Human Rights Council Monitor - 9-16 September, 2013

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Council Monitor
9-16 September 2013
 
Check out photos from ISHR's 'Ending Reprisals' side-event


 

 

Opinion

UN MUST DEVELOP AN EFFECTIVE RESPONSE TO REPRISALS

Philip Alston, former Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions

Many witnesses and victims with whom I met on country missions when I was UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions were targeted by the security forces and either harassed or arrested or forced to flee.  Several individuals with whom I met paid the ultimate price.

They were targeted and killed, almost certainly by the security forces and almost certainly, at least in part, because they had provided me with evidence of serious wrongdoing by those forces. This fact alone underscores the need for the UN human rights system to develop an effective response to such reprisals… more

 

HIGHLIGHTS


“There is an alarming pattern of brutality and widespread intolerance against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in all regions”

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay



“International Service for Human Rights and other groups play a vital role in relation to the situation of human rights defenders who are attacked or harassed by their governments”

Philip Alston, former Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions

 

Tribute to Sunila Abeysekera

ISHR would like to pay tribute to our former board member, Sunila Abeysekera, who passed away on 9 September 2013. Sunila was a prominent Sri Lankan human rights defender, who fought tirelessly and at risk to herself, to bring the human rights situation in Sri Lanka to international attention. Sunila made a huge contribution to the advancement of gender equality and in countering discrimination. The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition was one of the many initiatives Sunila was at the heart of. During her lifetime her work was formally recognised with the UN Human Rights Award, amongst others.

Since her death the many tributes paid to Sunila show her to have had a remarkable impact in the lives of activists in many parts of the world, and in many struggles. ISHR honours Sunila’s life and work, including in advancing rights through the UN system. Along with Coalition partners, ISHR calls on the Council to redouble its efforts to integrate the rights of women and a gender perspective into its work and that of its mechanisms. 

Read the statement from the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition for the Council Panel on Gender Integration
here.

KEY DEVELOPMENTS AT THE COUNCIL

In Brief

HIGH COMMISSIONER CALLS ON STATES TO RESPECT FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION AND ASSEMBLY

Violations of rights of freedom of peaceful assembly and association headed the list of concerns outlined by the High Commissioner in her opening statement to the Human Rights Council. 47 States, including Costa Rica and Brazil, and led by Switzerland expressed concern about Bahrain's harassment and imprisonment of people for exercising their right to freedom of association. In response, Bahrain stated that no defender faces any restrictions as a result of their activities and that they are treated as everyone else in accordance with the law.  The situation in Egypt was also high up the list of States' concerns, with the US calling on the Egyptian government to cease all violations of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. The High Commissioner cautioned against military intervention in Syria, stating that while the ‘appalling situation cries out for international action’ a military response risked igniting a ‘regional conflagration’.

UN EXPERT DRAWS ATTENTION TO ROLE OF CIVIL SOCIETY IN THE PROMOTION OF TRUTH

Civil society has a crucial role to play, both domestically and internationally, in the promotion of the right to truth, said Special Rapporteur on the right to truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, Pablo de Greiff when presenting his report examining the challenges faced by truth commissions. He emphasised the role civil society organisations should play in monitoring the implementation of recommendations made by truth commissions. Only a few States picked up on this point: the Netherlands, South Korea, Czech Republic, the US, Spain, the Maldives, and most particularly Ireland. Questions were raised as to how to secure the effective involvement of civil society, with the Netherlands pointing out that in post-conflict settings, in which many truth commissions work, civil society is weakened.  Speakers did not address these questions.

In Depth

STATES FAIL TO ADDRESS CHALLENGES TO CIVIL SOCIETY ENGAGEMENT WITH UN AT PANEL ON GENDER

A Human Rights Council debate on the role of civil society in integrating gender throughout the Council’s work saw strong affirmation of the important role civil society plays in the UN’s work. Unfortunately there was a lack of proposals to address the challenges civil society often faces in engaging with the UN human rights system… more

SIDE EVENTS

NGO Recommendations in the UPR: 17 September, 14:00, Room 23

Human Rights in Egypt: 18 September, 16:00, Room 22

Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: 19 September, 16:00, Room 23

Human Rights in Malaysia: 20 September, 10:00, Room 21

Human Rights in Somalia: 23 September, 14:00, Room 23

Wrap-up of Human Right Council: 25 September, 15:00, Room 22


All events take place in the Palais des Nations, Geneva

 

ISHR ADVOCACY

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL MUST ACT TO PROTECT AND SUPPORT NGOS

The UN Human Rights Council should take action to condemn escalating threats to non-governmental organisations and restrictions on their rights to freedom of association, expression and participation in public affairs, the International Service for Human Rights said in a statement to the Human Rights Council… more
 

STATES FAILING IN DUTY TO PREVENT INTIMIDATION AND REPRISALS AGAINST HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS

Human rights defenders across the world continue to face intimidation, harassment, attacks and reprisals for their work to promote and protect human rights at the UN but only a small number of governments have enacted laws that clearly protect human rights defenders and prohibit and penalise reprisals, a major new ISHR report has found. The report was launched at a webcast event at the Human Rights Council… more
 

ISHR HIGHLIGHTS ESSENTIAL CRITERIA FOR APPOINTMENT OF UN HUMAN RIGHTS EXPERT

The new UN expert of the situation of human rights defenders must have the necessary expertise and independence to provide the support that human rights defenders need to overcome challenges and violations, ISHR has told States. The current UN expert Special Rapporteur Margaret Sekaggya, will leave office in April 2014 after completing her maximum term. Together with other leading NGOs such as Amnesty International, ISHR has developed a checklist of criteria for selecting the new mandate holder… more
 

WOMEN HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS NEED BETTER SUPPORT AND PROTECTION

States and the UN must act to provide greater support and protection for women human rights defenders in their critical work to combat discrimination and gender inequality, ISHR said in a statement to the UN Human Rights Council… more

Next on the agenda

COMMISSION OF INQUIRY ON SYRIA

As international maneuvering continues over how to respond to the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria, the Human Rights Council mandated Commission of Inquiry into the situation in Syria will present its latest report this week. The Commission has still not been able to visit Syria, despite the country allowing recent weapons inspections by the UN as well as the Special Rapporteur on children in armed conflict. The report sets out violations committed by government and pro-government forces, anti-government armed groups, and unidentified perpetrators. Violations identified include torture, sexual violence, enforced disappearance, and arbitrary arrest. The Commission’s latest report reiterates the High Commissioner’s call for a political solution to the crisis, and further calls on the Security Council to consider referral to international justice processes.


ORAL REPORT FROM THE COMMISSION OF INQUIRY ON THE DPRK

The Council will hear from its Commission of Inquiry on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), which was established at the Council’s 22nd session in March 2013. The Commission was not given permission from the DPRK to enter, but it developed innovative methods of work to redress this, holding often dramatic public hearings in Seoul and Tokyo to hear testimony from those who have fled the country. These hearings also provided an opportunity to raise international awareness about the situation in the DPRK. The Government has finally been prompted to respond, attacking witness reports as ‘slander’. Commission Chair Michael Kirby has said that the commissioners are determined to act on the consensus mandate given to them by the Human Rights Council to ensure that the DPRK is held accountable, stating that ‘denunciation is not enough’. 


DEBATE ON COUNCIL’S MECHANISMS OFFERS OPPORTUNITY TO RESPOND ON REPRISALS

A debate this week on the Human Rights Council’s mechanisms provides an opportunity for States to address reprisals against those who cooperate with those mechanisms. This session of the Council is an important one for the topic of reprisals, with Hungary leading a resolution on the subject. ISHR has called for the UN to establish a high-level focal point on reprisals, a call endorsed by the Deputy High Commissioner who stated that such a function would play an invaluable role in coordinating the UN response on reprisals, including at the level of field offices. This call has previously been endorsed by a high-level conference in Vienna.

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