COUNCIL MONITOR - 22 - 26 September 2014
COUNCIL MONITOR
22 - 26 September 2014

Council adopts vital resolution on civil society space

States should adopt laws and policies to support civil society and end impunity for abuses and attacks against its actors, the United Nations Human Rights Council has said in an important and timely resolution.

OPINION

POLARISATION OVER HUMAN RIGHTS AN INDICATION OF PROGRESS

Michael Ineichen, ISHR Human Rights Council
Advocacy Director

The 27th session of the UN Human Rights Council ended on a high note. After a day of suspense and a marathon of voting, the United Nations’ top human rights body spoke out clearly against any discrimination or violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity. With one voice, the Council also urged States to expand and protect space for civil society, at home and globally.

Others have written about the value and importance of both of these two resolutions - the so called ‘SOGI resolution’, the first after a period of painful inertia since 2011 - and the ‘civil society space’ resolution, presented for the second time since 2013. Little, however, has been said about the acute polarisation in the Human Rights Council that the adoption of the two resolutions seemed to embody, although diplomats in Geneva are quick to speak of the tense climate that has prevailed over much of the past three weeks... more

Council resists attempts to stifle debate; marks progress on rights

The Human Rights Council has resisted attempts to stifle debate and prevent human rights progress, with the adoption of critically important resolutions, a group of NGOs has said. 

In a statement on behalf of 13 NGOs at the closing meeting of the Council's 27th session, ISHR welcomed important advances on key human rights issues, including civil society space and ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The statement also deplored procedural manoeuvres aimed at stifling constructive dialogue and blocking effective NGO contributions... more



ishr advocacy

Council condemns violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
 
A United Nations Human Rights Council resolution adopted on Friday (L.27/Rev.1) is a critically important step towards combating violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and upholding the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 25 human rights groups have said.

The resolution builds on that passed in June 2011, when the Council passed the first ever UN resolution on human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It condemns violence and discrimination against LGBT persons and calls for the Office of the High Commissioner to prepare a report on good practice in laws and policies to uphold their rights.

Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay, and 42 additional co-sponsors introduced the resolution. It survived a total of seven hostile amendments, introduced by Egypt on behalf of ten States, seeking to strip the resolution of all references to sexual orientation and gender identity... more
 

States called to combat impunity for crimes against journalists

The Human Rights Council adopted by consensus an important resolution on the safety of journalists, calling on States to develop and implement strategies for combating impunity for attacks and violence against them.

However, the resolution fell short of explicitly addressing the need for accountability for the widespread criminalisation of, and arbitrary use of the legal system against, journalists globally.

‘Journalists are some of the world’s most at-risk human rights defenders,' said Ben Leather of ISHR. ‘The two great advantages of this resolution are that, on the one hand, States have united in a consensus commitment to combat impunity in order to provide protection, whilst on the other hand, they have shown willingness to incorporate and implement best practice and policies from around the world’... more
 

STATES MUST PROTECT AND SAFEGUARD THE INDEPENDENCE OF NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTIONS

States should safeguard the independence of national human rights institutions, ensure they are not subjected to unreasonable budgetary limitations, and are protected from all forms of pressure or reprisal in connection with their work to promote and protect human rights, the UN Human Rights Council has pronounced.

Adopting an Australian-led resolution by consensus, the Council also called on States to 'promptly and thoroughly investigate' all 'cases of alleged reprisal or intimidation against national human rights institutions and their respective members and staff or against individuals who cooperate or seek to cooperate with national human rights institutions', ensuring that 'perpetrators are brought to justice'.

'This resolution is important and timely, coming at a time when members of the Maldives Human Rights Commission have been subject to spurious criminal charges for submitting a report to the UN,' said ISHR Director Phil Lynch. Members of the Commission were charged earlier last week in connection with a report they submitted to the UPR which was critical of the undermining of the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary in the country.

'This is the first time that the Human Rights Council has adopted a resolution which recognises the role of NHRIs in preventing and addressing cases of reprisals, and which condemns and calls for prompt and thorough investigation and accountability for any cases of reprisals against NHRIs or those who cooperate with them,' Mr Lynch said... more
 
UPR: an opportunity to strengthen human rights defender protection

By making, accepting, implementing and following-up on Universal Periodic Review (UPR) recommendations related to the protection of human rights defenders, States can contribute to their security and participation, ISHR told the Human Rights Council today.

As the UPR Working Group reports and recommendations on 14 States were adopted by the Council, ISHR reflected upon the potential of the UPR, to which the organisation has now submitted 20 country Briefing Papers on the situation of human rights defenders, to contribute to a safe and enabling environment for civil society.

In her statement to the Council, ISHR’s Human Rights Advocate Marta KolasiƄska agreed that the UPR can ‘contribute to an enabling environment for human rights defenders, give defenders visibility and contribute to their protection’. She also highlighted three cross-cutting priority recommendations which ISHR considers States ought to contemplate when reviewing their peers’ record on human rights defenders.

In this round of UPR adoptions the DRC accepted several recommendation related to the protection of defenders, whilst Ethiopia refused to consider modifying their repressive laws limiting human rights activities… read more

 
REPRISALS: STATES SHOULD INVESTIGATE AND RESPOND TO ALLEGATIONS
 
Continued cases of reprisals and failure to respond to allegations of reprisals amount to contempt of the Human Rights Council by States, ISHR has said during a Council debate on the Secretary-General’s annual report on intimidation and reprisals against those that cooperate with the UN.

‘The range and brutality of reprisals is made evident in the Secretary-General’s report, with cases cited of deaths, alleged attempted assassination, beatings, campaigns to intimidate, and threats against family members,’ said ISHR's Eleanor Openshaw. ‘The report shows that reprisals constitute a systematic and deliberate strategy to deter and punish civil society engagement with the UN.’...more



COUNTRY RESOLUTIONS ADOPTED

  • The Continuing grave deterioration in the human rights and humanitarian situation in the Syrian Arab Republic
  • Technical assistance and capacity-building for Yemen in the field of human rights 
  • Technical assistance and capacity-building to improve human rights in Sudan
  • Technical assistance and capacity-building to the Central African Republic in the field of human rights
  • Technical assistance and capacity-building in the field of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

More details on all country and thematic resolutions can be found on the OHCHR extranet. Use the following login details (address: extranet.ohchr.org, username: hrc extranet, password: 1session)
 

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OTHER developments

council assesses human rights situation in ukraine
 
The Council followed-up to its resolution on cooperation and assistance to Ukraine, by discussing a UNHCHR report on the issue. The report presented by Ivan Simonovic, Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights, covers the period 21 November 2013 to 5 September 2014.

Simonovic noted the increasing number of human rights violations in Ukraine during the reporting period and highlighted the rise of paramilitary groups allegedly responsible for abductions, enforced disappearance and torture of minority groups such as the Crimean Tartars.

He reported a complete breakdown of law and order, between 500 and 800 people held by armed groups, plus discrimination of ethnic minorities. At least 275,498 people have been officially recorded as displaced.

He highlighted that victims and citizens are scared to come forward and assist the UN Mission with their work because of reprisals.

Switzerland, Ireland and the US were among States who used the interactive dialogue on the report to underscore restrictions on freedom of expression and the vulnerability of journalists in Ukraine, whilst the UK, the EU, Hungary and Ireland chose to call for accountability for all human rights violations occurring during the Maidan protests and since. Canada spoke out for the need for civil society to be central to the reconciliation process.

Simonovic pointed to the lack of laws regulating freedom of assembly or acknowledging indigenous peoples, calling for these laws to be prioritised.

Closing, Simonovic stressed that the priority should be on humanitarian intervention, adding that additional resources will be needed especially during this winter season. He welcomed the decision by Ukraine to extend the Mission’s mandate until mid-December and hoped that it would be extended even further to ensure technical capacity-building in Ukraine. 

 
independent expert highlights risks for civil society in sudan
 
The Independent Expert of the human rights situation in Sudan, Mashood Baderin, expressed deep concern about all the encroachments into civil society space during an interactive dialogue at the Council. As the Expert and many delegations highlighted, human rights defenders work in an extremely hostile environment, with increasing control by the government of civil society organisations’ activities, press censorship, arbitrary detention of activists, repression and extrajudicial killings of protesters and opposition.
 
While this situation is not helped by the ongoing armed conflicts in the country, Baderin urged the government to take steps to ensure full accountability for all human rights violations. In particular, he asked for independent and transparent judicial investigations of the violations that occurred in the September 2013 demonstrations and of the killing of a University of Khartoum student in March 2014.
 
State delegations and NGOs stressed that the need for an enabling environment for civil society is even higher now that a National Dialogue, aiming at the reconciliation of all political parties, is in process.
 
The Expert finally warned about the depletion of UNDP and UNAMID funding and urged the international community to provide enough support for their work and also for local organisations.
 
A resolution on technical assistance and capacity-building to improve human rights in the Sudan, urging respect for the rights of human rights defenders and renewing the Independent Expert’s mandate, was adopted.

 
CALLS FOR SPECIAL PROCEDURE AMIDST CONCERN AT SERIOUS VIOLATIONS IN SOUTH SUDAN
 
‘You can not get healing of any wound if you do not stop the bleeding’, said the Chairperson of the African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan Mr Olusegun Obasanjo. In the panel discussion on the situation of human rights in South Sudan held on Wednesday – as decided by the Council in June - most of the panellists and delegations underlined the need for a proper mechanism of accountability to end the cycle of impunity currently undermining national reconciliation.
 
One week before the panel, in a side event on human rights in South Soudan, speakers had explained the difficulties faced by civil society in the country, stressing mistrust in the judicial system and the barriers imposed by the government to the work of human rights defenders, such as travel bans.
 
Many other concerns were raised during the panel. Freedoms of expression, association and assembly are still subject to strong restrictions both in law and in practice. The human rights deficit and ongoing humanitarian crisis led many delegations to call for a special procedures mandate to monitor and report on the human rights situation in the country.
 
Speakers expressed strong concerns that, in spite of international efforts, serious human rights violations in South Sudan continued, some possibly amounting to war crimes or crimes against humanity. 1.5 million people were reported displaced. Delegations stressed the crucial need for political leadership, justice and accountability to be at the centre of peace efforts.
 
Mr. Obasanjo informed that the Commission of Inquiry will submit a report to the AU within the first half of October, and the report will then be the object of a thorough examination that will leave ‘no stone unturned’. United Nations Missions in Sudan (UNMIS) are also currently finalising their reports and their Director of Human Rights reminded the panel that the Human Rights Council has the responsibility to provide effective follow-up of the situation at the international level.

 

THEMATIC resolutions adopted

  • Enforced or involuntary disappearances
  • Human rights and unilateral coercive measures
  • The right to development 
  • The Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence 
  • Local government and human rights
  • The safety of journalists
  • A panel discussion on realizing the equal enjoyment of the right to education by every girl
  • The human right to safe drinking water and sanitation
  • Intensifying global efforts and sharing good practices to effectively eliminate female genital mutilation
  • The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes
  • Promoting human rights through sport and the Olympic ideal
  • The mandate of the Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order
  • The use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination
  • Preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and human rights,
  • The World Programme for Human Rights Education: adoption of the plan of action for the third phase a
  • Human rights and indigenous peoples
  • Preventable mortality and morbidity of children under five years of age as a human rights concern
  • Civil society space
  • The effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights: the activities of vulture funds
  • The right of the child to engage in play and recreational activities
  • Equal participation in political and public affairs
  • The promotion of the right to peace
  • National institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights
  • Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity
  • The mandate of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent
  • Enhancement of technical cooperation and capacity-building in the field of human rights
  • National policies and human rights
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