Democratic States must do more to protect democratic freedoms
By Phil Lynch, ISHR Director
Cao Shunli - a Chinese human rights lawyer, pro-democracy activist and former ISHR trainee - died in Chinese custody almost a year ago. When news of her fate broke amongst her colleagues, they were shocked, distressed, and also undeterred in their resolve to continue their advocacy on China at the UN.
For them, the ability to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and association at the international level – rights denied at home – and to advocate for accountability and reform through human rights mechanisms – mechanisms which did not exist at home – was worth the risk.
Their response is a powerful reminder of the faith and responsibility that human rights defenders vest in international institutions... more
Protecting women human rights defenders
By Pooja Patel, Head of the women human rights defenders programme at ISHR
Over the course of the last decade, there has been at least some growing recognition that women human rights defenders not only face the same threats from both State and non-State actors as their male counterparts, but also often face specific threats from authorities, families and societies due to their gender – acts that often go unseen and undocumented.
The women human rights defenders movement has worked diligently to raise awareness of their particularly vulnerability to attacks, and the vital need for human rights strategies to take this into account... more
KEY DEVELOPMENTS AT THE COUNCIL
States call for action on reprisals: Live-tweet coverage of the high level segment
‘These kinds of strong statements on the need to combat reprisals against defenders are encouraging’ ISHR programme manager Ben Leather says. ‘We also welcome the emphasis of many States in their High Level Segment statements on the need to address those human rights issues which entail the greatest risks for defenders working to promote them, such as corporate accountability and LGBT rights. Botswana’s public commitment to promoting a regional dialogue on rights relating to sexual orientation and gender identity, for example, is to be congratulated’.
This session marked the first High Level Segment for which ISHR provided full live-tweet coverage. A complete timeline of these tweets can be found here. We will be tweeting #HRC28 updates for the remainder of the session. Follow us @ISHRglobal.
Presentation of Annual Report and Interative Dialogue with the High Commissioner
Over a six hour interactive dialogue on Thursday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, presented his 2014 annual report to the 28th session of the Human Rights Council.
The report was praised by many countries for the breadth of human rights areas that it covers, and the High Commissioner himself was repeatedly applauded for his deep and personal involvement in the activities of the OHCHR. Importantly, the High Commissioner's heightened awareness about the plight of human rights defenders was noticeable throughout the segment... more
Counter terror laws and measures must not criminalise human rights defenders
The imperative to counter-terrorism and combat extremism must not be used or allowed to justify the repression of civil society or curtailment of the rights to freedom of expression, assembly or association, ISHR has said in a statement to the Human Rights Council.
Human Rights Council SHOULD call on States to implement Declaration on human rights defenders in national law
The Human Rights Council should reiterate its call on States to develop and implement specific laws and policies to recognise and protect human rights defenders, ISHR has said in statement to Council.
The written statement is based on international legal research, together with regional consultations with some 150 human rights defenders from more than 60 States. It sets out the need for States to enact specific laws to protect and support human rights defenders and to review and amend laws that restrict and criminalise their work, and contains recommendations in that regard... more
Burma called to enhance democratic space by facilitating freedom of expression and assembly
The Human Rights Council must do more to support human rights defenders and ensure an enabling environment for a vibrant civil society in Burma if it wants to genuinely support the country’s democratic transition, ISHR has said.
The Human Rights Council must take heed of the High Commissioner’s warning that the country ‘needs urgently to get back on track’, particularly in light of a constitutional referendum and general elections later this year... more
Next on the Agenda
First report of the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders to the Council
The Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Michel Forst will present his inaugural report (summary) to the Human Rights Council on Monday, 9 March (currently planned to start at 15:00 GVA time).
The report provides an overview of the Special Rapporteur’s activities since his appointment in June 2014 – including regional consultations with more than 150 human rights defenders across Asia, Central Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa – and sets out his vision and proposed activities for the mandate for the year ahead.
In the past, the Council’s dialogues with the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders have attracted mixed reactions by States. While some are strongly supportive of the mandate, others - including those characterised by a restrictive environment for human rights work - are likely to be critical of the mandate.
Over the past year, the Special Rapporteur has been reasonably active in issuing public statement on situations and issues of concern, including on legislative changes, individual cases of human rights defenders under threat, and the situation of particular groups of defenders such as such as individuals who promote the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons.
As documented in the joint communications report, the Special Rapporteur has also sent more than 100 letters to governments expressing concern about individuals at risk, threatened, attacked and even killed. In many instance, these have not even been responded to, and it will be interesting to see if the Council holds those governments to account for their blatant non-cooperation with the mandate.