human rights council


  • Philippines: An international investigation is needed as government continues to deny grave violations

    Joint statement at the 45th Session of the UN Human Rights Council -- delivered by the World Organisation Against Torture


    On behalf of 14 organisations, including colleagues in the Philippines, we are deeply disappointed that the draft Item 10 resolution on the Philippines fails to reflect the gravity of the situation, including as documented in the OHCHR report.

    Colleagues from the Philippines have tirelessly advocated for an international investigation, at great personal risk. The thousands of victims of killings and other violations and their families continue to be deprived of justice.

    This is a collective failure by the States at this Council. We are shocked by the lack of support for a more robust response.

    We acknowledge the rationale presented for constructive engagement with the Government of the Philippines. However, an approach based purely on technical cooperation and capacity-building has no realistic prospect of meaningful impact with a government that denies the true scale and severity of the human rights violations, has publicly endorsed the policy of killings, avoids independent investigations, and continues to crack down on civil society.

    Despite the shortcomings of the resolution, it at least keeps the situation on the agenda for the next two years and allows for robust reporting by the OHCHR on the situation – including the implementation, or lack thereof, of OHCHR report recommendations. The Council must follow developments closely and be ready to launch an independent investigation if the killings and the crackdown on civil society do not immediately end and prosecution of perpetrators is not pursued.

    Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM)
    Amnesty International
    Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (EcuVoice)
    Franciscan International
    Harm Reduction International
    Human Rights Watch
    International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocate (PAHRA)
    World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

    Civic space in the Philippines rated as  Obstructed by the CIVICUS Monitor


  • Philippines: International community must support independent investigative mechanism to end attacks on civil society

    New research on the state of civic freedoms in the Philippines

    CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, continues to call on the UN Human Rights Council to establish an independent investigative mechanism to address human rights violations and abuses in the Philippines to further accountability and justice. A new brief published today, shows that one year on from the adoption of a profoundly weak resolution at the Council, serious civic freedoms violations continue to occur, creating a chilling effect within civil society.

    The CIVICUS Monitor has documented the arbitrary arrest and detention of human rights defenders and activists on fabricated charges. In a number of instances, the activists have been vilified and red-tagged – labelled as communists or terrorists – in relation to their work prior to their arrest. There have also been reports of evidence planted by the police and military forces to justify arrests or violence against activists.

    Activists have been killed over the last year, both by the security forces and by unknown individuals. In many instances, activists were killed after being red-tagged. In virtually none of the cases has anyone been held accountable for the killings. In one incident, nine community-based activists were killed in coordinated raids, known as the ‘Bloody Sunday’ killings, which took place across four provinces in the Calabarzon region on 7 March 2021 by members of the Philippine security forces. The killing of journalists as well as judicial harassment against them has also persisted.

    AdvocacyBrief Philippines Cover

    In July 2021, the Philippine government and the UN formalised a human rights programme which includes strengthening domestic investigation and accountability mechanisms; improved data gathering on alleged police violations; civic space and engagement with civil society and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to be implemented.

    “The current actions by the UN Human Rights Council have failed to deter the criminalisation and attacks against activists and journalists, which has continued over the year, with impunity. The new joint programme seems to be just more window dressing by the Duterte regime to evade accountability. It is time for the international community to listen to civil society voices and establish an independent investigation to hold the perpetrators to account”, said Lisa Majumdar, CIVICUS UN advocacy officer.

    Human rights groups have also documented an assault on the judiciary. An investigative report by the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) found that at least 61 lawyers, judges and prosecutors have been killed under the Duterte administration since 2016. There have been no convictions so far in any of the deadly attacks recorded. 

    The new brief outlines other tactics used to silence civil society that have ranged from freezing their accounts to launching  smear campaigns against them. In June 2021, the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) froze the bank accounts of Amihan, an organisation of peasant women, which the authorities alleged were linked to communist rebels. Bank accounts of eight other nongovernmental organisations and civil society groups based in Mindanao were also covered by the order.

    Human rights alliance Karapatan has been subject to  a spate of cyberattacks since July 2021 against its website, amid an online solidarity campaign #StopTheKillingsPH, which calls on the government to stop attacks against human rights defenders. Earlier attacks against Karapatan and alternative media outlets were traced by Qurium - Sweden-based media foundation - to the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence of the Philippine Army as well as the Department of Science and Technology.

    “Civil society groups have been at the forefront of monitoring violations perpetrated by authorities around the deadly war on drugs, and their assaults on activists. Despite the threats and litany of attacks against them, they have refused to be silenced. The international community owes them support and protection,” said Majumdar.

    Following tireless research and advocacy efforts by civil society, in June 2021, the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda requested judicial authorisation to proceed with an investigation into crimes committed in the Philippines from 1 November 2011 - the date the Philippines became an ICC member - until 16 March 2019. On 15 September 2021, Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court granted the Prosecutor’s request to commence the investigation in a landmark development.

    In December 2020, the CIVICUS Monitor, a global research collaboration that rates and tracks respect for fundamental freedoms in 196 countries, downgraded the Philippines from ‘obstructed’ to ‘repressed’ in its People Power Under Attack report 2020. 

    More information

    Download the Philippines research brief here.


    To arrange interviews, please contact Josef Benedict, CIVICUS Asia-Pacific Civic Space Researcher and



  • Philippines: Lack of action by the UN Human Rights Council risks abandoning victims of human rights abuses

    Without a resolution at the upcoming 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ (OHCHR) mandate to report on the Philippines will expire.

    In this joint letter, CIVICUS and other non-governmental organisations call for members and observer states at the HRC to adopt a resolution on the Philippines that continues and strengthens its reporting mandate. In the absence of secure and effective spaces for deliberations at the domestic level, OHCHR’s reporting and the debate that follows it at the HRC are key for victims who continue to seek justice and accountability for human rights violations, including those committed in the context of the so-called “war on drugs.”


  • Philippines: Nearly 300,000 drug suspects have been jailed in 'war on drugs'

    Statement at the 47th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Interactive dialogue ID with Working Group on arbitrary detention on its study on drug policies

    CIVICUS, Karapatan and FORUM-ASIA welcome the study of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on human rights violations related to drug policies.

    This study resonates with our experience in the Philippines, where cases of torture, cruel and degrading treatment of those facing drug charges have been reported and where proposed amendments to drug control legislation provide for the revival of the death penalty and the presumption of guilt of suspects. Inhumane conditions in detention centers, wherein nearly 300,000 drug suspects have been jailed in the course of the government’s drug war, persist. Meanwhile, defenders and lawyers who provide assistance to victims of such violations face attacks, threats and harassment.

    We welcome the Working Group’s recommendations which are important guides for States, especially the Philippines where the drug war has claimed lives and affected liberties. We urge the Philippine government to heed these important recommendations. We urge the Council, in the light of the International Criminal Court Prosecutor’s request for a full investigation in the Philippines, to conduct an independent investigation on violations in the context of the “war on drugs,” including extrajudicial killings, and possible arbitrary arrests and detention in the country.


  • Philippines: UN accountability mechanism needed to end cycle of violence and impunity

    Statement at the 46 Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Item 10: General Debate on technical cooperation and capacity building

    Oral statement delivered by Cecile Gaa, Forum Asia

    Madam President,

    Nearly six months since its adoption, Human Rights Council resolution 45/33 offering technical assistance to the Philippines has proven to be utterly insufficient to address the systematic human rights violations and persistent impunity documented in the High Commissioner’s report. The Philippine Government’s policies and actions since the Resolution’s adoption have been completely at odds with the commitments outlined in it.

    Extrajudicial killings in the so-called ‘war on drugs’ have continued. To date, the Government has made no tangible progress towards accountability against those most responsible for such killings. In December 2020, the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC found that there is “reasonable basis to believe that the crimes against humanity” of murder, torture, the infliction of serious physical injury and mental harm, and other inhumane acts were committed between at least 1 July 2016 and 16 March 2019.

    Human rights defenders pursuing legitimate work, especially those who advocate for international accountability, including lawyers, continue to be attacked and accused of belonging to terrorist groups. Rights defenders continue to be arrested and jailed. The draconian Anti-terrorism Act, passed last year, exacerbates risks to defenders. The killing of nine human rights defenders and activists on 7 March, two days after President Duterte ordered the police and military to “finish off” and “kill” those purported to be “communist rebels”, illustrates clearly the persistent killings and attacks faced by activists and defenders. It is very clear that no amount of technical assistance or capacity building will end the killings as the President and top government officials continue to incite murder and violence as official policy.

    In this context, it is imperative that the Council set up an international accountability mechanism to end the cycle of violence and impunity in the Philippines.

    Thank you.

    Endorsed by:

    • Amnesty International
    • Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    • CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    • Human Rigths Watch
    • International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
    • International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    • Philippines Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)
    • World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

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


  • Poland: complete failure in implementing civic space recommendations

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

    UPR outcome adoption - Poland

    Delivered byKinga Lozinska            

    Thank you, Mr President.

    The Committee for the Defence of Democracy (KOD) and CIVICUS welcome the government of Poland's engagement with the UPR process.

    Since its last review, however, Poland has not implemented any of the recommendations relating to civic space and we are deeply troubled to see that Poland rejected 7 recommendations and only accepted 1 of the 11 recommendations it received during this cycle.

    We are concerned by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party’s dismantling of judicial independence and the rule of law, which has been used as a tool to violate civic freedoms in Poland. Women human rights defenders (WHRDs) advocating for reproductive justice are facing judicial harassment and intimidation. Recently, abortion rights activist, Justyna Wydrzyńska was found guilty of aiding an abortion and sentenced to 8 months community service. We are further alarmed by the repeated attempts to diminish media independence through restrictive legislation, government allies acquiring ownership of major media outlets and the filing of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) against independent media.

    As a result of these developments, civic space in Poland is currently classified as ‘obstructed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor, indicating the existence of significant civic space restrictions.

    Mr President, the Committee for the Defence of Democracy (KOD) and CIVICUS call on the Government of Poland to take concrete steps to address these concerns, including by:

    • Immediately and unconditionally drop charges against all human rights defenders and ensure that government officials and non-state actors perpetrating intimidation and harassment against WHRDs and LGBTQI+ defenders are effectively investigated.
    • Refrain from further persecuting independent judges who uphold the rule of law and drop all criminal charges against them.
    • Drop all SLAPPs against journalists and media outlets and refrain from further legal harassment against independent media

    We thank you.

     Civic space in Poland is rated as "Obstructed" by the CIVICUS Monitor


  • Priorités de plaidoyer à la 43ème session du Conseil des droits de l'homme des Nations Unies

    Le Conseil des droits de l'homme se réunira pendant quatre semaines, du 24 février au 20 mars, et un certain nombre de résolutions critiques sur les droits de l'homme seront débattues et présentées aux 47 membres du Conseil. CIVICUS conduira et présentera des témoignages sur une variété de questions thématiques et de pays. Vous trouverez un aperçu complet ci-dessous ou vous pouvez directement consulter notre programme d'événements.


    Situations spécifiques à certains pays

    Nicaragua (Notation de l’espace civique : Réprimé)

    Nos membres sur le terrain ont documenté de graves violations des droits humains, notamment des attaques contre les libertés fondamentales et contre les défenseurs des droits humains et les journalistes. Un rapport publié l'année dernière par le HCDH, mandaté par une résolution adoptée en 2019, a reflété cette situation et a recommandé un renforcement de la surveillance et de la communication de l'information par les Nations Unies. Étant donné le manque de volonté politique dans le pays pour coopérer avec les mécanismes régionaux et internationaux, et la situation préoccupante sur le terrain, CIVICUS appelle les États à soutenir une résolution sur le Nicaragua qui demande au moins un tel renforcement des activités de suivi.

    Sri Lanka (Notation de l’espace civique : Réprimé)

    C'est un moment critique pour le Sri Lanka, qui craint que la nouvelle administration, arrivée au pouvoir l'année dernière, ne revienne sur ses engagements en matière de droits humains et de responsabilités, mandatés par le Conseil. La résolution adoptée lors de la 30ème session du Conseil des droits de l'homme reste le seul processus en place qui pourrait garantir la justice pour les victimes de violations des droits humains. L'espace civique se referme à un rythme alarmant - depuis l'arrivée au pouvoir de la nouvelle administration, les membres de la société civile sur le terrain ont été menacés et intimidés, leurs dossiers ont été détruits, et des défenseurs des droits humains et des journalistes ont été attaqués. CIVICUS appelle les États à encourager la coopération entre le gouvernement du Sri Lanka et les mécanismes internationaux des droits de l'homme, et les membres du Conseil à réaffirmer leur engagement envers la résolution 40/1, qui met en place des engagements assortis de délais pour mettre en œuvre les mécanismes de responsabilisation de la résolution 30/1.

    Iran (Notation de l'espace public :Fermé)

    En 2019, l'Iran s'est livré à une série de protestations contre le manque de libertés politiques et démocratiques et la détérioration de la situation économique. Les manifestants ont été confrontés à une violente répression par des arrestations massives et une force meurtrière. Les développements géopolitiques actuels ont renforcé le régime et exacerbé l'insécurité interne. Cette session du Conseil des droits de l'homme discutera du renouvellement du mandat du rapporteur spécial sur l'Iran. CIVICUS soutient le renouvellement du mandat du Rapporteur spécial et encourage les États à faire part de leurs préoccupations quant à l'utilisation de la force meurtrière dans les manifestations.

    Inde (Notation de l’espace civique : Réprimé)

    Le dernier rapport de CIVICUS a dégradé la notation de l'Inde en matière d'espace civique. Une loi sur la citoyenneté controversée et discriminatoire a donné lieu à des manifestations de masse dans tout le pays, qui ont fait l'objet de violentes répressions, faisant de nombreux blessés et au moins 25 morts. Le Jammu-et-Cachemire reste soumis à une répression sévère, notamment par la fermeture prolongée d'Internet qui en est à son sixième mois. Internet a été partiellement rétabli en janvier, mais des restrictions subsistent, ce qui fait de cette fermeture la plus longue jamais enregistrée dans une démocratie. Les fermetures d'Internet sont également utilisées dans tout le pays afin d'entraver la liberté de réunion pacifique. CIVICUS encourage les États à faire part de leurs préoccupations concernant l'Inde et à demander une enquête sur la répression violente des manifestations pacifiques, ainsi qu'à abroger les dispositions discriminatoires de la loi sur la citoyenneté.

    Mandats thématiques

    Le Rapporteur spécial sur les défenseurs des droits de l'homme

    Le mandat du Rapporteur spécial sur les défenseurs des droits de l'homme sera renouvelé lors de cette session. Il s'agit d'un mandat crucial qui a un impact sur tous les domaines d'intervention de CIVICUS, et nous encourageons les États à co-parrainer la résolution à un stade précoce. Le Rapporteur spécial présentera son rapport annuel sur les défenseurs des droits de l'homme dans les situations de conflit et d'après-conflit, et rendra compte de ses visites en Colombie et en Mongolie. CIVICUS encourage les États à affirmer leur co-parrainage de la résolution dès le début de la session.

    Liberté d'expression

    Le mandat du Rapporteur spécial sur la liberté d'expression doit être renouvelé lors de cette session, à un moment où les coupures d'Internet sont de plus en plus utilisées comme une tactique pour limiter la liberté d'expression, l'accès à l'information et la liberté de réunion pacifique. Nous encourageons les États à co-parrainer le renouvellement de cet important mandat à un stade précoce.

    Liberté de religion et de croyance (FoRB)

    Le Rapporteur spécial sur la liberté de religion et de croyance présentera son rapport annuel, qui cette année se concentre sur l'intersection de la religion et de la croyance, du genre et des droits OSIG, et rendra compte des visites de pays au Sri Lanka et aux Pays-Bas. CIVICUS s'intéressera au Sri Lanka et à l'Inde, qui ont tous deux connu des évolutions en matière de liberté de culte.


    Le président-rapporteur de deux séminaires intersessionnels sur la contribution que le Conseil peut apporter à la prévention des violations des droits de l'homme présentera le rapport de ces séminaires.

    CIVICUS soulignera le lien entre l'espace civique et la prévention - le fait que les fermetures dans l'espace civique sont souvent des précurseurs de crises plus larges des droits humains, et qu'en intervenant au niveau de l'espace civique, le Conseil a un rôle à jouer pour assurer la prévention de ces violations des droits humains.

    CIVICUS et les événements des membres lors de la 43ème session du Conseil des droits de l'homme des Nations unies (les événements seront retransmis en direct sur lapage Facebook de CIVICUS):

    Le 27 février (11h00 UTC+1, salle VII), un événement parallèle discutera de la situation critique actuelle au Nicaragua, et de l'importance d'un mandat de surveillance renforcé.

    Le 2 mars (14:00 UTC+1, Salle VII), CIVICUS et ses partenaires organisent un événement sur la crise de l'espace constitutionnel et civique en Inde.

    5 mars (13:00 UTC+1, Salle VII),CIVICUS co-parraine un événement mené par ICNL et les partenaires du consortium Civic Space Initiative sur la lutte contre le financement du terrorisme tout en préservant l'espace civique.

    Le 12 mars (12h30 UTC+1, Salle XXI), CIVICUS co-parraine un événement parallèle sur l'utilisation de la force meurtrière dans les manifestations en Iran et en Irak, et les réponses de la communauté internationale.

    Membres actuels du Conseil :

    Afghanistan; Afrique du Sud; Angola; Arabie Saoudite; Argentine; Australie; Autriche; Bahamas; Bahreïn; Bangladesh; Brésil; Bulgarie; Burkina Faso; Cameroun; Chili; Chine; Croatie; Cuba; Danemark; Égypte; Érythrée; Espagne; Fidji; Hongrie; Inde; Irak; Islande; Italie; Japon; Mexique; Népal; Nigeria; Pakistan; Pérou; Philippines; Qatar; République démocratique du Congo; République tchèque; Royaume-Uni et Irlande du Nord; Rwanda; Sénégal; Slovaquie; Somalie; Togo; Tunisie;  Ukraine; Uruguay.


  • Progress and shortcomings from 44th Session of the Human Rights Council

    Joint Statement for the end of the 44th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    The 44th session of the UN Human Rights Council began with China's imposition of legislation severely undermining rights and freedoms in Hong Kong. Within days, there were reports of hundreds of arrests, some for crimes that didn’t even exist previously. We welcome efforts this session by a growing number of States to collectively address China’s sweeping rights abuses, but more is needed. An unprecedented 50 Special Procedures recently expressed concerns at China’s mass violations in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet, suppression of information in the context of Covid-19, and targeting of human rights defenders across the country. The Council should heed the call of these UN experts to hold a Special Session and create a mechanism to monitor and document rights violations in the country. No state is beyond international scrutiny. China’s turn has come.

    The 44th session also marked an important opportunity to enable those affected directly by human rights violations to speak to the Council through NGO video statements.

    Amnesty's Laith Abu Zeyad addressed the Council remotely from the occupied West Bank where he has been trapped by a punitive travel ban imposed by Israel since October 2019. We call on the Israeli authorities to end all punitive or arbitrary travel bans.

    During the interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, victims’ associations and families of victims highlighted the human rights violations occurring in detention centers in Syria. We welcome the efforts by some States to underline their demands and welcome the adoption of the Syria resolution on detainees and urge the Syrian government to take all feasible measures to release detainees and provide truth to the families, noting the important pressure needed by Member States to further call for accountability measures for crimes committed in Syria.

    Collette Flanagan, Founder of Mothers against Police Brutality, also delivered a powerful video statement at the Council explaining the reality of racist policing in the United States of America. We fully support victims’ families’ appeals to the Council for accountability.

    We hope that the High Commissioner's reporton systemic racism, police violence and government responses to antiracism peaceful protests will be the first step in a series of meaningful international accountability measures to fully and independently investigate police killings, to protect and facilitate Black Lives Matter and other protests, and to provide effective remedy and compensation to victims and their families in the United States of America and around the world.

    We appreciate the efforts made by the Council Presidency and OHCHR to overcome the challenges of resuming the Council’s work while taking seriously health risks associated with COVID-19, including by increasing remote and online participation. We recommend that remote civil society participation continue and be strengthened for all future sessions of the Council.

    Despite these efforts, delays in finalising the session dates and modalities, and subsequent changes in the programme of work, reduced the time CSOs had to prepare and engage meaningfully. This has a disproportionate impact on CSOs not based in Geneva, those based in different time zones and those with less capacity to monitor the live proceedings. Other barriers to civil society participation this session included difficulties to meet the strict technical requirements for uploading video statements, to access resolution drafts and follow informal negotiations remotely, especially from other time zones, as well as a decrease in the overall number of speaking slots available for NGO statements due to the cancellation of general debates this session as an ‘efficiency measure.’

    We welcome the joint statement led by the core group on civil society space and endorsed by cross regional States and civil society, which calls on the High Commissioner to ensure that the essential role of civil society, and States’ efforts to protect and promote civil society space, are reflected in the report on impact of the COVID-19 pandemic presented to the 46th Session of the HRC. We urge all States at this Council to recognise and protect the key role that those who defend human rights play.

    These last two years have seen unlawful use of force perpetrated by law enforcement against peaceful protesters, protest monitors, journalists worldwide, from the United States of America to Hong Kong, to Chile to France, Kenya to Iraq to Algeria, to India to Lebanon with impunity.

    We therefore welcome that the resolution “the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests” was adopted by consensus, and that the Council stood strongly against some proposed amendments which would have weakened it. We also welcome the inclusion in the resolution of a panel during the 48th session to discuss such events and how States can strengthen protections. We urge States to ensure full accountability for such human rights violations as an essential element of the protection of human rights in the context of protests. The current context has accelerated the urgency of protecting online assembly, and we welcome that the resolution reaffirms that peaceful assembly rights guaranteed offline are also guaranteed online. In particular, we also commend the resolution for calling on States to refrain from internet shutdowns and website blocking during protests, while incorporating language on the effects of new and emerging technologies, particularly tools such as facial recognition, international mobile subscriber identity-catchers (“stingrays”) and closed-circuit television.

    We welcome that the resolution on “freedom of opinion and expression” contains positive language including on obligations surrounding the right to information, emphasising the importance of measures for encryption and anonymity, and strongly condemning the use of internet shutdowns. Following the High Commissioner’s statement raising alarm at the abuse of ‘false news’ laws to crackdown on free expression during the COVID-19 pandemic, we also welcome that the resolution stresses that responses to the spread of disinformation and misinformation must be grounded in international human rights law, including the principles of lawfulness, legitimacy, necessity and proportionality. At the same time, we are concerned by the last minute addition of language which focuses on restrictions to freedom of expression, detracting from the purpose of the resolution to promote and protect the right. As we look to the future, it is important that the core group builds on commitments contained in the resolution and elaborate on pressing freedom of expression concerns of the day, particularly for the digital age, such as the issue of surveillance or internet intermediary liability, while refocusing elements of the text.

    The current context has not only accelerated the urgency of protecting assembly and access to information, but also the global recognition of the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. We welcome the timely discussions on ”realizing children’s right to a healthy environment” and the concrete suggestions for action from panelists, States, and civil society. The COVID-19 crisis, brought about by animal-to-human viral transmission, has clarified the interlinkages between the health of the planet and the health of all people. We therefore support the UN Secretary General’s call to action on human rights, as well as the High Commissioner’s statement advocating for the global recognition of the human right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment – already widely reflected at national and regional levels - and ask that the Council adopts a resolution in that sense. We also support the calls made by the Marshall Islands, Climate Vulnerable Forum, and other States of the Pacific particularly affected and threatened by climate change. We now urge the Council to strengthen its role in tackling the climate crisis and its adverse impacts on the realization of human rights by establishing a Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Climate Change, which will help address the urgency of the situation and amplify the voices of affected communities.

    The COVID crisis has also exacerbated discrimination against women and girls. We welcome the adoption by the Council of a strong resolution on multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination against women and girls, which are exacerbated in times of a global pandemic. The text, inter alia, reaffirms the rights to sexual and reproductive health and to bodily autonomy, and emphasizes legal obligations of States to review their legislative frameworks through an intersectional approach. We regret that such a timely topic has been questioned by certain States and that several amendments were put forward on previously agreed language.

    The Council discussed several country-specific situations, and renewed the mandates in some situations.

    We welcome the renewal of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate and ongoing scrutiny on Belarus. The unprecedented crackdown on human rights defenders, journalists, bloggers and members of the political opposition in recent weeks ahead of the Presidential election in August provide a clear justification for the continued focus, and the need to ensure accountability for Belarus’ actions. With concerns that the violations may increase further over the next few weeks, it is essential that the Council members and observers maintain scrutiny and pressure even after the session has finished.

    We welcome the extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea. We urge the government to engage, in line with its Council membership obligations, as the Special Rapporteur’s ‘benchmarks for progress’ form a road map for human rights reform in the country. We welcome the High Commissioner report on the human rights situation in the Philippines which concluded, among other things, that the ongoing killings appear to be widespread and systematic and that “the practical obstacles to accessing justice in the country are almost insurmountable.” We regret that even during this Council session, President Duterte signed an Anti Terrorism Law with broad and vague definition of terrorism and terrorists and other problematic provisions for human rights and rule of law, which we fear will be used to stifle and curtail the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. Also during this session, in a further attack on press freedom, Philippine Congress rejected the franchise renewal of independent media network ABS-CBN, while prominent journalist Maria Ressa and her news website Rappler continue to face court proceedings and attacks from President Duterte after Ressa’s cyber libel conviction in mid-June. We support the call from a group of Special Procedures to the Council to establish an independent, impartial investigation into human rights violations in the Philippines and urge the Council to establish it at the next session.

    The two reports presented to the Council on Venezuela this session further document how lack of judicial independence and other factors perpetuate impunity and prevent access to justice for a wide range of violations of civil, cultural, economic, political, and social rights in the country. We also urge the Council to stand ready to extend, enhance and expand the mandate of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission when it reports in September. We also welcome the report of the Special rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967 and reiterate his call for States to ensure Israel puts an end to all forms of collective punishment. We also reiterate his call to ensure that the UN database of businesses involved with Israeli settlements becomes a living tool, through sufficient resourcing and annual updating.

    We regret, however, that several States have escaped collective scrutiny this session.

    We reiterate the UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard’s call to pressure Saudi Arabia to release prisoners of conscience and women human rights defenders and call on all States to sustain the Council’s scrutiny over the situation at the September session.

    Despite calls by the High Commissioner for prisoners’ release, Egypt has arrested defenders, journalists, doctors and medical workers for criticizing the government’s COVID-19 response. We recall that all of the defenders that the Special Procedures and the High Commissioner called for their release since September 2019 are still in pre-trial detention. The Supreme State Security Prosecution and 'Terrorism Circuit courts' in Egypt, are enabling pre-trial detention as a form of punishment including against human rights defenders and journalists and political opponents, such as Ibrahim Metwally, Mohamed El-Baqer and Esraa Abdel Fattah, Ramy Kamel, Alaa Abdel-Fattah, Patrick Zaky, Ramy Shaat, Eman Al-Helw, Solafa Magdy and Hossam El-Sayed. Once the terrorism circuit courts resumed after they were suspended due to COVID-19, they renewed their detention retroactively without their presence in court. It’s high time the Council holds Egypt accountable.

    As highlighted in a joint statement of Special Procedures, we call on the Indian authorities to immediately release HRDs, who include students, activists and protest leaders, arrested for protesting against changes to India’s citizenship laws. Also eleven prominent HRDs continue to be imprisoned under false charges in the Bhima Koregaon case. These activists face unfounded terror charges under draconian laws such as sedition and under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. While we welcome that Safoora Zargar was granted bail on humanitarian grounds, the others remain at high risk during a COVID-19 pandemic in prisons with not only inadequate sanitary conditions but also limited to no access to legal counsel and family members. A number of activists have tested positive in prison, including Akhil Gogoi and 80-year-old activist Varavara Rao amid a larger wave of infections that have affected many more prisoners across the country. Such charges against protestors, who were exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly must be dropped. We call on this Council to strengthen their demands to the government of India for accountability over the excessive use of force by the police and other State authorities against the demonstrators.

    In Algeria, between 30 March and 16 April 2020, the Special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, human rights defenders, issued three urgent appeals in relation to cases involving arbitrary and violent arrests, unfair trials and reprisals against human rights defenders and peaceful activists Olaya Saadi, Karim Tabbou and Slimane Hamitouche. Yet, the Council has been silent with no mention of the crackdown on Algerian civil society, including journalists.

    To conclude on a positive note, we welcome the progress in the establishment of the OHCHR country office in Sudan, and call on the international community to continue to provide support where needed to the transitional authorities. While also welcoming their latest reform announcements, we urge the transitional authorities to speed up the transitional process, including reforms within the judiciary and security sectors, in order to answer the renewed calls from protesters for the enjoyment of "freedom, peace and justice" of all in Sudan. We call on the Council to ensure continued monitoring and reporting on Sudan.


    International Service for Human Rights
    DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    Center for Reproductive Rights
    Franciscans International
    The Syrian Legal Development Programme
    Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR)
    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR)
    International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA World)
    Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)
    Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
    ARTICLE 19
    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
    Association for Progressive Communications
    International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
    Amnesty International


    Current council members:

    Afghanistan, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Burkina FasoBrazil, Cameroon, Chile, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Eritrea, Fiji, Germany, India, Indonesia, ItalyJapan, 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




  • RDC : la presse et le droit de manifester ne sont toujours pas protégés

    Déclaration au Conseil des droits de l'homme des Nations Unies 

    Merci, Madame la Présidente, et merci, Madame la Haut-Commissaire, pour votre mise à jour. Nous partageons vos préoccupations concernant la détérioration de la situation des droits humains en République démocratique du Congo, notamment les restrictions continues aux libertés civiques.

    Malgré quelques avancées et des mesures prises en 2019, les violations des droits humains se sont multipliées en 2020. Les journalistes et les défenseurs des droits humains continuent de faire l’objet de menaces, de harcèlement, d’intimidation et d’arrestations arbitraires, tandis que plusieurs manifestations ont été réprimées par les forces de sécurité.

    L’année dernière, plusieurs journalistes ont été détenus ou convoqués  ̶  souvent sur des accusations d’outrage aux fonctionnaires, d’insulte aux autorités ou de diffamation. Le journaliste Christophe Yoka Nkumu, de la station de radio communautaire Radio Liberté Bikoro, a été arrêté le 22 février 2021 après avoir signalé qu’un représentant parlementaire avait utilisé un véhicule destiné aux agents de santé publique luttant contre Ebola.

    Les manifestations sont trop souvent réprimées de manière disproportionnée par les forces de sécurité, tandis que des militants ont été arrêtés arbitrairement pour avoir participé à des manifestations pacifiques. En décembre 2020 et janvier 2021, dix militants du mouvement Lutte pour le changement (Lucha) ont été arrêtés lors de manifestations à Beni. Huit militants, arrêtés au cours d’une manifestation qui remettait en question la capacité d’une des missions de maintien de la paix de l’ONU, la MONUSCO, à protéger les civils dans l’est de la RDC, ont été traduits devant un tribunal militaire pour « sabotage et violence contre des agents de sécurité de l’État »  ̶  ils risquaient 10 ans de prison  ̶  avant d’être acquittés. Le 12 janvier 2021, des policiers ont battu et agressé plusieurs journalistes alors qu’ils couvraient une manifestation étudiante à Bukavu.

    Nous demandons à l’administration Tshisekedi de veiller au respect des libertés fondamentales, notamment en révisant toutes les législations restrictives, en dépénalisant de toute urgence les délits de presse et en assurant la protection des défenseurs des droits humains et des journalistes.

    Pour garantir des améliorations durables, la fin de l’impunité pour les violations des droits (y compris celles commises contre la société civile) doit être une priorité, et nous demandons au gouvernement de veiller à ce que les responsables de ces violations soient tenus de rendre des comptes. Nous demandons à la Haut-Commissaire comment les membres et les observateurs de ce Conseil peuvent soutenir au mieux les personnes sur le terrain afin d’éviter tout nouveau recul des droits humains, et quelles mesures le Conseil devrait prendre si la situation continue à se dégrader.

    L'espace civique en RDC est considéré comme réprimé par le Monitor CIVICUS.



  • RDC: 500 prisonniers politiques libérés sous la nouvelle administration mais des inquiétudes persistent

    Conseil des droits de l'homme des Nations Unies
    Déclaration orale: Adoption du rapport EPU de la République Démocratique du Congo

    La Ligue des Droits de la personne dans la région des Grands Lacs (LDGL) et CIVICUS accueillent l’engagement pris par le gouvernement de la RDC dans le processus de l’EPU. Nous saluons également les premières mesures positives prises par le président Félix Tshisekedi au cours de ses neuf premiers mois en ce qui concerne l'espace civique, notamment son engagement à libérer plus de 500 prisonniers politiques.

    Dans notre soumission conjointe à l'EPU, nous avons documenté que, depuis son dernier examen, la RDC n'a mis en œuvre ni pris de mesures concrètes pour mettre en œuvre les recommandations relatives à l'espace civique. Nous accueillons l’acceptation par le gouvernement des recommandations relatives à l’espace civique dans ce cycle de l’EPU et nous attendons avec intérêt leur mise en œuvre bien que nous regrettions que la RDC n’ait pas accepté des recommandations concernant l’engagement avec les titulaires de mandat au titre des procédures spéciales.

    La liberté de la presse est gravement entravée par des lois restrictives, qui contiennent des dispositions criminalisant les délits de presse. Les journalistes sont soumis à des menaces, à l'intimidation, à des agressions physiques, à des arrestations arbitraires et à des poursuites judiciaires, avec une impunité quasi totale. Le 1er mars 2019, le journaliste Steeve Mwanyo Iwewe a été condamné à un an de prison - plus tard réduit à une peine de six mois avec sursis - pour "insultes aux autorités", alors qu'il couvrait une manifestation d'employés de l'Etat local.

    Sous le gouvernement précédent, les manifestations étaient systématiquement réprimées et des manifestants arrêtés arbitrairement. En plus, une force excessive de la part des forces de sécurité depuis faisait des centaines de morts. Bien que les manifestations ne soient plus systématiquement interdites, le recours excessif à la force, y compris l'utilisation de balles réelles, restent un problème récurrent. Une personne a été tuée lors des manifestations de l'opposition à Kinshasa et à Goma le 30 juin 2019.

    Certains projets de lois sont restrictifs et devraient être modifiés ou annulés. Le projet de loi sur la protection des DDH contient plusieurs dispositions restrictives et limitations qui ne sont pas conformes à la Déclaration des Nations Unies sur les défenseurs des droits de l'homme, tandis que le projet de modification de la loi sur les associations restreindrait l'espace civique si approuvé en son état actuel.

    Monsieur le Président, l’examen de l’EPU offre à la RDC l’occasion de concrétiser ses promesses. La Ligue des droits de la personne dans la région des Grands Lacs et CIVICUS invitent le gouvernement de la RDC à prendre des mesures proactives pour répondre à ces préoccupations et à mettre en œuvre les recommandations visant à créer et à maintenir, en droit et en pratique, un environnement favorable pour la société civile.


  • Réaction à la résolution sur les droits humains au Burundi

    42ème Session du Conseil de droits de l'homme des Nations Unies
    Réponse à la résolution sur le Burundi

    CIVICUS et ses membres se félicitent du renouvellement de la Commission d'enquête sur le Burundi. C'est un moment crucial pour le pays à l'approche des élections de l'année prochaine, et nous nous félicitons particulièrement de l'attention accrue accordée aux violations des droits dans le contexte des élections.

    Cela permettra au pays de rester sous surveillance internationale pendant la période électorale et contribuera à garantir la responsabilité et la justice pour les violations des droits de l'homme. Le gouvernement burundais n'a toujours pas accordé l'accès à la Commission d'enquête, mais le renouvellement du mandat a montré que l'obstructionnisme, l'indifférence et les menaces faites par le gouvernement burundais contre l'ONU ne seront pas récompensés.

    C'est une période critique pour le Burundi alors que la situation des droits de l'homme ne cesse de se détériorer. Le travail de la Commission d'enquête est plus nécessaire que jamais et nous nous félicitons de son travail en cours ", a déclaré Cyriaque Nibitegeka, avocat et défenseur des droits humains.

    Nous applaudissons les xx États qui ont voté en faveur de la résolution pour leur soutien aux défenseurs des droits humains et à la société civile au Burundi.

    Nous réitérons notre appel au gouvernement burundais pour qu'il coopère pleinement avec les mécanismes du Conseil des droits de l'homme des Nations Unies, y compris la Commission d'enquête, qu'il permette l'accès à ces mécanismes, et qu'il libère sans plus tarder les défenseurs des droits humains détenus. Lisez notre déclaration au Conseil des droits de l'homme ici.


  • Reaction to human rights resolution on Burundi

    42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Response to resolution on Burundi

    CIVICUS and members welcome the renewal of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi. It is a crucial time for the country with elections coming up next year, and we particularly welcome the enhanced focus on rights violations in the context of the elections.

    This will ensure that the country remains under international scrutiny over the election period, and will help ensure accountability and justice for human rights violations. The Burundi government has still not granted access to the Commission of Inquiry, but the renewal of the mandate has shown that obstructionism, indifference, and threats made by the Burundi government against the UN will not go rewarded.

    ‘This is a critical time for Burundi as the human rights situation continues to worsen. The work of the Commission of Inquiry is needed now more than ever and we welcome its ongoing work,’ said Cyriaque Nibitegeka, lawyer and human rights defender.

    We applaud the 23 states that voted for the resolution for their support to human rights defenders and wider civil society in Burundi.

    We reiterate calls to the Burundian government to to fully cooperate and allow access to UN Human Rights Council mechanisms, including the Commission of Inquiry, and to release detained human rights defenders as a matter of urgency. Read our statement to the Human Rights Council here.


  • Reaction to human rights resolution on Cambodia

    42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Response to resolution on Cambodia

    CIVICUS welcomes the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia in a resolution which was passed by consensus today. As the country’s human rights situation is deteriorating and space for freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association is decreasing, international scrutiny is more important than ever. 

    However, the resolution was also a missed opportunity for the Human Rights Council to push for substantive change on the ground. At a time when the human rights situation in the country is regressing, a strong resolution providing for enhanced monitoring and reporting mechanisms would have shown that the Council will not accept sustained violations of fundamental freedoms. 

    ‘This resolution does not go far enough towards bringing to account the perpetrators of human rights violations, or to provide a remedy for victims and their families,’ said Lisa Majumdar, Advocacy Officer with CIVICUS. 

    ‘Cambodia’s human rights situation has deteriorated over the past four years and international action so far has been inadequate. This resolution could have an important moment to step up scrutiny of the authorities and show Cambodian human rights defenders that they are not alone.  Instead it sends a signal that the Cambodian government can continue to violate rights with impunity’, said Lisa Majumdar.

    We welcome the acknowledgement in the resolution of the ‘chilling effect’ over civil society and independent voices following the murder of human rights defender and analyst Dr Kem Ley, although disappointed that the resolution did not name him, and we reiterate calls for a full, independent and transparent investigation into his death. Such a chilling affect has been compounded by repressive laws, misuse of the justice system, online and offline intimidation, and the shutdown of independent media outlets.

    However, we are concerned by references in the resolution to Cambodia’s ‘efforts and progress’ in enforcing basic laws such as the criminal code and the criminal procedure code. Not only should this be a baseline standard to meet, but there are multiple cases of Cambodian courts continuing to misuse both laws in order to judicially harass and in some cases imprison human rights defenders, land activists, and opposition supporters. Cambodia’s manipulation of the justice system to serve political goals should be the subject of reform, not praise.

    The Special Rapporteur on Cambodia presented her latest report to the Council earlier this week. The report detailed the regression in the country’s political situation as well as some steps it has taken towards meeting sustainable development goals and outlining recommendations. 

    We call on the Cambodian government to restore full fundamental freedoms in line with the report's recommendations, and to implement recommendations from its UPR held earlier this year.


  • Reaction to human rights resolution on reprisals

    42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Response to resolution on reprisals

    CIVICUS welcomes the new resolution on reprisals, passed by the Human Rights Council this afternoon, which detailed trends and patterns in reprisals and identified the increased risk for those most marginalized. 

    The latest report to the Human Rights Council on reprisals – presented to the Council by the Assistant Secretary-General of the UN last week – showed that reprisals against activists continue unabated, without accountability. This undermines the strength of the entire United Nations when its member states persecute and punish those that provide evidence and testimonials of human rights abuses. 

    The UN depends on information from the ground in order to fulfil its mandate of protecting human rights. Every act of reprisal, including those detailed in the latest report as well as the countless others that go unreported, is a direct challenge to this. We were particularly concerned to see 13 Human Rights Council members listed in the report as perpetrators of reprisals, and reiterate calls for a mechanism which imposes real political costs and accountability for states that engage in reprisals.

    Several hostile amendments to the resolution were tabled by Russia, but were defeated by the Human Rights Council. We welcome the strong statements made by a number of states today in support of the resolution, and we call on states, and the UN bodies, to step up their efforts to both prevent and address reprisals.

    Read our statement to the Human Rights Council here.


  • Reaction to human rights resolution on Sudan

    42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Response to resolution on Sudan

    CIVICUS welcomes the resolution on Sudan passed by the Human Rights Council this afternoon. Although it did not provide the international investigation of human rights violations since 2018 that civil society had called for, it extended the mandate of the Independent Expert on Sudan and kept the country under international scrutiny at this critical time. 

    We further welcome the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights and the transitional Sudanese government, and we hope this proves a collaboration which will lead to substantive human rights gains in the country. 

    ‘There is still a long way to go for human rights in Sudan, and we hope that these steps by both the international community and the transitional authorities on the ground prove the first steps towards ensuring full accountability for past human rights violations, as well as creating a safe enabling environment for civil society, human rights defenders and independent media in the country,’ said Paul Mulindwa, Advocacy Officer for Africa at CIVICUS.

    We reiterate calls on the transitional government of Sudan to to ensure the release of detained activists, work towards locating missing individuals from the 3 June sit-in dispersal, and refrain from using force against peaceful protesters and instead protect their right to freedom of expression, and work toward an effective and peaceful transition toward democracy. Read our earlier statement at the UN Human Rights Council here.


  • Reaction to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights update

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


    Thank you, High Commissioner for your update, which takes place in a difficult and unprecedented context.

    We agree with your assessment that human rights violations result primarily from processes that exclude people's voices, and gaps in protection measures. These are issues which the Council is well-placed to address.

    To this end, we hope that the Council will this session continue to address the situation in the Philippines with a strong resolution which reflects the dire human rights situation in the country and pursues accountability. Given that the situation in Burundi continues to be characterised by violations and impunity we urge the Council to renew the vital mandate of the Commission of Inquiry. We further call on the Council to heed calls from civil society and its own Special Procedures to address the escalating violations in China – in Hong Kong, Tibet and in Xinjiang – as well as to address attacks on rights defenders, journalists, and government critics across the country.

    High Commissioner, restrictions to civic space are often precursors to a worsening human rights situation. When the Council fails to address these, it misses the opportunity to work constructively to prevent further human rights violations and fails those who will be affected. A resolution on the Council’s prevention mandate should address this gap. Echoing your call, we call for immediate and sustained preventive action on Tanzania before the situation deteriorates further.

    Finally, High Commissioner, we welcome efforts to ensure civil society participation despite COVID-19 restrictions. Being able to meet with and hear directly from human rights defenders in the room, and in-person, has long been a strength of this Council. We call on the members and observers of the Council to strengthen collaboration with partners from civil society to further our mutual goals of protecting human rights.

    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




  • Reaction to the UN High Commissioner report on terrorism and human rights

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

    Thank you, Madame President,

    On behalf of the Civic Space Initiative, we wish to draw attention to the enduring restrictions for civil society and civic freedoms, stemming from security measures to counter-terrorism and violent extremism. Such unwarranted limitations to civic space hamper efforts to counter terrorism, as civil society is essential in addressing the conditions conducive to terrorism.

    The High Commissioner’s 2020 report on Terrorism and Human Rights emphasizes the negative and harmful effects of excessive security and counter-terrorism measures on rights and freedoms in general. 

    However, the report does not address the detrimental and disproportionate impact of these measures on civil society and civic space. This is particularly relevant, pursuant to the 2019 Report on how the Measures to Address Terrorism and Violent Extremism impact Closing Civic Space, where the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism examined restrictive and repressive aspects of the security and counter-terrorism framework:

    • Repressive measures against lawful, non-violent civil society activities and targeting “undesirable” individuals.
    • Regulation restricting freedom of expression and opinion, association, and assembly.
    • Limiting civil society access to financial services.
    • Vaguely labelling civil society as “terrorists,” or “threats to national security”.

    These measures create a chilling effect on civic space. Given civil society’s essential role in countering terrorism, measures undermining its ability to operate undercut our collective counter-terrorism response. 

    We remind states of their obligation to ensure counter-terrorism measures comply with international human rights law, international refugee law and international humanitarian law, pursuant to HRC resolutions 37/27 and 42/18.  Criminalization and repression of civil society must be urgently addressed as a misuse of law and an abuse of power. Any effective counter-terrorism policy must engage with and strengthen, not weaken, civil society.


  • Renew mandate of Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity

    Over 1300 civil society organisations from across the globe call for the renewal of the mandate of the Independent Expert on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

    Around the world, millions of people face human rights violations and abuses because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI). These abuses include: killings and extrajudicial executions; torture, rape and sexual violence; enforced disappearance; forced displacement; criminalization; arbitrary detentions; blackmail and extortion; police violence and harassment; bullying; stigmatization; hate speech; denial of one’s self defined gender identity; forced medical treatment, and/or forced sterilization; repression of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, religion or belief; attacks and restrictions on human rights defenders; denial of services and hampered access to justice; discrimination in all spheres of life including in employment, healthcare, housing, education and cultural traditions; and other multiple and intersecting forms of violence and discrimination. These grave and widespread violations take place in conflict and non-conflict situations, are perpetrated by State and non-State actors (including the victims’ families and communities) and impact all spheres of life.

    In 2016, this Human Rights Council took definitive action to systematically address these abuses, advance positive reforms and share best practices – through regular reporting, constructive dialogue and engagement – and created an Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

    This Council considered the mandate an essential tool to respond to the vast body of evidence of such violence and discrimination in all world regions and followed recommendations from the UN human rights system – including the Treaty Bodies, the Human Rights Council, its Special Procedures and the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), and the findings of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and many others.

    The two mandate holders have examined these issues in greater depth through reports, country visits, communications, and statements issued in the past three years. They have identified root causes and addressed violence and discrimination faced by specific groups, including lesbian, bisexual, trans and gender diverse persons.

    The mandate has also welcomed progress and identified best practices from all regions of the world, including in decriminalisation, legal gender recognition, anti-discrimination laws and hate crime laws that include SOGI. All the while, continuing to engage in constructive dialogue and assist States to implement and further comply with international human rights law, as well as collaborating with UN mechanisms, agencies, funds and programs and other bodies in international and regional systems.

    For persons of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities globally, this mechanism and its work have been a beacon of hope that violence and discrimination will not be ignored; and since 2016, progress has been made in many areas in all regions, including in countries that have decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual acts, legally recognized a person’s gender identity and promulgated SOGI-inclusive anti-discrimination and hate crimes laws.

    Despite these positive advances, to this day, 69 countries still criminalize consensual same-sex sexual acts, seven with the death penalty. Alarmingly 3000 killings of trans and gender diverse people were reported in 72 countries in the past decade. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans and gender diverse people everywhere face daily discrimination and violence.

    A decision by Council Members to renew this mandate would send a clear message that violence and discrimination against people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities cannot be tolerated. It would reaffirm that specific, sustained and systematic attention is needed to address these human rights violations and ensure that LGBT people can live a life of dignity.

    We 1,316 civil society organisations from 174 States, around the world urge this Council to ensure we continue building a world where everyone can live free from violence and discrimination. To allow this important and unfinished work to continue we urge you to renew the mandate of the Independent Expert on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.


  • Renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on promotion of human rights while countering terrorism

    Renewal of the mandate of Special Rapporteur on promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism

    Our organizations are deeply concerned about reported moves to allow Egypt a role in the Human Rights Council resolution to renew the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism (SR on CT). We fear that such a move would undermine the integrity and credibility of this vital mandate.

    Egypt has an appalling record when it comes to abusing counter-terrorism measures to suppress civil society and dissenting voices. The Special Rapporteur has announced that the theme of her report to the 40th session is the misuse of counterterrorism measures against civil society and human rights defenders, and the session will thus be an important opportunity to shine a spotlight on Egypt’s record in this regard.

    In mid-January 2019, on the launch of its annual World Report, Human Rights Watch stated that:

    “Using counterterrorism as a guise to crush all forms of dissent could be Egypt’s hallmark of 2018… There’s simply not much room left to peacefully challenge the government without being detained and unfairly prosecuted as a ‘terrorist.”

    The Egyptian authorities' approach to counter-terrorism relies on systematic and widespread use of prolonged arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, and torture and ill-treatment including by rape, in addition to scores of possible cases of extrajudicial executions of detainees, and hundreds of unlawful killings of peaceful protesters. Many of these violations may amount to crimes against humanity. In North Sinai, the army has razed thousands of homes and farmlands leading to the forced evictions of tens of thousands of residents, many of whom were offered no compensation or temporary housing. The army may have also been involved in unlawful ground and airstrikes including by using cluster munitions. Further, the government has recently granted impunity to officers through special laws that make it even harder to question security officers involved in abuses.

    We furthermore consider it wholly inappropriate for a State recently accused of severe reprisals following the visit of another Special Rapporteur in September/October 2018 to be rewarded with joining the core group on this vital mandate. The severity of these reprisals led in December 2018 to a joint statement from the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and the Special Rapporteur on Right to Housing warning that Egypt is “not ready to host further visits”.

    Despite its rhetoric, the Egyptian government’s approach is not primarily to give greater consideration to the human rights of victims of terrorism, which is a topic that had already been addressed in more detail in the previous Mexican thematic resolution and previous reports of the mandate. Rather, it aims to divert attention from the adverse human rights effects of its and other States’ counter-terrorism measures against individuals and the activities of civil society, including by effectively presenting the State itself as a victim.

    Any Egyptian involvement in the mandate renewal would be qualitatively different and far more damaging than the role it was accorded in the March 2018 thematic resolution. The March 2018 agreement was said at the time to be entirely without prejudice to the mandate resolution, and this was indeed offered to civil society and others at that time as a reassurance in the face of similar concerns.

    Any dilution of the focus of the mandate, in the short or long term would also significantly narrow the already highly restricted space for independent oversight of counter-terrorism measures from a human rights perspective within the overall UN system. The mandate holds a uniquely important role in the UN Counter-Terrorism architecture, participating as the only UN entity with the exclusive mandate to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism.

    Further, allowing Egypt to jointly lead the mandate renewal would only serve to encourage a continuation of its pattern of violations and abuses against civil society and others within Egypt, while shielding it from outside scrutiny.

    We therefore urge you to communicate to the Permanent Missions of Mexico and Egypt your opposition to any such developments in relation to the leadership or content of the resolution to renew the Special Rapporteur’s mandate.


    Amnesty International
    Article 19
    Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    Human Rights Watch
    International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
    International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    Privacy International


  • Reprisals are calculated steps by states to prevent activists from exposing human rights violations

    42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Statement during interactive dialogue with the Assistant Secretary General on Reprisals

    We thank the Assistant Secretary General for presenting this essential report which shows that acts of reprisals are not aberrative, but rather are calculated steps taken to prevent human rights defenders from exposing human rights violations. The UN depends on information from the ground in order to fulfil its mandate of protecting human rights. Every act of reprisal, those detailed in this report and the countless others that go unreported, is a direct challenge to this.

    But reprisals continue unabated, without accountability, and with a direct impact on the efficacy of the UN as a whole. We are particularly concerned to see council members listed in this report.

    Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the Philippines, particularly, show patterns of reprisals. We remain deeply concerned by the arbitrary detention and treatment of Ms. Samar Badawi and Ms. Loujain Al-Hathloul following their engagement with CEDAW. In the Philippines, we are seriously concerned by the attacks and threats against CIVICUS member Karapatan. Last week, FIND, a Philippines group advocating for the right of families of disappeared, was smeared by a representative of the government online following a side event highlighting the situation – and this was by no means the first time that human rights defenders have been attacked within this building for engaging with the Council. We echo the report’s recommendation that states commit to addressing reprisals in practice through the universal periodic review mechanism. However, we note that a number of cases outlined in the report actually came as a direct result of engagement with the UPR process: the cases of Nguyen Thi Kim Thanh in Viet Nam; of staff members of the international non-governmental organization Chinese Human Rights Defenders; of the New Generation of Human Rights Defenders Coalition in Kazakhstan; and of Malaysian human rights defender Mr. Numan Afifi. 

    The report shows reprisals at every stage of engagement, including attempts by state representatives on the Economic and Social Council to block accreditation of NGOs working on human rights. This pre-emptive weakening of civil society engagement with the UN represents yet another deliberate curtailment of civic space. 

    We ask the Assistant Secretary General: what possibility does he foresee for real political costs and accountability for states that engage in reprisals, particularly those who are repeat perpetrators? 

    And how can the UN and its related bodies take action to protect human rights defenders on the ground?