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.

22nd session of the
Human Rights Council
Item4    

Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention
Delivered by Renate Bloem

Thank you Mr. President,

CIVICUS is concerned about Iran that serious violations of the fundamental rights of women human rights defenders are continuing unabated. We strongly condemn the on-going crackdown on media and civil society.  Between 26 January and 22 February 2013, eighteen journalists have been arrested.  There are serious indications that more arrests are likely to follow The recent wave of arrests is part of a growing trend in Iran whereby security agencies have blocked websites, shut down reformist newspapers, jammed satellite stations, slowed down internet speed and threatened family members of journalists associated with foreign media agencies. Bloggers and online activists remain at heightened risk of being charged with spreading propaganda against the regime and threatening national security. Hadi Ghaemi, Director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said: “The regime is gearing up to restrict the flow of information ahead of the upcoming presidential election in June 2013”

22nd Session of the
Human Rights Council
Item7

General Debate
Report of the Independent Fact Finding Mission on Human Rights situation in the Palestinian other Arab occupied territories

Thank you Mr. President,

We are greatly concerned by Israel’s unprecedented decision to suspend cooperation with the UPR mechanism. We urge the government of Israel to resume cooperation and schedule their second cycle of Universal Periodic Review as soon as possible bearing in mind the harmful precedent their non-cooperation sets for the universality of this crucial human rights protection mechanism.

22nd  session of the Human Rights Council
Item 6

Delivered by Dr Nada Dhaif

Thank you Mr. President,

I would like to thank the 44 member states who signed the Swiss initiated statement last week on Bahrain.

We hope to see more statements of this nature in future, with more signatures, and with more action from the counsel.

As you all know there has been a significant increase in the reprisals against Human Rights Defenders in the context of UPR.

Unfortunately the Bahraini authorities gave the worst example of repression of Human Rights Defenders, and therefore, I am deeply concerned for the welfare of two of my Bahraini friends who have joined me to advocate in Geneva, Mr Mohammed AlBoflasa, who was the first political detainee of the uprising in Bahrain.  He and his family were severely targeted and he is threatened with arrest and detention upon his return to Bahrain for his participation at the UNHRC.  

CIVICUS made two oral interventions with regard to the Universal Periodic Reviews of Sri Lanka and the Republic of Korea. CIVICUS urges the Sri Lankan government to reconsider the recommendations to put in place a national action plan on human rights and to ensure impartial investigations in all cases of attacks on and intimidation of human rights defenders.

CIVICUS urges the Korean government to repeal or amend the National Security Act to remove restrictions on the freedom of assembly and to ensure that there is full scrutiny of all arrests carried out by law enforcement officials during public demonstrations.

CIVICUS’ submission to the UPR working group outlines concerns related to the environment in which civil society organisation and human rights defenders operate in Bangladesh, and discusses threats they face in the exercise of freedoms of expression, association and assembly. CIVICUS is concerned by the persistent harassment, intimidation and attack against human rights defenders, trade union activists and independent journalists in Bangladesh. Impunity by security forces and the repression of civil society ramain pressing issues for redressal by the government.

CIVICUS also made a joint submission with Citizens’ Watch and GOLOS Association in which they outline urgent concerns related to the stifling of freedom of association, assembly and expression through the adoption of several draconian laws by the Russian Parliament which seriously restricts the activities of civil society groups and makes them vulnerable to persecution by the State authorities.

CIVICUS' latest interventions in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process of the UN Human Rights Council, which reviews countries' human rights progress, address the status of civil society freedoms in the countries of Burkina Faso, Colombia, The Republic of Turkmenistan and The Republic of Uzbekistan. CIVICUS raises a number of concerns regarding the freedoms of expression, association and assembly.

Bahrain croppedCIVICUS was active at the 21st session of the UN Human Rights Council, which came to an end in Geneva on 28 September. During the Council’s session we brought together different civil society organisations to raise awareness of challenging conditions for civil society across a range of countries, and working with our members, made a number of inputs into Council processes. Above all, we gave our support to and provided a platform for civil society partners and members experiencing threats and intimidation.

Among the highlights was an event we convened with Russian civil society organisations. The meeting enabled Russian human rights defenders and people from different forms of civil society, including youth movements and organisations that promote voters’ rights, to meet with representatives of governments and UN human rights staff in a spirit of constructive dialogue.

One of the main focuses of the discussion was the new legislation that requires that all CSOs receiving funds from outside Russia to be registered as ‘foreign agents’, and to indicate this on any activities they undertake. This move was identified as a clear attempt to undermine people’s trust in CSOs.

21st session of the
Human Right Council
Item6

UPR Bahrain
Delivered by Nada Dhaif

Thank you Madam President

My name is Nada Dhaif, Chairperson of Bravo (Bahraini Rehabilitation & Anti-Violence Organization) Let me tell you about the situation in many villages and neighborhoods.  The people in the villages are not armed, their weapons are their voices.

There are no men left.  Most of them are behind bars. Women are left with no income; they suffer from humiliation, blackmail, harassment and arrest and cannot protect their children.  A good example is a recent case of Zainab Al-Khawaja who was injured in the leg after state security forces ordered crowd controlled forces to directly shoot at her. She was alone.  She is still detained, heavily injured and without access to her family or proper medical care.  

21h session of the
Human Rights Council
Item4   

Delivered by Renate Bloem

Thank you Madam President,
CIVICUS has repeatedly urged the Ethiopian Government to realign its policy to international   human rights law. Following passing of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s we believe that now is the time for the new leadership to recommit the State to the full respect of its population’s human rights. The Council and Ethiopia’s international partners should equally take the opportunity to call for a number of pressing reforms to re-establish respect for the freedoms of association, assembly and expression as a matter of priority during this time of transition. In particular, we ask HRC member and observer states to call upon Ethiopian authorities to

  • Amend the 2009 Ethiopian Charities and Societies Proclamation to remove restrictions on human rights organizations and bring the Proclamation in line with the Ethiopian Constitution and international human rights obligations, including the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders

20th session of the UN Human Rights Council

Item 5

Reprisals, protection, prevention

Delivered by Renate Bloem, CIVICUS UN Geneva Representative, 26 June 2012

Thank you Mme President

CIVICUS wishes to raise the issue of reprisals against persons cooperating with the UN. The joint statement of Special Procedures at today’s International Day in Support of Victims of Torture brings it to the point: “Reprisals against people who cooperate with the United Nations mechanisms in protecting and advancing human rights are absolutely unacceptable and are in violation of international law and States’ legal obligations. There must be an effective means of ensuring that reprisals do not occur, and if they do, the individuals involved and the State must be held accountable”.

20th session of the UN Human Rights Council

The rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association

Interactive Dialogue 20 June 2012

Statement delivered by Renate Bloem, CIVICUS UN Geneva Representative

Thank you Mme President,

CVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation strongly welcomes both reports but will speak to the inaugural report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly of association. Mr Kiai, we concur with you that these freedoms are the cornerstones of democracy. We are pleased with the powerful legal framework you provide that underscores the positive and negative obligations States have to guarantee these rights and we welcome the examples of good practices that exist in some countries to promote the realisation of these rights. Unfortunately they are outnumbered by the vast incidents of denial and repression of these fundamental rights."

As documented in CIVICUS' recently released report on the State of Civil Society 2011, at least 88 countries saw different forms of mass citizens' action last year. While protest movements - led by informal and institutionalised civil society groups - met with varying degrees of success, including in seeking redress of the denial of democratic freedoms and highlighting the nexus between big business and unaccountable government, the corresponding pushback against and restrictions of civil society was also severe.

20 March 2012

The UN Human Rights Council, meeting in Geneva, Switzerland from 27 February to 23 March 2012, sees a number of countries come under the spotlight as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, in which States report on their human rights records. CIVICUS alliance members are active in monitoring countries' progress on human right, and have recently made inputs to the UPR processes on Moldova, Syria, Uganda, Venezuela and Zimbabwe, available here.

Three more contributions to the UN Human Rights Council by CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and one of its partners from the Philippines, Karaptan, are available to view here.

CIVICUS repeats its call for an enabling environment for civil society, and for the protection of human rights defenders, while Karapatan draws attention to human rights violations in the Philippines.

The 19th Session of the UN Human Rights Council is taking place from 27 February to 23 March 2012 in Geneva, Switzerland.

8 March 2012

Presentations by CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and one of its partners from the Philippines, Karaptan, are available to view here.

CIVICUS has called for a human rights perspective and space for civil society to be integrated into the fight against poverty, and the need for freedom of expression on the internet. Karapatan has called attention to multiple instances of arbitrary arrests and detentions in the Philippines.

The 19th Session of the UN Human Rights Council is taking place from 27 February to 23 March 2012 in Geneva, Switzerland.

Today the 12th session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) comes to an end and with it the first cycle. 193 States have brought their country reports and have stood on the podium for their human rights record to be reviewed and discussed. The UPR process has also provided a new enabling environment for CS to be heard and recognized as an important stakeholder. It is quite an achievement and needs some assessment.

But before doing so, allow me some comments on this last session. CIVICUS was involved as never before. We helped, supported and registered CS delegations from Venezuela, Moldova and Uganda. For the Ugandan delegation we supported also financially the representative from the Ugandan NGO Forum. We organized a side event to highlight in particular issues related to Freedom of Assembly, Expression and Association and were able to bring the fractured parts of the Ugandans together to form one strong CS voice. (See presentations and photos attached thanks to Gabrielle, my Intern) We also organized informal meetings with Governments from Norway, the EU, Poland and Switzerland and Representatives from the OHCHR.

28 September 2011, Delivered by Renate Bloem

 

Thank you, Mme President,

This is a joint statement by our partner the Cooperation Committee for Cambodia, which represents over 130 members as well as the more than 400 endorsees of the Joint Statement on the Law on Association and NGOs.

We thank Professor Subedi for his report and want to underline that we appreciate that state-civil society cooperation has been a key factor in the development of Cambodia from a war-torn country to a peaceful, vibrant developing country. While government and civil society organizations have often held different opinions, these bodies have met in constructive discussions and cooperated.

The proposed Law on Associations and NGOs (LANGO) indicates a departure from this successful path. Civil society organizations are very concerned that the third draft of the law grants far-reaching power to government authorities to control the rights of citizens to organize and express themselves. These rights are set out in the Cambodian Constitution and in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which Cambodia has signed and ratified, as well as in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

18th session of the Human Rights Council Item 4

Delivered by Renate Bloem

Thank you Mme President,

During the recent 10th World Assembly of CIVICUS (10-12 September) our members and partners from the ground asked to bring to the Council following strong concerns:

1.    Syria: With the death toll and arbitrary detention each day increasing - most recently Gayath Matar, a 26 years old, was arrested and died under torture and his body was sent back to his family with harsh bruises- the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) and CIVICUS condemn strongly this cycle of violence and terror. We welcome the appointment of the International Commission on Inquiry, but ask for depth investigation, field visits all around the country and insurance that witnesses and interrogated people will be safe of reprisals.

16th session of the Human Rights Council

23 September 2011

Delivered by Mme Heimat KUKU

 

Thank you Mme. President

This is a joint statement by CIVICUS, the Arab NGO Network for Development and the Sudanese National Civic Forum, the Human Rights and Legal Aids Network in Sudan, the Sudanese Gender Research Centre, the Child’s Center in Sudan, and the Sudanese Development Initiative.

We welcome the sincere desire stated by the Delegation to cooperate with Human Rights Council and the UPR mechanism and we are pleased with the acceptance of some of the recommendations received during the Working Group session, including those related to economic and social rights. We ask to immediately act to translate them into comprehensive, concrete and effective action.

18th session of the Human Rights Council Item 4

Interactive Dialogue

20 September 2011

Delivered by Anna Dobrovolskaya

 

Thank you Mme President,

I speak on behalf of the Youth Human Rights Movement, a member/partner of CIVICUS.

Mme High Commissioner,

We welcome your oral update on the human rights situation in Belarus.
We would like to address the issue of freedom of peaceful assembly in Belarus, as this is a fundamental right, guaranteed by the constitution of the country and by international agreements where Belarus is a part. The situation of freedom of peaceful assemblies in Belarus remains below international standards and the situation show no signs of improvement, even compared to the violent crackdown of the demonstration after the election on 19 December 2010.

 

ANNDCIVICUS and the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) declared their full support for the peaceful protests and the legitimate demands of the Syrian people during the Special Session on Syria at the UN Human Rights Council today. In a statement delivered by Renate Bloem, CIVICUS' representative to the UN in Geneva, CIVICUS and ANND condemned the criminal practices of the Syrian regime and called for the immediate end of the cycle of violence.

Here is the full statement.

17th session of the Human Rights Council
Item 4 Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention15 June 2011

Delivered by Renate Bloem

Thank you Mr. President,

CIVICUS repeatedly raised its concern about the situation in Belarus. Our partners from the ground spoke even last week here about the still deteriorating conditions for peaceful protesters and civil society activists and human rights defenders. We therefore wish to support any strong monitoring action by the Council, including adopting the draft resolution which should help to end the ongoing crackdown, the systemic violations and commit the Government to an urgently needed human rights reform which in particular should lift all unjustified restrictions placed on NGOs and civil society and guarantee in practice freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.

To the Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the UN Human Rights Council
 

RE: Bahrain: Call for individual delegations to demonstrate commitment to ensuring that the situation in Bahrain is brought before the Human Rights Council within Item 4 statements

Geneva, 10th June 2011

Your Excellency,

As civil society organizations from around the world, we urge your delegation to make a strong statement and condemn the grave and deteriorating human rights situation in Bahrain at the UN Human Rights Council (Council/HRC) under Agenda Item 4 (“Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention”) that will take place at the HRC next week, the 15th of June.

Interactive Dialogue

9 June 2011 

Delivered by Renate Bloem

 

Thank you Mr. President,

Mme High Commissioner, CIVICUS welcomes your detailed update as requested by the resolution of the Special Session on Libya of 25 February, as complimentary information to the report of the Commission on Inquiry (COI). We laud you own continued calls for impartial investigations, protection of journalists and restraint in military interventions during this time. It is surely worthwhile to also recall the legal framework and applicable law both for State and non-State actors.

In this regard CIVICUS wants nevertheless to put the spotlight on the peculiar governance structure of the jamahiriyan system instituted by the Qadhafi regime since its revolution in 1969.  A one man rule using fear, intimidation and incentives based on loyalty without any independent legislative or judiciary institution, nor any independent media. Instead a number of paramilitary and security apparatuses to consolidate a climate of fear, mistrust and submission.

To Permanent Representatives of all
member states of the UN Human Rights Council

RE: Addressing the situation of human rights in Belarus at the UN Human Rights Council

Geneva, May 30, 2011

Your Excellency,

The undersigned NGOs are writing to urge your Government to support the adoption of a resolution on the human rights situation in Belarus at the 17th session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). We believe that in light of the alarming situation a Human Rights Council resolution unequivocally condemning the widespread human rights violations perpetrated in the aftermath of the December 19, 2010 presidential election and setting forth a monitoring and reporting mechanism for Belarus is needed. The current level of repression in Belarus is unprecedented and the government's efforts to stop international monitoring and shut down debate on its human rights record need to be countered.

On 21 February 2011, 130 international and national NGOs and activists called on the HRC to condemn the violations and to maintain pressure on the Government of Belarus. On 11 April 2011, a group of international and regional NGOs called the European Union to take the leadership for the adoption of an HRC resolution on the situation of human rights in Belarus and to establish a mechanism to document and report on these violations at the Council. We call on your Government to support the initiative on Belarus to be taken at the on‐going session of the HRC.

An already poor human rights situation in Belarus deteriorated significantly in the wake of the December 19, 2010 presidential election. That night, tens of thousands of demonstrators protested the election outcome. Riot police violently broke up the largely peaceful gathering, beating dozens of people, including the elderly and those who were trying to leave the square, and arresting hundreds. At least 700 protesters were sentenced, in unfair summary proceedings, to 10‐15 days of detention.

30 May 2011. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is a global movement of civil society with members and partners in over 100 countries. CIVICUS works to strengthen civil society and citizen action throughout the world.

CIVICUS welcomes the opportunity to comment on the final report of the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on The Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises, Professor John Ruggie. We believe that the report is timely and provides a key occasion to the international community to devise ways in which business practices can be compatible with the International Bill of Rights.

We remain deeply anxious about the activities of trans-national corporations and other business enterprises resulting in human rights abuses, including the right to a clean and healthy environment; access to land and natural resources; and adequate and decent standards of work. We are also concerned about the role played by certain corporations in propping up or supporting undemocratic governments as well as non-state actors who fail to respect the international human rights framework.

Uganda: Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review at the 12th Session of the UPR Working Group -  click to download (PDF)


Human Rights Council

16th SPECIAL SESSION on the Situation of Human Rights in the Syrian Arab Republic

 

29 April 2011

Mr. President,

The recent developments in the Arab region and the peaceful people’s revolutions, including in Bahrain, Yemen and Syria, reflect the climax of people’s peaceful resistance and struggle against corruption, and the violation of their political as well as economic and social rights. What we are witnessing is the result of the escalation of violations of human rights which are guaranteed by the core international human rights treaties, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Citizens of the region are in need of protection and promotion of their rights, and they are seeking to regain their human dignity.

Moreover, the world is witnessing gross and systematic human rights violations committed by the governments as the security forces continue to use force against peaceful protests of unarmed citizens. The international community through the United Nations should immediately take action with its core responsibility to use all appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian, and other peaceful means to stop violence against civilians in the above mentioned Arab countries.

In this respect, CIVICUS welcomes this special session, urging all the UN member states to endorse their “Responsibility to Protect” commitment without any further delay. They should support the people of the region in their call for the creation of a new governance model that establishes a new social contract (pact) securing solid rights-based foundations for the citizen- state relation, active participation in democratic governance that overcomes corruption and nepotism and establishes freedom, transparency and accountability, as well as a re-visited social and economic model that services people’s rights.


Human Rights Council

15th SPECIAL SESSION ON the Situation of Human Rights in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya

25 February 2011

Mr. President,

I am honored to speak on behalf of CIVICUS, The Arab NGO Network for Development and GCAP, the Global Call to Action against Poverty. A more comprehensive statement has been delivered as a written document.

We welcome the holding of this Special Session as an immediate and effective response to the ongoing gross and systematic human rights violations committed in Lybia. We are outraged by Colonel Ghadafi most recent threats to peaceful demonstrators to “cleanse Libya house by house” until protesters would give up, not excluding shooting them from the air. Arbitrary detentions and killings are now reaching the number of thousands.

The international community must now turn expression of grave concern into action and the UN member states must endorse their “Responsibility to Protect” commitment without any further delay.

On 23 March 2011, Sihasak Phuangketkeow, President of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), gabled the appointment of Maina Kiai to become the new Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association (SR on FoAA). Almost at the end of the 16th   session of the HRC, this appointment crowned CIVICUS’ and our partners’ efforts, begun more than a year ago. They had intensified during the last 6 months and were finalized at a moment in history when we saw a new dawn promising freedom and dignity, but also so many attempts to brutally suppress these hopes.

‘Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association’. This Article 20 of the UDHR had so far no official mechanism to monitor this right. Earlier attempts to create a Special Procedure were always doomed because a large number of States utterly opposed it. When the United States under the Obama Administration embraced the Council and was elected in 2009, one of her priorities was to establish such a mechanism. They provided leadership in a new broad based cross-regional approach to create a mandate for a SR on FoAA.

The 2nd Meeting of the Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group on the
Review of the Work and Functioning of the Human Rights Council
23 February 2011


Mr. President,

At the outset CIVICUS wishes to align itself with all previous speakers who commended the Facilitators for their extensive work, their thorough engagement and for the transparent, inclusive, forward looking and result oriented manner in which they guided us through the informal consultations.

CIVICUS had made a number of recommendations during the Review process so far, both formal and informal, and is pleased to note that some of them found enough support to be included in this compilation before us.

To: Permanent Representatives of all member states of the UN Human Rights Council Geneva, 21 February 2011

RE: NGO call for a UN Human Rights Council resolution on the situation of human rights in Belarus

Your Excellency,
We are writing to urge you to support the adoption of a resolution on Belarus at the 16th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. We believe it is critically important for the Human Rights Council to condemn unequivocally the widespread human rights violations perpetrated in the aftermath of the December 19, 2010 presidential election and the ongoing government crackdown on the opposition and civil society, and to articulate a set of improvements it expects the Belarusian government to implement to address these concerns.

As you may know, there are credible allegations that Belarusian riot police and other law enforcement personnel used excessive force to break up a massive demonstration against the election outcome, beating hundreds of people and causing serious injury to several, including presidential candidates Vladimir Neklyaev and Andrey Sannikov. Video and witness testimony gathered by Belarusian human rights groups amply demonstrates that law enforcement beat everyone within their reach with batons, kicked those who had fallen to the ground, and randomly beat people as they tried to escape.

Human Rights Council
Follow up to the
15th SPECIAL SESSION ON the Situation of Human Rights in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya

14 March 2011

M.. President,
CIVICUS joins all speakers today in addressing deepest condolences to the Government of Japan and its people.

M… President
CIVICUS had welcomed the Special Session on Libya and the strong unanimous outcome document, but is now very concerned about the ongoing precarious situation of the people of Libya who had courageously stood up against the dictatorial ruthless regime or should I say government of Moammar Gadhafi.

16th session of the  Human Rights Council

Item 3: Interactive Dialogue on SR HR defenders
10 March 2011

Delivered by Slava Mamedov

Thank you Mr. President,

CIVICUS thanks the Special Rapporteur, Ms Sekaggya, for her report and for her focus on women human rights defenders. We also welcome the detailed information on communications contained in Addendum1 of the report. We wish to highlight the sections on Turkmenistan (pages 317-318) and on Uzbekistan (pages 325-332)

Speaking here as an exiled Turkmen Human rights defender, I want to underscore that Turkmenistan gave only one response to 34 requests and has yet to deliver an invitation to any Special Rapporteur. Neither has Uzbekistan responded to the repeated requests for visits for more than 10 years. Yet, torture in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan countries continues to be routine component of investigations and detention, and is a common practice in the penal systems.

World Press Freedom Day
United Nations Geneva
3 May 2011

"Twenty years on from the Windhoek Declaration:
Freedom of the press in a changed world"

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. (Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Under this title the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Information Service and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization had invited to a joint seminar to discuss the current state of art of this inalienable right. They also wanted to look where we are now 20 years after the Windhoek Declaration - UNESCO 1991, when African journalists had laid down free press principles, which were adopted by the UN General Assembly and two years later declared into the World Press Freedom Day.

16th session of the Human Rights Council

Item 2: Annual Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Interactive Dialogue, 3 March 2011
Delivered by Renate Bloem

Thank you Mr. President,

Mme High Commissioner, CIVICUS welcomes your report, your audacity to speak up wherever violations occur throughout the world and your ongoing support for those who are in the frontline of engagement. We thank you for highlighting the leading role of civil society in the current movement in the Arab world and beyond towards a new dawn for freedom and democracy for the people, for a new paradigm where human rights and dignity are spelled in capital letters. Your rapid response in sending a delegation to Tunisia and to dispatch soon a senior staff team to Egypt is heartening.

Geneva, 2 March 2011

Letter from Civil Society Organizations to State Representatives:

“Defamation of Religions” at the 16th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council

Excellency,

We are writing to you to strongly urge your government to actively engage in the negotiations in the resolution on “combating defamation of religions” at the 16th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (“the Council”) that is currently taking place.  Specifically, we urge your government to vote against any resolution which refers to “defamation of religions” or similar terms such as “vilification of religions” and support any resolution which omits such terms and properly reflects international human rights law on the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of religion and non-discrimination.

This approach would reflect the growing consensus that has emerged at the UN General Assembly and the Council over the past two years that the concept of “defamation of religions” is counterproductive to global efforts to combat discrimination against religious minorities and serves to entrench repression and violence against non-believers and political dissidents.  As highlighted by the UN Special Rapporteurs on freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of religion or belief and contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in their Joint Statement at the Durban Review Conference in 2009, laws prohibiting “defamation of religions” and/or blasphemy are regularly relied on to justify discrimination, repression and violence against the religious minorities that they purport to protect.  There is also a growing consensus that the concept of “defamation of religions” undermines and distorts existing international human rights guarantees on freedom of expression, freedom of religion and non-discrimination.  International human rights law does not and should not protect religions per se, but does and should protect individuals and groups from discrimination, violence and hostility on the basis of their religion, racial or ethnic origin.  Religious beliefs, ideas and systems should not be exempt from discussion, debate or even sharp criticism, whether from internal or external commentators.

Furthermore, debates surrounding UN resolutions on “combating defamation of religions” have been amongst the most polarizing at the UN and have had the effect of stalling international cooperation on other human rights issues.  It is therefore necessary that States make concerted efforts at this Council session to renegotiate the terms of the resolution on “combating defamation of religions” and forge a consensus around a resolution which reflects international human rights law- including existing language as contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) – and which presents a robust international response to tackling discrimination against individuals and groups on religious grounds.

Your delegation has a key role to play in the forthcoming negotiations to renegotiate the deeply-contested resolution on “combating defamation of religions” and to realise a consensus resolution that both addresses religious discrimination and reflects international human rights standards.

In keeping with the reports of the Secretary-General on “combating defamation of religions” submitted to the 65th session of the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee and of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance submitted to the 15th session of the Council, we urge your delegation to:

  • Reject any reference to “defamation of religions”, whether in the title or text of any proposed resolution on this issue;
  • Promote language which properly reflects international human rights law, in particular relevant Articles of the ICCPR;
  • Reject any wording which seeks to protect religions, religious beliefs, symbols or “venerated personalities” from criticism;
  • Promote language that protects individual religious believers, secularists and religious minorities who face discrimination, hostility or violence because of their religion or beliefs or lack thereof;
  • Promote the full implementation of existing international human rights law on the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of religion and non-discrimination and the development of strategies by the Human Rights Council to promote intercultural and inter-religious dialogue.


Sincerely,

ARTICLE 19
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
Human Rights Watch

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April 6, 2011

To: All Member States of the UN Human Rights Council

Call for United Nations Human Rights Council Special Session on the Human Rights Situation in the Syrian Arab Republic

Excellency,
As Human Rights non‐governmental organizations from all regions of the world, we express our serious concerns over the deteriorating human rights situation in Syria since the country’s security forces started using live ammunition against protesters on 18 March 2011. We call on the UN Human Rights Council to pursue its mandate by responding to the grave on‐going crisis by convening a special session as soon as possible.

Since 18 March 2011, Syrian security forces have used live ammunition to silence growing protests, almost entirely peaceful, calling for greater freedoms in the country. Scores of protesters – at least 100 ‐ have been killed, apparently by live ammunition fired by the security forces, in Dera’a, al‐Sanamayn, Latakia, Duma and elsewhere. Under international law and applicable standards, lethal force may only be used when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life. The violent crackdown over Syria should be stopped immediately.

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