THE REVOLUTION MIGHT BE TELEVISED, BUT THE PROTESTS WON'T BE
Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on freedom of association and assembly
Two thousand fourteen is shaping up to be the year of the protest, with the headlines dominated by stories of mass demonstrations in Ukraine, Venezuela and elsewhere. The extensive coverage of mass citizen movements is a good thing, but the tendency to focus on large events does leave part of the story untold… more
ISHR HOSTS ALBIE SACHS
Former judge of the South African Constitutional Court, key drafter of the South African Bill of Rights and bomb survivor, Albie Sachs was in Geneva last Thursday (19 June) to share his story at an exclusive screening of a new film about his life.
Urgent action needed on harmful protection of the family resolution
A resolution proposed by a group of States at the UN Human Rights Council has the potential to dangerously narrow the definition of 'family' and expose individuals within families to an increased risk of harm from other family members. ISHR is calling on both civil society and States to take action against the resolution... more
NEW HIGH COMMISSIONER MUST CONTINUE TO PROTECT HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS AND SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER
ISHR has welcomed the appointment of Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid al-Hussein of Jordan as the next UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and called upon him to follow the outstanding example set by the current High Commissioner, Navi Pillay, in supporting human rights defenders, promoting accountability for human rights violations, and pursuing access to justice for victims… more
Key developments at the Council
Focus on women’s rights
Debates on women’s rights last week included focuses on violence against women, discrimination against women in law and practice, gender stereotyping, and women and sustainable development.
However at the same time as States were engaging in these debates to promote women’s rights the Council has been negotiating a resolution on ‘protection of the family’, which could have seriously negative implications for the rights of women and girls. Egypt, the lead sponsor of this resolution, spoke on behalf of the Arab Group of States during the debate on gender stereotyping to say that the international community must prevent any attempt to weaken women’s rights.
Persistent non-cooperation from some States with the Human Rights Council
The lack of cooperation of some States with the Council’s special procedures and other mechanisms was brought to the fore this week as the Council heard updates from the Special Rapporteurs on Belarus, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and Eritrea, along with the latest update from the Commission of Inquiry into the situation in Syria. In all cases the countries in question have refused access to the Special Rapporteur or Commission of Inquiry… more
Next on the Agenda
NGOs to call on the Council to adopt a resolution on sexual orientation and gender identity
Three years after the Council’s only resolution on sexual orientation and gender identity, a statement will be read next week on behalf of civil society organisations from around the world calling for the Council to adopt a follow-up resolution to ensure regular reporting, constructive dialogue and sustained systematic attention to the breadth of human rights violations on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. The debate will mark an opportunity for States to affirm their own positions on future action from the Council, as it becomes apparent that no resolution will be presented at this session.
Independent Expert on Côte d’Ivoire
The presentation of the report of the Independent Expert on Côte d’Ivoire will take place in the context of negotiations to renew the mandate on Côte d’Ivoire. The report’s presentation also comes following the Parliament’s recent adoption of a law on the protection of human rights defenders. The Independent Expert’s report was finalised before this law was adopted and calls for the authorities to take measures to create an enabling environment for human rights defenders. He refers in the report to the NGO ‘Alternative’ which works on LGBTI issues, whose offices and staff, including a former ISHR trainee, were attacked in December 2013 and January 2014. The authorities have not responded to the Independent Expert in a manner to satisfy him that they will guarantee the right to associate.
ISHR thanks Loterie Romande for supporting the Human Rights Defenders Advocacy Programme.
There are some key resolutions up for adoption this week.
Business and human rights
As anticipated, at this session of the Council States are negotiating two resolutions on the issue of business and human rights. To date, both resolutions inadequately reflect the risks, threats and attacks faced by human rights defenders working to prevent, mitigate and ensure accountability for human rights violations linked to business operations. Both resolutions also fail to reiterate the Council's prior call on States and business to protect human rights defenders and their work.
The first, presented by Norway on behalf of a core group consisting of Russia, Argentina and Ghana (India used to be part of the core group but left over a diplomatic row with Norway), aims at renewing the mandate of the existing UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights and the Forum on Business and Human Rights. It is broadly supported by States from all regions, although for many it does not go far enough in developing the business and human rights agenda. Therefore, Ecuador, joined now formally by South Africa, presents a second resolution which seeks to establish an intergovernmental working group tasked with 'progressively negotiating an international legally binding framework on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations'. The European Union has announced fundamental opposition to the idea of an intergovernmental working group, arguing it would undermine progress on the implementation of the Guiding Principles, and threatening to call for a vote against the resolution.
In the remaining week of this session, it is critical that despite the divergence of positions in relation to the development of an international treaty on business and human rights, States unite to ensure that the Council's work in this area recognises the role of human rights defenders in promoting corporate respect for human rights, the risks they face because of this work, and the obligations of States to protect and support them.
Protection of the family
The text on ‘protection of the family’ is a rerun of the initiative that was presented and eventually withdrawn from consideration at the Council’s March 2013 session. The resolution is cosponsored by Bangladesh, China, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, El Salvador, Mauritania, Morocco, Namibia, Qatar, the Russian Federation, Sierra Leone, Tunisia and Uganda.
As in March 2013, the text fails to focus on individual family members as the appropriate subjects of human rights, fails to recognise that human rights violations take place within the family, and fails to acknowledge that various forms of the family exist. Any text that the Council adopts must address these three concerns if it is not to undermine human rights or set back the Council’s own work on a number of relevant issues including child, early and forced marriage, female genital mutilation, domestic violence against women and sexual abuse of children.
Violence against women
An annual initiative by Canada, this year the resolution on ‘Accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women’ calls upon States to demonstrate their commitment to preventing and eliminating all forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls in order to reduce barriers to women’s social, economic and political empowerment, including in the context of armed conflict. While the text condemns acts of violence against women human rights defenders involved in political processes, it could go further to acknowledge and recognise the important and legitimate role of women human rights defenders participating in political processes to strengthen democracy, the rule of law and development.
Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions
The draft resolution, introduced by Sweden, extends the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions for a further three years. The text retains important language on independent and impartial investigations and tribunals for all suspected cases of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions in order to end impunity.
However, the resolution could take a more comprehensive approach to address the prevention of such violations with the inclusion of key conclusions of the Special Rapporteur from his latest report on the ‘Protection of the right to life during law enforcement’. In particular, by including language on the need to ensure that domestic regulations on the use of lethal force by law enforcement officials are in line with international standards; and the need for human rights trainings of law enforcement officials as important prevention measures, particularly in the context of monitoring assemblies.
UPCOMING SIDE EVENTS
Human rights and extractive industries
24 June, 12:00, room 24
Wrap-up of the Human Rights Council session
25 June, 12:00, room 21
Commonwealth at the United Nations Human Rights Council
25 June, 13:00, room 24
Towards an internationally legally binding instrument to end corporate-related abuses of human rights
24 June, 12:00, room 24
Denouncing violence against environmental defenders
26 June, 10:00, room 24
All events take place in the Palais des Nations, Geneva