WE EXIST TO STRENGTHEN CIVIL SOCIETY AND CITIZEN ACTION
AROUND THE WORLD
16 July 2014, London – A group of 29 NGOs have sent a letter to the newly appointed Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Phillip Hammond, urging a shift in UK policy towards the situation in Bahrain.
The letter calls for a ‘fresh’ approach to be adopted by the new Foreign Secretary in light of the FCO’s failure to heed a Foreign Affairs Committee recommendation that the U.K. should “designate Bahrain as a country of concern” in its 2014 human rights report if the situation had not improved by the start of this year. Despite this recommendation, the FCO subsequently failed to acknowledge Bahrain as a country of concern, and instead, listed it as a “case study” praising specific areas of reform.
The letter highlights the inconsistencies in UK policy towards Bahrain in recent years, specifically referencing recent statements made by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, who claimed that the human rights situation in Bahrain is a situation of “grave concern” and that recommendations made by the 2011 report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry are in a “state of non-implementation”.
Laurent Munyandilikirwa, former president of Rwandan CSO, LIPRODHOR, speaks to CIVICUS about the state of civil society in Rwanda and the government’s continued targeted harassment of LIPRODHOR.
1. At the 26th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, CIVICUS co-hosted an event which examined the growing restrictions on civil society in East Africa. Can you tell us a bit about the main challenges faced by civil society in Rwanda?
Although Rwanda has ratified the ICCPR and the ICESCR and the Rwandan Constitution enshrines the principles essential to creating an enabling environment for civil society including the rights to expression, assembly and association, independent civil society groups continues to be subjected to unjust restrictions. While the principles of human rights and fundamental freedoms are guaranteed in the constitution, the government is simultaneously attempting to silence the very people working on the implementation of these rights.
The government restricts the work of CSOs through a number of legal obstacles including overly bureaucratic registration processes, unwarranted limitations on financial funding, and laws permitting excessive and broad interception of information and communication. Such laws hugely impact the daily activities and operations of civil society organisations, in particular those working on civil and political rights. As a result of these and other extra-legal measures, civil society organizations in Rwanda have been forced into a downward spiral: the increasing control exerted over them by the government increases their overhead expenses while it decreases their access to funding, which in turn diminishes their ability to execute projects that attract new financial support. If this continues in the long term, the survival of independent human rights organisations in Rwanda is looking increasingly doubtful.
We, the undersigned civil society organizations from Brazil, India and South Africa, call upon our governments to ensure that the Fortaleza Declaration addresses the following issues: 1) the Syrian crisis and the urgent need to secure greater humanitarian aid; 2) the Implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT); and 3) the role of civil society in BRICS agenda setting. We support and encourage our countries’ collective commitment to promote and protect human rights worldwide, including at the upcoming Sixth BRICS Summit to be held in Brazil from 14 to 16 July 2014.