Lasting peace in Colombia? Only if defenders and communities are consulted and protected
By Ben Leather, ISHR Advocacy, Training and Communications Manager
After more than 50 years of internal attrition leaving over 50,000 dead and hundreds of thousands displaced, the Colombian Government will soon sign a peace accord with the FARC guerrilla group. Nonetheless, local activists identify obstacles to lasting peace: the murderous attempts to silence human rigts defenders, and the violent imposition of large-scale economic development projects. Colombia’s future could be bright; but only if defenders are protected, communities are heard, and business is done in a way which protects human rights... more
HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER PROFILE
Arutchelvan Subramaniams: human rights defender from MALAYSIA
Arutchelvan Subramaniams, known as Arul, is a prominent grassroots human rights defender. He works primarily for the protection of economic, social and cultural rights - including housing rights for the urban poor, the rights of farmers, plantation and industrial workers, and the rights of indigenous communities. Arul talks to ISHR about the challenges he faces and the importance of developing trust within communities in carrying out his work... more
NEXT ON THE AGENDA
Enhanced InteractiVE Dialogue with the HIgh Commissioner on Burundi
In December 2015 the Council established an Independent Investigation on Burundi through resolution A/HRC/S-24. The resolution requested that the High Commissioner urgently dispatch a mission of independent experts to Burundi to investigate violations and abuses of human rights with a view to preventing the further deterioration of the human rights situation.
In a joint statement delivered last week under item 4 on behalf of a group of States, Canada thanked the High Commissioner for expressing his concerns about the ongoing human situation in Burundi. The statement highlighted that since the special Council session on Burundi in December, the human rights situation has degraded with 260,000 Burundians fleeing the country, increasingly targeted and indiscriminate attacks against civilians, and mass arbitrary arrests, torture and detention.
The Independent Investigation was only able to conduct its first visit to Burundi from 1 to 8 March, after significant international pressure caused Burundi to finally accept the visit. An oral update from the visit is scheduled to take place today, Monday 21 March.
Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on Côte d’Ivoire
The Independent Expert on Côte d’Ivoire will present his report to the Human Rights Council on 22 March. This report is the outcome of the Expert’s third visit to Côte d’Ivoire in November 2015, and covers the period from 1 September to 31 December 2015.
The report speaks of commendable improvements in human rights and governance, in particular the peaceful presidential election in November 2015. It also highlights areas requiring improvement, such as impunity, sexual violence, prison conditions, restrictions on the right to public assemblies, as well as the need for continued capacity building of the justice system and the National Human Rights Commission to take a bolder stand against human rights violations. The report concludes by reaffirming the importance of maintaining the UNOCI mission until achievements in terms of security and progress towards greater respect for human rights are properly consolidated.
During the interactive dialogue, it is important for Member States and civil society to encourage Cote d’Ivoire to take the necessary steps to adopt the draft decree that operationalises the law on the protection of human rights defenders.
Interactive Dialogue on high commissioner's report on south sudan
The 11 March 2016 report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights records shocking and disturbing human rights abuses, as well as violations of international humanitarian law. The report will be the subject of the interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s report on South Sudan taking place this week, on 22 March.
The report explains that human rights defenders, journalists and civil society activists that try to expose the reality in South Sudan have suffered threats, reprisals and in some cases are killed. Moreover, it is unacceptable that women in the country have been subjected to sexual violence as groups allied to the Government rape women in lieu of wages.
During this interactive dialogue it is important for Member States and civil society to recognise the deteriorating human rights situation in South Sudan and the need for a proper and effective accountability mechanism from the Human Rights Council, including, but not limited to, a Special Rapporteur and supporting a hybrid tribunal.
High Commissioner Country Report: Colombia
On Wednesday, the High Commissioner for Human Rights will present reports o the Human Rights Council discussing the activities of the High Commissioner’s offices in Guatemala and Colombia. These reports come at a key time given the recent presidential election in Guatemala and the upcoming signing of the Peace Accords in Colombia.
ISHR recently delivered an in-country training to over 20 Colombian human rights defenders and will thus be paying careful attention to the presentation of the High Commissioner's report on Colombia. ISHR intends to make an intervention on behalf of its trainees during the General Debate following the presentation of that report. The intervention will express concerns about the threats, attacks and murders of human rights defenders highlighted in the report. It will also highlight the increased incidence of violations in the context of business operations.
Egypt: States and HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL must act to end harassment of independent civil society
ISHR calls on the Human Rights Council and its Special Procedure mandate holders, together with democratic governments, to condemn the current crackdown on the independent human rights movement in Egypt and send a very clear message that its continuation is not in the country's political or economic interests... more
Australia: Strengthen laws and mechanisms to uphold human rights
Australia should strengthen national laws and institutions to uphold human rights, including fundamental democratic rights such as freedom of expression, association, assembly and protest, ISHR and the Human Rights Law Centre told the Human Rights Council last week... more
universal periodic review: Strengthen mechanism and implement recommendation to protect defenders
With the third member of the Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH) indigenous organisation being tragically assassinated in Honduras, just 12 days after the murder of Berta Cáceres, ISHR urges States to use the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to demand the highest standards in the protection of human rights defenders, as well as of civil society space and the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association.
The upcoming break between UPR cycles is an opportunity to reflect on how to ensure the process is accessible to civil society, protective to defenders, and effective in contributing to real human rights change – including by protecting those dedicating their lives to the protection of the rights of others, such as Berta Cáceres and Nelson Garcia... more
Myanmar: Continued international scrutiny is essential to advance human rights
The generally successful elections in Myanmar in November 2015 have been followed by a long waiting period, during which the State has undergone consideration both by the UPR and the Human Rights Council. Hope remains that the new government can tackle ongoing violations and support human rights defenders, but the international community should do all it can to give them the guidance, tools and support to do so... more
Human Rights Council: Strengthen response to reprisals and country situations of concern
The UN and its Member States should take urgent steps to address reprisals against human rights defenders. The deteriorating human rights situation – with defenders experiencing an unprecedented global crackdown, involving physical attacks, killings, reprisals and legal and administrative measures which restrict and criminalise their work – in politically powerful States such as China, Egypt and Russia must be addressed, ISHR said... more
China: Progress on human rights must be on the agenda
In China's final year as a Council member, ISHR calls on the Government to release detained defenders and desist from passing restrictive legislation. Coordinated and creative actions from the international community can press this point, and signal to human rights defenders on the ground its solidarity... more
Nauru: STOP RESTRAINING Civil society and democratic freedoms
The Government of Nauru should stop undermining human rights and the rule of law. ISHR expressed grave concern that in recent years a veil of secrecy and repression has descended on Nauru, coinciding with Australia opening a major immigration detention centre on the Pacific island State. Nauru’s democratic future must be built on open and accountable government, an independent judiciary, a free media, access to information, and a vibrant and pluralistic civil society... more
Rwanda: Participation and protection of civil society is crucial to development
Despite its remarkable economic growth and efforts made in the protection of human rights, Rwanda presents a challenging environment for human rights defenders - particularly in the face of increased suppression of dissenting opinions. The Government must ensure the participation of civil society in its continued economic development and continue to amend its laws to ensure conformity with international human rights standards... more
China's UPR Mid-term: Concrete progress, accountability for reprisals essential
On the two year anniversary of Cao Shunli's death, 14 March, ISHR and its partners held a Human Rights Council side-event to highlight the deteriorating human rights situation in China and the challenges of UPR implementation. The event concluded with a moment of silence to honour all defenders in China who have died in detention... more
RESOLUTIONS TO BE CONSIDERED
resolution on human rights defenders
Norway has tabled its resolution on human rights defenders addressing economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights.
Among other things, the resolution recognises the essential and legitimate role of defenders in the realisation of ESC rights, the role of States and business in protecting defenders, and the importance of access to information in the protection of such rights.
The tabled text was negotiated over a high number of public informal meetings, and incorporates a number of suggestions made during these meetings, including a stronger focus on indigenous peoples (Peru, Canada), a recognition of the value of collaboration between human rights defenders and governments to respect, protect and realise ESC rights (Indonesia), as well as a call on States to establish protection mechanisms, policies and laws (Brazil, New Zealand).
During the informal meetings, a number of States, including Russia, China, Egypt, Cuba and Saudi Arabia sought to attack the very concept of human rights defenders, by disputing that defenders require specific recognition and protection and arguing to replace the words ‘human rights defenders’ throughout the text. China sought to remove specific reference to women human rights defenders.
Resolution on the promotion and protection of human rights in peaceful protests
Switzerland, Costa Rica and Turkey have tabled a relatively procedural resolution on human rights in protests. The resolution takes note of the compilation of practical recommendations for the proper management of assemblies, launched at this session of the Council by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of assembly and association and the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions.
The resolution reaffirms the need for States to bring their domestic legislation on assemblies into line with international standards, to provide proper training - including on less-lethal weapons - to law enforcement personnel, and to engage all stakeholders regarding protest management, including human rights defenders and business enterprises.
resolution on the protection of the environment
Costa Rica, Maldives, Morocco, Slovenia and Switzerland have tabled a resolution on the protection of the environment.
The link between the environment and human rights has been recognised since the early stages of UN efforts to address environmental problems. The resolution recognises that the human rights consequences of environmental damage are felt most acutely by those most vulnerable. It calls on States to promote a safe and enabling environment so those working on human rights and environmental issues can operate free from threats, and provide effective remedies for human rights violations related to the environment.
As in the human rights defenders resolution, a number of States, including China, Vietnam, Cuba, Russia and Egypt attacked the very concept of human rights defenders.
The resolution provides an opportunity to address the grave risks facing what is one of the world's most vulnerable groups of defenders – those working for the protection of land and environmental rights. Risks that have been evidenced by many UN and NGO sources and highlighted during this session of the Council with the tragic death of two Honduran environmental rights defenders.
resolution on the human rights situation in myanmar
The resolution on the human rights situation in Myanmar (L.30) is as important now as ever - if not more. The text to be considered remains under Item 4 (human rights situations that require the Council’s attention), marking ongoing concerns linked to violations and abuses that are recurring and structural in nature, but also provides tools for the new Government to entrench reforms.
ISHR urges States to co-sponsor the text as tabled, which additionally reinforces the role of the Special Rapporteur and the importance of complementary work by an OHCHR country office with a full mandate. In so doing, the Council would contribute to assisting the civilian government to advance a forward-looking policy agenda that responds to the needs of the Burmese people and that can make transition a reality.
Resolution on the human rights situation in south sudan
The Core Group, consisting of the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Paraguay and Albania, has presented a resolution on the Human Rights Situation in South Sudan. The Core Group and other States have stressed that since Human Rights Council resolution 29/13, it is clear that South Sudan has not met the stipulated six benchmarks of assessment and thus a new resolution is crucial given increasing human rights violations in the country. Evidence of these violations is clearly accounted for in the recent report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The resolution offers a balanced text, acknowledging regional and international remedies currently engaged in South Sudan. There are however on-going contentious negotiations on the appropriate mechanism to use to assist the country. In particular, there are strong objections from the Africa Group on setting up a Special Rapporteur mandate for South Sudan. On the other hand, the Core Group and others do not see the Special Rapporteur as a punitive or ad hoc mechanism, but rather as a long-term partner.