human rights council

 

  • Joint statement on attacks against civil society

    We first took the initiative of a Council resolution on civil society space in 2013.  We did so in light of what we saw as two equally true but very different realities: 

    • first, the transformative role which civil society can and does play, alone or in partnership with other stakeholders; and 
    • second, that civil society space is all to regularly, and unfortunately increasingly, restricted and threatened. 

    These two points are closely related – in many cases, it is exactly that positive potential for change, inherent in ordinary people working together in new and innovative ways, which provokes threats and repression.  But such negative responses are not only contrary to human rights law, they are, as recently termed in the final recent report of Special Rapporteur Kiai, “self-destructive” and “short-sighted” (A/HRC/35/28) -  a vibrant and pluralistic civil society can be of tremendous value in responding to societal challenges and assisting our citizens and societies to thrive. 

    Bearing in mind this dual reality of opportunity and challenge, as well as the interlinking and mutually reinforcing nature of the core human rights concerned, we sought to explain and give better visibility to the concept of civil society space as a human rights concern. 

    And so this topic concerns civil society at its broadest – not only civil society actors in the field of human rights, but also those working at all levels and with greater or lesser levels of organisation on challenges including health and humanitarian crises, realising development, protecting the environment, countering corruption and building corporate accountability, empowering persons belonging to minorities or espousing minority or dissenting views, combating racism, supporting crime prevention and even conflict prevention and resolution as experience in our States, including in particular the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet shows.

    As we did in the resolutions adopted to date – 24/21, 27/31 and 32/31 – we condemn and reject all threats, attacks, reprisals and acts of intimidation against civil society actors. We again recall that States must ensure that domestic legal and administrative provisions and their application in practice should facilitate and protect an independent, diverse and pluralistic civil society.   And we urge all States to adopt the best practice recommendations set out in resolution 32/31 by, inter alia, taking steps to

    • ensure a supportive legal framework and access to justice;
    • contribute to a public and political environment conducive to civil society; 
    • provide for access to information;
    • provide for the participation of civil society actors in public debate; and
    • provide for a long-term supportive environment for civil society.

    As we see daily in this room, the substantive participation of civil society makes this Council’s debates and work, including the UPR, richer and more meaningful.  More needs to be done to recognise civil society as having an equal stake in discussion in other multilateral fora too.  We deeply regret, for example, that civil society voices have been blocked in the NGO Committee twice this year.  We look forward to the OHCHR report scheduled for presentation at HRC38 (June 2018) on procedures, challenges and best practices in respect of civil society involvement with regional and international organisations. We hope that those best practices can feed into a process of reflection, in all fora, on how processes and procedures for participation of civil society may be further improved.

    The next resolution on the subject of civil society space will be presented at HRC38 (June 2018).  [Bearing in mind pressure on the Council’s agenda, we encourage other States to consider similarly biennialising their initiatives, where possible.]

    In addition to continuing to build on best practice examples, in future we intend to explore in greater detail other aspects, including those identified in the resolutions to date, such as:

    • civil society and the private sector;
    • civil society’s role in advancing the implementation of the 2030 Agenda;
    • civil society and children;
    • funding to civil society;  

    We are convinced that work on this topic is more important than ever.  We look forward to working with all delegations, both state and civil society, in taking this initiative forward in an open and constructive way. 

     

  • Joint statement on critical topics from 37th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Our organisations welcome the adoption of the resolution on the promotion and protection of human rights and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly in reaffirming that all approaches to development must comply with the State’s international human rights obligations.

    We agree that “cooperation and dialogue” are important for the promotion and protection of human rights, and that States should fully cooperate with the Council and its mechanisms, and ensure that all stakeholders are able to cooperate and engage with them without fear of reprisals. 

    However, we must now be vigilant to ensure that the resolution on Mutually Beneficial Cooperation, lacking in balance, does not undermine other important parts of the Council’s mandate: to address human rights violations and respond promptly to human rights emergencies in specific countries. 

    The Council has failed to take meaningful action to address the alarming situation on the ground in Cambodia. We welcome and echo the joint statement on Cambodia by over 40 states calling for further action if the situation does not improve in the lead up to the elections and for a briefing by the High Commissioner before the next Council session. We are concerned by Cambodia’s attempt to shut down criticism under item 10 debate on the worsening human rights situation in the country, as they are doing domestically.

    We are disappointed by the weak outcome on Libya. Given the gravity of the human rights situation on the ground and the lack of accountability for crimes under international law, the Council cannot justify the lack of a dedicated monitoring and reporting mechanism. 

    We welcome the co-sponsorship of the Myanmar resolution by groups of States from all regions, making a joint commitment to address the continuing human rights violations and crimes against humanity in the country and support for the Special Rapporteur and Fact-Finding Mission to fulfil its mandate to establish truth and ensure accountability for perpetrators. 

    We also welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan allowing it to continue its vital investigations and identification of perpetrators. These developments acknowledge the importance of accountability for serious human rights violations and crimes under international law, which cannot be understated.

    We welcome the adoption of the resolution on drugs and human rights as the OHCHR report will provide human rights indicators related to the drug issue that would help in future policies.

    We welcome the resolution on Eastern Ghouta adopted after an urgent debate, demonstrating how this Council can respond in an agile manner to crises.

    Having long supported the resolution on “protection of human rights while countering terrorism", we appreciate the efforts that led to the end of the separate and deeply flawed initiative on "effects of terrorism on the enjoyment of human rights". Future versions of the resolution must address the relevant issues exclusively and comprehensively from the perspective of the effective protection of human rights. 

    We welcome the Dutch-led joint statement on strengthening the Council, emphasising the importance of substantive civil society participation in any initiative or process and that the Council must be accessible, effective and protective for human rights defenders and rights holders on the ground.

    Finally, we call on the Bureau co-facilitators on improving the efficiency and strengthening the Council to closely engage with all Members and Observers of the Council, human rights defenders and civil society organisations not based in Geneva. 

    Delivered by: The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (DefendDefenders), The Global Initiative for Economic, Social & Cultural Rights, CIVICUS, International Commission of Jurists, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Conectas Direitos Humanos, Human Rights House Foundation, Amnesty International, International Lesbian and Gay Association, Human Rights Watch, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

     

  • Joint statement on human rights crisis in South Sudan

    Human Rights Council: 36th Session
    Oral Intervention at Interactive Dialogue with the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan

    The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and CIVICUS, on behalf of 20 African civil society organisations, thank the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan for their worrying update.

    Mr. President, we welcome this opportunity to raise concerns about the devastating situation in South Sudan with national and regional interlocutors. While we welcome some of the steps made towards establishing the Hybrid Court on South Sudan, we urge all regional and international actors to work together to ensure that justice is secured for the victims of grave violations of human rights and humanitarian law in South Sudan.

    Today, civilians, journalists and humanitarian workers continue to be deliberately and targeted through horrific and violent attacks by both state and non-state actors. International civil society groups have documented ethnically charged sexual violence of unimaginable brutality on a massive scale, which shows no signs of abating.

    Today, many South Sudanese civil society organisations and media workers are forced to work from exile, making the documentation and reporting of violations in the country particularly challenging. Given the situation, the Commission’s mandate to collect evidence, document violations and advise on accountability mechanisms is of the utmost importance and should be given full support by members of this Council.

    Under the new High Level Revitalisation Forum, it is critical for the Government of South Sudan to take significant steps to show its commitment to the implementation of the Peace Agreement, including Chapter V, and to cooperate in a meaningful way with the African Union for the speedy establishment of the Court.

    We urge Member States of the Council to support the Commission’s work and to urge the Government of South Sudan to respect its responsibility to protect its citizens and to put an end to the senseless violence the country has been experiencing for the past four years.

    1. African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies, The Gambia
    2. Assistance Mission for Africa, South Sudan
    3. Association for human rights in Ethiopia
    4. Central Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (REDHAC), Cameroon
    5. Center for Peace and Justice, South Sudan
    6. CIVICUS, South Africa
    7. Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation, South Sudan
    8. Concertation Nationale de la Société Civile du Togo, Togo
    9. DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project), Uganda
    10. Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR), Eritrea
    11. EVE Organisation, South Sudan
    12. Human Rights Concern - Eritrea (HRCE) 
    13. International Youth for Africa, South Sudan
    14. La Nouvelle Société Civile Congolaise, DRC
    15. Mauritius Council of Social Services, Mauritius
    16. ONG Ezaka ho Fampandrosoana any Ambanivohitra (ONG EFA), Madagascar
    17. Réseau Ouest Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains/ West Africa Human Rights Defenders Network,
    18. South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network, South Sudan
    19. Women Monthly Forum
    20. Zambia Council for Social Development, Zambia
    21. Pan Africa Human Rights Defenders Network

     

     

  • Joint statement on human rights in the Philippines

    36th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    ISHR and CIVICUS welcome the Philippine Government’s engagement in the UPR process. However, despite claims of the State party during the May 2017 review, Filipino human rights defenders continue to have serious concerns about the environment for human rights defenders (HRDs) in the country.
     
    Mr. President, the systematic and targeted killings of HRDs, under the cover of ‘counterinsurgency programs’, have long been a problem. On average, our partners documented 40 killings per year from 2001 to 2016.  In the past year, however, this number has risen to 50 HRDs, many who were leaders of peasant and indigenous communities. This is largely due to President Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’, which has also resulted in thousands more casualties of regular Filipino citizens.
     
    Since the May review, human rights activists have seen no reprieve in the harassment and threats by State security forces. This includes the Secretary General of people’s organisation Karapatan, Cristina Palabay.

    Duterte’s pronouncements endanger the lives of HRDs who speak out against his repressive policies, including the drug war and martial law declarations, as well as for respect of rights, such as to a safe and healthy environment. The filing of trumped-up charges to criminalize HRDs has been normalized by the government, hampering us from doing our work and violating our freedom of association.

    Most recently, the ominous signs of a nationwide martial law under Pres. Duterte hover like a sword of Damocles over HRDs and the Filipino people. Our history shows that such a decision will worsen the current state of human rights in the country. 

    We therefore urge the Council to ensure that the Philippine government respect its pledges and commitments, as stated in the UPR outcome report. We call for a halt to all forms of attacks on human rights defenders, the enactment of a law for their protection, and the acceptance of a full, independent visit to the Philippines by UN Special Rapporteurs, including on the situation of HRDs. 

     

  • Joint Statement on human rights violations in Burundi

    UN Human Rights Council: 36th Session

    Oral Intervention at Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi

    Thank you, Mr. President.  CIVICUS and DefendDefenders on behalf of 30 African organisations would like to thank the CoI for their report and reiterate their concerns that there are reasons to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed with impunity by state perpetrators including the National Intelligence Service, National Police, the Burundian Amy and the Imbonerakure in Burundi since the outset of the crisis in April 2015.

    The killings, abductions, mass disappearances, torture and detentions of citizens have created a climate of fear and intimidation firmly entrenched in all sectors of Burundian society. A civil society law passed in January 2017 gives the authorities broad powers to control the activities and resources of civil society organisations. Almost all human rights defenders and journalists are in exile and still live in fear. The government has issued international warrants against some of them.

    Most of the private radio stations remain closed, and while most journalists and HRDs are in exile, some of those who remained, such as Jean Bigirimana and Germain Rukuki, are still missing or detained.

    Mr. President in a context like Burundi’s where the judiciary is not independent and all voices critical of the government are brutally attacked, there are no avenues present to hold perpetrators of crimes against humanity accountable.

    Mr. President, we call on the Council to:

    1. Renew the mandate of the COI
    2. Urge the International Criminal Court to open an official investigation into human rights violations in Burundi
    3. Initiate action for Burundi’s suspension from the UN HRC

    Thank you Mr. President

    Sincerely,

    1. Action des Chrétiens pour l’Abolition de la Torture - Burundi (ACAT-Burundi)
    2. African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS), The Gambia
    3. Association pour la Protection des Droits Humains et des Personnes Détenues (APRODH), Burundi
    4. Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE), Ethiopia
    5. CIVICUS
    6. Coalition Burundaise pour la Cour Pénale Internationale (CB-CPI)
    7. Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation, South Sudan (CEPO)
    8. DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    9. Citizens for Democratic Rights in Eritrea, Eritrea
    10. ONG Ezaka ho Fampandrosoana any Ambanivohitra (ONG EFA), Madagascar
    11. Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR), Eritrea
    12. Forum pour la Conscience et le Développement (FOCODE), Burundi
    13. Forum pour le Renforcement de la Société Civile au Burundi (FORSC), Burundi
    14. Human Rights Concern - Eritrea  (HRCE)
    15. Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA), South Africa
    16. International Youth For Africa, South Sudan
    17. La Nouvelle Société Civile Congolaise, DRC
    18. Ligue Iteka, Burundi
    19. National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Uganda
    20. Réseau des Citoyens Probes, Burundi
    21. Réseau des Droits de l’Homme d’Afrique Centrale (REDHAC)
    22. SOS-Torture, Burundi
    23. South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network, South Sudan
    24. Union Burundaise des Journalistes, Burundi
    25. Zambia Council for Social Development, Zambia
    26. Mauritius Council of Social Services, Mauritius
    27. Pan Africa Human Rights Defenders Network
    28. Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition
    29. National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Kenya
    30. Mouvement des Femmes et des Filles pour la Paix et la Sécurité

     

  • Joint statement on human rights violations in Burundi

    UN Human Rights Council: 36th Session
    Oral Intervention at Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi

    Thank you, Mr. President.  CIVICUS and DefendDefenders on behalf of 30 African organisations would like to thank the CoI for their report and reiterate their concerns that there are reasons to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed with impunity by state perpetrators including the National Intelligence Service, National Police, the Burundian Amy and the Imbonerakure in Burundi since the outset of the crisis in April 2015.

    The killings, abductions, mass disappearances, torture and detentions of citizens have created a climate of fear and intimidation firmly entrenched in all sectors of Burundian society. A civil society law passed in January 2017 gives the authorities broad powers to control the activities and resources of civil society organisations. Almost all human rights defenders and journalists are in exile and still live in fear. The government has issued international warrants against some of them.

    Most of the private radio stations remain closed, and while most journalists and HRDs are in exile, some of those who remained, such as Jean Bigirimana and Germain Rukuki, are still missing or detained.

    Mr. President in a context like Burundi’s where the judiciary is not independent and all voices critical of the government are brutally attacked, there are no avenues present to hold perpetrators of crimes against humanity accountable.

    Mr. President, we call on the Council to:

    1. Renew the mandate of the COI
    2. Urge the International Criminal Court to open an official investigation into human rights violations in Burundi
    3. Initiate action for Burundi’s suspension from the UN HRC

    Thank you Mr. President

    Sincerely,

    1. Action des Chrétiens pour l’Abolition de la Torture - Burundi (ACAT-Burundi)
    2. African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS), The Gambia
    3. Association pour la Protection des Droits Humains et des Personnes Détenues (APRODH), Burundi
    4. Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE), Ethiopia
    5. CIVICUS
    6. Coalition Burundaise pour la Cour Pénale Internationale (CB-CPI)
    7. Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation, South Sudan (CEPO)
    8. DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    9. Citizens for Democratic Rights in Eritrea, Eritrea
    10. ONG Ezaka ho Fampandrosoana any Ambanivohitra (ONG EFA), Madagascar
    11. Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR), Eritrea
    12. Forum pour la Conscience et le Développement (FOCODE), Burundi
    13. Forum pour le Renforcement de la Société Civile au Burundi (FORSC), Burundi
    14. Human Rights Concern - Eritrea  (HRCE)
    15. Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA), South Africa
    16. International Youth For Africa, South Sudan
    17. La Nouvelle Société Civile Congolaise, DRC
    18. Ligue Iteka, Burundi
    19. National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Uganda
    20. Réseau des Citoyens Probes, Burundi
    21. Réseau des Droits de l’Homme d’Afrique Centrale (REDHAC)
    22. SOS-Torture, Burundi
    23. South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network, South Sudan
    24. Union Burundaise des Journalistes, Burundi
    25. Zambia Council for Social Development, Zambia
    26. Mauritius Council of Social Services, Mauritius
    27. Pan Africa Human Rights Defenders Network
    28. Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition
    29. National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Kenya
    30. Mouvement des Femmes et des Filles pour la Paix et la Sécurité

     

  • Joint statement on human rights violations in Vietnam

    UN Human Rights Council: 36th Session 
    Interactive dialogue on human rights in Vietnam

    CIVICUS presents this statement together with VOICE

    We are gravely concerned by the crackdown on human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists in Vietnam. Despite its international treaty obligations and recommendations accepted at the UPR to respect freedom of expression and civil society space, the Government of Vietnam is doing the exact opposite.

    In the first eight months of this year, at least 16 activists have been detained, arrested or sentenced under the country’s draconian Penal Code, including 6 members of the group, Brotherhood for Democracy, who remain in pre-trial detention and could face the maximum sentence of death for their peaceful human rights work. Two female activists, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh and Tran Thi Nga, have been sentenced to 10 years and 9 years in prison, for peacefully criticizing the government and have been subjected to dire prison conditions. I am also here with Ms. Le Thi Minh Ha, wife of Anh Ba Sam who was sentenced to 5 years for simply blogging against the Government.

    There are, in fact, hundreds of prisoners of conscience in Vietnam right now, yet Vietnam fails to acknowledge their existence.  

    Mr. President, we call on the Vietnamese government to implement in good faith the UPR recommendations it accepted in 2014 as well as those made by Special Procedures and Treaty Bodies. We call on the Council members and observers to urge Vietnam to free all prisoners of conscience. 

     

  • Joint statement on LGBTI rights: More safeguards needed against violence and discrimination

    35th session of the Human Rights Council
    Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
    12 June, 2017

    CIVICUS and 23 civil society groups from 12 countries were deprived from delivering this statement during the SOGI ID but given the high number of signatories, we feel compelled to deliver it. 

    Across the world, we are witnessing debilitating restrictions and persecution of LGBTI civil society groups and human rights defenders.  As a movement, LGBTI advocates face compounded restrictions, as they often become the target of government crackdowns. 

    Due to intersectionality there is increasing re-victimization of LGBTI children, young people, women, refugees, persons with disabilities and more. In Tunisia, a public defamation campaign against LGBTI groups was carried out in the media and LGBTI defenders have been attacked. In Pakistan, defenders working on transgender rights continue to be subject to attacks including shootings, rape in police stations and torture. In El Salvador, LGBTI activists are facing hate crimes and harassment and since 2015, seven members of the LGBTI organisation, Muñecas de Arcoiris in Honduras, have been murdered. In South Africa, despite a protective legal framework, LGBTIQ+ people and activists, and women in particular, continue to face extreme levels of violence and discrimination, including targeted rape. In Uganda, the civil society organisation, Sexual Minorities Uganda, is denied access to financial resources and legal registration. The introduction of so-called anti-propaganda laws and closures of civil society organisations in Europe and Central Asia have the effect that LGBTI minors cannot access necessary information on sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics. The restrictions and attacks worldwide against LGBTI groups and human rights defenders often happen with impunity for the perpetrators and complicity from police and law enforcement. 

    To address these concerns, we urge all states to: 1) ensure an enabling environment for and promote the rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression of LGBTI civil society groups and human rights defenders of all ages and including children, 2) guarantee strong safeguards against reprisals faced by LGBTI groups and defenders and; 3) take all necessary measures to independently investigate all attacks, including killings, of LGBTI human rights defenders. 
    We thank you,

    Signatories

    1. ACCIONA A.C. (México)
    2. ARESTA (South Africa)
    3. Asociación Silueta X (Ecuador)
    4. Blue Veins (Pakistan)
    5. Child Rights Connect (International)
    6. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation (International)
    7. Coalición LGBTI en la OEA (Latin America)
    8. Congolese Civil Society (South Africa)
    9. Corporación Caribe Afirmativo (Colombia)
    10. EQUAL GROUND (Sri Lanka)
    11. Federación ecuatoriana de organizaciones LGBTI (Ecuador)
    12. Fundación Diversencia (Bolivia)
    13. Latin American and the Caribbean Network for Democracy (Latin America and the Caribbean)
    14. Lawyers for Human Rights (South Africa)
    15. GALA (South Africa)
    16. Gay and Lesbian Network (South Africa)
    17. Mawjoudin (Tunisia)
    18. Mulabi/ Espacio Latinoamericano de Sexualidades y Derechos (Costa Rica)
    19. Red Latinoamericana GayLatino (Latin America and the Caribbean)
    20. Same Love Toti (South Africa)
    21. Sexual Minorities Uganda (Uganda)
    22. TransAction (Pakistan)
    23. Transparencia Electoral (Argentina)
    24. Triangle Project (South Africa)

     

  • Joint statement on the rights of indigenous peoples

    UN Human Rights Council: 36th Session 
    Panel discussion on the rights of indigenous peoples

    Disponible en Espanol

    I read this statement on behalf of 39 human rights defenders and civil society organisations working on indigenous, land and environmental rights from 29 countries who met in Johannesburg, South Africa from 7-9 August 2017 to discuss strategies to advance the protection of indigenous, land and environmental rights activists.

    Mr. President, 2016 surpassed 2015 as the deadliest year on record for those stood up against land grabbing, natural resource exploitation and environmental destruction. Worryingly, the number of killed has risen to 200 from 185 in 2016 and spread to several countries across the world.

    In the current global climate, where repression of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly is becoming the norm rather than the exception, environmental and land defenders are particularly vulnerable.

    When we express concerns over the collusion between States and corporate actors, we face opposition - dissent is stifled and criminalised, and our lives are threatened. Often our work is discredited and we are labelled ‘anti-national’ and ‘anti-development’.

    When we protest peacefully against this attack on our resources and livelihoods, we face violence from state authorities, private security groups and state-sponsored vigilante groups. When we stand up to defend the rights of our communities, we face unfounded criminal charges, unlawful arrests, custodial torture, threats to life and liberty, surveillance, judicial harassment and administrative hurdles, among other actions.

    Mr. President, our families are threatened into silence and many of us have had to make the difficult decision to flee our homes and go into exile, retreating from a fight that has become too dangerous.

    We need global action to counter the threats we face.

    We ask the panellists to urge the Council to emphasise the need for all states to ensure that affected communities are adequately consulted, including securing their full consent prior to the development of infrastructure and extractive industries projects.  

    More information:

     

  • Joint statement on the role of the UN in the prevention of human rights crises

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

     

    Madam President, Rapporteurs,

    Firstly, while we acknowledge the exceptional circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, we regret the limitations placed on inclusive and meaningful civil society participation, including in General Debates, and these circumstances should it set any precedents that would allow further restriction in the future. 

    CIVICUS and DefendDefenders welcome this timely report on the Council’s prevention mandate, a crucial part of the Council’s work. The report concluded that one identifying sign of an emerging human rights crisis, which could form part of a trigger mechanism for Council action, are ‘the targeting of human rights defenders, journalists or civil society organizations’.

    Indeed, unwarranted restrictions on civic space enable wider human rights violations, and are often an early warning sign of a crisis.

    Too often, we see these signs overlooked, with states raising concern only when the situation has deteriorated beyond the realm of prevention. This report, and statements made during the High-Level Segment of this session, articulates a commitment made by states to strengthen the Council’s prevention mandate. But rhetoric must translate to action.

    The rapidly deteriorating situation in Tanzania presents an opportunity to do so.

    We continue to document the use of draconian legislation and of legal and extra-judicial methods to restrict freedom of expression and opinion, peaceful assembly and association, and the overall closure of the civic and democratic space.  In recent months, independent media outlets have been suspended and closed by the authorities, journalists and human rights defenders have been subjected to judicial persecution, harassment and intimidation. The authorities have imposed blanket restrictions on peaceful political assemblies and introduced laws to undermine freedom of speech online.  More violations have been documented in relation to concerns raised about the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

    In line with the report, these developments are indicative of a mounting human rights crisis. This Council, and its members and observers, must take meaningful preventative action to prevent further escalation. The window of opportunity to do so is narrowing by the day. 


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

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

     

  • Joint Universal Periodic Review Submissions on Human Rights

    CIVICUS makes joint UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on civil society space in Timor-Leste, Togo, Uganda, and Venezuela

    The United Nations Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States once every 4.5 years


    CIVICUS and its partners have submitted joint UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on four countries in advance of the 40th UPR session in February 2022. 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. 

    Timor-Leste - This submission by CIVICUS, The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Judicial System Monitoring Program (JSMP) and Timor-Leste Institute for Development Monitoring and Analysis (La'o Hamutuk) highlights our concerns around attempts by the government to introduce draft laws related to criminal defamation and the failure to bring the Media Law in line with international law and standards. It also documents reports of restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly and the arbitrary arrests of protesters.

    Togo FR/EN- In its joint submission, CIVICUS, Coalition Togolaise des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CTDDH) and Réseau Ouest Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (WAHRDN/ROADDH) highlight civic space violations in Togo since its previous UPR examination, which include the killing of protesters, the arrest and prosecution of HRDs, journalists and pro-democracy activists, the banning of civil society and opposition protests, the suspension of media outlets, regular disruption of access to the internet and social media and the adoption of restrictive legislation.

    Uganda-CIVICUS and the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), Justice Access Point (JAP) and African Institute for Investigative Journalism (AIIJ) highlight the promulgation of restrictive laws that severely constrain the freedom of expression and impede the work of independent media houses. We further examine the harassment, judicial persecution and intimidation of HRDs because of the work they do. We discuss acts of intimidation and attacks on citizens, HRDs, CSOs and journalists in the period leading up to, during and after the presidential and parliamentary elections on 14 January 2021.

    Venezuela SP/EN - CIVICUS, Espacio Público and REDLAD examine Venezuela’s use of legal and extra-legal measures to restrict the exercise of fundamental freedoms which has led to worsening working conditions for civil society. Human rights defenders face judicial persecution, stigmatisation and threats to their lives and integrity. In this joint submission, we assess the systematic repression of the right to peaceful assembly, including through mass arbitrary detention of protesters and excessive use of force.


    Civic space in Timor-Leste is rated as Obstructed and Togo, Uganda and Venezuela are rated Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor.

     

  • Jordan: Adoption of Universal Periodic Review Report

     

    UN Human Rights Council – 40th Session
    15 March 2019
    Oral Statement

    The Arab NGO Network on Development, the Phenix Center for Economic & Informatics Studies and CIVICUS welcome the government of Jordan’s engagement with the UPR process, including its decision to accept over 100 recommendations on a range of human rights issues. 

    While we applaud the government’s commitment to “ensure that all domestic legislation is in compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, particularly in relation to the right to freedom of expression” we regret the government’s lack of explicit commitment to review legislation that impose unnecessary and disproportionate restrictions on freedom of expression, such as the Anti-Terrorism Law and the 2015 Cybercrime Law. 

    We are further concerned that there are tight state controls on CSOs’ registration, funding and activities and that there is a lack of commitment to review the 2009 Law on Societies which restricts the work of CSOs. In addition, the government has yet to reform the Labor Code in order to comply with the Jordanian constitution, Constitutional Court decision No. 6 of 2013 and international labor standards, so that all workers in the public and private sectors have the right to form trade unions by removing all restrictions in the Jordanian labor law and the civil service bylaw. 

    We also note that since the last UPR, regular protests have been staged calling for rights-based social and economic reforms. These calls should be taken into consideration and integrated in the Government’s plan, including in its efforts on the implementation of the Agenda 2030 and the SDGs. 

    Madame Vice-President, we call on Jordan to implement recommendations it accepted on promoting the right to freedom of expression and further commit to review legislation that imposes unnecessary and disproportionate restrictions on the freedom of expression. Specifically, we urge the government to remove the provisions under the the Law on Associations that unduly restrict the activities and funding of civil society organisations. 


    Civic space in Jordan is rated as Obstructed by the CIVICUS Monitor

    See our joint submission on Jordan for the UN Universal Periodic Review 

     

  • Kenya's adoption of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights

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

    Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights -- Outcome Adoption for Kenya | Delivered by Martin Ray Taban Mavenjina, Kenya Human Rights Commission

     


    Thank you, Madame President. This is a statement from the Kenya Human Rights Commission and CIVICUS.

    During Kenya’s examination under the 2nd UPR cycle, the government received 29 recommendations relating to civic space. Of these recommendations, 20 were accepted while 9 were noted. Of those accepted, our analysis indicates that the government has partially implemented eight recommendations and has not implemented 12.

    We welcome that during this cycle, Kenya accepted several recommendations relating to civic space including to “Take further measures towards ensuring the safety of journalists, as well as towards guaranteeing the freedoms of expression, of the press, of association and of peaceful assembly.”

    However, Kenya has continued to severely restrict the right to peaceful assembly and expression by cracking down on peaceful assembly through the use of disproportionate force, arrests and detention of peaceful protesters, human rights defenders and journalists. In November 2019, a video which sparked public outrage emerged of four police officers brutally beating an unarmed student as he lay on the ground, following student protests against rising insecurity at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Juja town 

    Kenya has failed to hold to account those responsible for the deaths, injuries and arbitrary arrests of protestors and journalists, and has misapplied the legal framework to further restrict civic space. While the Public Order Act requires those who wish to assemble to notify the police three days prior to an assembly, police have often misinterpreted this provision to deny permission to groups.

    Madame President, we urge the Government of Kenya to institute charges and prosecute law enforcement officers found to have acted unlawfully in the course of protests by using disproportionate force and firearms in response to protests, and to ensure that the law is not misapplied by authorities to infringe on human rights.  We call on the Government of Kenya to take proactive measures to address these concerns and implement the recommendations it has accepted to create and maintain, in law and in practice, an enabling environment for human rights defenders, media houses and journalists. We further call on member states to follow up on their recommendations to ensure their implementation.


    Civic space in Kenya is currently rated as Obstructed by the  CIVICUS Monitor

     

  • Kuwait's adoption of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights

    Joint Statement at the 44th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights -- Outcome Adoption for Kuwait


    Madame President,

    Since its second Universal Periodic Review, the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), Gulf Centre for Human Rights, MENA Rights Group and CIVICUS found that Kuwait did not implement any of the 13 recommendations related to civic space. Instead, restrictive legislation such as the 1979 Public Gatherings Act, the 1970 National Security Law, the 2015 Cybercrime Law and the 2006 Press and Publications Law, continue to place undue restrictions on fundamental rights and freedoms.

    Furthermore, human rights defenders face severe restrictions, with women human rights defenders and activists from the stateless Bedoon minority facing heightened threats. Legal and policy limitations placed on the rights to the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression put HRDs at a continuous risk of detention, defamation, citizenship revocation and other forms of reprisals as a direct result of their work. Two of Kuwait’s leading human rights groups, the Kuwaiti Bedoon Gathering and the Kuwaiti Bedoon Committee, are regularly subjected to harassment and intimidation. Similarly, women human rights defenders face increased risks as a result of their work, such as defamation, stigmatisation, social pressure and gender and sexual-based violence, as well as marginalisation and discrimination. In October 2018, the Twitter account of woman human rights defender Abeer Al-Haddad was hacked due to a tweet she published about her plans to sue the head of the Central Apparatus for Illegal Residents Affairs.

    Freedom of expression is frequently impinged upon for journalists, bloggers and civil society actors online. On 2 January 2019, journalist Aisha Al-Rasheed was arrested under the 2015 Cybercrime Law following online posts in which she denounced the corruption of government officials. She was released on bail four days later, but charges against her were not dropped. In February 2019, Abdulhakim Al-Fadhli and Hamed Jameel were summoned for interrogation by officials for their online commentary. Kuwait continues to be a closed space for civic space, unduly hampering the activities of civil society and human rights defenders.

    ISHR, GCHR MENA Rights Group and CIVICUS thus urge the government of Kuwait to implement recommendations from its last periodic review, including to “(l)egislate to guarantee the freedoms of expression, of assembly and of opinion” and “(g)uarantee the right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly of journalists, activists, human rights defenders and those who take part in demonstrations”, both of which were accepted by the government.


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

     

  • La crisis en Nicaragua persiste: Declaración en la ONU

    Declaración en el Consejo de Derechos Humanos de las Naciones Unidas de Amaru Ruiz, Fundación del Río

    La crisis en Nicaragua persiste hasta la fecha, la represión sistemática de las manifestaciones ha suprimido efectivamente las movilizaciones, debido a esto el monitor Civicus ha incluido a Nicaragua en la lista de países de la Lista de Vigilancia. Los defensores de los derechos humanos, los periodistas y los opositores políticos se enfrentan a la criminalización y el acoso de agentes de seguridad y grupos civiles pro-gubernamentales. A fines de 2020, la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos informó que aún había más de 100 presos políticos en Nicaragua. 

    Si bien cientos de presos políticos fueron liberados en 2019 y 2020, muchos de ellos aún están siendo sometidos a vigilancia, represalias y re-encarcelamiento. En los últimos meses ha habido un aumento en el uso de cargos penales comunes, como posesión de drogas y armas, para condenar a quienes se perciben como opositores al gobierno mientras niegan su condición de presos políticos.  

    Las autoridades nicaragüenses han tratado de silenciar a la prensa independiente, incluso mediante la detención de periodistas y el estrangulamiento. Desde finales de 2020, los legisladores pro-gubernamentales han incrementado los ataques contra la sociedad civil, promulgando una serie de leyes diseñadas para reducir el espacio para las libertades de asociación, reunión y expresión. Este es el caso de la "Ley de Agentes Extranjeros, la Ley Especial de Delitos Cibernéticos y una reforma al Código Penal del país que permite la prisión preventiva sin cargos por hasta 90 días. 

    El informe sobre libertad de asociación realizado por Fundación del Rio y Fundación Popolna, puso de manifiesto el proceso de deterioro sistemático del ambiente habilitante para las diversas formas de organizaciones sociales, con patrones de falta de acceso a la justicia y el debido proceso. Esta situación está conduciendo a un eventual cierre forzoso de varias las organizaciones civiles nicaragüense y la salida del país de organizaciones internacionales que no están dispuestas a someterse al marco legal de criminalización que se ha institucionalizado. 

    Con las elecciones aun sin garantias y programadas para finales de este año, nos preocupa seriamente que la represión se intensifique, poniendo a los defensores de los derechos humanos y a la sociedad civil en general en mayor riesgo. 

    Los estados miembros del Consejo de derechos humanos deben apoyar una resolución firme que exija un mayor monitoreo por parte del alto comisionado para promover los procesos de rendición de cuentas y evitar que la situación se deteriore aún más a medida que Nicaragua se dirige hacia las elecciones. 


    Calificación de su espacio cívico: 'Reprimido' del CIVICUS Monitor

     

  • Laos adoption of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights

    Joint statement with Forum Asia and Manushya at the 45th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights -- Outcome Adoption for Laos

     


    Thank you, Mr Vice President.

    We note that the government of Lao PDR has accepted the majority of the recommendations it received during this Universal Periodic Review. However, we regret that the government has not accepted several key recommendations related to fundamental freedoms, and protection of human rights defenders. 

    Following the second cycle UPR in 2015, Lao PDR committed to reassess the restrictions on [fundamental freedoms] civil society organisations, revise legislation to protect the right to freedom of expression and to ensure freedom of assembly in line with the ICCPR. However, the government’s actions since then stand in stark contrast to these commitments as well as Constitutional guarantees of these rights. 

    New amendments to the Media Act of 2008 introduced in 2016 further consolidate the government’s absolute control over the media.

    The government continues to criminalise criticism of the government using unwarranted criminal defamation charges on the basis of protecting “national interests,” as well as charges of anti-state propaganda, penalized under article 117 of the criminal code.  For instance, woman human rights defender, Houayheuang Xayabouly, known as Muay, was sentenced in November 2019 to 5-year imprisonment for a Facebook post criticising the slow response of the government in providing assistance  to affected communities displaced by flooding as a result of tropical storm in August 2019. 

    The new Decree No. 238 on Associations introduced in November 2017 grants the government broad powers to control or prohibit the formation of associations, monitor and curtail their activities and finances, and to dissolve associations on arbitrary grounds without right of appeal. 

    We call on Lao PDR to create and maintain, in law and practice, an enabling environment for CSOs, media, journalists and human rights defenders by repealing or reviewing all repressive legislation in accordance with international standards. In particular, we call on Lao to review the Media Act, Decree No. 238 on Associations, Decree number 327 on Internet-Based Information Control/Management and provisions of the Penal Code, including Article 117 on propaganda against the state, that impose undue restrictions on fundamental freedoms. We call on the Lao government to ensure all Lao people can exercise their fundamental freedom of expression, as enshrined in the ICCPR.

    We regret the government’s failure to accept key recommendations to effectively investigate the enforced disappearance of human rights defender Sombath Somphone. Given the government’s protracted failure to disclose any new information about the investigation since June 2013, we call on Lao to establish a new independent and impartial investigative body to determine the fate and whereabouts of Sombath.

    We further call on the government to publicly set out a comprehensive, measurable and time-bound action plan for the implementation of UPR recommendations, in full cooperation and consultation with civil society.


    Civic space in Laos is currently rated as Closed by the  CIVICUS Monitor

     

  • Laos: Government must live up to human rights obligations ahead of UN review

    Manushya Foundation, CIVICUS and the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) call on the Government of Lao PDR to remove all unwarranted restrictions on civic space in the country ahead of its human rights review to be held at the United Nations (UN) in January-February 2020. The review will mark five years since UN member states made 33 recommendations to the Lao government that directly relate to barriers to open civic space. As of today, the government has partially implemented only three recommendations.

    Following its last review in 2015 , the government of Lao PDR committed to reassess the policy framework and restrictions on domestic and international civil society organisations and facilitate an enabling environment for them; to fully respect and ensure freedom of expression by revising legislation; to ensure freedom of assembly in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); and to investigate individual cases such as the enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone. 

    In a joint submission to the third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Laos, our organisations assess the current human rights situation to track compliance with these recommendations and international human rights standards. The submission finds that Lao PDR’s persistent failure to uphold its commitments has resulted in continued unwarranted restrictions to civic space and acute shortcomings with respect to the right to freedom to freedom expression, assembly and association, and in the protection of human rights defenders.

    “Using unwarranted defamation, libel, and slander charges, justified by vague claims of ‘national interests’, the government increasingly restricts any speech or actions that would highlight corruption or the violation of rights resulting from development projects and investments, specifically those related to land and sustainable development.” said Emilie Pradichit, Founder & Director of Manushya Foundation. “The Lao government must immediately repeal or amend legislations that do not comply with international standards and obligations through transparent and inclusive mechanisms of public consultation, end the harassment and intimidation against persons who speak up, and provide effective remedy in cases where the rights of individuals have been denied or violated.” 

    Manushya, CIVICUS and FORUM-ASIA are seriously concerned about the pervasive control exercised by the government over civil society, and the severe restrictions faced as a result. Extensive surveillance, reprisals and the criminalisation and enforced disappearance of human rights defenders have created an environment in which it is all but impossible to speak out. The right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association are guaranteed in the Constitution of Lao PDR, and its obligations under the ICPPR. However, the legal framework – including broadly formulated, restrictive and conflicting provisions in the Constitution, the Penal Code, and other laws, as well as government decrees passed without oversight – serves to limit any independent action or information, and criminalise any expression perceived as critical of the government. All actions taken and information shared must undergo a lengthy process of state approval and organisations are forced to maintain close ties with the State, making independent human rights organisations virtually non-existent. 

    “The laws, policies and practices of the Lao government restrict any legitimate activities that they believe could threaten the state. Constant monitoring and the detention of activists such as Bounthanh Thammavong, Lodkham Thammavong, Soukane Chaithad, Somphone Phimmasone, and the enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone, has compounded this chilling effect to the extent that activists and journalists now avoid using ‘human rights’ language in their work,” said Josef Benedict, Civic Space Researcher at CIVICUS. “States must question these actions of the Lao government that allow for impunity for violations of civic freedoms and press the government to create a safe, respectful and enabling environment that is free of undue hindrances, obstruction, legal or administrative harassment.”

    Manushya, CIVICUS and FORUM-ASIA also urge the member states of the United Nations (UN) to use the UPR of Laos to ensure increased transparency and accountability through law and practice in order to protect and promote the rights of civil society in Laos, especially those of human rights defenders, civil society activists, and journalists.

    “The Universal Periodic Review of Laos is an important opportunity to hold the Lao government accountable for ongoing, serious violations of fundamental freedoms and human rights,” concluded Ahmed Adam of FORUM-Asia. “The international community cannot afford to ignore the permanent closure of civic space and criminalisation of legitimate exercise of freedom of expression, peaceful assembly as well as work of human rights defenders in Lao.  International scrutiny is necessary to improve the human rights situation in Lao, particularly given that the government has done nothing to change a situation that has been ongoing for decades.”

    The CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society in countries across the globe, rates the space for civil society in Laos as closed.


    For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

    (EN) Josef Benedict, Civic Space Researcher, CIVICUS, +6010-4376376,

    (EN & Lao) Emilie Pradichit, Founder & Director, Manushya Foundation, +66 (0) 92-901-5345,   

    (TH) Suphamat Phonphra, Programme Officer, Manushya Foundation, +66 (0) 83-578-9879,   

    (EN) Ahmed Adam, UN Advocacy Programme Manager, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), +41 (2) 10-826-4345,

     

  • Laos: Letter to UN Member States ahead of human rights review

    Open Letter: UN member states must highlight Laos’s severely restrictive civic space environment at its upcoming UN human rights review

    Your Excellency,

    As you will be aware, Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) will face its third review under the UN’s UPR mechanism on 21 January 2020.

    Following its last review in 2015, the government of Lao PDR committed to reassess the policy framework and restrictions on domestic and international civil society organisations and facilitate an enabling environment for them; to fully respect and ensure freedom of expression by revising legislation; to ensure freedom of assembly in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); and to investigate individual cases such as the enforced disappearance of human rights defender Sombath Somphone.

    In total, member states made 33 recommendations to the Lao government that directly relate to barriers to open civic space. Since then, the government has partially implemented just three of these recommendations.

    In a submission to this UN review cycle, the Manushya Foundation, FORUM ASIA and CIVICUS outlined some of the most serious concerns facing civil society in Lao PDR. The submission found that the country’s persistent failure to uphold its commitments has resulted in continued unwarranted restrictions to civic space and acute shortcomings with respect to right to freedom to freedom expression, assembly and association, and in the protection of human rights defenders.

    In Laos’s pre-UPR session, held in December 2019, independent civil society organizations highlighted that the situation for fundamental freedoms had worsened, particularly in relation to online surveillance.

    We are encouraged by Laos’s renewed commitment to the sustainable development goals which it reaffirmed during its UPR pre-session. However, we remind states, and the Lao government, that civic space is central to the achievement of all of the SDGs, and without engagement of independent civil society, any improvements in SDGs are cosmetic at best.

    Based on our research, the government continues to exercise pervasive control over civil society, which faces severe restrictions as a result. Extensive surveillance, reprisals and the criminalisation and enforced disappearance of human rights defenders have created an environment in which it is all but impossible to speak out.

    While the right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association are guaranteed in the Constitution of Lao PDR, an array of restrictive laws and government decrees continue to exist that serves to restrict civic freedoms and criminalise any expression perceived as critical of the government. This lack of civic space has meant many people fear speaking up about corruption or the violation of rights resulting from development projects and investments, specifically those related to land and sustainable development.

    A new Decree No. 238 on Associations that came into effect in November 2017 imposes severe restrictions on civil society organisations (CSOs) and force CSOs to maintain close relations with the state, making independent human rights organisations virtually non-existent. Further, international CSOs also face challenges operating in the country.

    The UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights said in March 2019 after his visit to Lao PDR that he “received countless reports from people inside the country and who have recently fled Laos about the extent to which people feel they are not able to speak freely and fear reprisal for expressing criticism of government policies”.

    Given this environment, and the lack of political will demonstrated thus far by the government of Lao PDR to uphold its civil space obligations, we urge states to ensure that civic space remains a key issue raised during this third cycle of Laos’s UPR.

    This means ensuring freedom of association, freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, the right to operate free from unwarranted state interference, the right to communicate and cooperate, the right to seek and secure funding, and the state’s duty to protect. At a minimum, such recommendations should include:

    • Take measures to foster a safe, respectful, enabling environment for civil society, including through removing legal and policy measures, which unwarrantedly limit the right to association.
    • Relevant laws and regulations should be revised - in particularly, Decree No. 238 on Associations and Decree No. 13 of 2010 on INGOs - to guarantee that undue restrictions on freedom of association are removed and to bring them into compliance with 22 of the ICCPR.
    • Ensure that human rights defenders are able to carry out their legitimate activities without fear or undue hindrance, obstruction or legal and administrative harassment.
    • Establish a new commission tasked with carrying out a prompt, thorough, independent, and impartial investigation aimed at determining the fate or whereabouts of human rights defender Sombath Somphone.
    • Ensure freedom of expression and media freedom by all bringing national legislation into line with international standards. In particular, Article 65 the Penal Code (propaganda against the state), the Media Act of 2008 and Decree No. 327 on Internet-Based Information Control/Management, should be reviewed to ensure that national legislation are in line with the best practices and international standards in the area of freedom of expression.
    • Extend a standing invitation to all UN Special Procedures mandate holders and prioritize official visits with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

    Yours sincerely,

    Emilie Pradichit, Director, Manushya Foundation    
    Ahmed Adam, Programme Manager, United Nations Advocacy, FORUM-ASIA
    David E. Kode, Advocacy & Campaigns Lead, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

     

  • Lebanon's Adoption of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights

    Statement at 47th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Adoption of the Universaly Periodic Review report of the Lebanese Republic


    CIVICUS welcomes Lebanon’s participation in the UPR process and for accepting 20 recommendations relating to civic space during this UPR cycle. However, in our joint UPR submission with partners we documented that since its last review, the Lebanese Republic has not implemented or taken any concrete steps to implement 5 of the 6 recommendations relating to civic space made in 2015.

    The Lebanese authorities continue to use excessive force against peaceful protesters when ever they demonstrate and attack journalists and representatives of the media who cover the protests. For example, security forces used excessive force and violence against protesters in August 2020 when the demonstrators called for an end to corruption and for accountability and independent investigations into the 4 August 2020 blast in Beirut. We urge Lebanon to implement as a priority recommendations relating to excessive use of force and freedom of peaceful assembly.

    Members of the LGBTI community are regularly subjected to harassment and persecution through vague and discriminatory laws.  Events are shut down and activists are summoned for interrogation.  

    Freedom of expression and media freedoms continue to deteriorate in Lebanon.   During the October 2019 protests, more than a hundred journalists and media workers were attacked as they covered the demonstrations and many of these attacks were perpetuated by government agents. Many of these attacks were captured on video yet those responsible have not been held accountable. This failure or unwillingness of the government to hold those responsible to account emboldens the perpetrators with a high sense of impunity.

    We are also concerned about the killing of Lebanese human rights defender Lokman Slim who was found in his car by the Lebanese police after he was shot dead in February 2021 in the South of Lebanon. He advocated for the rights of Syrian refugees in Lebanon and documented war crimes in Lebanon and Syria.

    CIVICUS and partners calls on the Government of Lebanon 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.


    Civic space in Lebanon is rated as ‘obstructed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

     

  • Letter to UN Member States: Civic space restrictions in Cambodia

    To Missions of UN Member States
    (delivered by email on 22 March)

    We are writing to you with regards to the human rights situation in Cambodia. Since the 2013 general elections, civic space in Cambodia has become increasingly repressed. The authorities have systematically misused the criminal justice system to silence government critics and civil society organisations (CSOs).

    In the run-up to Cambodia’s 2018 general elections, the Supreme Court in Cambodia ruled to dissolve the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) effectively ending the main political opposition to Prime Minister Hun Sen. The move, which transforms Cambodia into a single party state, has drawn widespread condemnation from across the globe.

    Human rights defenders have been harassed and prosecuted for their peaceful human rights work. Further, the controversial and vaguely worded ‘Law on Associations and Non-Government Organisations’ has imposed sweeping restrictions on CSOs in Cambodia. Independent media outlets are struggling to stay afloat amidst the harsh treatment of critical and dissenting voices by the authorities. In September 2017, the English-language Cambodia Daily was forced to shut down its operations after the authorities gave its publishers 30 days to pay a USD 6.3 million tax bill, a move widely viewed as arbitrary. The same month, Radio Free Asia ceased operations in Cambodia, citing the restrictive media environment. 

    The 37th session of the UN Human Rights Council offers an opportunity for states to raise these concerns with the Cambodian government. We understand that a joint statement has been drafted by New Zealand under Item 2. As a member of the UN Human Rights Council, a champion of civic space, and a key democratic voice in the Asia Pacific region, we would like to urge the South Korean government to support this statement and to send a strong message to Cambodia that plurality and diversity in voices, political groups, civil society and the media should be encouraged and protected, particularly during politically charged periods such as elections.