• Country recommendations on civic space for the UN´s Universal Periodic Review

    CIVICUS and its partners have submitted joint and stand-alone UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on 9 countries in advance of the 30th UPR session (May 2018). The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations. Countries examined include: Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Colombia, Cuba, Djibouti, Russia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan:

    Bangladesh (Individual/Joint): In this UPR, CIVICUS draws attention to a range of legislative restrictions which have been strengthened and imposed to curtail the operation of independent civic groups in Bangladesh. Of particular concern, are new restrictions on groups seeking funds from abroad, as well the repeated use of the penal code to arrest HRDs and place blanket bans on meetings and assemblies. We further examine the spate of extrajudicial killings against secular bloggers and LGBTI activists which is illustrative of Bangladesh’s downward spiral with respect to civic freedoms and systemic failure to protect civil society.

    Burkina Faso (EN/FR): CIVICUS, the Burkinabé Coalition of Human Rights Defenders and the West African Human Right Defenders Network examine unwarranted limitations on freedom of expression and assembly. Despite several positive developments since the popular uprising of 2014, such as the decriminalisation of defamation and the adoption of a law on the protection of human right defenders, restrictions on the freedom of expression including suspensions of media outlets by the national media regulator and attacks and threats against journalists continue.

    Cameroon: CIVICUS, Réseau des Défenseurs Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale (REDHAC) and the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA) highlight Cameroon’s fulfilment of the right to association, assembly and expression and unwarranted persecution of human rights defenders since its previous UPR examination.  We assess the ongoing judicial persecution and detention of human rights defenders on trumped up charges, the use of anti-terrorism legislation to target journalists and excessive use of force against peaceful protesters.  

    Colombia(EN/SP): CIVICUS highlights the hostile environment for human rights defenders, social leaders and unions workers who are routinely subject to physical attacks, targeted assassinations, harassment and intimidation by state and non-state actors. CIVICUS examines the increased number of attacks against journalists as well as the government’s lack of effective implementation of protection mechanisms to safeguard the work of journalists and human rights defenders.

    Cuba (EN/SP): CIVICUS and the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) highlight the constitutional, legal and de facto obstacles to the exercise of the basic freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression. The submission discusses the situation of CSOs, HRDs, journalists and bloggers, who face harassment, criminalisation, arbitrary arrests, searches of their homes and offices and reprisals for interacting with UN and OAS human rights institutions. The submission further examines the multiple ways in which dissent is stifled both in the streets and in the media, offline and online. 

    Djibouti (EN/FR): CIVICUS, Defend Defenders and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) submission describes how the government of Djibouti has patently ignored the 14 recommendations made during the second UPR cycle related to the protection of the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression. Instead, in the intervening period, authorities in Djibouti have continued their campaign against dissent, regularly detaining human rights defenders, journalists and trade union activists because of their criticism of the government or human rights activists.  

    Russia: CIVICUS and Citizens’ Watch address concerns regarding the adoption and application of several draconian laws that have resulted in the expulsion and closure of numerous CSOs and restrictions on the activities of countless others. The submission also lays out the increasing criminalisation and persecution of dissenting views by means of growing restrictions, in both law and practice, on the exercise of the fundamental freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly. 

    Turkmenistan: CIVICUS highlights restrictions to freedom of association in Turkmenistan including recent amendments to the 2014 Law on Public Associations which further limit CSOs’ ability to register, operate independently and receive funding from international sources. Additionally, we assess the use of the arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment of human rights defenders as well as unwarranted limitations to online and offline freedom of expression.

    Uzbekistan: CIVICUS, The Association for Human Rights in Central Asia and the International Partnership for Human Rights assess the conditions of freedom of association, assembly and expression in Uzbekistan. We highlight the lack of progress made in implementing recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle. It particular, we note that although there have been some notable improvements to the environment for civic space, the situation for human rights activists and journalists remains deeply constrained.


  • Djibouti at UN Human Rights Council: Adoption of Universal Periodic Review Report

    CIVICUS, DefendDefenders, and FIDH welcome the government of Djibouti's engagement with the UPR process. We also welcome the government’s commitment during its 3rd cycle review to ensure that no restrictions will be imposed on visits by Special Rapporteurs and to guarantee fundamental freedoms.

    However, in our joint UPR Submission, we documented that since its last review, Djibouti has not implemented any of the recommendations it received relating to civic space. 

    We regret that anti-terrorism measures continue to be used as a smokescreen for severe restrictions on civic space. Indeed, a November 2015 decree effectively banned all public meetings and gatherings and heavily restricted the political opposition’s activities ahead of the 2016 presidential elections. 

    During its 3rd cycle review, the government claimed that ‘to date, no human rights defender has been detained or even prosecuted.’ Yet in our joint submission, we documented numerous arrests and detentions of human rights defenders, journalists and political opposition members Authorities rarely followed due process and at times subjected prisoners to ill-treatment and torture.

    On 15 April 2018, just two days after returning home from Djibouti’s UPR Pre-session in Geneva, security agents briefly detained HRD Mr. Kadar Abdi Ibrahim, confiscated his passport and raided his home. Since then, he has been unable to leave the country.

    Finally, we deplore the lack of transparent and credible investigations into security forces’ killing of at least 27 people and injuring of 150 others at a religious festival in Balbala on 21 December 2015. The government has accepted recommendations to ensure the respect for and protection of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, and we urge the government to rapidly and thoroughly investigate and bring to justice any violators.

    Mr. President, CIVICUS, DefendDefenders and FIDH call on the Government of Djibouti to take proactive measures to address these concerns and implement recommendations to create and maintain, in law and in practice, an enabling environment for civil society.


  • Djibouti: Reprisals against human rights defender Kadar Abdi Ibrahim for his advocacy at the UN Human Rights Council

    Johannesburg, 17 April 2018 - DefendDefenders, CIVICUS and the Observatory condemn acts of reprisals against human rights defender Mr. Kadar Abdi Ibrahim ahead of Djiboutian Government’s oral exam before the UN Human Rights Council.

    On 15 April 2018, just two days after coming back from Geneva, where he carried out advocacy activities ahead of Djibouti’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which will take place on 10 May before the UN Human Rights Council, Mr. Kadar Abdi Ibrahim, member and Movement for Democracy and Freedom (MoDEL) Secretary-General, was briefly detained and got his passport confiscated by agents of Djibouti’s Information and Security Service (SDS), who raided his home. SDS agents provided no reason for his arrest and the confiscation of his passport. As a result, Mr. Abdi Ibrahim is de facto unable to leave the country.

    “That Djibouti attempts to silence the few voices who denounce human rights violations committed in the country shows how intolerant to criticism Ismaïl Omar Guelleh’s power is,” our organizations say. “The review that is due to take place on 10 May 2018 must shed light on the serious situation that prevails in the country and demand reforms that guarantee the protection and promotion of human rights.”

    Mr. Abdi Ibrahim traveled to Geneva (Switzerland) from 9-12 April 2018 to carry out advocacy activities, including through presenting recommendations from a joint Defend-Defenders/CIVICUS/FIDH report and taking part in a “pre-session” organized by the NGO UPR Info on 10 April. During his stay, he also met with representatives of a dozen States and of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

    DefendDefenders, CIVICUS and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (an FIDH-OMCT partnership) call on the Djiboutian authorities to put an end to all forms of harassment and reprisals against Mr. Kadar Abdi Ibrahim and all human rights defenders in Djibouti, and to give him back his passport.

    More generally, our organisations urge the Djiboutian authorities to abide by the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and regional and international human rights instruments to which Djibouti is a party.

    Contact persons:

    • For DefendDefenders: Nicolas Agostini, Representative to the United Nations, +41 79 813 49 91 / - For CIVICUS : Clémentine de Montjoye, / +33 6 58 56 26 50
    • For FIDH: Samuel Hanryon: +33 6 72 28 42 94
    • For the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT): Delphine Reculeau: +41 22 809 49 39 /


  • Police crack down on rare protest in Djibouti

    Police threw teargas grenades at a crowd to break up a protest in Tadjourah, Djibouti, on 14 May. Dozens of protesters had gathered to denounce alleged nepotism after the recruitment of 76 new civil servants linked to the construction of a new port in Tadjourah and placed stones and tyres on a main road to block traffic. According to a local civil society source, some protesters suffered gunshot wounds, including one who is severely injured.