human rights council


  • HRC49: Open letter to States on the draft resolution on human rights defenders

    At its current session, the UN Human Rights Council will be discussing a draft resolution on human rights defenders operating in conflict and post-conflict situations.  This is a useful and timely focus providing a means to give effect to a range of recommendations including those contained in the report of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in 2020. 


  • Human Rights Council adopts resolution on Myanmar to maintain critical scrutiny on the country

    CVICUS welcomes the resolution on Myanmar adopted by consensus at the Human Rights Council’s 49th Session. The resolution extends the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for a further year and maintains monitoring and reporting from the High Commissioner, with a focus on accountability.

    The resolution further reiterated the Council’s ‘full support for the people of Myanmar and their aspirations for democracy and civilian government’. To this end, and as a first step, CIVICUS calls for the immediate recognition of the National Unity Government as the legitimate government of Myanmar.

    ‘As the military junta gets ever more brutal in its attempts to seize control, enhanced scrutiny on the country remains vital,’ said Cornelius Hanung, Advocacy and Campaigns Officer for Asia. ‘The resolution reiterates how dangerous Myanmar’s military is to its people, particularly those who dare to speak out.’

    The resolution also raises serious concerns about violence against and arbitrary detention of journalists and media workers, human rights defenders, casualty recorders, lawyers, environmental and land rights activists, health and humanitarian workers and other civilians, and condemns the disproportionate use of force against peaceful protesters. 

    Over 9,000 individuals are currently in arbitrary detention in Myanmar. Some were taken in terrifying night-time raids. Others were abducted off the streets, held in secret facilities, and denied access to lawyers. CIVICUS calls on the military junta to immediately release all those arbitrarily detained. Around 1,700 people have been killed by Myanmar’s military in the context of demonstrations against the coup since last year. 

    ASEAN has, to date, failed to address any of these violations; implementation of its five-point consensus peace agreement reached last year to address the crisis has stalled. The resolution called on States to cease the ‘illicit’ transfer of arms to Myanmar but fell short of calling for the full suspension of arms to the military junta. 

    ‘For the last year, we have seen sustained and violent attacks against those fighting for democracy in Myanmar,’ said Cornelius Hanung. ‘We call on the international community to take immediate steps to protect those on the ground, including by imposing an arms embargo on the weapons used indiscriminately against the Myanmar people.’

    This resolution is a step towards preventing further violations, but accountability for past and ongoing violations in Myanmar is still remote. We urge all member and observer states of the Council to support the referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court, as recommended by the High Commissioner.

    Read our statement to the Council here.

    Civic space in Myanmar is rated as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor.


  • Human Rights Council adopts resolution on peaceful protests

    Reaction to resolution on peaceful protests at the 44th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    With the adoption of a new resolution on peaceful protests, the Human Rights Council has sent a strong message that it stands by peaceful protesters who mobilise for change, and that law enforcement officials who perpetrate violence against protesters must be held to account.

    All over the world, protesters have been mobilizing and standing up to win better working conditions, further equality, and end forms of oppression. But in too many cases, from Chile to Hong Kong to the US, protesters, protest monitors and journalists have been met with repression and police brutality, often with complete impunity. We urge states to ensure full accountability for human rights violations perpetrated by law enforcement in the context of peaceful protests. 

    The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the urgency of the protection of online assembly. Given this context, CIVICUS welcomes that the resolution strongly reaffirms that the rights of peaceful assembl guaranteed offline are also guaranteed online. We thank Switzerland and Costa Rica in bringing forward this resolution, which could not come at a more critical time for the protection of peaceful protests worldwide.

    The resolution mandates the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association to prepare over the next two years a dedicated report on the protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests during crisis situations. It also provides for a panel discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests, looking at achievements and contemporary challenges, at the Council Session next June.

    Current council members:

    Afghanistan, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Eritrea, Fiji, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Libya, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mexico, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Poland, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Senegal, Slovakia, SomaliaSudan, Spain, Togo, Ukraine, Uruguay, Venezuela

    Civic space ratings from the CIVICUS Monitor



  • Human Rights Council Elections 2019

    HRCIn October 2019, in New York, the UN General Assembly will elect 14 new members of the 47-member State Human Rights Council.

    Two of the rotating 14 seats are currently open to countries from Latin America and the Caribbean regional group.

    Until last week, only Venezuela and Brazil were standing as candidates for these two seats – which meant that both were guaranteed election to membership.

    This all changed at the beginning of October, when Costa Rica announced that it was throwing its hat into the ring. It is standing explicitly as an alternative to Venezuela, whom it has deemed unsuitable to be a Human Rights Council member because of its grave human rights violations. Now, with three candidates standing for two seats, the election is suddenly much more meaningful.

    At the last Session, the High Commissioner delivered a report on Venezuela which stated that over the last decade, in particular since 2016, Venezuela’s government has implemented a strategy “aimed at neutralising, repressing and criminalising political opponents and people critical of the Government.” The High Commissioner found that a series of laws, policies and practices have constrained civic and democratic space, allowing patterns of violation. The Council adopted a resolution on Venezuela to continue to monitor and report on these serious human rights violations. Many organisations believe that with its current record, Venezuela should not even stand for election, much less be voted in.

    As a current member of the Council up for re-election, Brazil has supported resolutions tackling human rights crises around the world. But since the beginning of the new administration it has seen an increase in violent rhetoric and, over the last year, a curtailment in human rights protections, anti-minorities policies and attacks against Human Rights Council mechanisms. Its influence in the region and beyond, Brazilian and regional and international organisations believe that it could pose a significant threat to multilateralism.

    There have been substantial civil society efforts from within both Brazil and Venezuela to advocate against their respective election to the Council. CIVICUS has members in both countries. Following the lead from our members on the ground, we believe that neither Brazil nor Venezuela should be elected to a seat on the UN’s main human rights body. CIVICUS recommends that states do not cast a ballot in favour of either country in a symbolic gesture to reject both candidates.

    There have always been repressive governments on the HRC – China, Iran and Saudi Arabia, for example, are among the Council’s current members – and this upcoming three-way fight can almost be seen as a microcosm of this wider dynamic.

    The Human Rights Council is the main intergovernmental body within the UN responsible for addressing human rights violations. As such, we believe that its members have a responsibility to uphold universal human rights and multilateralism. CIVICUS will continue to advocate for that states with poor human rights records, or states which undermine the aims and commitments of the Human Rights Council, should not be elected to its membership, and we call on UN member states to refuse to cast their ballots for those who fall short. This may only be a symbolic gesture, but it is an important one: for the Human Rights Council to adequately protect human rights around the world, it needs to demand more of its membership.

    In the meantime, we welcome Costa Rica’s courage and commitment in standing for membership, and we look forward to working with the delegation in Geneva in our shared vision for universal human rights.

    The other States up for election are:

    African Group:Benin,Libya,Mauritania andSudan (with four seats available)

    Asia-Pacific Group:Indonesia,Iraq,Japan,Marshall Islands andRepublic of Korea (competing for four seats)

    Eastern European Group:Armenia,Republic of Moldova andPoland (competing for two seats)

    Western European and Others Group:Germany and theNetherlands (with two seats available).

    For more information on the human rights records of these states, see ISHR’s ‘scorecards' for each State standing for election to the UN Human Rights Council.


  • Human Rights Council: Restrictions on civil society will curtail any chance of building back better

    Statement at the 46th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Thank you, Madame President; High Commissioner.

    We welcome your update and strongly agree that recovering better requires ensuring participation for all. In this very difficult year, we are encouraged that civic activism has continued as people have mobilised to demand their rights.

    But across the world, civil society has been impeded in its work.  The CIVICUS Monitor shows that in the context of COVID-19 measures, protest rights have been violated and restrictions on freedom of expression continue as states enact overly broad emergency legislation that limits human rights.

    We reiterate that restrictions on civil society will curtail any chance of building back better. States should indeed be investing in protecting and promoting a free and independent civil society at this crucial time.

    The Council has the opportunity to act immediately on a number of situations where civic space is being threatened. In Sri Lanka, attacks against civil society are compounding grave failures of accountability. In Nicaragua, where ahead of elections, restrictions on civic space and expressions of dissent are likely to escalate. Myanmar, where we are inspired by the courage of people who risk lives and freedom every day to protest the coup, who continue to fear violent crackdown on dissenting voices. In India, where the government has continued its persecution of human rights defenders, student leaders, journalists and other critics, including through restrictive laws, prolonged pre-trial detention and excessive force perpetrated against protesters. 

    We call on the Council this Session to take measures to support civil society by acting now, on the situations brought before it. Situations which require immediate action.



  • Human rights in Eritrea: Press restrictions persist

    Statement at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    CIVICUS and Eritrean partner organisations welcome the work of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea and thank you for your update. We welcome this crucial continued scrutiny, currently the only way in which human rights in Eritrea can be examined.

    The government is failing to make progress and the human rights situation in Eritrea does not show any improvement. There have been repeated reports of arrests and rights abuses since the Special Rapporteur’s latest report of June 2019. On 4 February a conscripted man was shot in Mendefera while trying to escape from illegal detention. This incident took place in the context of the country’s indefinite and non-paid military conscription policy and the government’s notorious shoot-to-kill practice.

    The government continues to restrict the press. News outlets shuttered in 2001 have not resumed, and their 10 journalists remain in detention with no trial in sight. The government still operates a ban on independent press and NGOs.

    These concerns are exacerbated by the continued refusal by the Eritrean government to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur. Lack of access granted and lack of political will to address the worsening human rights situation in the country makes it increasingly clear that the only available access to justice for human rights violations suffered in Eritrea is at the international level, and we urge the UN to use all available mechanisms to ensure such accountability can be secured.

    Eritrea is a member of this Council and it is imperative that it upholds its human rights obligations. We urge the Eritrean government to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur and to review its policies and practices including by: ending the practice of conscripting youth into the army; unconditionally releasing political prisoners; guaranteeing fundamental rights; and allowing space for dissent views on Eritrea’s governance to be freely expressed.  

    Civic space in Eritrea is rated as Closed by the CIVICUS Monitor (see country profile page)


  • Human rights monitoring needed in Democratic Republic of Congo

    Letter sent to UN Member State Missions
    Re: Creating a dedicated country-wide human rights monitoring and reporting mechanism on the Democratic Republic of Congo at the UN Human Rights Council

    Your excellency,

    We, the undersigned Congolese, regional, and international organizations, write to urge your delegation to support the creation of a country-wide human rights monitoring and reporting mechanism on the Democratic Republic of Congo at the upcoming 39th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

    The ongoing human rights violations committed by Congolese security forces and armed groups throughout the country – coupled with a pattern of impunity and the potential for renewed outbreak of large-scale violence in the coming months, amidst a crackdown on human rights in the context of the uncertain electoral process – necessitate increased and dedicated human rights monitoring and public reporting to help prevent further abuses and achieve the goals of accountability.

    Congo is facing a human rights crisis, as the authorities clamp down on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly of critics who insist that President Joseph Kabila has stayed in power beyond his constitutionally mandated two-term limit by delaying elections and suppressing dissent. The elections are now scheduled to be held on 23 December 2018. Civil society and the political opposition in Congo have expressed serious concerns about the credibility, fairness, and inclusivity of the electoral process, and risks of further delays. There is a real risk of more crackdowns and potential political violence as the election deadline nears, with possible consequences throughout the volatile region.

    From August 1 to 7, Congolese security forces fired teargas and live ammunition to disperse political opposition supporters, killing at least two people – including a child – and injuring at least seven others with gunshot wounds, during the candidate registration period for presidential elections. Authorities also restricted the movement of opposition leaders, arrested dozens of opposition supporters, and prevented one presidential aspirant, Moïse Katumbi, from entering the country to file his candidacy.

    Since 2015, Congolese security forces have killed nearly 300 people during largely peaceful protests. Congolese authorities have banned meetings and demonstrations by the opposition and civil society groups. Hundreds of opposition supporters and democracy activists have been jailed. Many have been held in secret detention facilities without charge or access to family members or lawyers. Others have been tried and convicted on trumped-up charges. The government has also shut down Congolese media outlets, expelled international journalists and researchers, and periodically curtailed access to the internet and text messaging.

    The human rights crisis has been linked to political tensions and violence in Congo, which could worsen as the election approaches. Armed groups and security forces have attacked civilians in many parts of the country, including the Kasaïs, the Kivus, Ituri, and Tanganyika. Today, some 4.5 million Congolese are displaced from their homes. More than 100,000 Congolese have fled abroad since January 2018, raising the risk of increased regional instability.

    At the Human Rights Council in June, the team of international experts on the Kasai region presented their final report, expressing shock at the magnitude of the violence and the dire human rights situation that has persisted since 2016. An estimated 5,000 people, and possibly many more, have been in killed, and more than 1.4 million people displaced from their homes. No one has been held to

    account for the murders in March 2017 of UN investigators Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalán and the disappearance of the four Congolese who accompanied them, and only a few low-level suspected perpetrators have been prosecuted for the violence against Congolese in the region. In July 2018, the Council requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to dispatch a team of two international human rights experts to monitor and report on the implementation by Congolese authorities of the Kasai investigation’s recommendations.

    Since early this year, violence intensified in various parts of northeastern Congo’s Ituri province, with terrifying incidents of massacres, rapes, and decapitation. Armed groups launched deadly attacks on villages, killing scores of civilians, torching hundreds of homes, and displacing an estimated 350,000 people.

    Armed groups and security forces in the Kivu provinces also continue to attack civilians. According to the Kivu Security Tracker, assailants, including state security forces, killed more than 580 civilians and abducted at least 940 others in North and South Kivu since January 2018.

    In the southeastern province of Tanganyika, more than 200 people were killed, 250,000 others displaced, and numerous villages and displacement camps burned since intercommunal violence broke out in mid-2016. Nobody has been held to account to date, and the situation remains volatile.

    Considering the scale and complexity of the human rights challenges in Congo, and the many regions in the country requiring scrutiny, a dedicated mechanism is needed with the mandate to cover the country as a whole which can conduct the needed monitoring and reporting to the Human Rights Council and make recommendations to the government of Congo and the international community with a view to preventing further human rights violations and abuses and achieving accountability. The Council should create such a mechanism in September to complement the work of the UN joint human rights office in Congo and ensure adequate scrutiny and reporting of human rights violations and abuses in the electoral context.

    We urge your delegation to support the creation of such a mandate.

    With assurances of our highest consideration,

    Action pour la Restauration de la Paix et la Justice (ARPJ)
    Agir Ensemble pour les Droits de l’Homme (AEDH)
    Agir pour des Élections Transparentes et Apaisées (AETA)
    Amnesty International
    Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    Association Africaine de Défense des Droits de l’Homme (ASADHO)
    Association Congolaise pour l’Accès à la Justice (ACAJ)
    Association des Femmes Juristes Congolaises (AFEJUCO)
    Carrefour pour la Justice, le Développement et les Droits Humains (CJHD-RDC)
    CCFD – Terre Solidaire
    Centre d’Observation des Droits de l’Homme et d’Assistance Sociale (CODHAS)
    Centre d’Études et de Formation Populaire pour les Droits de l’Homme (CEFOP/DH)
    Cercle National de Réflexion sur la Jeunesse en RDC (CNRJ-RDC)
    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    Commission Justice et Paix Belgique
    Ecumenical Network Central Africa (OENZ)
    European Network for Central Africa (EurAc)
    Fastenopfer/Action de Carême
    Femmes et Enfants en Détresses/Uvira et Fizi (SOS FED)
    Forum réfugiés Cosi
    Franciscans International
    Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
    Groupe d’Associations de Défense des Droits de l’Homme et de la Paix (GADHOP)
    Groupe Lotus
    Human Rights Watch
    International Commission of Jurists
    International Federation for Human Rights Leagues (FIDH)
    International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI)
    Justicia Asbl
    La Voix des Sans Voix pour les Droits de l’Homme (VSV)
    Ligue des Électeurs (LE)
    Never Again Coalition
    Nouvelles Dynamiques pour le Développement Rural Intégral (NODRI)
    Œil des Victimes des Violations des Droits de l’Homme (OVVDH)
    Pax Christi International
    Protection International
    Réseau des Femmes pour les Droits des Enfants et des Femmes (REFEDEF)
    Réseau des Victimes de l’Insécurité au Congo (REVI Asbl)
    Réseau pour la Réforme du Secteur de Sécurité et Justice (RRSSJ)
    Secours Catholique – Caritas France
    The African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
    The Enough Project
    Tournons la Page
    World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)


  • Human Rights Situations of Concern: Ethiopia


    While acknowledging the integral role that this Council plays in holding governments to account for wilfully persecuting individuals and groups who speak truth to power, we would like to use this opportunity to celebrate the recent civil and political liberation ushered in by sustained protest movements in Ethiopia,  while further encouraging the government of Ethiopia to ensure that this transformation is sustainable rather than fleeting, systemic rather than cosmetic. 

    For nearly a decade CIVICUS and its partners have stood before the Council urging it to address the devastatingly restrictive environment for civic space in Ethiopia. We warmly appreciate the determination of several governments including Ireland, Canada, Germany and Norway as well as a number of Special Procedure mandate holders who continued to voice their concerns about the unrelenting attacks on civic freedoms in Ethiopia. 

    Today, in large part due to the uncompromising and audacious resoluteness of protesters and human rights defenders, Ethiopia is on the precipice of emerging as country ruled by pluralism rather than authoritarianism. 

    However, this transformation will remain incomplete if the Government of Ethiopia does not take all necessary steps to ensure inclusive participation in policy making, ensure a free and safe environment in advance of upcoming elections, address long standing grievances especially pertaining to access to land, and hold to account all state officials responsible for grave right violations. 

    We urge all stakeholders, including state, civil society and UN agencies to endow this evolving transformation with the requisite support and resources.

    Civicspace is rated as Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor


  • India: Civil society orgs call for the Council's attention on the deteriorating human rights situation

    Statement at the 51st Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Delivered by Ahmed Adam

    On behalf of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), World Organisation against Torture (OMCT), CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation

    Mr. President,

    We call for the attention of the Council on the deteriorating human rights situation in India.

    Since 2014, India has witnessed a sharp rise of authoritarianism accompanied by systematic erosion of the rule of law and independent institutions such as the National Human Rights Commission, Elections Commission and the judiciary, that are mandated to safeguard human rights and fundamental freedoms.

    Indian authorities have escalated crackdowns on and persecution of human rights defenders, journalists, and critics through restrictive laws and counter-terrorism legislation that do not comply with India’s international obligations. The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) continues to be applied as part of a broader systematic repression of civil society and opposition voices. It fails to comply with international standards and must be repealed or reviewed.

    The government continues its assault on fundamental freedoms, in particular the rights to freedom of expression, media, peaceful assembly, association and movement, in Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir. Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez, and journalists Fahad Shah remain in detention under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in a deliberate attempt to obfuscate and stifle independent reporting on the extent and gravity of human rights implications of its policies in Kashmir.

    At the same time, majoritarian and ultranationalist narratives actively promoted or endorsed by public and religious officials as well as discriminatory legislation such as the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and policies, and police inaction, continue to fuel hatred, discrimination, and violence against minorities, especially Muslims.

    We call on Indian authorities to end repression of civil society and media, end harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders, journalists and critics, and release all those who are arbitrarily detained for their legitimate work including human rights defender Khurram Parvez and journalist Fahad Shah.

    The Council must act urgently and appropriately to prevent further escalation of violence, discrimination, and hatred against minorities which, if left unchecked, could lead to gross and systematic violations.

    Thank you

     Civic space in India is rated as "Repressed" by the CIVICUS Monitor 


  • India: Crackdown continues in Jammu & Kashmir

    Joint statement at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Our organizations express grave concern over the human rights situation in Jammu & Kashmir, where the authorities imposed severe restrictions after a decision to revoke constitutional autonomy on 5 August 2019, including one of the world’s longest internet shutdowns, which the Indian Supreme Court has said violates the right to freedom of expression.

    Hundreds were arbitrarily arrested, and there are some serious allegations of beatings and abusive treatment in custody, including alleged cases of torture. Three former chief ministers, other leading politicians, as well as separatist leaders and their alleged supporters, remain in detention under the Public Safety Act (PSA) and other abusive laws, many without charge and in undisclosed locations outside of Jammu & Kashmir.  This violates fair trial safeguards of the criminal justice system and undermines accountability, transparency, and respect for human rights. Journalists and human rights defenders have been threatened for criticizing the clampdown. These violations, as those committed over the past decades, are met with chronic impunity. 

    We urge the government of India to ensure independent observers including all human rights defenders and foreign journalists are allowed proper access to carry out their work freely and without fear, release everyone detained without charge, and remove restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of movement, including where they have been denied the right to leave the country by being placed on the ‘Exit Control List’.

    We also call on the governments of India and Pakistan to grant unconditional access to OHCHR and other human rights mechanisms to Kashmir.

    We further urge the Council to establish an independent international investigation mechanism into past and ongoing crimes under international law and human rights violations by all parties in Kashmir, as recommended by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

    Amnesty International
    Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    Human Rights Watch
    International Commission of Jurists
    International Federation for Human Rights Leagues (FIDH)
    International Service for Human Rights
    World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

    This statement is also supported by the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) and the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS)

    See our wider advocacy priorities and programme of activities at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council


  • India: Government must halt its harassment of human rights activist Harsh Mander

    CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, condemns the recent raid carried out on facilities associated with human rights defender Harsh Mander who serves as Director of the Centre for Equity Studies and calls on the government of India to stop targeting and intimidating human rights defenders. The raid adds to the long list of restrictions imposed on human rights defenders in the country. 

    On 16 September 2021, the Enforcement Directorate under the Ministry of Finance of India conducted the raid on Harsh Mander’s residence, the Centre for Equity Studies’ office, and a children’s home run by the organisation under the pretext of investigating money laundering allegations against him. The raid happened several hours after Harsh Mander departed to Germany to attend a fellowship programme.

    Harsh Mander is a prominent human rights defender and social activist who has been critical of the Narendra Modi government. He has raised concerns about how the government  handled the COVID-19 pandemic, the increasing attacks on press freedom, and the discriminatory citizenship law passed in 2019 which human rights groups have called ‘unconstitutional and divisive’.

    Following the raid, more than 500 activists in India issued a joint statement in solidarity with Harsh Mander and condemned the intimidation tactics.

    “The authorities must halt its harassment of human rights activist Harsh Mander. These actions conducted by the Enforcement Directorate is a clear tactic to intimidate and criminalise the defender. It also creates a chilling effect on government critics and is a strategy to force many to self-censorship.”, said Josef Benedict, CIVICUS Civic Space Researcher for the Asia Pacific.

    Similar raids were conducted by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights in October 2020 on two children’s homes associated with him based on accusations of financial irregularities and illicit activities.

    These raids highlight an ongoing pattern of baseless and politically-motivated criminal charges brought by the authorities against activists across India that has been documented by the CIVICUS Monitor.  This includes the use of a variety of restrictive laws - including national security and counter-terrorism legislation - to imprison human rights defenders, peaceful protesters and critics.  Some have been in pre-trial detention for years.

    “It is appalling that activists in India are facing harassment just for speaking up for human rights. The government must drop all charges against them and immediately and unconditionally release all those detained. It must also take steps to ensure that human rights defenders are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance or fear of reprisals,” added Benedict.

    India’s rating was downgraded by the CIVICUS Monitor from ‘obstructed’ to ‘repressed’ in December 2019. 


  • India: no commitment to review draconian restrictive laws

    Statement at the 52nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council 

    UPR Outcome Adoption – India

    Delivered by Meha Khanduri, Human Rights Defenders Alert-India

    Thank you, Mr President.

    Human Rights Defenders Alert-India and CIVICUS welcome the government of India’s engagement with the UPR process.

    It is positive that the Indian government accepted recommendations to ensure a safe and enabling environment for civil society. However, we are disappointed that the government has only noted recommendations to review restrictive laws including the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Amendment Act used to detain scores of human rights defenders as well as the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act used to block foreign funding and investigate NGOs. The government also failed to accept most of the specific recommendations aimed at improving the situation of HRDs and civil society as well as to decriminalise defamation.

    Further, despite restrictions on protests it is also concerning that the government only noted recommendations to review laws regulating freedom of peaceful assembly.

    We are also deeply concerned that the government has rejected recommendations to release Kashmiri journalists and human rights defenders. Finally, while the government accepted a recommendation on the issuance of a standing invitation for country visits to all UN special procedure mandate holders, it rejected the specific recommendation allowing a country visit by the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of assembly and of association.

    We urge the government to

    • Review all restrictive laws especially the UAPA and FCRA to bring it into compliance with ICCPR.
    • Immediately and unconditionally release all HRDs, including those detained related to the Bhima Koregaon case, Khurram Parvez and drop all charges against them.
    • Review and amend existing laws in order to guarantee fully the right to the freedom of peaceful assembly and investigate all violations in the context of protests.

    We thank you.

    Civic space in India is rated as "Repressed" by the CIVICUS Monitor


  • India: The National Human Rights Commission not upholding its mandate or protecting the constitution

    Statement at the 45th Session of the UN Human Rights Council 

    Over the last two years, we have seen in India an alarming deterioration of civic freedoms. The government is using a variety of restrictive laws - including national security and counter terrorism legislation - to attack, arrest and imprison human rights defenders, peaceful protesters and critics. The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) – brought in in December 2019 and described by the the High Commissioner as “fundamentally discriminatory in nature” – is in violation of international human rights law.

    Despite this, National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRCI) has, to date, taken no concrete steps nor offered more than token rhetoric to safeguard the constitution and publicly condemn the actions of the government to curb fundamental rights.

    The NHRC was initially granted an “A” status on the basis of proposed amendments at the time of its accreditation which, since passed, do not fully meet the requirements of the Paris Principles. Of the criteria to which an NHRI must adhere to in order to attain A-status, the NHRCI falls short in several. Its lack of diverse representation is of serious concern. Its appointment process is flawed and opaque. The NHRCI has yet to use its power to review recent restrictive laws, including the FCRA and CCA, and recommend amendments to the government. Despite the appointment of a focal point on HRDs, this appears to be a token gesture rather than a genuine attempt at protecting HRDs, and the position has since been downgraded still further.

    The post of Director General of Investigation and staff in its investigation division are drawn solely from the police forces. This is of serious concern when police officers are the alleged perpetrators of numerous rights violations – during the outbreak of violence in the midst of protests in Delhi of January this year, Delhi police abdicated in its duty to endi the violence, and used torture and excessive force against peaceful protesters. After an investigation, the NHRC released a report which partially blamed student protestors and argued that since the students were violent, right to freedom of assembly would not apply to them.

    With the amendments to the FCRA, the Indian government appears to be targeting any dissent and oversight of their draconian laws. Amnesty International India’s enforced closure this week means that India has lost one more vital voice in protecting its people from rights violations. More than ever, the NHRC must step up. We call for its immediate reform in order to adequately fulfil its mandate to protect human rights in India. We furthermore call on GANHRI’s Sub-Committee on Accreditation to consider the possibility of a Special Review of the NHRCI with a view to reassessing its A-status.

    Civic space in India is rated as Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor

    New report: Punished for speaking up: The ongoing use of restrictive laws to silence dissent in India


  • India: The UN must condemn crimes against peaceful protesters

    Joint statement at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council by Amnesty International India, CIVCUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, FORUM-ASIA and FIDH

    As the UN Human Rights Council meets in Geneva to discuss human rights developments globally, we urge states to speak up against serious human rights violations being committed in India against peaceful protesters and other civilians.

    Both international human rights law and the Constitution of India guarantee the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, the right to freedom of expression, and the right to freedom of association.

    Regrettably, those who have exercised their right to peaceful assembly against the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) since December 2019 have been arrested and intimidated under various repressive laws. Political leaders have demonised the protesters. At least 50 people have been killed in the protests, including an eight-year-old child, and thousands of people have been arrested and detained. 

    On 12 December 2019, the CAA was passed by the Indian Parliament and assented by the President of India. The CAA provides a path to Indian citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis, Christians, Buddhists, and Jains from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, excluding Muslims, thus legitimising discrimination based on religious grounds. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the European Parliament, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), and various US senators have raised serious concerns about the CAA. 

    The amendments to the Citizenship Act also weaponize the NRC, the National Population Register, and the Foreigners Tribunals to push minorities – particularly Muslims — towards detention and statelessness. As of now, over 1.9 million people are excluded from the NRC, a registration exercise that took place in Assam State over a period of five years. 

    Use of Repressive Laws

    Protesters have faced arbitrary arrests and detention under repressive laws, such as sedition provisions in the Penal Code and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). In January 2020, sedition charges were lodged against 3,000 people for protesting against the CAA in Jharkhand State. Cases of sedition have also been filed against a schoolteacher and mother of a student for “insulting” the Prime Minister through a school play; carrying a ‘Free Kashmir’ placard during a protest; and shouting “Pakistan Zindabad” [Long Live Pakistan]. 

    Indian courts have ruled that any form of expression must involve incitement to imminent violence for it to amount to sedition. But the sedition charges have been repeatedly used to arrest journalists, activists and human rights defenders simply for expressing their views. 

    Similarly, the UAPA is India’s primary counter-terrorism law and has been condemned by various human rights groups as being repressive and against the international human rights norms. In the past, the UAPA was abused by successive governments to target human rights defenders working with poor and marginalized communities and those who criticise government inactions or excesses. The abuse of the UAPA has continued under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration On 12 December 2019, Akhil Gogoi, an activist and leader of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), a peasant rights organisation based in Assam State, was arrested by the Assam police under various sections of the UAPA. 

    Excessive Use of Force by Authorities 

    Police across India have used excessive force to target peaceful protesters. In December 2019 in Varanasi, the constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the police indiscriminately used firearms and less lethal arms to disperse peaceful protesters. This led to the death of an eight-year old child who was crushed to death on 20 December 2019, and resulted in over a dozen injuries.

    The police also attacked student protesters in Jamia Millia Islamia University and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi in December 2019 and January 2020, respectively. Students were also attacked in Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) while they were protesting against the CAA in December 2019. Doctors at AMU stated that on 16 December 2019, police blocked ambulances from entering the university to treat the injured students. 

    On 24 February 2020, the Allahabad High Court criticised the role of the Uttar Pradesh Police and said, “The police force should be sensitised and special training modules prepared to inculcate professionalism in the personnel while handling such situations”. The court ordered the Uttar Pradesh government to pay compensation to students who were injured during the protests due to police brutality. 

    However, to date, no reports have been filed against police officers for using excessive force against protesters. 

    Hateful Rhetoric and Vigilante Violence

    While there has been a heavy-handed approach by the police towards the protestors, some political leaders have been inciting hatred and violence against the protesters. 

    Terms like “anti-nationals” and “traitors” have been used to encourage violence against the protesters. The 24/7 sit-in protest site, Shaheen Bagh in Delhi, which has become the epicentre of the anti-CAA protests in the country, has been routinely targeted. The peaceful protests in Delhi has been led primarily by Muslim women and students. 

    In response, some union ministers and chief ministers have engaged in violent rhetoric with statements such as “shoot the traitors”, “press the button with such anger that the current is felt at Shaheen Bagh”, “the protesters would enter citizens’ homes and rape your sisters and daughters and kill them”, “revenge will be taken” in  attempts to divide and fear-monger. In another incident on 23 February 2020, Kapil Mishra,  a leader from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, warned the police of dire consequences if the protesters did not vacate another protest site in Jaffrabad in north-east Delhi, where over 500 women had gathered to protest against the CAA. Shortly after his speech, clashes broke out in the area, which led to the deaths of at least 42 people, including a police constable, and injuring over 250 others. 

    This rhetoric has emboldened non-state actors to assault civilians. However, not a single political leader has been prosecuted for making hate speeches against the protesters. On 26 February, the Delhi High Court ordered the Delhi Police to register a police report against a number of political leaders immediately. 

    Restriction on Freedom of Movement and Right to Freedom of Assembly

    The space for protesting against the CAA and NRC has also been shrinking across India. Orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code were imposed in many parts of Karnataka State and Uttar Pradesh State to restrict gatherings of people at protest sites and to restrict their freedom of movement. 

    In Uttar Pradesh State, the police issued notices to over 3,000 people, cautioning them to neither participate nor incite others to participate in the protests. Such bans on protests have also been imposed in other parts of the country including Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Bhubaneswar, Nagpur, and Bhopal. In in December 2019, the space for peaceful protests in Varanasi was severely restricted with police officers openly threatening the protesters. 

    In addition to the criminalisation of peaceful assemblies, the freedom of assembly has also been restricted by burdening civilians with recovering the cost of damages to public property. In December 2019, after the violence broke out in Uttar Pradesh, the state government sent notices seeking to recover INR 45 millions’ (USD 628,403) worth of damage to public property. These notices were sent without any form of judicial scrutiny, raising concerns of arbitrariness and bias. Furthermore, to require assembly organisers to shoulder costs for cleaning up after a public assembly is inconsistent with Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Such costs deter those wishing to enjoy their right to freedom of assembly.

    Internet Shutdowns

    As people took to the streets to protest against the CAA, the Indian authorities imposed internet shutdowns across the country to “maintain law and order.” Besides shutting down internet services in 29 districts of Uttar Pradesh State and the entire Assam State, the authorities also cut internet services in districts in the states of West Bengal, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, and Manipur. India has become the country with the highest number of internet shutdowns in the world.

    These shutdowns did not meet requirements for permissible restrictions on the right freedom of expression, as set out under international human rights law. It is unclear under what criteria decisions were made to cut off internet access or what mechanisms were available to challenge such decisions, in violation of the requirement of legality. There is no evidence to show that internet shutdowns prevent the escalation of violence during protests, which makes them in violation of the requirement of necessity. 

    The UN Human Rights Council has unequivocally condemned “measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online in violation of international human rights law”, and has called on all states to “refrain from and cease such measures”. 

    Use of Mass Surveillance 

    Police in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh State have also used facial recognition technology to monitor, identify, and arrest protesters. Currently, India does not have data protection legislation, resulting in a lack of oversight and regulation of this technology. The absence of a legal framework that specifically regulates facial recognition technology renders the use of such tool susceptible to abuse.  Moreover, the use of facial recognition technology for law enforcement purposes raises concerns of indiscriminate mass surveillance, which is never a permissible interference with the rights to privacy, freedom of expression, freedom of association and peaceful assembly.

    In light of this, we urge the international community, and in particularly UN Human Rights Council member states, to hold the Indian government accountable by calling on the Indian authorities to:

    1. Immediately denounce the state-sponsored and vigilante violence against peaceful protesters.
    2. Drop all charges against peaceful protesters.
    3. Ensure those detained and arrested are treated in line with international human rights law and standards. 
    4. Take necessary measures to establish a fully independent investigation into reports of excessive use of force by law enforcement agencies towards protestors and vigilante violence. The findings should be made public and the perpetrators of such acts should be prosecuted without undue delay.
    5. Ensure that elected political leaders and public officials who have incited violence and promoted hatred between communities are held accountable

    See our wider advocacy priorities and programme of activities at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council


  • Intersessional panel on the responsibility to protect

    Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

    Thank you, Madame President, and thank you to the panelists for the discussion. 

    The Human Rights Council provides a critical space to enable and assist States’ responsibility to protect. As we have heard, civil society, too, is critical throughout numerous aspects of protection. 

    Civil society plays a unique role in helping local communities to develop peace building initiatives, to monitor threats to human rights and to organise themselves to use non-violent strategies to prevent violence. 

    A vibrant and open civil society, including a free media, with the capability to hold governments to account, is another critical tool in promoting transparency and accountability which is itself a key protection against atrocity crimes. 

    The international community can support civil society in playing this role in two ways. Firstly, by supporting and protecting local civil society. As the UN’s Secretary-General set out in his 2019 report on lessons learned in prevention, the first line of defence against atrocities tends to be local and national human rights organisations.

    Secondly, recognizing the crucial role played by a vibrant civil society and free media in prevention of atrocities, the international community needs to stand ready to take action when civic space is curtailed. The resolution on the Council’s prevention mandate adopted in its 45th session articulated restrictions to civic space as an early warning sign of a deteriorating situation. Civil society cannot contribute to the prevention of atrocities if it is stifled and repressed.

    CIVICUS encourages states to use civic space indicators in a systematic manner at the Human Rights Council in order to both fully operationalize its prevention mandate and to enable civil society to play its own crucial role. This includes raising civic space concerns through individual and joint State statements at the Council, thematic debates, resolutions, and the Universal Periodic Review process. 

    The responsibility to protect falls on States but every stakeholder has a critical role in its implementation. Civil society must be enabled, encouraged and supported to do its part.

    We thank you.


  • Iran: Freedom of assembly is being violently curtailed

    Statement at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Watch us deliver our statement below:


    Volunteer Activists and CIVICUS note with concern the continued closure of civic space through restrictive laws, arbitrary detention and a crackdown on civil society. 

    The violent response to nation-wide protests in November 2019 resulted in 1,500 killed by police and over 7,000 imprisoned, many of whom have been subjected to torture. We reiterate the Special Rapporteur’s call for prompt, independent and impartial investigations into the violence in order to hold those responsible to account.

    This is a further deterioration of closed civic space in which freedom of assembly is severely and violently curtailed, and scores of human rights activists remain detained – including Nasrin Sotoudeh, Nargess Mohammadi, and Farhad Meysami.

    Despite being a signatory to the ICCPR, Iran continues to restrict civic space through ambiguous and overbroad legislation. Article 26 of the Constitution guarantees the right to the freedom of association, but qualified through compliance with “independence, freedom, national unity, Islamic Standards and the foundations of the Islamic Republic.” The Government of Iran continues to repress civic space through legal and extra-legal platforms, including through arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings.

    In line with recommendations in the Special Rapporteur’s report, we urge the Government of Iran to immediately and unconditionally release all protestors and human rights defenders detained for their work. We urge the government to reform its legal framework to facilitate a more open environment for civil society and put an immediate end to all extra-legal processes that curtail civic space.

    We further call on the Council to renew this critical mandate and we ask the Special Rapporteur whether he could expand further on what more could be done to protect human rights defenders in Iran?

    See our wider advocacy priorities and programme of activities at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council


  • Iraq: Over 700 people killed and 2800 arrested since protests started in October

    Statement at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Iraq's adoption of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights
    Watch us deliver our statement below

    During the 2nd Universal Periodic Review cycle, the Government of Iraq received eight recommendations relating to civic space. Of these recommendations, seven were accepted and one was noted, but our analysis indicates that none of the recommendations have been implemented. During this cycle, Iraq accepted a number of recommendations relating to civic space,  including recommendations to “guarantee freedom of expression and opinion by protecting the action of journalists, media professionals and human rights defenders from all use of violence and threats by security forces” and to “guarantee the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly in law and practice.” 

    Iraq has severely restricted the right to freedom of expression, by detaining, intimidating and failing to bring to account the extra-judicial killings of journalists. Journalist Nizar Dhanoun was assassinated on 11 February 2020. Alaa Al-Shammari, a reporter for Dijla Satellite TV in the city of Najaf, was severely beaten by riot police on 26 November 2019. The station’s office in Baghdad was later closed and its private broadcasting equipment confiscated. Countless other cases of intimidation have been reported.

    Protests that started 1 October 2019 and focused on high levels of corruption, unemployment and poor service delivery, have been met with widescale arrests and a violent crackdown by authorities on protestors. Reports indicate that almost 700 people have been killed during the protests and over 2,800 arrested. Iraq has failed to hold to account those responsible for the deaths of protestors and journalists, nor has it amended the legal frameworks that further restricts civic space. The penal code curtails freedom of assembly, including through its 2003 Provisional Order 19 which includes a requirement to submit the names and addresses of protestors 24 hours in advance. 

    For this reason, Madame President, we urge the Government of Iraq to amend the legal framework currently restricting civic space, immediately and unconditionally release all protestors, and bring to justice those responsible for the extra-judicial killing of protesters and journalists in Iraq.

    Civic space in Iraq is currently rated as Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor

    See civil society recommendations that were submitted to the UN Human Rights Council about the conditions of human rights in Iraq.

    See our wider advocacy priorities and programme of activities at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council


  • Is the USA fit to rejoin the UN Human Rights Council?

    A month into Joe Biden’s presidency, the U.S. has rejoined nearly all the multilateral institutions and international commitments that it withdrew from under Trump. These include the World Health Organization and the Paris Climate Accords. Most recently, on February 8th, the U.S. announced it would also rejoin the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) as an observer. The U.S.’ role in the human rights forum looks different than it did four years ago in light of its recent track record on civil liberties.

    Read on Inter Press News Service


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

    38th Session of UN Human Rights Council
    Adoption of the UPR report of Israel

    Mr. President, this is a joint statement by the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO), the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) and CIVICUS. Israeli authorities continue to commit systematic and gross human rights violations against Palestinians. They have failed to implement human rights obligations as a state party to ICCPR and ICESCR and continue to disregard recommendations from UN Special Rapporteurs that call for an immediate end to the occupation.

    In our joint UPR report, we documented undue restrictions on the right to freedom of assembly and recommended that Israeli authorities stop using excessive and lethal force during protests. Recently in the Gaza Strip, Israeli occupation forces used snipers, plastic coated steel bullets, explosive bullets and gas grenades fired from drones in a calculated attempt to kill, maim and inflict serious bodily harm on Palestinians. Since March 20th, 2018, Israeli forces have killed 127 Palestinians and injured an estimated 14,000. Earlier this month, Razan al-Najar, a 21-year old nurse wearing a medical vest was killed by Israeli sniper fire while tending to injured protesters.

    Systematic violations also include the detention of Palestinian human rights defenders. Legislation enacted in 2016 granted Israeli authorities the power to indefinitely detain individuals without trial. These provisions are routinely used to detain human rights defenders. In May 2017, there were over 6,000 political prisoners with 490 imprisoned without trial. 

    We also express concern over Israel’s muzzling of social media. New legislation enacted in 2017 grants Israeli authorities power to arbitrarily block web content and arrest individuals for social media posts. 

    Mr.  President, PNGO, ANND and CIVICUS urge Council members to call on the Israeli government to respect its obligations under international law, by ending the occupation and recognising Palestinian self-determination. 


  • Joint call for Human Rights Council Special Session on Myanmar

    Joint statement by human rights organisations calling UN Human Rights Council to convene a Special Session on Myanmar.

    We, the undersigned human rights organisations, are deeply concerned by the human rights situation in Myanmar after the military seized power and immediately cracked down on the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly and urge the United Nations Human Rights Council to take immediate action.