ISHR's recent work to support human rights defenders, strengthen human rights systems and achieve human rights change... more
Protecting human rights defenders from attacks and reprisals
Phil Lynch, Director of ISHR
It is almost 50 years since the world’s most famous and celebrated human rights defender, Nelson Mandela, spent the first of his 27 years in prison in retaliation for his work to uphold human rights and fundamental freedoms. In this month’s opinion piece ISHR Director Phil Lynch examines the risks human rights defenders across the world face when they work to uncover human rights violations, and sets out a call for action to the UN’s peak human rights body, the Human Rights Council, ahead of its next session in September… more
HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER PROFILE
LUCIA NADER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF CONECTAS IN BRAZIL
Lucia Nader is an ex-ISHR trainee who today is Executive Director of Conectas, one of Brazil’s leading human rights NGOs. Read more about her work and the work of Conectas to implement human rights standards in Brazil and throughout the global South here.
Our Work to Support Human Rights Defenders
ISHR CALLS ON PRESIDENT OF GENERAL ASSEMBLY TO ENSURE SPACE FOR NGOS
In a letter to the President of the General Assembly, ISHR has called on Mr Jeremić to use his office to protect the right of NGOs to participate in UN meetings. Fifteen other NGOs from around their world added their names to the letter.
PRESIDENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL MUST ADDRESS ALLEGED REPRISALS IN CHINA
In a joint letter, Human Rights Watch and ISHR requested the President of the UN Human Rights Council to urgently address alleged reprisals against human rights defenders in China… more
ISHR VOICES CONCERN AS NGOS ARE BARRED FROM UN MEETINGS
ISHR has criticised the lack of transparency around the so-called ‘no-objection procedure’, under which States can block NGOs from participating in UN meetings, without the NGOs being made aware of the substance of the objection or which State has made it. This follows the exclusion of three NGOs from a civil society meeting on migration and development.
ISHR CALLS ON UN COMMITTEE ON ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCES TO REMOVE OBSTACLES TO NGO ACCESS
In a submission to the Committee on Enforced Disappearances, ISHR has called on the Committee to ensure that alongside its continuing encouragement to NGOs to engage with the work of the Committee, it should also ensure that it protects NGOs from intimidation and reprisals… more
UPCOMING OPPORTUNITIES FOR NGO ENGAGEMENT
NEW DEADLINES FOR UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW
NGO submissions to the UPR will now be required 9 months in advance of the relevant UPR session. For the 19th session of the UPR, the deadline to submit information is 16 September.
The 17th session of the UPR will take place in Geneva from 21 October – 1 November. A pre-session will be organised by UPR Info from 2 – 4 September giving NGOs the opportunity to lobby a range of States.
HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL ORGANISATIONAL MEETING
The organisational meeting for the Council’s 24th session, where States will announce planned initiatives for the session, will take place on 26 August.
HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
The 24th session of the Human Rights Council will be held in Geneva from 9 – 27 September. The deadline for requesting a room for a side event is 9 August, while the deadline to submit written statements, which you can now do online, is 22 August. More information and the necessary forms are available here.
HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL ADVISORY COMMITTEE
From 12 to 16 August the Human Rights Council’s Advisory Committee, or think-tank, will be in session in Geneva.
WORKING GROUP ON DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN IN LAW AND PRACTICE
The Human Rights Council’s expert group on discrimination against women in law and practice will hold its 8th session from 30 September – 4 October in Geneva. The working group is currently soliciting inputs to its 2014 report to the Council on good practices in the elimination of discrimination against women in economic and social life.
REGIONAL FORUM ON BUSINESS AND HUMAN RIGHTS FOR LATIN AMERICA AND CARIBBEAN
The UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights will co-host a regional forum on business and human rights for the Latin Americas and Caribbean from 28 – 39 August 2013 in Medellin, Colombia. To register and for more information see here.
COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination will meet in Geneva from 12 – 30 August. The deadline for submission of NGO information is 2 August.
COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
The CRPD will hold its 10th session from 2 – 13 September in Geneva.
COMMITTEE ON THE PROTECTION OF MIGRANT WORKERS AND THEIR FAMILIES
CMW’s 19th session will take place in Geneva from 9 – 13 September. NGO submissions on any of the countries under review must be sent to the Committee by 26 August.
COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN
CEDAW will hold its 56th session from 30 September – 18 October in Geneva. The pre-sessional working group, at which the Committee will identify issues to be raised with States during its 58th session, will be held from 21 – 25 October.
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE
The 109th session of the Human Rights Committee will take place in Geneva from 14 October – 1 November.
WEBCASTS OF THE TREATY BODY MEETINGS
If you are unable to attend relevant treaty body meetings, you can now watch these sessions live online. A group of Geneva-based NGOs, including ISHR, has coordinated to make this possible. The webcasts can be viewed at www.treatybodywebcast.org.
CASE NOTES ON DECISIONS FROM INTERNATIONAL AND REGIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS BODIES
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE FINDS AUSTRALIA MAY EXTRADITE FALUN GONG PRACTITIONER TO CHINA
In March 2013, the Human Rights Committee was asked to consider whether Australia had violated its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in seeking to extradite a person where there were alleged grounds for believing that there was a risk that person would suffer irreparable harm… more
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA MUST INVESTIGATE CASES OF ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCE
In March 2013, the Human Rights Committee was asked to consider whether Bosnia and Herzegovina had violated its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in its failure to conduct prompt, impartial and effective investigations into the fate of victims of enforced disappearance and bring the perpetrators to justice… more
BELARUS VIOLATED HUMAN RIGHTS IN FINING AUTHORS OF A PETITION
In March 2013, the Human Rights Committee was asked to consider whether Belarus had violated its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in imposing administrative fines that restricted an individual’s freedom of expression… more
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE REJECTS COMPLAINTS AGAINST KAZAKHSTAN, CAMEROON, COLOMBIA, LITHUANIA, SPAIN, AND AUSTRALIA
The Human Rights Committee found that a complaint against Kazakhstan was inadmissible because the alleged violation occurred before Kazakhstan’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights entered into force. In complaints brought against Cameroon, Colombia, Lithuania, Spain, and Australia, the Committee stated that as not all available domestic remedies had been exhausted by the complainant, it could not consider the cases. In addition, the Committee argued that the complainants in cases against Colombia and Spain had not substantiated their claims… more
AFRICAN COURT FINDS TANZANIA IN VIOLATION OF THE RIGHT OF FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION BY REQUIRING CANDIDATES FOR POLITICAL OFFICE TO JOIN A POLITICAL PARTY
In June 2013, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights was asked to consider whether Tanzania had violated its obligations under the African (Banjul) Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Charter) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, by requiring any political candidate for presidential, parliamentary, or local government elections to be a member of, and sponsored by, a political party… more
Our work to strengthen human rights systems
STATES MAKE THEIR CASE FOR ELECTION TO THE HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
With elections for membership of the Human Rights Council looming, ISHR and Amnesty International hosted a pledging event on 9 July 2013 at the UN in New York, for States to make their cases for election to the world’s peak human rights body. The event was intended to give candidates an opportunity to present their vision for membership of the Council and respond to questions on how they would realise the pledges and commitments made in seeking election. Though it is regrettable that only seven of seventeen candidates volunteered to participate in the event, candidates were represented from all regions—an improvement over last year’s event in which only three regional groups were represented.
In accordance with the General Assembly resolution that created the Council, States electing members are directed to ‘take into account the contribution of candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto’. Though States failed to agree to a public pledge review mechanism during the creation of the Council and later during its 5-year review, this event offered a voluntary platform for candidates wishing to discuss their pledges ahead of the election. The elections will be held on 12 November 2013. Candidates’ pledges are available here.
MAJOR INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ENDORSES ISHR PROPOSALS
ISHR’s lobbying for the establishment of a high-level UN focal point to prevent and take action against reprisals, as well as our work with NGO partners around the world to begin the development of a draft model law on human rights defenders were included in a key outcome document adopted by the experts attending the conference. The recommendations will be included in a report to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council by the delegation of Austria in September.
HUMAN RIGHTS DEVELOPMENTS
INDONESIA PASSES LAW RESTRICTING ACTIVITIES OF NGOS
In July, Indonesia adopted a law that gives the Government wide scope to interfere with and restrict the work of NGOs. The law infringes on the rights to freedom of association, expression, and religion, imposing a variety of obligations and prohibitions on NGOs, as well as severely limiting the creation of foreign-funded organisations.
HIGH COMMISSIONER URGED TO CONSULT WIDELY IN UPCOMING VISIT SRI LANKA
A leading human rights NGO, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), has called on the High Commissioner for Human Rights to ensure that the inputs of civil society inform her next report on the situation in Sri Lanka.
The call comes ahead of Ms Navi Pillay’s visit to the country from 25 to 31 August, and in the context of a climate of ‘fear and impunity’ for human rights defenders in Sri Lanka. Bearing this in mind FORUM-ASIA has urged the High Commissioner to monitor the safety of all those with whom she interacts and to press for speedy investigations into any allegations of reprisals.
ECOSOC CONSIDERS ITS NGO COMMITTEE REPORT
ECOSOC’s NGO Committee is the body that examines all applications from NGOs for the ECOSOC status that permits them to participate in UN meetings. At its June meeting this year, held in Geneva, ECOSOC approved the NGO Committee’s report. However there was criticism from some States of the Committee’s working methods.
In a joint statement, Chile, Mexico and Uruguay called on the NGO Committee to ensure that the processing of NGO applications are not subject to excessive delays and that any withdrawal of ECOSOC status follows objective guidelines. These States also urged the Committee to consider all applications, regardless of the field of work of the NGO, without bias.
INTERNATIONAL INQUIRY INTO HUMAN RIGHTS IN NORTH KOREA GETS UNDERWAY
The Commission created by the Human Rights Council to investigate the human rights situation in North Korea has started its work by holding a number of key meetings in Geneva with diplomats, UN agencies, and NGOs. The Commission was created in March to look into ‘systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights’.
UN EXPERT GROUP ON BUSINESS AND HUMAN RIGHTS ON MISSION TO GHANA
The UN working group on business and human rights has undertaken its first fact-finding mission in Ghana. In their preliminary observations the experts called for greater respect for human rights from businesses participating in Ghana’s economic growth. The experts also noted the importance of a vibrant civil society both to advocate for progress and to monitor implementation of human rights in the context of the activities of businesses.
UN HUMAN RIGHTS CHIEF CALLS FOR REAFFIRMATION OF UNIVERSALITY OF HUMAN RIGHTS
Ms Navi Pillay, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, opened the 20th anniversary conference on the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action with a strong reminder that much work remains to be done to fulfil the spirit of the VDPA. Pointing to the unprecedented restrictions and reprisals against civil society, as well as continuing discrimination against minority groups, she called for a refocus on the principle of universality underlying the Declaration.
RUSSIA SIGNS ANTI-LGBT PROPOGANDA BILL INTO LAW
At the end of June, Vladimir Putin signed into law a bill banning the promotion of information about ‘non-traditional’ sexuality. Just two days earlier the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe had called on Russia to withdraw the bill, noting that it violated the right to freedom of expression and the right to be free from discrimination, including on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.
ISHR WELCOMES RECENT EFFORTS BY TREATY BODIES TO ADDRESS REPRISALS
In recent years the treaty bodies have begun to respond more effectively to address the risk of reprisals faced by individuals and organisations who participate in the work of the treaty bodies.
Allegations of legal harassment against two Russian NGOs who had submitted information to the Committee Against Torture drew a prompt and strong response from the treaty body, while the Human Rights Committee has taken similar action, notably in the case of the Maldives… more
COMMENTARY ON THE INTERNATIONAL COVENANT ON CIVIL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS
The third edition of ‘The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: Cases, Materials, and Commentary’ by Professor Sarah Joseph and Melissa Castan has been released. The book analyses 40 years of jurisprudence from the Human Rights Committee.
UN’S HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICE LAUNCHES GLOBAL EDUCATION CAMPAIGN FOR LGBT EQUALITY
The UN’s human rights office has launched Free and Equal, an initiative aimed at raising awareness about homophobic and transphobic violence and discrimination, and promoting greater respect for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people everywhere. The website includes insights from world leaders, including Ban Ki-moon and Nelson Mandela, as well as fact sheets on international law.
NGO FOLLOW-UP TO CRC CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS
The Committee on the Rights of the Child (the Committee) does not have an official follow-up mechanism; however, like other human rights mechanisms, it actively promotes the role of civil society in taking up its recommendations and concluding observations, partnering with States and other stakeholders for implementation as part of an ongoing monitoring and reporting cycle.
Since 2010, Child Rights Connect (formerly the NGO Group for the CRC) has been working to identify barriers experienced by NGOs – particularly national-level NGOs – when following up on CRC concluding observations. One of the main challenges would typically arise in ‘translating’ concluding observations – which can often be vague or broad in nature – into concrete activities that would effectively advance the child rights agenda in a given country.
To facilitate and encourage ongoing engagement in the follow-up phase of the CRC reporting cycle, Child Rights Connect has reached out to NGOs and child rights coalitions to develop case studies and share examples of successful activities developed based on CRC Concluding Observations. Child Rights Connect hopes these will be a useful tool to inspire action and ultimately improve the situation of children.
Ten case studies in English are available on the Child Rights Connect’s website. Contact Child Rights Connect for further information.
FORTHCOMING COUNTRY VISITS BY SPECIAL PROCEDURES
Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion 2 – 12 September
Independent Expert on minorities 2 -12 September
Special Rapporteur on housing 2 -16 September
Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty 9- 13 September
Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons 12 – 20 September
Working Group on disappearances 23 – 30 September
Special Rapporteur on truth 30 September – 4 October
Working group on business and human rights 30 September – 9 October
To find out how you can support the visits, please contact the respective mandate-holder at their email, found in the directory.