32nd Session of the Human Rights Council
While religious fundamentalism continues to dominate international headlines and many of the proceedings of the Council, we urge all states to acknowledge how various iterations of fundamentalism undermine the realization of human rights, including the right to assembly and association. While less visceral than religious fundamentalism, market, political, cultural and nationalism forms of fundamentalism, must assume greater prominence within discussions at the Council.
CIVICUS welcomes the High Commissioner’s comprehensive update this morning. We share his myriad concerns and laud his continued support for the creation of an enabling environment for civil society at both the Council and nationally.
Mr. President, six out of seven people live in countries where civil society groups and HRDs face substantial challenges in exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression. Under the guise of safeguarding state sovereignty, combating terrorism and the preservation of morals, governments in both the Global North and South are adopting regressive legislation and engaging in illicit surveillance, deadly forms of harassment and threats to silence voices of dissent.
CIVICUS welcomes this extraordinary panel on the 10th anniversary of the Council and salutes all its Presidents.
Since its establishment, the Council has emerged as a principled leader in supporting and expanding space for civil society both within its corridors and at the national level. In the last year alone it has adopted several landmark resolutions and reports articulating specific protections for human rights defenders, freedom of assembly and civil society space, while vigilantly protecting NGOs’ right to contribute to each of these initiatives.
Dear President, High Representative, Dear Commissioners,
The Prime Minister of Ethiopia will be visiting Brussels for the 2016 European Development Days. We urge you to express serious concerns about the Ethiopian Government’s violent repression of the Oromo protests, and its escalating crackdown on human rights defenders, independent media, peaceful protesters, and members of the political opposition under the 2009 Ethiopian Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (ATP). Since December 2015, Ethiopian security forces have routinely used excessive, unnecessary and lethal force to disperse and suppress peaceful protests in the Oromia region. The protesters, who have been advocating against the dispossession of land without adequate compensation under the government’s Integrated Development Master Plan, have been subjected to widespread rights violations. According to international and national human rights groups, at least 200 demonstrators, including children and university students, have been killed during the protests. It is also widely reported that hundreds of people have suffered bullet wounds and beatings by the police and military.
Attention MFA Didier Burkhalter
We, the undersigned, write to you concerning Switzerland’s hosting of the King of Bahrain and his state delegation on Thursday 12 May. Bahrain continues to severely restrict the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly; torture remains systematic; use of the death penalty has increase; and the state is arbitrarily rendering activists and juveniles stateless.
This joint civil society paper has been prepared by 20 leading international, national and regional non governmental organisations, on the occasion of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s 10th Anniversary.
As the HRC enters its 10th anniversary year, this civil society paper details a number of short- and medium-term steps that would enhance its ability to better fulfil its role. Any healthy and functional body should be open to exploring opportunities for self-improvement on a continuing basis.
The 10th anniversary should be not only an occasion for celebrating the achievements of the HRC, but primarily to critically reflect on its shortcomings, and to enhance its impact and effectiveness. It is imperative that civil society is able to participate and contribute fully and substantively to both formal and informal discussions in this regard.
During the 31st Session of the UN Human Rights Council, 29 February – 24 March 2016, CIVICUS and its partners raised a number of pressing country specific and thematic civic space concerns. CIVICUS’ joint and oral statements and advocacy letters provided an important opportunity to urge Members and Observer States of the Council to address persistent and acute restrictions on human rights defenders and civil society. CIVICUS further held a series of joint panel discussions to examine the environment for civil society in several countries and assess emerging global civic space trends.
In advance of the 26th Session of the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR), CIVICUS has issued six joint and stand-alone UPR submissions on the space for civil society in South Sudan, Syria, Togo, Uganda, Venezuela and Zimbabwe. The submissions, developed in coordination with our members and partners, analyse the legal and policy environment of the rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression and restrictions on the activities of human rights defenders since November 2011. The submissions further provide a number of substantive and targeted recommendations to develop and maintain a safe and enabling environment for civil society in line with their international human rights obligations.
Civil society organisations urge States to reject amendments to Human Rights Council resolution on “the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests” (HRC/31/L.21)
On Syria: CIVICUS sincerely hopes that the mediated peace talks will finally get off the ground and lead to results. However, we are concerned that between the 1st and 11th of March, the Syria Ceasefire Monitor reported over sixty violations, including mortar attacks, airstrikes, barrel bomb attacks, sniper attacks and other attacks on the civilian population that continue to result in the deaths of children and adult civilians. CIVICUS calls on all parties to abide by its provisions and refrain from attacks on the civilian population. We also urge the COI to investigate these ceasefire violations within the scope of its mandate. CIVICUS also repeats our call to the Syrian authorities to immediately release all unlawfully detained civilians, civil society activists, journalists, human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience, to ensure the ‘tracking of missing victims of enforced disappearance and the independent ‘monitoring of places of detention’ as recommended by the COI in its current report.
CIVICUS greatly welcomes the Council’s growing recognition of the crucial role civil society plays in facilitating the full realization of all human rights. In particular, we welcome the Council’s increased attention to the need to protect and promote the right to freedom of assembly to effectively engage with a range of stakeholder on pressing rights issues.
High Commissioner, CIVICUS welcomes your annual report, very rich update this morning and your strong independent voice! We share your concern that a growing number of states are selectively adhering to their international human rights and humanitarian law obligations. We note, in particular, the introduction of a spate of national legislation undermining the rights to freedoms of expression, association, peaceful assembly and participation in public affairs.
Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders
Delivered by Pierre Claver Mbonimpa on behalf of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders, Protection International, and CIVICUS
On behalf of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, CIVICUS and Protection International I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak before this Council once again.
Thank you Mr. President,
I warmly welcome this important opportunity to address the Council on shrinking space for civil society. My organization has worked for nearly two decades to strengthen citizen action and civil society throughout the world. However, despite the growing recognition of the importance of a vibrant, independent civil society sector, civil society activists and organisations are becoming the target of a concerted global campaign to restrict civic space. Those of us who monitor conditions for civil society show that, in 2015 alone, fundamental freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly were significantly violated in over 100 countries.
31st session of the Human Rights Council
Delivered by Renate Bloem
CIVICUS welcomes this timely high-level debate when we move from adoption to implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
A group of civil society organizations (CSOs) have written to the UN Human Rights Council (UN HRC) to express their concern over the Ethiopian Government’s grave restrictions on fundamental human rights, exemplified by the recent crackdown on largely peaceful protests in the Oromia region.
They call on the delegation of the 31st HRC session to make joint or individual statements reinforcing and building upon the concerns of these and other international bodies.
Read the letter here.
CIVICUS and the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP) welcome the holding of this Special Session and the Council’s effort to address the escalation of violence and gross violations of human rights in Burundi.
When: November 23, 2015, 4 - 6pm, followed by a light reception
Where: Right Livelihood Award Geneva Office,Maison de la Paix, Chemin Eugène-Rigot 2E, 1202 Geneva
Organisers: The Right Livelihood Award, The World Future Council, CIVICUS, IBFAN
“The dramatic increase in demand for natural resources has brought with it a plethora of concerns relating to the sustainability of economic growth and its impact on the climate, the environment, and, more generally, on human rights.” – Maina Kiai, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, April 2015 report to the UN Human Rights Council
The event will consist of a panel discussion with Laureates of the “Alternative Nobel Prize" on the topic of a human rights based approach to indispensable natural resources.
Pakistan’s new policy to regulate the registration and operations of international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) has been strongly condemned by civil society.
Issued on 1 October 2015, the new rules place substantial burdens on INGOs while subjecting them to debilitating bureaucratic controls including through excessive interference in their activities and limits on placement and retention of staff.
During the 30th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, CIVICUS and its partners raised a number of pressing human rights concerns requiring the Council’s attention. The joint and individual oral statements, panel discussions and advocacy letters underscored a broad range of thematic and country specific violations gravely undermining fundamental civil society rights. CIVICUS further provided recommendations to create a safe and enabling operating environment for human rights defenders and ensure effective accountability for persistent human rights violations.
At the 30th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, CIVICUS presented a number of statements about the operating environment for human rights defenders and civil society groups in Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Somalia and Sudan. In particular, CIVICUS provided insights and recommendations on the security and operating environment for civil society in each of these countries. To read the statements, please see below:
Amidst the war in Yemen, a group of civil society organisations are advocating for the UN Human Rights Council to establish an independent, international mechanism to document violations committed by all parties of the armed conflict in Yemen.
As the government of Bahrain continues to curtail the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, a group of NGOs has written to the delegations of 18 member states at the UN Human Rights Council urging them to formally condone the human rights violations in Bahrain. In particular the NGOs are urgin g member states to endorse the position of Switzerland who has written a letter to Bahrain calling for reform.
At the 30th Session of the UN Human Rightc Council, CIVICUS urged UN Member States to devise a coordinated response to reprisals against human rights defenders and civil society organisations which range from threats, harassment, smear campaigns, fines, travel bans, the forced closure of organizations, politically motivated prosecutions, arbitrary imprisonment, torture and assassinations.
At the 30th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, CIVICUS expressed its concern with the government of Belarus, which failed to adopt the recommendations made at its last Universal Periodic Review in 2011. Since then, the human rights conditions have deteriorated and the government deploys repressive practices such as arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, abductions and continued harassment of human rights defenders.
At the 30th session of the UN Human Rights Council, CIVICUS drew attention to a set of countries that regularly attack and undermine the rights of civil society. The key case studies were as follows:
In advance of the 25th Session of the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR), CIVICUS and its partners have made five submissions on the rights to freedom of assembly, association, expression and the environment for human rights defenders in Hungary, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, and Thailand. The submissions further provide a number of recommendations to the State under Review (SuR) to create and maintain a safe and enabling environment for civil society.
In a new report released today, “Enhancing the effectiveness of the UN Universal Periodic Review: A civil society perspective,” CIVICUS examines the experiences of civil society groups from across the world in engaging with the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The report, based on interviews with civil society leaders operating in diverse regions of the globe, provides a number of substantive recommendations to strengthen the UPR process to support the creation of a safe and enabling environment for civil society to promote and protect human rights.
Geneva, 20 August 2015,
Re: Addressing the deteriorating human rights situation in Cambodia and ensuring that the United Nations retains its protection role and monitoring capacity in the country
We urge your delegation to address the deteriorating human rights situation in Cambodia by supporting a resolution, at the 30th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council (14 September-2 October 2015), that highlights patterns of serious violations and calls on the Cambodian Government to put an end to such violations and to abide by its domestic and international legal obligations. The resolution should also extend the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia.
CIVICS along with 11 other civil society organisations have sent a letter to the permanent representatives of Member and Observer states of the UN Human Rights Council to adopt a resolution to address the human rights situation in Bahrain. There is particular concern over the Government of Bahrain´s continued repression of dissenting voices, including through the arbitrary detentions of high-profile opposition activists and human rights defenders.
During the 29th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (15 June - 3 July 2015), CIVICUS made a number of joint and individual interventions to highlight restrictions on civil society space. The interventions, including 9 parallel side events and 10 oral statements, underscored pressing thematic and country specific concerns on the rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression and persecution of human rights defenders, which require the Council’s attention.
Delivered by Dora Tuez
CIVICUS wishes to address the Council on the High Commissioner’s report on discrimination and violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
CIVICUS strongly condemns last Friday’s terrorist attacks in Tunisia, Somalia, France and Kuwait and express our deepest sympathies with the victims and their families. But we also applaud the principled stand of the High Commissioner in addressing the challenges to human rights: “The fight against terror is a struggle to uphold the values of democracy and human rights – not undermine them”.
In advance of the 24th Session of the UN Universal Period Review (UPR), CIVICUS and its partners have made five submissions on restrictions on the rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression and persecution of human rights defenders (HRDs) in Mozambique, Niger, Sierra Leone, Singapore and Somalia. The submissions provide a number of substantive recommendations to support the creation and maintenance of a safe and enabling environment for civil society.
29th session of the Human Rights Council
Thank you Mr. President. CIVICUS warmly welcomes the timely reports of both Special Rapporteurs. We commend the Special Rapporteurs for supporting an inclusive consultative process with a wide range of civil society actors to address the pressing concerns raised in their reports.
29th session of the Human Rights Council
Thank you Mr. President. CIVICUS welcomes the important report of the Working Group on discrimination against women, a report, especially in an Egyptian context, so very relevant at this critical time.
When: Friday, 19 June 2015, 11:00-13:00
Where: Geneva, Palais Des Nations, Room XII
Organisers: CIVICUS, ICNL, World Movement for Democracy, ECNL, Article 19, fidh, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch
When: 18 June, 10:00-11:30 am
Where: Palais des Nations, Room XXII
Organisers: CIVICUS, International Service for Human Rights, Gulf Center for Human Rights
On the first day of the 29th Session of the Human Rights Council, CIVICUS provided opening remarks on human rights violations in Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Burundi, and Egypt.
During the forthcoming 29th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, CIVICUS and its partners will host a series of thematic and country-specific panel discussions highlighting pressing concerns for civil society and human rights defenders at the national, regional and international levels. The events will provide an important opportunity for a cross-section of the global human rights community to identify practical recommendations to create an enabling environment for civil society and effective strategies to foster greater transnational solidarity to address unwarranted restrictions on civic space.
For more information about these events please contact:
10 years removed from the massacre in Anadijan, Uzbekistan, which left hundreds of civilians killed by security forces, the country remains one of the most persistent human rights violators in the world. To mark the anniversary, CIVICUS and nine other organisations have written a letter to representatives of the UN Human Rights Council urging them to take action.
Following the second UPR of Belarus, CIVICUS has produced a summary of the country's current human rights situation, associated recommendations from member states, and recent civil society advocacy activities that have taken place at the UN in Geneva.
Side Event during the 22nd UPR Session
When: Monday, 4 May 2015, 12:45-14-15
Where: Palais des Nations Room
While Belarus accepted a number of recommendations on improving the environment for freedom of association during its initial UPR review in 2010, little appreciable impact has been observed in this field. Accordingly, the legal conditions for freedom of association and civil society groups remain among the worst in the region. Moreover, from 2010-2014 several restrictive legal measures and laws have been adopted further imperiling the right to freedom of association.
During the 28th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, 2-27 March 2015, CIVICUS and its partners made several high-level interventions to support the creation and maintenance of a safe and enabling environment for civil society across the world. CIVICUS co-organized a number of thematic and country specific side events to draw attention to acute restrictions on civil society, human rights defenders and fundamental democratic freedoms. In addition, CIVICUS issued several oral statements calling on the Council to address persistent violations of basic human rights.
Delivered by Okwaraogoma Ononuju Silver, CIVICUS
CIVICUS welcomes the decision by the Gambian government to accept several recommendations aimed at improving the environment for the respect of fundamental freedoms including those to fully protect and promote freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly for all without fear of arbitrary detention or harassment and to continue to improve the protection and promotion of human rights.
In advance of the 23rd Session (November 2015) of the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR), CIVICUS has made five joint and stand-alone submissions on the rights to freedom of assembly, association, expression and the environment for human rights defenders (HRDs) in Mauritania, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman and Rwanda. The submissions further provide a number of specific policy recommendations to create and maintain a safe and enabling environment for civil society and ensure greater compliance with international human rights law.
CIVICUS welcomes with horror the detailed report of the Commission and deplores once more the dire situation of the Syrian People. We are shocked about the lethargy of the International Community when innocent civilians in Syria are living through unspeakable horror and when the Security Council, deadlocked by vetoes or threats of vetoes, has been powerless to step in and alter this landscape of destruction and bloodshed.
The fundamental and necessary conditions which allow for the creation and maintenance of a safe and enabling environment for civil society are being systematically threatened across the globe. This precipitous decline in respect for fundamental civil liberties, including the rights to expression, association and assembly, is afflicting both emerging and consolidated democracies. The examples highlighted below, while particularly acute, are only illustrative of the global backsliding on the promotion and protection of civil society rights that the Council must address without delay.
CIVICUS applauds the very principled stand of the High Commissioner in addressing the challenges to human rights to counter terrorism. In this context we pledge once more support for the independence of the HC and his Office.
CIVICUS welcomes the first report of the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children and congratulates her innovative road map to implement her mandate. We also welcome the report of the Special Rapporteur in the field of Cultural Rights and want to address her country report on Vietnam in conjunction with the country report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion as well as the section on Vietnam in the High Commissioners report.