human rights council

 

  • Malaysia: Adoption of Universal Periodic Review Report

     

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

    Pusat Komas and CIVICUS welcome the government of Malaysia’s engagement with the UPR process.

    While we welcome the commitments of the Malaysian government to ratify all core UN human rights treaties during the UPR review, we regret the decision of the government in November 2018 not to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. We are concerned by the lack of a clear timetable to ratify the other core treaties.

    We note commitments made during the UPR review to repeal the draconian Sedition Act and other laws that restrict fundamental freedoms. However, since the review we regret that a moratorium on the use of these laws has been lifted and there have been arrests of individuals under the Sedition Act for exercising their right to expression. We are also concerned that the Sedition Act and the Communications and Multimedia Act have been used by the police to interrogate human rights defenders, including human rights lawyer Fadiah Nadwa Fikri and Sevan Doraisamy, the director of rights group SUARAM, simply for expressing their opinions. The government has also failed to denounce racism and bigotry by opposition political leaders.

    We note that recommendations were made to respect freedom of assembly, including to review the Peaceful Assembly Act which contains provisions inconsistent with international law. However, we are concerned that activists continue to face arrests for their involvement in demonstrations. Student activists Asheeq Ali and Siti Nurizzah were arrested for a peaceful sit-in at the Ministry of Education in September 2018.

    Mr President, we call on Malaysia to implement the recommendations it accepted on protecting fundamental freedoms and immediately review or repeal all restrictive laws that undermine civic space, immediately halt their use against government critics, and to create an enabling environment for CSOs and human rights defenders.


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

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

     

  • Malaysia: Migrants and refugees excluded from poverty figures and neglected by policymakers

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

    Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty


    Thank you, Madame President; Special Rapporteur.

    CIVICUS and North South Initiative welcome the strong report of the Special Rapporteur on his country visit to Malaysia, which highlights the plight of millions of people including migrants, refugees and stateless people who are systematically excluded from official poverty figures and neglected by policymakers.

    We share his concern that migrant workers in Malaysia are set up for exploitation by unscrupulous recruitment agents and employers, a harsh immigration policy and a lack of enforcement of labour protections. Refugees and asylum seekers exist in extremely precarious conditions unable to work or enroll in government schools. Civil society groups have been calling for a single entity to manage migrant workers to ensure better protection of their rights and reduce the risks of them becoming victims of corruption. 

    CIVICUS research has shown has that migrants and refugees in Malaysia want to participate in the societies they call home. But they continue to face barriers and restrictions in exercising their freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association, all but ensuring ongoing perilous and precarious conditions.

    Migrant workers and refugees say that among the challenges they face in speaking out include, a lack of access to information, fear of being fired, detained or deported and harassment or intimidation. The right to assemble in the 2012 Peaceful Assembly Act does not extend to foreigners including migrant workers and refugees – in contravention of international human rights law and standards. Refugee and migrant workers also face various restrictions in exercising their freedom of association.

    Since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged earlier this year there has been a crackdown on migrant workers. The UN has noted increased xenophobia and hate speech against them by individuals affiliated with the government and human rights defenders have been threatened for supporting migrants. 

    We call on the government of Malaysia to immediately take steps to implement the recommendation of the special rapporteur for a comprehensive new approach to migrant and refugee policies that provides them protection, guarantees their civic freedoms and enables a route out of poverty and precarity. We also urge the government to make public the final report and recommendations by the Special Committee on Foreign Worker Management setup by the government.

     

  • Maldives: Civil society groups call for better respect for civic freedoms in report to the UN

    Joint statement on Maldives ahead of human rights review in 2020

    Civil society groups CIVICUS and FORUM-ASIA have submitted information to the UN Human Rights Council on civic freedoms in the country ahead of its review in 2020. While welcoming the human rights improvements undertaken by the new government since it came to power, the submission highlights ongoing restrictions to freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression, and unwarranted restrictions on human rights defenders since its previous examination in 2015.

    The UN Human Rights Council will review the Maldives’ human rights record at its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in May 2020. This marks five years since its last review, when UN member states made 258 recommendations to the Maldivian government including 16 recommendations that directly relate to barriers to open civic space. They included protecting journalists, human rights defenders and other civil society actors and creating an enabling environment for them. Other recommendations include guaranteeing freedom of expression and the media and upholding freedom of assembly. As of today, the government has only partially implemented these recommendations.

    The report welcomes the significant strides by the government in opening up the space for the exercise of fundamental freedoms, establishing a commission to probe unresolved disappearances and reviewing legislation restricting civic space since its last UPR examination We also welcome the proposed bill to protect whistleblowers. However, there are still implementation gaps with regard to the protection of human rights defenders and the freedom of expression.

    Our organisations are alarmed by ongoing reports of harassment of and threats against human rights defenders and journalists, particularly by extremist groups, and the lack of effective action by law enforcement authorities. We also concerned by efforts to silence civil society groups as illustrated most recently by the decision to “temporarily suspend” the Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN), a leading human rights organization following accusations of blasphemy. This is a regressive move that sets a dangerous precedent for freedom of expression and association, and threatens the positive steps towards restoration of fundamental freedoms and human rights. The government must reverse its decision to suspend MDN, and create a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders and organisations to carry out their legitimate work without fear of reprisals and harassment.

    On freedom of expression, we welcome the repeal of the Anti-Defamation and Freedom of Expression Act, enacted in 2016, which was systematically used against the media, opposition activists and dissidents. However, we remain concerned about threats and attacks on government critics. In January 2019, Ibrahim Ismail, the chairman of Mandhu College and a former lawmaker, came under attack for criticising the sentencing of a woman to death by stoning for adultery.

    The report also highlights the slow progress in undertaking comprehensive reforms of the laws related to the freedoms of association and peaceful assembly. The Freedom of Peaceful Assembly Act 2013 imposes undue limitations on assemblies and gives the police wide discretion in granting permission and must reviewed. We also urge any revisions to the Associations Act – which was often used by the previous government to stifle critical civil society groups – to be consistent with international human rights law and standards.

    The Universal Periodic Review of the Maldives is an important opportunity for the Maldives to display its commitments toward human rights reforms. We have seen encouraging developments but much more needs to be done. In the lead up to the UPR review we call on the Maldives government to increase its efforts to fulfil the commitments made in the 2015 review and systematically consult with civil society on the implementation of UPR recommendations, including by holding periodical comprehensive consultations with a diverse range of civil society.

    We also urge the international community to support both the people and the government of the Maldives in addressing the shortcomings in the protection of civic freedoms as well as work of human rights defenders in the Maldives. International scrutiny is necessary to sustain the improvement we have seen in the Maldives over the past year, and ensure any positive reforms made are not reversed.

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


    For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: Josef Benedict, CIVICUS Civic Space Research Officer,  
     

     

  • Media Statement: New UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association

    ARTICLE 19, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL), and the World Movement for Democracy (the Civic Space Initiative) welcome Dr. Annalisa Ciampi as the new mandate holder of UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of assembly and association, and congratulate her on her appointment.

     

  • Mexico: Adoption of Universal Periodic Review Report

     

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

    CIVICUS welcomes the government of Mexico's engagement with the UPR process.

    However, in our joint UPR submission with the Front for the Freedom of Expression and Social Protest (FLEPS), we documented that since its last review Mexico has not implemented 25 of the 26 recommendations that it received relating to civic space, most of which concerned the effectiveness of the Protection Mechanism for human rights defenders. While some progress has been made in the implementation of this mechanism, there is a worryingly insufficient emphasis on prevention and a neglect of investigations, resulting in persistent human rights violations against human rights defenders and impunity for the crimes committed against them. Most recently, indigenous activist Samir Flores was killed to silence his fight against the construction of a gas pipeline and gas power plant, the Proyecto Integral Morelos (PIM). 

    As detailed in our submission, Mexico also continues to be the world’s deadliest country for journalists, who are routinely threatened and physically attacked. Those who express criticism of the powerful in radio, television, print or digital media all run the same risks as human rights defenders and are often forced to censor themselves.

    Additionally, no progress has been observed towards media pluralism, and a deliberate and systematic use of official advertising to domesticate the independent press has been observed. Excessive criminal provisions on defamation, slander and insult continued to be used against journalists and the media.

    As detailed in our submission, the right to assemble is also being restricted under the 2017 Interior Security Law and through the use of geolocation, data retention technologies and the suspension of phone services.

    We call on the Government of Mexico to take proactive measures to address these concerns. 


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

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

     

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

    Statement at 48th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Universal Periodic Review outcome adoption of Mozambique

    Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

    Thank you, Madame President.

    We welcome Mozambique’s engagement with the UPR process, and its acceptance of 24 recommendations relating to civic space.

    However, during its last UPR cycle, while Mozambique received 13 civic space recommendations, nine of these were not implemented. CIVICUS and JOINT – Liga das ONG em Moçambique are deeply concerned by the unwarranted restrictions on the freedom of expression and the deteriorating environment in which journalists and civil society activists operate. Physical attacks, intimidation and harassment are becoming increasingly common.

    In August 2020, the headquarters of media outlet Canal de Moçambique was broken into and set on fire with petrol bombs. The media outlet had previously investigated and reported on corruption and the armed conflict in Cabo Delgado.

    Physical attacks, intimidation and harassment of journalists and civil society activists have become increasingly common. Community radio journalist Ibraimo Abu Mbaruco’s whereabouts are still unknown since his disappearance in April 2020 in Palma, Cabo Delgado. In his last text message, he reportedly said he was “surrounded by the military”. In October 2019, Anastácio Matavel, civil society activist and founder and director of FONGA-Gaza NGO Forum, was shot and killed in Xai-Xai, Gaza Province, after attending a training session on election monitoring.

    We regret that Mozambique did not accept recommendations related to access to conflict zones by civil society and the media and the registration of LGBTIQ associations. Authorities have denied CSOs and journalists access to work in and report from areas affected by the armed insurgency in Cabo Delgado and neighbouring provinces where there is a heightened presence of internally displaced people.

    The Associação Moçambicana para a Defesa das Minorias Sexuais, LAMBDA, an organisation working on sexual minority rights, has been denied a certificate of registration by the Minister of Justice since 2008, despite a ruling by the Constitutional Court in October 2017 stipulating that the clause invoked to deny its registration is unconstitutional.

    We call on Mozambique to further engage constructively with the UPR process by implementing the recommendations it has accepted, and we call on member states to hold Mozambique accountable for upholding its commitments.

    We thank you.


    Civic space in Mozambique is rated as obstructed by the CIVICUS Monitor

     

  • Myanmar: A return to military dictatorship must be prevented

    Special session of the Human Rights Council on the human rights implications of the crisis in Myanmar

    CIVICUS thanks the UK and EU for your leadership in calling for this Special Session. The situation in Myanmar for our partners and members is grave, critical and moving fast; the risk of increasingly severe violations to fundamental freedoms and a rapidly deteriorating human rights situation cannot be overstated. We welcome that the Council, led by the UK and the EU, is willing and able to respond to this emergency with speed. 

    The people of Myanmar have spoken, and continue to speak out, at grave personal risk. The High Commissioner for Human Rights has already raised deep fears of a violent crackdown on dissenting voices. We see the beginning of this crackdown already. Activists have been detained; peaceful protesters suppressed with excessive force. Journalists have been threatened. Internet was briefly shut down, plunging the country into a communication blackout and there are plans to introduce new restrictive cyber laws. 

    The warning signs are ominous: Myanmar risks returning to the days of mass incarceration of human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists, violent crackdowns on mass protests, and isolation both inside and outside.  

    Steps taken towards democracy, however tentative and fragile and imperfect, must be protected and a return to military dictatorship prevented.  

    The most valuable role for the Human Rights Council at this critical point would be to put into place measures of enhanced monitoring and reporting which protects those on the ground subject to human rights violations, contributes to further action if necessary, and forwards accountability for such violations. It is essential that a strong resolution is adopted by the Council to achieve this. 

    The opportunity for the Council to take strong action to this end is right in front of it. 


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

     

     

  • Myanmar: Continued crackdown on civil society undermines efforts to address COVID-19

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

    Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar


    CIVICUS welcomes the Special Rapporteur’s update, and looks forward to our future engagement.

    This is a critical time in Myanmar, where a crackdown on expression, peaceful assembly and access to information is a barrier to accountability and undermines the country’s efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Individuals have criminalised for speaking out, reporting or protesting again human rights violations.

    Members of the Peacock Generation, a slam poetry troupe, who were convicted under the Telecommunications Act and Section 505(a) of the Penal Code remain in prison for their satirical criticism of the government. The Peaceful Assembly and Procession Law has been used against those protesting the internet blackout in Rakhine and Chin states. These laws, and countless others, make up the repressive legal framework used against independent journalists and human rights defenders who speak out on crimes perpetrated by the government.

    The report of the IIMM presented during the 42nd Session of this council said that Myanmar’s future depends on the clear demonstration that its international crimes will not be tolerated. It also depends on those in Myanmar who speak out on violations and advocate for positive change being listened to, rather than persecuted. We call on the Myanmar government to do so, and on the international community to stand by these activists.

    We ask the Special Rapporteur: what are your priorities for your time in this mandate, and how do you see the role of an open civic space in achieving accountability? Finally, how can civil society support you in your work?


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

    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

    OPEN NARROWED OBSTRUCTED  REPRESSED CLOSED

     

     

  • Myanmar: Government continues to use an array of laws to silence its critics

    Statement at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council during Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar
    Watch our statement below

     

    We thank the Special Rapporteur for her final report on Myanmar (see all reports), and the outstanding work the mandate has carried out despite the lack of access granted to the country.

    As highlighted in the report, Myanmar has undergone appalling developments in its human rights framework since the Special Rapporteur began her term – from the elections in 2015 which saw a groundswell of hope for positive change, to the horrors of genocide and crimes against humanity against the Rohingya in Rakhine state.

    But curtailment of fundamental freedoms and total crackdown on any criticism of authorities has remained grimly consistent. Using an array of restrictive laws, the government has sought to systematically silence dissent. Members of the Peacock Generation poetry troupe face charges in township after township for their satirical criticism of the military, and remain in jail. The internet shutdown in Rakhine state remains in place. Rohingya campaigners outside the country face threats while protesters continue to be arbitrarily arrested and convicted. 

    Filmmaker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi and Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have been released, but the chilling effect caused by their imprisonment, for undermining the military and reporting on military atrocities respectively, remains.

    The ICJ ruling in January 2020 brought the possibility of accountability for grave human rights abuses one small step closer. Now the Security Council and the wider international community must uphold their obligations to ensure those responsible are brought to trial.  And accountability will never be achieved if those who speak out, now, continue to be arrested and imprisoned. 

    Those on the ground, the human rights defenders and activists who are trying to achieve change, need international support. It is imperative that this crucial mandate is renewed and we ask the Special Rapporteur, as she reaches the end of her mandate, what more this Council can and should be doing to support those in Myanmar brave enough to speak out?


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

     

  • Myanmar: Independent investigation needs access and international community must ensure accountability

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

    Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar 


    Thank you, Madame President,

    We thank the Independent Investigative Mechanism for its second report.

    We particularly welcome efforts articulated towards outreach and engagement with local and regional civil society. 

    We are alarmed by the continuing lack of access granted to Myanmar to the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM), which has been exacerbated owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. For the mechanism to fulfil its mandate, it is crucial that it has access to information including to relevant evidence of serious international crimes and witnesses. Ongoing failure to ensure unfettered access to journalists, humanitarian actors and human rights monitors to Rakhine state also puts this in jeopardy. We call on the government to grant access to the Mechanism and other actors as a matter of urgency. We further call on Facebook to uphold its commitment to cooperate by providing all relevant evidence it holds, noting that to date it has only partially complied with such requests.

    Myanmar’s future depends on a clear demonstration from the international community that any international crimes will not be tolerated. It also depends on those in Myanmar who speak out on violations and advocate for positive change being listened to, rather than persecuted. We call on the Myanmar government to do so.

    Pursuing criminal accountability is a long process and requires long-term sustainability. We call on the Council to ensure that the Mechanism can enjoy such sustainability by ensuring it adequate resources. We further call on the international community to recognize that the vital work of the Mechanism is only one stage of this process, and to take steps to ensure progress towards accountability is made: including by referring Myanmar to the International Criminal Court or an independent tribunal, and exercising universal jurisdiction to hold the perpetrators accountable. 

    Failing to do so would be a grave abdication of responsibility to the victims of grave human rights violations, their families and communities, who have deserved accountability and justice for so long.

    We ask the Mechanism what steps it is taking to systematize engagement with civil society, and what steps it is taking to ensure sustainability in the event of budget restrictions?

    Thank you.


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

    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

    OPEN NARROWED OBSTRUCTED  REPRESSED CLOSED

     

     

  • Myanmar: International action needed to restore democracy and protect rights

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

     

  • Myanmar: States must ensure that rhetoric at the UN translates to action on the ground

    Statement at the 48th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

     Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Myanmar

    Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

    We thank the Special Rapporteur for his progress report.

    More than a thousand civilians have been killed in Myanmar since February’s coup. The junta has continued its terror campaign against human rights defenders. Many have been forced into hiding. Many others, unable to flee, have been arbitrarily arrested, including environmental and labour rights defenders and student activists. Some have been tortured or ill-treated.

    Arbitrary amendments of the penal code by the junta, outlawing so-called ‘false news,’ has effectively made independent journalism a crime. The threat of arrest has driven many news organisations to close their offices and forced journalists underground or into exile. Two journalists were arrested just last month at an apartment where they had been hiding in Yangon. Authorities have banned satellite media and imposed rolling restrictions on the internet.

    The situation in Myanmar cannot be forgotten and its fragile democratic gains lost to history. Dictatorship must not be allowed to remain in place through inadequacy of the international response.

    The Special Rapporteur has already made urgent calls on States:

    • To outlaw the export of arms to the Myanmar military, as called for by the General Assembly;
    • To impose systemic sanctions, targeting military-controlled enterprises;
    • To cordinate investigations of ongoing crimes under universal jurisdiction;
    • To increase humanitarian aid through the National Unity Government, local humanitarian networks and community-based organisations;
    • And to reject any claims of legitimacy that the junta may try to assert.

    We call on States to take these steps to ensure that rhetoric at the UN translates to action to provide the support so desperately needed by those on the ground.

    Thank you.

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

     

  • Myanmar: Urgent need to ensure accountability and justice for crimes against humanity

    Statement at the 48th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Interactive Dialogue on report of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar

    Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

    Thank you, Madame President.

    We thank the Mechanism for their report. In a year which has seen a coup perpetrated by a military junta which has been implicated in crimes against humanity, the work carried out by this mandate to facilitate justice and accountability for past serious crimes and contribute to the deterrence of further atrocities has never been more critical.

    Indeed, the report concludes that the Myanmar junta has committed serious international crimes since seizing power on 1 February 2021, continuing a cycle of impunity, violence and deaths. Among the serious crimes noted has been the use of lethal force, including the use of live ammunition, against protesters in multiple locations.

    The Mechanism itself highlights that its work to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence is a contribution towards what must be a wider effort towards criminal accountability and justice. We call on Member States to take measures to ensure that such an accountability process takes place, including by referring Myanmar to the International Criminal Court or an independent tribunal. Failing to do so would be a grave abdication of responsibility to the victims of grave human rights violations, their families and communities, who have deserved accountability and justice for so long.

    The work of the mechanism would not be possible without participation from witnesses and victims of violations and civil society activists. The courage of those who do cannot be overstated. We therefore further call on Member States to facilitate the protection of witnesses and prevent any reprisals for cooperation with the Mechanism.

    We ask the Mechanism what steps it is taking to systematize engagement with civil society, and what steps it is taking to ensure sustainability in the event of budget restrictions?


    Civic space in Myanmar is rated as repressed by the CIVUCUS Monitor

     

  • New Head of UN Human Rights needs to visit Bangladesh

    Joint letter to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet, on the deterorating human rights situation in Bangladesh

    Your Excellency:

    Congratulations on your new role as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. As you take up your new mandate, the undersigned organizations urge you to make Bangladesh a focus of your efforts in the coming months and to undertake an official visit to Bangladesh as soon as possible. It is our understanding that your predecessor, Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, was in advanced talks with the Government of Bangladesh regarding a visit to the country. We strongly urge you to resume that discussion and schedule a visit without delay.

    In your opening remarks to the 39th Session of the UN Human Rights Council on September 10, 2018, you rightly commended Bangladesh for its role hosting Rohingya refugees and for making significant development advancements. But you were also right to make it clear that Bangladesh’s human rights record in recent years has been deeply concerning. In addition to the crackdown on peaceful student protests and the violent anti-drug campaign that you referenced in your remarks—both of which warrant close attention—the Government of Bangladesh has also engaged in attacks against independent media and journalists, human rights defenders, and opposition figures. These abuses are further enabled by the recent passage of the Digital Security Act, [1] which criminalizes the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to freedom of association. Enforced disappearances continue to occur at an alarming rate (34 people were reportedly disappeared in September alone), [2] and reports of torture in custody continue to surface despite passage of the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act 2013. [3]

    In addition, the government is cracking down on political dissidents and opposition activists. The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) reports that, over the past two months, police have registered 3,736 cases, resulting in charges against 313,130 party leaders and activists. The BNP insists that all of these cases and charges are politically motivated; the Awami League Government disputes this characterization. The spree of criminal cases against opposition figures is being conducted in such a fashion that the police have filed several cases against opposition leaders who have died or have been living abroad for years. [4] In trials widely condemned as politically motivated, top opposition leaders have been sentenced to death or lengthy prison sentences prior to the upcoming general election, which is expected to take place in December 2018. [5]

    The UN Human Rights Committee noted concerns in its 2017 Concluding Observations regarding:

    • The “reported high rate of extrajudicial killings by police officers, soldiers and Rapid Action Battalion force members and at reports of enforced disappearances, as well as the excessive use of force by State actors”;
    • The absence of “ongoing investigations into cases of torture in the State party…[despite] information that torture and ill-treatment by law enforcement or military personnel is widespread in the State party during interrogations to extract confessions”; and
    • The “limitations on the rights of journalists, bloggers, human rights defenders and civil society organizations in the State party to exercise their right to freedom of opinion, expression and association”.

    These concerns were exhaustively raised by members of the UN Human Rights Council earlier this year during Bangladesh’s 3rd cycle Universal Periodic Review. Bangladesh failed to accept a number of key recommendations, including to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance; to issue a standing invitation to all UN Special Procedures; to amend or repeal laws that do not comply with international standards by restricting legitimate expression or association; and to fight against impunity by committing to investigate alleged human rights abuses by security forces.

    Although serious concerns have been raised by non-governmental organizations, as well as by UN bodies and UN Member States, there have been only four visits by UN Special Procedures mandate-holders in the last ten years. These were the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief (2016); the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women (2013); and a joint visit by the UN Independent Expert on Human Rights and Extreme Poverty and the UN Independent Expert on the Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation (2010). These are welcomed visits, and important mandates and issues for Bangladesh. But at this critical juncture, the Government of Bangladesh must grant broader access to UN Special Procedures.

    In addition to undertaking an official visit to Bangladesh yourself, we urge you to press the Government of Bangladesh to accept visit requests from the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders; the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression; the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly and Association; the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture; the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions; the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances; and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. These are the mandates that can most directly address many of the core issues raised by UN Member States during the UPR, the UN Human Rights Committee, and by you in your opening remarks to the UN Human Rights Council.

    Your office has a critical role to play. Bangladesh remains a close partner of the UN and particularly the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Bangladesh is also one of the largest contributors of military personnel to UN Peacekeeping missions. But it must also be a closer partner of the UN human rights mechanisms. In previous election cycles there has been a marked increase in violence and repression. Attention from your office and other UN human rights bodies can help reverse this trend. We are committed to working with you and your office, as well as with the Government of Bangladesh, to ensure that a visit can take place soon.

    Sincerely,

    1. 350.org
    2. Asian Human Rights Commission
    3. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    4. Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL)V
    5. Association For Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE)
    6. Сenter for Civil Liberties, Ukraine
    7. CIVICUS
    8. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), India
    9. Freedom Now
    10. Human Rights Concern, Eritrea
    11. Human Rights Defenders Network, Sierra Leone
    12. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    13. Karapatan, The Philippines
    14. Lokataru Foundation, Indonesia
    15. Odhikar, Bangladesh
    16. Phenix Center for Economic Studies, Jordan
    17. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
    18. Sudanese Development Initiative (SUDIA), Sudan
    19. The Article 20 Network
    20. Transparency International
    21. World Organisation against Torture (OMCT)
    22. MARUAH, Singapore
    23. Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan (TEFA)
    24. Citizen Congress Watch (CCW), Taiwan
    25. Uganda National NGO Forum

    1 See, Dhaka Tribune, “Bangladesh signs Digital Security Bill into Law,” October 8, 2018, available at, https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2018/10/08/president-signs-digital-security-bill-into-law;seealsoForum Asia, Digital Security Act English translation (2016), available at, https://www.forum- asia.org/uploads/wp/2016/08/Digital-Security-Act-English-09.03.2016.pdf.

    2 See,Odhikar “Human Rights Monitoring Report of September 2018”; see also, New Age, “Enforced Disappearances Double: Odhikar Report,” October 3, 2018, available athttp://www.newagebd.net/article/52199/enforced-disappearance-doubles-odhikar-report.

    3 According to data gathered by Odhikar, at least 125 persons were tortured to death by law enforcement agencies from January 2009 to May 2018.

    4 See e.g., Prothom Alo, "Police sue another dead man for sabotage," October 9, 2018, available at, https://en.prothomalo.com/bangladesh/news/184686/Police-sue-another-dead-man-for-sabotage.

    5 See e.g., NewAge Bangladesh, “Babar, Pintu, 17 others to die, Tarique, Harris, 17 others jailed for life,” October 10, 2018, available at, http://www.newagebd.net/article/52831/aug-21-grenade-attack-19-get- death-penalty-tariqe-among-17-life-term.

     

  • New UN resolution stresses that States must ensure protection of human rights defenders in conflict situations

    CIVICUS welcomes a new resolution on human rights defenders in conflict and post-conflict situations which was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council on 1 April at the end of the Council’s 49th session.

    The resolution highlights the myriad roles of human rights defenders in conflict and post-conflict settings: from monitoring, documenting and raising awareness; to promoting accountability; fighting impunity; countering disinformation and misinformation; assisting victims of human rights violations and abuses in gaining access to justice; and raising the human rights impacts of conflict.

    Human rights defenders working in these situations require specific holistic and security protections. We welcome that the resolution highlights the value of relocation initiatives to protect human rights defenders from violence and attacks. It also recalls the rights of everyone to freedom of movement, to seek and enjoy asylum, and to be protected against refoulement. We call on States to ensure such emergency support procedures are in place to facilitate relocation initiatives and to ensure protection of relocated defenders.

    The resolution further urges States to create a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders, particularly in light of their role in conflict prevention and resolution and post-conflict reconstruction. The resolution raises concerns about legislative measures – including national security, counter-terrorism and cybercrime legislation, and laws regulating civil society organizations – that have been misused to target human rights defenders or endangered their safety. Such laws have contributed to the erosion of civic and democratic space in recent years all over the world, and we call on States to lift all undue restrictions on the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression.

    We call on all States to support and implement the resolution, and we call on the Council to closely monitor compliance with the resolution and to hold States accountable for their treatment of human rights defenders.

     

  • New UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of assembly and association

    The Civic Space Initiative welcomes Mr. Nyaletsossi Clément Voule as the new UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of assembly and association, and congratulates him on his appointment.  The Civic Space Initiative (CSI) is a collaborative project of ARTICLE 19, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ECNL), the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL), and the World Movement for Democracy.

    Since its creation in September 2010, the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur has been critical in providing practical guidance to States on how they should implement their human rights obligations as they relate to association and assembly, and has consistently stood up for those whose rights were violated. The CSI expresses its appreciation to the two previous mandate holders, Mr. Maina Kiai and  Dr. Annalisa Ciampi.

    Mr. Voule takes on this mandate at a time where the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association are under increasing pressure globally and the gap between states’ international commitments and national realities is growing ever wider.  The Civic Space Initiative regards the mandate of UN Special Rapporteur as critical in bridging that gap.  Mr. Voule will build on 20 years of experience in addressing this challenge, including coordinating the recent African Commission on Human and People's Rights Study Group on the laws governing freedom of association and assembly in the region, which produced guidelines to assist states in the implementation of these rights.

    Having supported similar initiatives on a global, regional and country level since 2012, the Civic Space Initiative aims to influence policy actors to protect civic space; empower civil society actors to advance civic space freedoms; and increase the awareness and engagement of the public in supporting civic space. The CSI stands ready to support Mr. Voule in his capacity as Special Rapporteur, and urges all States to respect the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association and be responsive to the mandate. 

    For more information, please contact:
    Andrew Smith, ARTICLE 19 (andrewATarticle19.org) 
    Susan Wilding, CIVICUS (susan.wildingATcivicus.org)
    Vanja Skoric, ECNL (vanjaATecnl.org) 
    Nicholas Miller, ICNL (nmillerATicnl.org) 
    Troy Johnson, World Movement for Democracy (troyJATned.org) 

     

  • Nicaragua: Carta a los gobiernos solicitando una mayor vigilancia de los derechos humanos

    El Consejo de Derechos Humanos de la ONU debe garantizar la continuidad y el fortalecimiento del monitoreo de la situación de los derechos humanos en Nicaragua

    Nosotras, las organizaciones de derechos humanos abajo firmantes, pedimos al Consejo de Derechos Humanos (CDH) que durante el 43º periodo de sesiones adopte una resolución por la que renueve y refuerce el mandato de la Oficina del Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas para los Derechos Humanos (OACNUDH) para hacer un seguimiento de la situación de los derechos humanos en Nicaragua e informar al respecto, tal como solicitó específicamente la alta comisionada de las Naciones Unidas para los derechos humanos.  Instamos a su delegación a apoyar activamente la adopción de dicha resolución.

    A pesar de los esfuerzos regionales y de la ONU por abordar la crisis, la situación sobre el terreno en Nicaragua sigue siendo crítica. Desde que, a finales de 2018, expulsó al personal de la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos y de la OACNUDH, el gobierno se ha negado a permitir que observadores internacionales de derechos humanos accedan al país. La represión ejercida por el gobierno contra las organizaciones de derechos humanos, las organizaciones de mujeres y feministas, los líderes y lideresas comunitarios y los periodistas que documentan abusos desde las protestas de 2018 continúa limitando el espacio de la sociedad civil de forma dramática. El gobierno sigue inmerso en lo que la OACNUDH describe como “la prohibición sistemática de las manifestaciones”, por medios que incluyen el acoso y la intimidación, en noviembre de 2019, contra personas que habían iniciado una huelga de hambre para pedir la liberación de sus familiares.  Según los grupos de derechos humanos locales, 61 personas críticas con el gobierno se encuentran encarceladas arbitrariamente, mientras que la impunidad por crímenes de derecho internacional y violaciones graves de derechos humanos cometidas por la policía y por grupos parapoliciales sigue siendo la norma.

    La presentación continua de informes por parte de la OACNUDH sigue siendo fundamental para garantizar que los graves abusos y violaciones de derechos humanos cometidos durante las protestas de 2018 —que incluyeron asesinato, tortura, violación y otros actos de violencia sexual—, y otros cometidos desde entonces, no quedan impunes. Al mismo tiempo, el monitoreo por parte de la OACNUDH es crucial para frenar posibles violaciones de derechos humanos, incluidas las que se puedan cometer en relación con las elecciones presidenciales de 2021.

    Habida cuenta de las graves violaciones de derechos humanos y la falta de disposición de las autoridades a cooperar y trabajar con los mecanismos regionales e internacionales, la situación sigue cumpliendo los “criterios objetivos para la acción del Consejo” (véase en el anexo nuestra perspectiva general a este respecto) elaborados en una declaración conjunta encabezada por Irlanda en el 32º periodo de sesiones  para ayudar a identificar situaciones que requieren la atención del CDH, y reafirmados por declaraciones conjuntas encabezadas por Países Bajos en el 35º periodo de sesiones, Australia en el 37º periodo de sesiones, Fiyi en el 40º periodo de sesiones, y las Islas Marshall durante la sesión actual del Consejo.

    En este contexto, es fundamental que el CDH adopte una resolución para responder con firmeza a las conclusiones del informe presentado por la alta comisionada en septiembre de 2019 (A/HRC/42/18) y siga su recomendación de que el CDH pida a la OACNUDH que “fortalezca el monitoreo, la documentación, el análisis y los informes públicos sobre la situación de los derechos humanos en Nicaragua”. Confiamos en que su delegación apoyará activamente una iniciativa como ésta.

    Sírvase aceptar, Excelencia, nuestra consideración más distinguida.

    Amnistía Internacional
    Articulación de Movimientos Sociales y OSC de Nicaragua (AMS)
    Asociadas por lo Justo (JASS)
    Centro Nicaragüense de Derechos Humanos (CENIDH)
    Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional (CEJIL)
    CIVICUS: Alianza Mundial por la Participación Ciudadana
    Federación Internacional de los Derechos Humanos (FIDH)
    FAN - Feministas Autoconvocadas de Nicaragua
    Fondo de Acción Urgente de América Latina y el Caribe (FAU-AL)
    Front Line Defenders
    Fundación Popol Na
    Fundación del Río
    Human Rights Watch
    Iniciativa Mesoamericana de Mujeres Defensoras de los Derechos Humanos (IM-Defensoras)
    Iniciativa Nicaragüense de Defensoras de Derechos Humanos (INDDH)
    Instituto sobre Raza, Igualdad y Derechos Humanos (Raza e Igualdad)
    Movimiento Autónomo de Mujeres (MAM)
    Oficina en Washington para Asuntos Latinoamericanos (WOLA)
    Oxfam
    Plataforma Internacional Contra la Impunidad
    Punto Focal de la Campaña 28 de Setiembre por la Despenalización del Aborto en América Latina y el Caribe
    Red de Salud de las Mujeres Latinoamericanas y del Caribe - Enlace Nacional Nicaragua
    Red Local
    Servicio Internacional para los Derechos Humanos (ISHR)
    Unión de Presas y Presos Políticos Nicaragüenses (UPPN)


    Anexo: Evaluación de la situación en Nicaragua frente a los criterios objetivos para la acción del Consejo de Derechos Humanos

    Durante el 32º periodo de sesiones (CDH32) del Consejo de Derechos Humanos de la ONU, celebrado en junio de 2016, Irlanda pronunció una declaración en nombre de un grupo interregional de Estados (basándose en una declaración conjunta previa pronunciada por Maldivas) que proponía unos criterios objetivos (o “principios rectores”) para “ayudar [al Consejo de Derechos Humanos] a decidir, de forma objetiva y no selectiva, cuándo debe trabajar de forma útil con un Estado concreto para prevenir, responder o abordar violaciones de derechos humanos y ayudar a reducir una situación preocupante”. La aplicación de estos criterios objetivos se ha reafirmado desde entonces en declaraciones conjuntas interregionales pronunciadas por Países Bajos en el 35º periodo de sesiones del Consejo en nombre de 49 Estados, en una declaración conjunta pronunciada por Australia en nombre de 11 miembros entrantes del Consejo de todos los grupos regionales en el 37º periodo de sesiones y en declaraciones similares presentadas por Fiyi en nombre de 10 miembros entrantes en el 40º periodo de sesiones, y por las Islas Marshall en nombre de nueve miembros entrantes en el 43º período de sesiones.

    El análisis llevado a cabo por nuestras organizaciones, detallado más abajo, muestra que todos los criterios identificados en la declaración conjunta se han cumplido parcial o totalmente en el caso de Nicaragua.

    ¿Llamamiento a la acción por parte del secretario general de la ONU, el Alto Comisionado u otro órgano, organismo o agencia pertinente de la ONU?
    En el informe presentado al Consejo de Derechos Humanos en septiembre de 2019, la alta comisionada de las Naciones Unidas para los derechos humanos expresó motivos de honda preocupación y pidió explícitamente al CDH que renovara y reforzara el mandato de seguimiento y presentación de informes de su oficina.

    ¿Recomendaciones para la acción por parte de un grupo de procedimientos especiales?
    Desde que comenzó la crisis, los procedimientos especiales han planteado pública y reiteradamente sus motivos de preocupación mediante declaraciones conjuntas y acciones urgentes, entre ellas:

    • Declaración conjunta: Nicaragua: debe poner fin a las represalias contra los periodistas, dicen expertos en derechos humanos, 26 de agosto de 2019.
    • Declaración conjunta: Nicaragua debe poner fin a la represión de los derechos humanos - Expertos de la ONU, 22 de noviembre de 2018.
    • Declaración conjunta: Nicaragua debe poner fin a la “caza de brujas” contra las voces disidentes, dicen expertos de la ONU, 9 de agosto de 2018.
    • Declaración conjunta: Nicaragua: Government must end violence and reinstate political dialogue, say UN, 14 de junio de 2018.
    • Declaración conjunta: Nicaragua: Experts say appalled by Government’s violent response to peaceful protests, 27 April 2018.

    ¿Tiene el Estado en cuestión una INDH de “clase A”? De ser así, ¿ha llamado esa institución la atención de la comunidad internacional hacia una situación emergente y ha pedido que se emprendan acciones?
    La INDH de Nicaragua fue degradada a clase B tras una recomendación del el Subcomité de Acreditación de la Alianza Global de las Instituciones Nacionales de Derechos Humanos (GANHRI), por no estar “preparada para pronunciarse con la contundencia adecuada […] en respuesta a denuncias creíbles de graves violaciones de los derechos humanos”.

    ¿Se ha mostrado el Estado en cuestión dispuesto a reconocer que se enfrenta a desafíos especiales en materia de derechos humanos y ha tomado un conjunto de medidas creíbles, incluidos un calendario y unos parámetros de referencia, para responder a la situación? ¿Está el Estado en cuestión colaborando de manera significativa y constructiva con el Consejo sobre la situación?
    El informe presentado por la OACNUDH al CDH en septiembre de 2019 señalaba la constante negación por parte de las autoridades de la responsabilidad de los graves abusos y violaciones de derechos humanos, y decía que las autoridades “han culpado a los líderes sociales y de la oposición, a los defensores de los derechos humanos y a los manifestantes de lo que llaman la ‘violencia golpista’ y su repercusión negativa en la economía del país”.

    La constante negativa del gobierno aceptar la crisis de derechos humanos o a dialogar y cooperar para abordarla quedó claramente en evidencia cuando las autoridades declararon que las conclusiones y recomendaciones del informe de la OACNUDH tenían como intención continuar una campaña difamatoria contra el gobierno y facilitar “condenas políticas y medidas contra el pueblo nicaragüense”.

    ¿Está el Estado en cuestión cooperando de forma efectiva con los procedimientos especiales del CDH, lo que incluye dar permiso para visitar el país?
    Nicaragua no ha permitido el acceso al país a los procedimientos especiales desde una visita realizada por el relator especial sobre el derecho a la alimentación en 2009. Seis procedimientos especiales han solicitado acceso desde 2016, entre ellos el Grupo de Trabajo sobre la Detención Arbitraria y el relator especial sobre el derecho a la libertad de reunión pacífica, pero no han podido llevar a cabo visitas. Nicaragua tampoco ha respondido a la gran mayoría de las comunicaciones enviadas por los procedimientos especiales.

    ¿Colabora el Estado en cuestión con la OACNUDH, incluso en el área de la asistencia técnica, y colabora de forma efectiva con los órganos de tratados de derechos humanos de la ONU?
    En agosto de 2018, el equipo de la OACNUDH sobre el terreno fue expulsado de Nicaragua, al día siguiente de publicar un informe sobre los patrones de abusos y violaciones de derechos humanos cometidos en el país. En 2020, a la OACNUDH seguía prohibiéndosele hacer un seguimiento de la situación de los derechos humanos sobre el terreno. Por tanto, la Oficina Regional de la OACNUDH para Centroamérica tuvo que continuar realizando a distancia su seguimiento de la situación de los derechos humanos.

    Nicaragua aún no ha cumplido con su obligación de presentar informes a la mayoría de los órganos de tratados (Comité de Derechos Humanos, 6 años de retraso, Comité contra la Tortura, 5 años, Comité para la Eliminación de la Discriminación contra la Mujer, 8 años, Comité para la Eliminación de la Discriminación Racial, 7 años, Comité de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales, 5 años, Comité de los Derechos del Niño, 3 años).

    ¿Algún mecanismo o institución regional pertinente ha identificado que la situación requiere la atención de la comunidad internacional? ¿Está el Estado en cuestión cooperando con las organizaciones regionales pertinentes?
    En 2018, la CIDH, en acuerdo con el gobierno nicaragüense, estableció formalmente dos mecanismos para monitorear e investigar la situación de los derechos humanos: el Mecanismo Especial de Seguimiento para Nicaragua (MESENI) y el GIEI. En diciembre de 2018, Nicaragua expulsó del país tanto al MESENI como al GIEI, un día antes de la fecha prevista para la publicación del informe del GIEI. Tras su expulsión del país, el GIEI publicó su informe, en el que concluía que los abusos cometidos en el país, que incluían asesinato, detenciones arbitrarias y persecución, constituían crímenes de lesa humanidad. Tras una resolución adoptada en junio de 2019 por la Asamblea General de la Organización de los Estados Americanos (OEA), el Consejo Permanente nombró, en agosto de 2019, una comisión para abordar la crisis política y social en Nicaragua. En septiembre de 2019, el gobierno negó a la Comisión sobre Nicaragua el acceso al país.  A pesar de la negativa del gobierno nicaragüense a reunirse con la Comisión, ésta pudo emitir su informe, en cumplimiento de su mandato. Tras recibir numerosos testimonios que informaban de acoso e intimidación constantes sufridos por las personas a las que se consideraba contrarias al gobierno, e informaban también de detenciones arbitrarias, trato inhumano y restricciones al ejercicio de los derechos políticos y la libertad de expresión, la Comisión concluyó que “Nicaragua vive una crítica situación en materia de derechos humanos que requiere la urgente atención de la comunidad interamericana e internacional en su conjunto”.

    ¿Está el Estado en cuestión facilitando u obstaculizando el acceso y el trabajo por parte de actores humanitarios, defensores y defensoras de los derechos humanos, y medios de comunicación?
    Nuestras organizaciones han documentado los reiterados actos de censura, ataques y amenazas contra los medios de comunicación, periodistas y defensores y defensoras de los derechos humanos y sus familias por parte de la policía y grupos armados parapoliciales durante las protestas.  El gobierno ha hecho redadas en las oficinas de medios de comunicación independientes, ha presentado cargos penales contra periodistas, ha cancelado la inscripción legal en registro de nueve organizaciones de la sociedad civil, y ha expulsado del país a periodistas extranjeros y a observadores internacionales de derechos humanos.

    Estas preocupaciones han sido expresadas por los mecanismos regionales e internacionales. El 26 de agosto de 2019, un grupo de procedimientos especiales emitió una declaración en la que pedía a Nicaragua que cesara las represalias contra periodistas, como seguimiento de una declaración anterior emitida en noviembre de 2018 en la que instaba “al gobierno de Nicaragua que ponga fin de inmediato a la represión y las represalias contra quienes se muestran en contra de las acciones del Gobierno y cooperan con la ONU, incluidos los defensores y defensoras de derechos humanos, periodistas y manifestantes pacíficos”. En noviembre de 2019, en una declaración de prensa, la OACNUDH pidió al gobierno que pusiera fin “a la represión persistente de la disidencia y al actual patrón de detenciones arbitrarias, y se abstenga de criminalizar y atacar a los defensores y defensoras de los derechos humanos, los opositores políticos y otras voces disidentes”.

    La Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH) ha expresado su preocupación por la “nueva etapa de la represión en Nicaragua tendiente a silenciar, intimidar y criminalizar a las voces opositoras al Gobierno, a los organismos de derechos humanos y a los medios de comunicación independientes en el país”. En diciembre de 2019, la CIDH dictó medidas cautelares en favor de 17 defensoras de los derechos humanos que habían sufrido acoso, intimidación, amenazas de muerte y ataques en este contexto. La Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos también ha tenido que dictar medidas provisionales para proteger a miembros de dos ONG locales, a causa de los graves riesgos para sus vidas y su integridad física.

     

  • Nicaragua: la violencia y la represión continúan

    42 reunión del Consejo de Derechos Humanos de las Naciones Unidas
    -Diálogo en el informe del Alto Comisionado sobre Nicaragua

    Ha pasado más de un año desde que empezó la crisis en Nicaragua y la violencia y la represión no cesan. Miles de personas han sido detenidas arbitrariamente y centenares han sido criminalizadas por ejercer su derecho a la protesta. Un informe de la Articulación de Movimientos Sociales de Nicaragua, identifica dos nuevas fases de represión durante el 2019: Hostigamientos y restricción a las libertades públicas y Ejecuciones extrajudiciales.

    La mayoría de los prisioneros políticos fueron excarcelados recientemente bajo una Ley de Amnistía, aprobada unilateralmente por diputados del Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN), misma que perpetúa la impunidad para los responsables de la violencia letal de la que se valió el Estado para reprimir las protestas, pues establece que no se realizará ninguna investigación respecto de estos crímenes. Además, el informe de la Articulación de Movimientos Sociales de Nicaragua señala existen aun 121 presos y presas políticas en manos del Estado Nicaraguense, 54 de los cuales corresponden capturas realizadas en 2018 y 67 a capturas que se han presentado en 2019.

    Los ataques contra el espacio cívico continúan. La Unidad Nacional Azul y Blanco en Nicaragua ha denunciado como el Gobierno de Nicaragua continúa criminalizando a ciudadanos por motivos políticos o por su participación en protestas u otras iniciativas.  La represión de voces disidentes a través del arresto, el cierre de protestas y el cierre de organizaciones representan una alarmante falta de voluntad del gobierno para comprometerse y escuchar a quienes gobierna.

    La situación de violación de derechos humanos también se presenta en los territorios rurales y transfronterizos  del país, los que viven situaciones de incertidumbre y zozobra debido a la militarización de comunidades, persecución de ciudadanos que participaron en las protestas, asedios por parte de la Policía Nacional, y hostigamiento a autoridades de las municipalidades opositoras, entre otros.

    Al igual que a la Alta Comisionada, nos preocupa ver como en Nicaragua no hay disposición de las autoridades para garantizar verdad, justicia y reparación para las víctimas de la represión y sus familiares; ni garantías de que se reiniciarán las negociaciones, las cuales fueron canceladas de manera unilateral por el gobierno, o de que se cumplirán los compromisos acordados entre las partes. En este clima, el escrutinio internacional sobre Nicaragua sigue siendo tan crucial ahora como siempre. Nicaragua no cumple con su responsabilidad de garantizar la rendición de cuentas y la justicia. Acogemos con beneplácito la continua supervisión e informes del ACNUDH sobre Nicaragua y pedimos al Consejo que establezca un mecanismo de investigación independiente como los primeros pasos hacia la rendición de cuentas por los crímenes  ocurridos y justicia para los afectados.
     

     

  • Nicaragua: Letter to UN Member States calling for increased human rights monitoring

    Joint Letter at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council: UN Human Rights Council should ensure enhanced monitoring of the human rights situation in Nicaragua

    We, the undersigned human rights organizations, call on the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) to adopt a resolution during the 43rd session, renewing and further strengthening the mandate of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to monitor and report on the human rights situation in Nicaragua, as specifically requested by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. We urge your delegation to actively support the adoption of such a resolution. 

    Despite UN and regional efforts to address the crisis, the situation in Nicaragua remains dire. The government has refused to allow international human rights monitors to access the country since it expelled staff members of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission and OHCHR in late 2018. The government’s crackdown against human rights organizations, women's organizations and feminist organizations, community leaders, and journalists documenting abuses since the 2018 protests continues to dramatically limit space for civil society internally. The government continues to engage in what the OHCHR described as a “systematic prohibition of protests” – including by harassing and intimidating, in November 2019, people who had begun a hunger striking to demand the release of their relatives. Sixty-one government critics are arbitrarily imprisoned, according to local human rights groups, while impunity for crimes under international law and serious human rights violations by police and pro-government groups is still the rule.

    Continued reporting by the OHCHR remains critical to ensure that grave violations committed during the 2018 protests – including murder, torture, rape and other acts of sexual violence – as well as others committed since then do not go unpunished. At the same time, OHCHR monitoring is crucial to curb potential rights violations, including in connection to the 2021 presidential elections.

    Given the continued serious violations and the unwillingness of the authorities to cooperate and engage with regional and international mechanisms, the situation continues to meet the “objective criteria for HRC action” (see our overview in this regard in annex), elaborated to help identify situations requiring the HRC’s attention in a joint statement led by Ireland at the 32nd session, and further reaffirmed by joint statements led by the Netherlands at the 35th session, Australia at the 37th session, Fiji at the 40th session of the Council, and the Marshall Islands during the current session of the Council.

    In this context, it is essential that the HRC adopts a resolution that responds robustly to the findings of the report presented by the High Commissioner in September 2019 (A/HRC/42/18) and follows her recommendation that the HRC request the OHCHR to “enhance its monitoring, documentation, analysis, and public reporting on the human rights situation in Nicaragua.” We urge your delegation to actively support this initiative. 

    Please accept, Excellency, the assurance of our highest consideration,

    Amnesty International
    Articulación de Movimientos Sociales y OSC de Nicaragua (AMS)
    Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional (CEJIL)
    Centro Nicaragüense de Derechos Humanos (CENIDH)
    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    Fédération Internationale pour les Droits Humains (FIDH)
    FAN - Feministas Autoconvocadas de Nicaragua
    Fondo de Acción Urgente de América Latina y el Caribe (FAU-AL)
    Front Line Defenders
    Fundación Popol Na
    Fundación del Río
    Human Rights Watch
    Iniciativa Mesoamericana de Mujeres Defensoras de Derechos Humanos (IM Defensoras)
    Iniciativa Nicaragüense de Defensoras de Derechos Humanos (INDDH)
    International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    Just Associates (JASS) 
    Movimiento Autónomo de Mujeres (MAM)
    Oxfam
    Plataforma Internacional Contra la Impunidad
    Punto Focal de la Campaña 28 de Setiembre por la Despenalización del Aborto en América Latina y el Caribe
    Red de Salud de las Mujeres Latinoamericanas y del Caribe - Enlace Nacional Nicaragua
    Red Local
    The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights 
    Unión de Presas y Presos Políticos Nicaragüenses (UPPN)
    Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)


    Annex: Assessment of nicaragua agaisnt the Objective criteria for HRC action

    During the thirty-second session (HRC32) of the UN Human Rights Council in June 2016, Ireland delivered a statement on behalf of a cross-regional group of States (building upon a previous joint statement by the Maldives) proposing objective criteria – or “guiding principles” – to “help [the Human Rights Council] decide, in an objective and non-selective manner, when the Council should usefully engage with a concerned State, to prevent, respond to, or address violations and to assist in de-escalation of a situation of concern.” Application of these objective criteria has been further reaffirmed in cross-regional joint statements delivered by the Netherlands at the 35th session of the Council on behalf of 49 States, a joint statement delivered by Australia on behalf of 11 incoming members of the Council from all regional groups at the 37th session, and similar joint statements delivered by Fiji on behalf of 10 incoming members at the 40th session; and by the Marshall Islands on behalf of nine incoming members at the 43rd session. 

    Analysis by our organisations, set out below, shows that all of the criteria identified in the joint statement have been partially or fully met in the case of Nicaragua. 

    Call for action by the UN SG, HC or another relevant UN organ, body or agency?
    The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed deep concerns and explicitly called on the HRC to renew and strengthen her Office’s monitoring and reporting mandate in the report presented to the HRC in September 2019.

    Recommendation for action by a group of Special Procedures?
    Since the beginning of the crisis Special Procedures have consistently raised their concerns publicly through joint statements, as well as Urgent Actions, including:

    • Joint statement: Nicaragua must stop reprisals against journalists, say human rights experts, 26 August 2019.
    • Joint statement: Nicaragua must stop repression of human rights – UN experts, 22 November 2018.
    • Joint statement: Nicaragua must end "witch-hunt" against dissenting voices, say UN experts, 9 August 2018.
    • Joint statement: Nicaragua: Government must end violence and reinstate political dialogue, say UN, 14 June 2018.
    • Joint statement: Nicaragua: Experts say appalled by Government’s violent response to peaceful protests, 27 April 2018.

    Does the State concerned have an “A status” NHRI? If so, has that institution drawn the attention of the international community to an emerging situation and called for action?
    Nicaragua’s NHRI has been downgraded to B status following a recommendation by the Sub-Committee on Accreditation of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), based on its failure “to adequately speak out […] in response to credible allegations of serious human rights violations.”

    Has the State concerned been willing to recognise that it faces particular human rights challenges and laid down a set of credible actions, including a time-table and benchmarks to measure progress, to respond to the situation? Is the State concerned engaging in a meaningful, constructive way with the Council on the situation?
    The OHCHR report to the HRC in September 2019 noted the authorities’ continued denial of responsibility for the serious violations and abuses, reporting that they “have instead blamed social and opposition leaders, human rights defenders and demonstrators for what they call the ‘coup-related violence’ and the negative impact on the country’s economy.” 

    The government’s continued refusal to accept, or engage in dialogue and cooperation to address, the human rights crisis was clearly evidenced in their claims that the report, conclusions and recommendations of the OHCHR were intended to continue a smear campaign against the government and to facilitate “political convictions and action against the Nicaraguan people.”

    Is the State concerned effectively cooperating with HRC Special Procedures, including by allowing country visits?
    Nicaragua has not allowed access to the Special Procedures since a visit by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food in 2009. Six Special Procedure mandates have requested access since 2016, including the Working Group on arbitrary detention and the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, but have been unable to carry out visits. Nicaragua has also failed to respond to the vast majority of communications sent by the Special Procedures. 

    Is the State concerned engaging with OHCHR, including in the field of technical assistance and effective engagement with the UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies? 
    In August 2018, the OHCHR team on the ground was expelled from Nicaragua the day after they published a report on the patterns of human rights violations and abuses committed in the country. In 2020, the OHCHR continues to be barred from monitoring the human rights situation from the ground. The OHCHR Regional Office for Central America has therefore had to continue their monitoring of the human rights situation remotely.
    Nicaragua is overdue with its reporting obligations to the majority of the treaty bodies (CCPR 6 years, CAT 5 years, CEDAW 8 years, CERD 7 years, CESCR 5 years, CRC 3 years).

    Has a relevant regional mechanism or institution identified the situation as requiring the attention of the international community? Is the State concerned cooperating with relevant regional organisations?
    In 2018, the IACHR formally established two mechanisms to monitor and investigate the human rights situation in agreement with the Nicaraguan government: The Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI) and the GIEI. In December 2018, Nicaragua expelled both the MESENI and GIEI from Nicaragua, a day before GIEI´s report was due to be released. Following their expulsion from the country GIEI released their report concluding that abuses in the country, including murder, arbitrary detentions, and persecution, amounted to crimes against humanity. Following a resolution adopted by the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) in June 2019, the Permanent Council appointed, in August 2019, a Commission to address the political and social crisis in Nicaragua. In September 2019, the government denied the Commission on Nicaragua access to the country. Despite the refusal of the government of Nicaragua to meet the Commission, the Commission was able to submit a report as mandated. After receiving numerous testimonies that reported ongoing harassment and intimidation suffered by those perceived as government opponents, arbitrary detentions, inhuman treatment and restrictions to the exercise of political rights and freedom of expression; the Commission concluded that “Nicaragua is experiencing a critical human rights situation that urgently demands the attention of the Inter-American community and the world at large.”

    Is the State concerned facilitating or obstructing access and work on the part of humanitarian actors, human rights defenders and the media?
    Our organisations have documented the repeated censorship, attacks and threats against the media, journalists, and human rights defenders and their families by police and pro-government armed groups during the protests.  The government has raided the offices of independent media outlets, filed criminal charges against journalists, cancelled the legal registration of nine civil society organizations, and expelled foreign journalists and international human rights monitors from the country.

    These concerns have been expressed by the regional and international mechanisms. On  26 August 2019, a group of Special Procedures issued a statement calling on Nicaragua to stop reprisals against journalists, in follow up to an earlier statement issued in November 2018 “urging the Government of Nicaragua to immediately put an end to the repression and reprisals against those who speak out against the Government and cooperate with the UN, including human rights defenders, journalists and peaceful protesters.” In November 2019, in a press statement, OHCHR called on the government to “end the persistent repression of dissent and the ongoing pattern of arbitrary arrests and refrain from criminalizing and attacking human rights defenders, political opponents and any other dissenting voices.”

    The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has expressed concern over the “new stage of repression in Nicaragua aimed at silencing, intimidating and criminalizing those opposed to the Government, human rights organizations and the independent media in the country.” In December 2019, the IACHR granted precautionary measures to 17 women human rights defenders who had been subjected to harassment, intimidation, death threats and attacks in this context. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has also had to grant provisional measures to protect members of two local NGOs, because of the serious risks to their lives and physical integrity. 


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

     

  • Nicaragua: Over 100 political prisoners remain detained

    41st Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    -Interactive dialogue on the report from the High Commissioner on Nicaragua
    -Joint statement from CIVICUS & Red Local

    We note that the government of Nicaragua has yet to comply with some of the agreements reached with the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy during negotiations earlier this year. While we welcome the release of 56 political prisoners by the Nicaraguan government, 104 political prisoners are still arbitrarily detained, and over one hundred are missing. We reiterate calls for the immediate release of those unjustly incarcerated and urge the government to take urgent steps to investigate the whereabouts of those who have been disappeared.

    The government furthermore agreed to put in place a security protocol for political prisoners and those forced into exile. This has not been done. . We call for its immediate implementation to ensure the full enforcement of their rights, and the return of assets. We also call on the government to put in place measures to guarantee the safe return of those in exile.

    The Nicaraguan government’s severe repression of anyone standing up for their rights has continued, reflected in the High Commissioners’ oral update. Free expression and assembly is severely restricted. Local civil society organisations have been stripped of their legal status and of their assets, and human rights defenders and journalists are harassed.

    Given the grievous human rights violations, we are particularly concerned that the Amnesty Law recently established by the Nicaraguan government will subsume the essential truth and reparations process needed to address the severe human rights violations prevalent in the country, and hinder any opportunity for full accountability. The law on comprehensive care for victims was pushed though in a process which saw civil society and victims themselves completely side-lined.

    We are further deeply concerned that the government of Nicaragua continues to block the return of international human rights bodies to the country, including the special mechanism of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and OHCHR. Such bodies shine a crucial light on human rights violations and are critical for ensuring accountability of perpetrators. Victims of human rights violations have the right to truth, justice and reparation. The government of Nicaragua should guarantee those rights and put a complete stop to their strategy of repression.