People’s Action Party, has been released. It is said to be a powerful, well-researched history of Singapore that will be invaluable to scholars, ordinary citizens and aspiring activists hoping for a more democratic and just Singapore… more
 

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

Colombia: Enforced disappearances by paramilitary groups in contravention of international covenant


Serna and others v. Colombia (2134/2012)
 
The Human Rights Committee finds Colombia in contravention of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights for enforced disappearances by paramilitary groups and Colombia’s failure to investigate the disappearances… more

HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER PROFILE 

Park Lae-goon (박래군) : South Korean Human Rights Defender

 
Park Lae-goon promotes freedom of assembly and association while combating against State impunity. With 28 years of experience, he has been detained multiple times for participating in demonstrations demanding justice. Mr Park has become a symbolic figure fighting for victims of State violence. He talks to ISHR about his greatest achievements and challenges... more 

OUR WORK TO SUPPORT HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS

Call for a resolution to protect economic, social and cultural rights defenders

 
ISHR calls for the adoption by the Human Rights Council of a strong and substantive resolution on the situation and protection of defenders of economic, social and cultural rights. The resolution should recognise the vital and legitimate work of these defenders, condemn restrictions and attacks against them, and contain concrete recommendations to States, businesses and other actors to ensure that defenders can work without risk or fear... more
 
EGYPT: PRIORITISE ACCOUNTABILITY FOR SEXUAL VIOLENCE ANd participation of women defenders
 
Protection gaps and implementation challenges with Egypt's National Strategy for the Elimination of Violence against Women demonstrate that involving women defenders in processes is crucial for success, says Nazra for Feminist Studies… more
 

China: Closure of women's legal aid centre is a blow for women's rights and gender equality

 
The forced closure of a leading women's legal aid organisation in China is a set-back for women's rights and gender equality in the country. It is also evidence of the crackdown on civil society, and is incompatible with international human rights obligations and national policy commitments, says ISHR… more 
 

Philippines: End killings of defenders working on economic, social and cultural rights

 
The specific and increasingly heightened risks facing defenders of economic, social and cultural rights in the Philippines is a major concern. It should be a priority issue during the country’s forthcoming examination by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, according to a joint submission by eight NGOs... more
 

Hungary: UPR should encourage re-opening of civil society space

 
The reality for human rights defenders on the ground in Hungary has worsened since the State’s last UPR. States should encourage Hungary to protect human rights defenders and civil society space through its forthcoming UPR, say ISHR and TASZ… more
 

OPPORTUNITIES FOR NGO ENGAGEMENT

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL

 
The 31st regular session of the Human Rights Council will be held in the Palais des Nations from 29 February to 24 March 2016. Information and updates will be published here.

The Council's 32nd regular session will take place from 13 June to 1 July 2016. Information and updates will be published here.
 

UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW


The 25th UPR session will take place from 2 to 13 May 2016. The following States will be reviewed: 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. The pre-session will take place from 29 March to 1 April 2016.

The following States will be reviewed at the 26th session of the UPR, which will be held in October/November 2016: Togo, Syrian Arab Republic, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Iceland, Zimbabwe, Lithuania, Uganda, Timor Leste, Republic of Moldova, Haiti, and South Sudan. Guidelines for submissions are found here and are due on 24 March. Information about the UPR mechanism can be found here.

TREATY BODIES

The 116th session of the Human Rights Committee will be held from 7 to 31 March 2016 and will consider the following State reports: Costa Rica, Namibia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Slovenia, South Africa, and Sweden. The Committee will consider the list of issues for: Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Colombia, Jamaica, Morocco, and Slovakia. The Committee will also consider the list of issues prior to reporting for Estonia. The programme of work and other information is found here.

The 57th session of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights will be held from 22 February to 4 March 2016. The Committee will analyse the following State reports: Canada, Kenya and Namibia. The Committee will also consider the list of issues prior to reporting for Bulgaria, New Zealand and Spain. The programme of work can be found here and the accreditation form here.

The 57th Pre-sessional Working Group will be held from 7 to 11 March 2016, in which the following State reports will be considered: Costa Rica, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Lebanon, Philippines, Poland, Tunisia and Yemen. NGO submissions for each will be accepted until three weeks before the 57th session and the Pre-sessional Working Group respectively.

The 63rd session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women will take place from 15 February to 4 March 2016. The reports of the following States are scheduled to be considered: Czech Republic, Haiti, Iceland, Japan, Mongolia, Sweden, United Republic of Tanzania, and Vanuatu. More information can be accessed here.

The 65th Pre-sessional working group will take place from 7 to 11 March 2016. The Pre-Sessional Working Group will review the following State reports: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burundi, Canada, Estonia, Honduras, Netherlands, and Switzerland. The Working Group will also consider the list of issues prior to reporting for Romania. More information can be accessed here.

The 10th session on the Committee of Enforced Disappearances will be held from 7 to 18 March 2016, in which the following State reports will be considered: Burkina Faso, Kazakhstan, and Tunisia. The Committee will also consider the list of issues prior to reporting for: Bosnia and Herzegovina and Colombia. The programme of work can be found here.

The 57th session of the Committee Against Torture will be held from 18 April to 13 May 2016. The Committee will consider the following State reports: France, Israel, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Turkey. More information is available here.

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.


Ask the UN SG Candidates

In 2016, the UN will appoint a new Secretary-General. The current list of official candidates can be found on the President of the UN General Assembly's website.
 
Informal dialogues will be held between UN Member States and candidates starting in April 2016. Civil society has the opportunity to provide questions that can be asked to the candidates during these discussions.
 

CONFERENCES AND EVENTS

HUMAN RIGHTS CRISIS IN BURUNDI
 

ISHR will co-sponsor an event on the human rights crisis in Burundi with CIVICUS, Amnesty International, FIDH, Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists, Protection International, the World Organization against Torture (OMCT), the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project. The event will reflect on the implementation of sustainable solutions to the crisis and will take place on 4 March in Room XXIV, Palais des Nations. 

Protection needs of economic, social and cultural rights DEFENDERS

ISHR – together with FIDH, CIVICUS, FORUM-ASIA, Peace Brigades International, the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Protection International, and the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project – will facilitate a side event to shed light on the risks faced by economic, social and cultural rights defenders, and present good practices in furthering their protection. The event will take place on 7 March in Room XVIII, Palais des Nations. Live webcasting  here.

China’s Second-Cycle Universal periodic review Mid-Term: A Technical Assessment from Civil Society

ISHR, the Tibet Advocacy Coalition, The World Uyghur Congress and others are organising a side event which will consider the role of civil society in China's UPR. The event will particularly focus on civil society's role in pressing for and assisting with the implementation of recommendations and the value of transparent benchmarks of progress and areas for continued effort at the mid-point of China’s second cycle of UPR. The event will take place on 14 March in Room XVIII, Palais des Nations.

Asia Regional Forum on business and human rights

The Working Group on Business and Human Rights is holding a forum with the objective of bringing awareness and implementation of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in Asia. Registration is currently open and submissions are being accepted by stakeholders. The event will take place on 19-20 April 2016 in Qatar at the Sheraton Doha Resort & Convention Hotel.

The role of Women Human Rights Defenders in the Sustainable development goals

The event will particularly focus on women human rights defenders working in areas of economic, social and cultural rights. Sponsors include Norway, Tunisia, ISHR and other members of the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition. The event will be held on 16 March 2016 in Conference Room 12 at the UN Building in New York.

Workshop on documenting violations against women human rights defenders

The workshop will focus on documentation of violations against women human rights defenders (WHRDs) and will also include the launch of the WHRD International Coalition manual “Gendering Documentation”. The event will take place on 18 March at the Thai Cultural Center (TCC) – 310 44th St. New York. 

COUNTRY VISITS BY SPECIAL PROCEDURES

CHILE
Special Rapporteur on the right to education
28 March - 4 April
TURKEY
Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances
14 - 18 March
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 
For more information, please visit our website: www.ishr.ch or contact us: information@ishr.ch