Over 40 civil society organisations have sent a joint letter to members of the UN Human Rights Council to support a landmark resolution on civil society space. The resolution, which will be voted on this week, mandates the OHCHR to create practical recommendations on how to effectively protect civil society space at the international, regional and national level.

Read the full letter

In advance of the 22nd Session of the UN Universal Period Review (UPR), which examines each countries human rights record every 4 and a half years, CIVICUS has issued six joint and standalone submissions. The submissions, including on Belarus, Honduras, Liberia, Malawi, Maldives, and the USA, analyse each countries’ commitments to uphold the rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression and to protect human rights defenders. The submissions further include a number of concrete recommendations to ensure the creation of an enabling environment for civil society. 

CIVICUS on behalf of the Civic Space Initiative welcomes OHCHR’s Summary Report on the Civil Society Space Panel and we once again express our sincere thanks to the Panel’s organizers.

We wish to reiterate the Report’s clear message that civil society is an essential pillar of any democratic society and an indispensable partner of the Human Rights Council whose space needs to be both promoted and protected in accordance with international human rights law.

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27nd Session of the Human Rights Council

Item 2
Opening Statement of the new High Commissioner for Human Rights
General Debate 9 September 2014
Delivered by Renate Bloem

Thank you Mr. President,

High Commissioner Zaid, CIVICUS warmly welcomes you to the Council and congratulates you for assuming the daunting task to become the chief of Human Rights, the 6th UN High Commissioner. You do this at a time when the world is on fire in too many corners.

We thank you for your first very rich update and concur with your frank analysis.

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CIVICUS welcomes the establishment of this Special Session and applauds the Council’s proactivity in promptly addressing the grave human rights violation committed by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and associated groups.

However,  while we the agree that actions taken by these groups warrant further examination by the Council and a concerted response by the international community, we also urge the Council to utilize this occasion to ensure that the underlying tensions and root causes of the conflict are also duly addressed.

During the 26th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, 9-27 June, CIVICUS organized eight joint or stand-alone panel discussions on pressing thematic and country specific human rights situations:

•    Civil Society Space: Addressing the Implementation Gap
•    East Africa: Civil Society and Human Rights Defenders : Regional Challenges
•    Repression, Reprisals and Detained Human Rights Defenders in the Gulf Region: Kuwait and Qatar in Focus
•    Rule of Law in Bangladesh
•    Re-Imagining Global Governance: CIVICUS’ 2014 State of Civil Society Report
•    Human Rights in Eritrea
•    Voices from Uzbekistan – An Atrocious Human Rights Record and the Lack of Effective Cooperation with the UN
•    Bahrain: Empty Promises, crowded prisons

CIVICUS also delivered ten joint and individual oral statements to highlight ongoing restrictions on fundamental freedoms:

•    Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights to Freedom of Opinion and Expression and the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association
•    General Debate on the Human Rights Situation in South Sudan
•    Final Update of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
•    Interactive Dialogue on UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women
•    Interactive Dialogue on the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprise
•    Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention
•    Adoption of the UPR outcome report of Cambodia
•    Adoption of the UPR outcome report of Eritrea
•    Adoption of the UPR outcome report of Vietnam
•    Adoption of the UPR outcome report of Yemen

In advance of the 21st Session of the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) which examines the human rights records of a country every 4.5 years, CIVICUS has made three submissions on unwarranted restrictions on the rights of freedom of expression, association and assembly and human rights defenders in Kenya, Kuwait and Turkey.  The submissions provide substantive recommendations to the States under Review (SuR) to create an enabling environment for civil society and ensure greater protections for human rights defenders.

In Kenya , CIVICUS, National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders-Kenya and the North Rift Human Rights Network raise concerns about threats faced by civil society activists, human rights defenders and journalists working on sensitive issues including land rights and gender rights from state security agents, government representatives and non-state actors. The submission further examines restrictions on freedom of assembly including the use of excessive force to disperse peaceful protests and legislation to target civil society organisations.

In Kuwait, CIVICUS and the Gulf Center for Human Rights examine the escalating criminalization of online activism, including judicial harassment of individuals and human rights defenders who utilize social media to express dissenting views. The submission further highlights the government’s continued attempts to undermine the free exercise of the rights to freedom of assembly and association of Kuwait’s stateless Bedoun community.

In Turkey,  CIVICUS’ joint submission with the Helsinki Citizen’s Assembly (hCa) discusses the legislative and extra-legal measures taken by the government to curb civil society activism and freedom of association. The submission highlights threats to freedom of expression and assembly including arbitrary restrictions on media freedoms and access to information and the unwarranted judicial persecution of peaceful protestors and journalists in the country.

HRC26 flyer CS Space  final

ARTICLE 19 on behalf of the Civic Space Initiative* congratulates Frank La Rue on his final thematic report to the Human Rights Council. You have worked tirelessly over the last six years to defend freedom of expression where it is most at risk – including on free speech online, the threats of State surveillance, and providing the intellectual framework for Resolution 16/18. This report too will greatly enhance the work of civil society working on freedom of expression and elections.

Where freedom of expression is suppressed - the legitimacy of election outcomes will be contested, and avoidable political violence becomes inevitable, as seen in Pakistan, Venezuela, and Iran.

We underline that States must act to prevent and protect against threats, harassment and attacks on journalists, bloggers, activists and civil society, including during elections. We stress that criminal defamation and insult laws continue to be abused to silence dissent and insulate politicians from criticism – as seen in Ecuador and Peru - and must be repealed.

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Bahrain side event

The letter, endorsed by 11 civil society organizations from across the globe, urges the UN Human Rights Council to adopt a resolution during its 26th Session (9-27 June 2014) condemning ongoing restrictions on the rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression and ensure accountability for grave human rights violations in Egypt.

 

 

In Yemen, CIVICUS, ANND and HRITC highlight the need to ensure the full realization of explicit commitments made by the government of Yemen during its UPR examination, including implementing legislation to create a safe and enabling environment for civil society.

In Vietnam, CIVICUS and 15 national civil society organizations raise concern about the ongoing persecution of human rights defenders for engaging with UN human rights mechanisms such as the UN Universal Period Review (UPR). They further urge the UNHRC to engage the Vietnamese government to ensure that human rights defenders are permitted to carry out their legitimate work free from government harassment.

 

 

The undersigned NGOs remain deeply concerned by ongoing serious human rights violations in Bahrain, including the politically motivated imprisonment of high-profile opposition activists and human rights defenders after grossly unfair trials, continued reports of torture, excessive use of force, regular denial of freedom of association and assembly, and a persistent failure to hold government actors to account for violations.

Read the letter here.

We are writing to encourage your office to make the conclusions of its mission public and to clearly identify key human rights concerns that should be addressed in priority by your office and by the Government of Bahrain. We also call on you to urge the Government of Bahrain to immediately release individuals arrested and imprisoned solely for the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly and to swiftly set up dates for the visits of Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council.

Read the letter here.

UPR 19 ethiopia flyer
In the lead up to Ethiopia’s second examination under the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on 6 May 2014, PEN International, ARTICLE 19, Freedom Now and CIVICUS are hosting a panel discussion, at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland to examine the latest human rights developments in the country. The side event, “Ethiopia: What next for freedom of expression?” will scrutinize the government’s recent escalation in targeting journalists, human rights defenders and civil society groups.

hrc

The 25th UN Human Rights Council session, 3-28 March 2014, marked the first-ever formal panel discussion at the UNHRC on the promotion and protection of civil society space. During the 25th session, CIVICUS made a number of interventions to highlight emerging trends in civil society restrictions and recommend key steps that States and the UN must take to protect the spaces in which civil society operate. Through these interventions, including parallel side events and written and oral statements, CIVICUS also provided a platform to its partners and members to input into UNHRC processes on creating a safe and enabling environment for civil society.

Civil society urges States to oppose proposed amendments that would weaken the Human Rights Council resolution on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests (HRC/25/L.20) 

Read the letter here.

In advance of the 20th Session of the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which scrutinizes each country's human rights record every four years, CIVICUS has made four submissions on unwarranted restrictions on the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly and human rights defenders in Bolivia, Egypt, Iran and The Gambia . The submissions further provide a number of substantive recommendations to the States Under Review to create an enabling environment for civil society and ensure greater protection to human rights defenders.

UN HRC March  2014

In Bolivia, CIVICUS and Fundación CONSTRUIR, raise concerns about legislative and extra-legal measures taken by the government to curtail or stigmatize civil society organizations as well as ongoing attacks, intimidation and harassment of journalists.

In Egypt,  CIVICUS and Elma7 Rosa for Media, Arts and Advocacy, discuss the growing repression of civil society and free speech including persistent imprisonment, disappearances and attacks against peaceful protestors, dissenters and independent journalists since the revolution of 25 January 2011.

In Iran, CIVICUS’ joint submission with The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, gravely notes the government’s failure to remove unwarranted restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, and assembly since its previous examination under the UPR in 2010, including the continued use of arbitrary arrest and detention to silence human rights defenders, journalists and civil society activists. 

In The Gambia, CIVICUS examines the routine use of judicial persecution, arrests and detention of journalists and dissenters for exercising their right to freedom of expression and opinion.  CIVICUS further highlights the recent adoption of a spate of restrictive legislation which impose draconian penalties against those who criticize the government. 

CIVICUS is deeply concerned about the situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), its unparalleled human rights violations, about the governments terrorization, murder, torture, mass starvation, lack of freedom of movement for its citizens both within the country as well as abroad. We therefore join recommendations of the Commission on Inquiry to ask the Security Council for DPRK’s referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC)

CIVICUS also continues to be concerned about Syria and with the third year anniversary is supporting a new campaign to raise awareness about the ongoing crisis. www.with-Syria.org 

Read the full statement here.

CIVICUS welcomes the Human Rights Council’s report on the Seminar on effective measures and best practices to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protest.

Read the full CIVICUS statement here. 

Delivered by Renate Bloem

"Thank you Mr. President,

Madame High Commissioner, 

CIVICUS welcomes your last annual report and wishes to pay tribute to your tenure, to your and your Office’ overall success and leadership in mainstreaming human rights throughout the UN system and beyond, so exemplarily underscored by the SG’s most recent initiative and plan of action “Rights Up Front”. You combated courageously human rights violations wherever they occurred, becoming the voice of victims and a beam of hope. We laud your smiling diplomacy which so effectively withstood every attempt to undermine or control your independence. "

Read the full statement 

 

During the 25th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, member organizations of the Civic Space Initiative, including CIVICUS, International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL),  Article 19, and World Movement for Democracy, issued an oral statement calling on the international community and national governments to take immediate steps to further articulate and codify the creation of a free and enabling environment for civil society.

Specifically, the organizations call on:

  • States to lead by example, to adopt and adhere to meaningful participatory processes in legislating and policymaking, and to repeal laws and abandon practices that restrict civic space.

  • The Human Rights Council through its special procedure mechanisms to develop and adopt guiding principles on creating a safe and enabling environment for civil society.

  • The Human Rights Committee to prioritize the drafting of General Comments on Articles 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights."

 Read the full statement here. 

Civil society relies on physical and digital spaces to perform their functions. In doing so they are protected by the freedoms of peaceful assembly, association, opinion and expression. However, these freedoms are under attack through a worsening policy and legal environment that seemingly seeks to restrict civil society. Over the past year, we have witnessed a proliferation of laws that aim to: criminalise and deter peaceful protests; limit political participation and advocacy; undermine digital security and erode internet freedoms; undermine association, assembly and expression of LGBTI and other minorities; and introduce impunity for attacks on civil society actors.

This side event, paneled by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, and civil society activists from El Salvador, Libya, Malaysia and Ukraine, will seek to identify what the emerging threats are to civil society operations, and reflect on key steps that States and the UN must take to protect the spaces in which civil society operate.

As civil society from around the world we express support for those struggling for a future in Egypt based on human rights and democracy. At this critical juncture in Egypt’s history, at a time when peaceful political activists, human rights defenders and all forms of independent media in Egypt are under attack, we write to urge your delegation to work with other members and observer states of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) to address the grave situation of human rights in Egypt at the upcoming 25th Session of the UN HRC. We believe that the serious and rapid deterioration of the human rights situation in Egypt requires the HRC to take a principled position of addressing this situation now, through the adoption of a resolution on Egypt.

According to Egyptian and international human rights organizations, repression in the country has reached levels unprecedented since the 2011 uprising. The security forces have embarked on a severe and comprehensive crackdown against persons who have dared to publicly criticize the military-backed government, including members of the Muslim Brotherhood, supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi, as well as pro-democracy and human rights movement activists within the country.

Over 50 people from 6 continents and representing more than 30 key platforms and organisations engaged in civil society-led campaigns relating to sustainable development gathered in Istanbul, Turkey on 23-24 February 2014. The meeting was convened by CIVICUS in collaboration with the United Nations, the Overseas Development Institute and the United Nations Foundation. This communiqué summarises the discussions held in Istanbul.

TOGETHER WE STAND: Coordinating efforts for a global movement on the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda

 

4th February 2014 

The  Government  of  Eritrea  should  accept  recommendations  to  cooperate fully with the United Nations human rights system, said Human  Rights  ConcernFEritrea,  the East  and  Horn of  Africa 

Human Rights Defenders Project and CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, following its examination at the Universal Periodic Review yesterday. 

Under the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, the human rights record of each UN member state is reviewed every four and a half years. Given the situation of widespread and systematic human rights violations in Eritrea, the UPR process is an important opportunity for scrutiny and dialogue.

During the three and a half hour working group session in Geneva, the delegation of Eritrea, headed by Ambassador Tesfamichael Gerahtu, stated its commitment to human rights and to engagement, dialogue and cooperation, and  was commended for its participation in the review. However, Eritrea simultaneously continues to refuse  to  cooperate  or allow access to the country to  the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea.

Eritrea: Under International Scrutiny, Allow Independent Human Rights Monitoring 

During the 24th UNHRC Session, 9-27 September 2013, CIVICUS facilitated the participation of a number of human rights defenders to discuss the challenges faced by civil society across a range of countries. Through these interventions CIVIUCUS gave support to and provided a platform for civil society partners and members experiencing threats and intimidation to make a number of inputs into Council processes, including the UN Universal Period Review (UPR).

UN Human Rights Council

CIVICUS and its partner organizations made several oral interventions on Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Syria and Uzbekistan to raise awareness about restrictions on civil society and reprisals against civil society activists for cooperating with UN bodies including:

Joint statement on threats to civil society in Azerbaijan

Joint statement on the deteriorating environment for human rights defenders in Bahrain

Statement on the Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic

Statement on continued harassment of independent media in Sri Lanka

Joint statement on harassment and imprisonment of civil society activists in Uzbekistan

Joint statement on intimidation and reprisals against human rights defenders

CIVICUS also co-sponsored panel discussions on the on-going crackdown on CSOs and activists in Russia and Bahrain. The side events, panelled by a number of national civil society activists, examined recommendations made to both countries during the UPR process and discussed the continued invocation of regressive legislation to silence independent dissent.

Side event on the state of civil society in Russia

Side event on Bahrain’s implementation of UPR Recommendations

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and the Expert Working Group, a human rights policy organization based in Tashkent, Uzbekistan released a joint statement to the 24th Session of the HRC on the human rights session in Uzbekistan.

The Human Rights Council's review of Uzbekistan occurs at a time when the government continues to imprison activists and human rights defenders at an alarming rate for undertaking their legitimate and peaceful work.

Despite the government's acceptance of a number of recommendations committing to advancing judicial reform in accordance with international law and ensuring that human rights defenders and CSOs can freely operate in accordance with international standards, at least 15 civil society activists remain imprisoned on politically motivated charges. A number of those imprisoned were not provided guarantees under fair trial and due process standards and were sentenced to lengthy prison terms ranging from 10-15 years. Several of the detained activists, including Azam Turgunov and Dilmurod Saidov, have experienced an acute deterioration of their health, while at least seven others have reported being subject to ill treatment or torture while in custody.

Read the full statement

CIVICUS urges the Syrian government to give finally access to the Commission to hold perpetrators of crimes against humanity to account.

CIVICUS, in reading the abhorrent 10th update of the commission of inquiry on Syria, wishes in response to quote Mazen Darwish, head of Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression. He speaks from the prison of Damascus, where he has been detained since February 2012 by Syrian Security Forces. His words came when receiving the Bruno Kreisky award in June 2013, and his friends had asked CIVICUS to make them known. I quote:

"I asked myself why a firm fighter and a statesman pushed his nation to permanent neutrality leaving voluntarily the ecstasy of victory and the joy of winning, till I have realized that there is no winner in wars, everybody is a loser, and there is nothing good in war except its ending.
From Baghdad to Budapest, Lebanon to Prague and from Vietnam to the two Koreas, I have learnt that there is nothing good in war except its ending, and from the victims of wars .. to the victims of tyranny in our Arab world ... I have learnt that the road to democracy is as far from the path of extremism and terrorism as it is from dictatorships and tyranny.
Yes .. we want freedom and dignity and justice and yes we deserve it, but it surely is not the freedom of dying under torture or slaughtered, it is not to be killed by a shell from a jet or a by car bomb, it is the freedom of life on the basis of sharing and coalition between the universality of human rights values and the privacy of local social relations in order to reshape global human sphere that makes life itself a moral human experience and we look at it as more owned by others than us...."

Read the full statement

Maryam Alkhawaja, CIVICUS member and acting president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights speaks on the human rights sitiuation in Bahrain

My name is Maryam Alkhawaja, acting president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, speaking on behalf of our partners CIVICUS and CIHRS.

The human rights situation in Bahrain unfortunately continues to deteriorate. In July law amendments were made that further infringe on people's basic rights to free assembly and free expression. The Ministry of Justice announced a new decision that any meetings between political societies and foreign embassies must be announced to the ministry and they have the right to sit in on these meetings.

Since mid-February until now we have documented at least 1200 arbitrary arrests, including women and children, some being tried under the terrorism law. In August alone, we documented at least 400 house raids. The visit of the special rapporteur has been effectively cancelled and torture is rampant and systematic. Most of those arrested are subjected to enforced disappearance that last from several hours and sometimes up to a week, during which people are ill-treated at times amounting to torture.

Read the full statement

CIVICUS member Nada Dhaif speaks at the 24th Session of the UN Human Rights Council on the human rights situation for women in Bahrain.

I am Dr. Nada Dhaif, chairperson of BRAVO. I am speaking as a member of CIVICUS and wish first of all to thank the High Commissioner for her update, in particular for the concerns raised on the deteriorating situation in Bahrain.

Secondly, having been harassed and tortured myself and been mentioned in the report of the Secretary General on reprisals, I strongly welcome his report and recommendations with the roadmap to follow by all governments, including the government of Bahrain. We also warmly welcome the joint statement delivered by Switzerland.

Thirdly, I wish to raise the situation of women in Bahrain – so far not often mentioned at this Council - which is seriously deteriorating. Based on discrimination and violations it has now reached unprecedented levels. Since the protests in 2011, approximately 5000 women have been dismissed from their jobs, faced suspension and in some cases a reduction in their salaries which can be attributed to sectarian reasons.

Read the full statement

CIVICUS makes interventions for the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which scrutinizes each country's human rights record every four years. In advance of the 19th session of the UPR, CIVICUS has made five joint submissions on threats to the freedoms of expression, association and assembly in Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Nicaragua and Qatar. The submissions further highlight the need for an enabling operating environment for civil society and the need to protect human rights defenders.

upr

In Cote d’Ivoire, CIVICUS, the West African Human Rights Defenders Network and the Ivorian Coalition of Human Rights Defenders examine the persistent harassment, intimidation and attacks against journalists and human rights defenders by the country’s military forces and armed militia groups.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, CIVICUS’ joint submission with the League for Human Rights in the Great Lakes Region gravely notes the lack of any discernible improvement in the treatment and safety of protestors, members of the media, and civil society activists since 2009.

In Ethiopia, CIVICUS, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and the Human Rights Council analyse the continued invocation of broad and imprecise legislation, including the 2009 Charities and Societies Proclamation and the 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, to silence all forms of independent dissent.

In Nicaragua, CIVICUS and the Nicaraguan Network for Democracy and Local Development warn about the growing use of judicial, financial and administrative channels, by the Nicaraguan authorities, to restrict freedom of expression, independence of the media and access to information.

In Qatar, CIVICUS’ joint submission with the Gulf Center for Human Rights examines the criminalization of the creation of an independent civil society sector, severe limitations on freedom of association and to collective bargaining for unions, and strict controls domestic media outlets.

Report of the Independent Expert on the promotion
of a democratic and equitable international order
Interactive Dialogue, 10 September 2013

We wish to comment on the report on 'promotion of a democratic and equitable international order.

UN Geneva by lilivanili on Flickr

CIVICUS welcomes your report Mr. de Zayas, in particular as you focus on participation. This comes at a time when in general it is recognized that participation of a free and vibrant civil society is a fundamental building block of democratic societies and a means to promoting economic and social development.

In the submission, CIVICUS argues that meaningful development cannot be achieved without the realisation of human rights as both are intertwined. We also highlight that economic, land rights and indigenous people’s rights defenders are seen as a political and economic threat by vested interests as communities that traditionally relied on rivers, forests and communal land are increasingly being displaced through collusion between private corporations, government officials and politicians. Additionally, legal and policy restrictions on the work of human rights defenders and their persecution in many parts of the world are a major cause for concern. We also call for specific indicators and targets on enabling environment to measure progress of lack thereof on measures to protect human rights defenders.

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In advance of the 18th Universal Periodic Review session of the UN Human Rights Council, CIVICUS made two independent submissions and three joint submissions on threats to freedoms of expression, association and assembly in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Eritrea, Vietnam and Yemen. The submissions also highlight the need for an enabling operating environment for civil societies around the world and the need to protect human rights defenders.
 
In Afghanistan, CIVICUS’ joint submission with the Afghan NGOs Coordination Bureau focuses on the kidnappings of journalists and murders of human rights defenders. In Cambodia, CIVICUS raises concern about politically motivated attacks on land rights protestors. In Eritrea the joint submission with Citizens for Democratic Rights in Eritrea highlights extreme restrictions on any civil society activities. In Vietnam, CIVICUS warns about the government’s use of vague legislation to curtail press and other civic freedoms. In Yemen, the joint submission with the Arab NGO Network for Development scrutinises the brutal crackdowns on pro-democracy protestors.

 

 

Report on the 16th Session of the UPR Working Group
Review of Azerbaijan (Tuesday 30 April 2013, 14:30 ~ 18:00)
Led by H.E. Mr. Khalaf Khalafov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs

Opening Remarks
In the opening remarks, the Deputy Minister H.E. Mr. Khalafov stated that Azerbaijan is committed to the promotion and protection of Human Rights in accordance with the UPR mechanism. Azerbaijan, for this Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session, established a working group with participation of civil society and the Ministry of Interior.

In his statement, he raised a concern about ethnic cleansing carried out by Armenia in Azerbaijan and this resulted in the Armenian delegation repeatedly asking for a point of order. The head of Azerbaijan's delegation criticised this attempt to stop the dialogue at the Human Rights Council. The point of order was rejected by the President of the Council.

In 2011, The National Action Program for human rights protection in Azerbaijan was set up to cover issues and recommendations made to the country during its 1st UPR. Overall it develops measures to cover the legal framework and activities of state agencies. This National Action Program contains several categories including job creation, promotion of cultural diversity, fighting against corruption, Promotion of E-technology, rights of women. It set up a working group that coordinates its implementation and periodically submits implementation reports to the president of the country.

This June, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the World Conference on Human Rights and the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action (VDPA). After twenty years, it remains as relevant as ever in guiding or efforts in responding to global human rights challenges. The European Union looks forward to celebrating this event by taking stock of the advances – and where necessary, the current difficulties – in the promotion and protection of human rights for all persons.

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23rd Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council
Geneva, 10 June 2013
General Debate Item 8

Joint Statement on behalf of
Norway, the United States of America and Germany

H.E. Mr. Hanns H. Schumacher
Permanent Representative of the Federal Republic of Germany

Mister President,

On behalf of Norway, the United States of America and Germany, I speak today regarding the deeply concerning recent developments in Egypt relating to the universal human rights to freedom of association and freedom of opinion and expression. Taking into account the commitment of all states in the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action (VDPA) to fulfil their obligations to promote universal respect for, and observance and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

We deplore the decision of an Egyptian court in the politically motivated trial of dozens of international and domestic NGO representatives. The charges, trial, and verdict discourage the exercise of the freedom of association. The court’s decision to shut down several NGOs and seize their assets contradicts the government of Egypt's commitment to respect and protect the right to freedom of association and to support the role of civil society in Egypt. Civic groups, including NGOs, play a key role in advancing education and civil rights and freedoms, supporting human rights, and promoting development.

23rd session of the
Human Rights CouncilItem 6

Universal Periodic Review
General Debate

Delivered by Olivia Tchamba

I thank you Mr President,

Founded on a consensus-based decision-making process, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) provides a legitimate platform to request the responses to human rights issues by the state under review. Though the UPR first cycle resulted in some tangible benefits, the whole mechanism was tainted by numerous flaws. One pressing flaw being the unprecedented decision of Israel to suspend cooperation with the mechanism. IsraelS non-cooperation sets a breach for the universality of this crucial human rights protection mechanism. In this light, CIVICUS vividly encourages Israel to participate in its 2nd Cycle UPR review as schedule for the 29 of October 2013.

As the UPR has the potential to become an important part of anchoring universal human rights norms in practice, it is essential to identify recommendations which could help to further strengthen this mechanism. In view of this, the role of stakeholders from civil society should not be weakened in the process. More accurate NGO involvement will have a very significant impact during the pre-review national process and post-review outcome document adoption stages. Additionally, more emphasis should be placed on action-orientated and measurable recommendations to avoid undermining the utility and impact of these recommendations. The follow-up procedure should also be strengthened through accelerating the institutionalisation of a mid-term reporting requirement.

The UPR is one key element of the international human rights protection system. It triggers self-evaluations by states and reminds them of their responsibility to fully respect and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms. The human rights community should thus work towards its becoming more deeply and permanently rooted.


I thank you

23rd session of the
Human Rights Council
Item 7

Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories
General Debate
Statement delivered by Enrica Barago

Thank you Mr President,

CIVICUS warmly welcomes Israel’s decision to pursue its dialogue with the Human
Rights Council and hopes it will cooperate with its mechanisms in a positive and meaningful spirit.

CIVICUS wishes to use this opportunity to reassert a number of concerns regarding the situation that prevails in Israel as well as in Palestine and in the Occupied Territories. Israel failed to comply with its legal responsibilities as the Occupying power. Additionally, in the context of the prolonged occupation, International Humanitarian Law shows its limits that should be addressed by the ICRC or by a special Commission of Inquiry as stated by Mr Falk.

23rd session of the
Human Rights Council
Item 8

Follow up to and implementation of the
Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action

Delivered by Renate Bloem

Thank you Mr. President,

During this year of the 20th anniversary of the Vienna Conference, CIVICUS wishes to reiterate the mile stone achievements and fundamental agreements reached in consensus by the 171 participating UN member States during this Conference. The legacy still shapes the human rights agenda of today:

  • Universality and indivisibility of human rights: the freedom from want and fear
  • Women’s Rights are Human Rights
  • Civil Society as crucial to the framework of human rights
  • Establishment of the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights

Oral Statement
Item 4 General Debate
5 June 2013

Statement delivered on behalf of:

Human Rights Watch, Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS), Conectas Direitos Humanos, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), International Service for Human Rights and International Commission of Jurists,

With the support of:

African Democracy Forum; African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies; Think Centre, Singapore; Task Force Detainees Philippines (TFDP), Philippines; Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), Philippines; Taiwan Association for Human Rights, Taiwan; Judicial System Monitoring Programme (JSMP), Timor Leste; INFORM Information Documentation Centre, Sri Lanka ; People's Watch, India; People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD), South Korea; Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), Indonesia; IMPARSIAL, Indonesia; Human Rights Working Group, Indonesia; People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), India; Law and Society Trust (LST), Sri Lanka; Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC), Nepal; Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), India; Community Self Reliance Centre (CSRC), Nepal; KontraS, Indonesia; Pilipina Legal Resource Centre (PLRC), Philippines; Centre for Human Rights and Development (CHRD), Mongolia; Function 8, Singapore; Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign (SADPC), Singapore; Project X, Singapore; Alliance National Timor Leste International Tribunal (ANTI), Timor Leste; Programme Against Custodial Torture and Impunity (PACTI), India;
***

The United States continues to detain individuals for indefinite periods without charge or trial at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan in violation of its obligations under international human rights law.

23nd session of the
Human Rights Council
Item4    

Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention, General Debate
Dr. Nada Dhaif

Thank you Mr. President,

I speak here on  behalf of CIVICUS.  I am  Dr. Nada Dhaif, chairperson of BRAVO, and am here to draw your attention to 3 problems in Bahrain

1. Absence of Medical Neutrality
2. Reprisals against Human Rights Defenders
3. The use of Toxic Chemicals against civilians

Firstly, on the absence of Medical Neutrality: There are still 4 health care workers remaining in prison today and the Bahraini health system is largely under the occupation of the Bahraini Defence Forces.

Secondly, Reprisals against Human rights defenders and their families. During the last session of the HRC in March, I specifically asked that there be protection for Human Rights Defender Ali Fakhrawi.

Mr. Fakhrawi, who is part of the exiled Bahraini diaspora, lives out of a suitcase, en-route to various destinations to speak about his experiences, and of his father who was tortured to death. A month after his participation in a side event during the HRC session, his brother was detained. Others like him continue to live under restrictive conditions, as the case of Nabeel Rajab demonstrates.

23rd session of the
Human Rights Council
Item 3

Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
Interactive Dialogue

Statement delivered by Enrica Barago

Thank you Mr. President,
CIVICUS warmly welcomes the report of the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression. We wish to stress once again the fundamental importance of Freedom of Opinion and Expression not only as a fundamental right per se, but also as an essential prerequisite for the promotion and protection of all other human rights.

Mr Special Rapporteur, as emphasized in your report, the lack of security in the field of communications has a chilling effect on victims of all forms of violence and abuses; victims who may later be reluctant to report to the authorities fearing double victimisation. The right to privacy being unequivocally recognised as a fundamental human right, could you please elaborate on the absence of an explicit definition of this right in the existing international human rights instruments knowing that this relative legal vacuum has a direct impact on the enforcement of this right.

23nd session of the
Human Rights Council
Item4    

Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention: Belarus

By Yuri Dzlibladze

Thank you Mr. President,

CIVICUS and the Committee of International Control over the Human Rights Situation in Belarus, a coalition of more than 50 NGOs from different countries, welcome the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human rights situation in Belarus. We believe it clearly reflects the situation on the ground and the main concerns of the international community.

As a result of our monitoring on the ground, we see that the human rights situation in Belarus has not only remained bad, but it has deteriorated further. Firstly, in the areas of freedoms of association, expression, and assembly as well as concerning the use of torture and ill-treatment in custody, enforced disappearances, impunity of perpetrators of human rights abuses, and violations of due process and fair trial safeguards.

We support references in the report to specific areas where comprehensive review of relevant legislation, policies, strategies and practices should be done on the basis of relevant UN documents containing recommendations on the human rights situation in Belarus that should serve as a framework for legislative and policy change.

On 29 May 2013, the UN Human Rights Council squeezed in an urgent debate on Syria into its already crowded schedule. CIVICUS representative Renate Bloem delivered the following statement. 

CIVICUS supports this urgent debate, although it comes too late for the some 100, 000 people who have lost their lives, including those in Al-Qusayr. The un- civil war in Syria and the enormous human suffering is a direct consequence of the failure of the international community to arrive at diplomatic consensus on how to deal with the crisis in its early days when peaceful pro-democracy protestors and civilians were bombarded with heavy weapons by the regime in gross violation of international human rights and humanitarian law.

During the second week of the council, on the 6th of March, we organised a joint side event with the HRHF on the “Criminalisation of Human Rights Defenders in the Russian Federation “. This followed on the heels of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Margaret Sekaggya’s report to the council and gave ample illustration to her previous report to the UNGA on the theme of “criminalisation”. It was also meant to prepare for the upcoming Universal Periodic Review on Russia in April. Read the full report here.

This was followed by another CIVICUS event on March 13th 2013 titled “Eurasia: The silencing of Human Rights Defenders in Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan” which was also in preparation for the UPR Reviews of these three countries next month. The event had received considerable attention already. At the last minute one of our speakers from Uzbekistan was not allowed to leave the country and the other, well known exiled Uzbek activist Mutabar Tadzhibaeva, who had caused media attention after speaking out at the previous Human Rights Film Festival and afterwards trying to visit the Uzbek Ambassador’s residence of Gulnara Karimov (daughter of Uzbek President). She found herself facing an official complaint from the Uzbek authorities and she was sought after by the Geneva Police. Fortunately, we could settle the dispute in time. The report of the side event can be found here.

6th March 2013

Summary
On Wednesday 6 March, the Human Rights House Foundation together with CIVICUS, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, Youth Human Rights Movement, the International Federation for Human Rights and the Civil Society and Freedom of Speech Initiative Center for the Caucasus hosted a side event titled "Criminalisation of Human Rights Defenders in the Russian Federation" at the United Nations in Geneva. Geneva side event

The meeting, which was attended by over forty people, provided an opportunity for activists on the ground in the Russian Federation to testify about the real situation the country is in, showing the real face of a campaign of repression to silence independent voices. Moreover, the event offered a unique opportunity to discuss the devastating impact of the criminalisation of the work of human rights defenders in the Russian Federation, with the main purpose of addressing key areas of concern to be highlighted during the upcoming UPR examination of the Russian Federation, on Monday 29 April 2013.
    
Panel at Geneva side eventThe session featured a high level panel of experts including Anna Dobrovolskaya, Programme Coordinator at the International Youth Human Rights Movement;  Abdulla Duduev, Executive Director of the Russian magazine DOSH; Boris Pustyntsev, Chair of Citizens’ Watch and Maria Kozlovskaya, Programme Manager from the Russian LGBT- Network. The panel was moderated by Florian Irminger, Head of International Advocacy and HRHF Geneva Office.

The whole event was carried out in a conducive atmosphere, there was a meaningful exchange of views between the panellists and the participants at the side-event. The spirit of the dialogue remained moderate, following the guidelines provided by the organisers. The general tone may have been a result of the fact that Russian Officials were in attendance.

22nd Session of the
UN Human Rights Council
Item 3

General Debate
Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.
An enabling environment for civil society

Delivered by Enrica Barago


Thank you, Mr President.

CIVICUS calls once again the attention of the Human Rights Council to the issue of reprisals against human rights defenders and persons who seek to cooperate or have cooperated with the United Nations in the field of human rights.

We note with great concern that over the last years human rights activists around the world were tortured, detained without trial, beaten, banned from travelling, labelled traitors and subjected to various forms of inhuman treatment, mostly at the hands of state security agents. Civil society has continuously highlighted this phenomenon and has urged States to prevent and ensure adequate protection against such acts.

In particular in countries such as Bahrain, Pakistan, Libya, Uganda and the Russian Federation, human rights defenders face different levels of reprisals by State and non-State actors. In Iran, between 26th January and 22nd February 2013, eighteen journalists were arrested by Iranian authorities, as part of a growing trend whereby security agencies have blocked websites, shut down reformist newspapers and threatened family members of journalists associated with foreign media agencies.

22nd session of the
Human Rights Council

Item 2
Annual Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
ID 28 February 2013
Delivered by Renate Bloem

Thank you Mr. President,

Madame High Commissioner, CIVICUS welcomes your annual report and commends you on the extraordinary number of country visits and your continued audacity to speak up whenever gross abuses of Human Rights occur. We also laud your offices’ thematic priorities and share your concerns about the scarcity of funds in complete disconnect with the importance of tasks you have been asked to fulfill. We hear your Human Rights Appeal for 2013 and call on all members of the council and governments beyond to request the Secretary General and the General Assembly to take immediate steps a) for more balanced distribution within the overall regular UN budget to reflect the equal status of peace, development and human rights and b) to take urgent steps to seek increased extra budgetary resources.

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