COUNCIL MONITOR - 2 - 6 March 2015
2 - 6 March 2015


Don't miss the ISHR events at the Human Rights Council this week, on Mexico; women human rights defenders; and human rights and national security.


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


States call for action on reprisals: Live-tweet coverage of the high level segment

Several states spoke out on the issue of reprisals during the High Level Segment of the Council's 28th session. Delegates from Finland, Poland, Libya, Botswana and Germany were among the most vocal in calling for an end to impunity for attacks against human rights defenders, together with the Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs Lubomír Zaorálek, who praised those ‘risking their freedom and rights’ for others across the globe, promising to ‘bring their voices to this hall’. Aurelia Frick, foreign minister of Liechtenstein, condemned the ‘disturbing’ continuation of reprisals against those working alongside UN human rights mechanisms and called for the immediate and full implementation of resolution 24/24 and the measures it outlined regarding protection for human rights defenders.
‘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

ishr advocacy

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.

In response to the annual report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, ISHR shared the High Commissioner’s deep concern at the worsening use of counter-terrorism laws and measures to criminalise human rights defenders in all regions... more

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.


Upcoming side events

The following events all take place at Palais des Nations in Geneva



Tuesday, 10 March, 15:00 to 16:30
Room XI
More information here


Monday, 9 March, 13:00 to 15:00
More information here.

There will also be a similar event in New York on the same day at the Commission on the Status of Women.


Monday 9 March, 10:00 - 11:30
More information here.

  • Freedom of expression and freedom of religion, 10 March, led by International Federation for Human Rights Leagues. This event is scheduled for 16:00 - 18:00 in Room XXII.
  • Civil society in Asia, 10 March, led by Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUMASIA). This event is scheduled for 17:00 – 18:30 in Room XI.
  • Asian HRDs and resolution 22/6, 11 March, led by Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUMASIA). This event is scheduled for 12:00 – 13:00 in Room XXII.
  • Human rights in Sri Lanka, 11 March, led by Amnesty International. This event is scheduled for 12:00 – 13:30 Room XIX.
  • Human rights in the Gulf, 12 March, led by Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. This event is scheduled for 12 - 13.30 in Room XIX.
  • Human rights and African elections, 13 March, led by East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project. This event is scheduled for 12.30 - 14:00 in Room XXIV.
  • Human rights protection of artists, 13 March, led by Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. This event is scheduled for 15:00 to 17:00 at Palais des Nations in Geneva in Room XXIII.
  • LGBT rights, 13 March, led by International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights (IGLHRC). This event is scheduled for 15.30 - to 17:00 in Room XXII.
  • High Commissioner and NGOs, 13 March, led by OHCHR. This event is scheduled for 17:00 - 18:00 in Room XXI.

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