human rights council

 

  • Venezuela: Continued deterioration of human rights

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

    CIVICUS thanks the High Commissioner for her report, which shows the continued deterioration of the human rights situation in Venezuela and lack of effective implementation of the recommendations made in the last report.

    We are deeply concerned about recent legislation that unduly restricts the right to association in Venezuela. A new ordinance of May 2021 introduces concerning elements which may be used to criminalise civil society work. A new draft law introduced in the National Assembly would limit international funding to civil society. This legislation would continue to restrict the operation of CSOs in the country, and would particularly have a devastating impact on those organisations working to provide much needed humanitarian assistance in the country.

    Restrictions on freedom of expression continue in Venezuela, with recent examples of attacks against media outlets like the raid and seizure of newspaper El Nacional and the case of CNP in Sucre whose office was set on fire. Digitals attacks continue to increase in the country with 153 media outlets affected by digital censorship in Venezuela in 2020.

    As people continue to take to the streets in the context of a terrible socioeconomic situation, security forces continue to use excessive force against protesters. Local organisations reported that during the first trimester of 2021, 23 demonstrations were repressed, andone person killed.

    We echo the High Commissioner’s remarks in her March statement that ‘shrinking civic space has ‘a paralysing effect on all those engaged on legitimate and essential activities’. We ask the High Commissioner in the context of her ongoing reporting to set out concrete ways in which the international community can support those on the ground.


    Civic space in Venezuela is rated Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor.

     

  • Venezuela: Extrajudicial killings continue, evidence presented to the UN

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

    We thank the Fact-Finding Mission for this timely update, which ensures that the human rights situation in Venezuela continues to be promptly documented. We welcome more frequent spaces for dialogue to ensure ongoing independent monitoring of the implementation of previous recommendations. 

    Despite repeated condemnation by international organizations and institutions, extrajudicial executions continue in Venezuela. We are deeply concerned by the recent events in Las Vegas, Caracas, where at least 650 agents of Venezuelan security forces were deployed due to alleged clashes between gangs and police. At least 14 people were killed during the operation. Human rights organizations strongly refute that the deaths were the result of the confrontation. Evidence and witness testimony shows that they were mostly extrajudicial executions. 

    In addition, the civic space situation continues to deteriorate. Amid the pandemic, protests did not stop. Local organisations documented 412 incidents in which protesters were repressed by public security forces and paramilitary groups in 2020. At least 415 people were detained and 150 wounded. This reinforces the pattern of repression and excessive use of force against those who take to the streets to demand their rights. 

    Criminalizacion of human rights defenders continue. We are deeply concerned about the detention of activists from Azul Positivo, a humanitarian organisation that has been providing humanitarian aid to vulnerable communities in Zulia, particularly people living with HIV/AIDS. 

    Accountability and an end to impunity is key to protecting those on the ground. We ask the FFM: what should be the priorities of member states of this Council in combatting impunity?


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

     

  • Venezuela: Restrictions to civic space continue unabated as government defies commitments

    Statement at the 50th Session of the Human Rights Council 


    Adoption of the UPR report of Venezuela

    Delivered by Carlos Correa, Espacio Público

    Thank you, Mr President. 

    Over the past five years, Venezuela promoted unjustified restrictions on civic space, including the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. Of the 40 recommendations received in 2016, it partially implemented 7.  

    Space for civil society has been repressed. Despite accepting recommendations to guarantee freedom of expression online, restrictions continue. Venezuela committed to ensure the work of journalists, human rights defenders and humanitarian workers, but judicial persecution remains common. Authorities adopt a disqualifying discourse that seeks to justify attacks on the exercise of freedom of association and expression. 

    Today at least 45 news portals are blocked in Venezuela. Between January and April of this year 2022, 43 journalists were victims of illegitimate restrictions to do their work. While this UPR process was ongoing, a bill was announced to control international cooperation funds. In the last year, at least 8 human rights defenders have been detained and criminal proceedings are ongoing against them. 

    We regret that Venezuela accepted 27 of the 53 recommendations it received on civic space during this third cycle.  

    Mr President, Espacio Público and CIVICUS call on the Government of Venezuela to take concrete steps to address these concerns, including by repealing undue legal restrictions on civil society and the press, reinstating media outlets unwarrantedly closed, ceasing censorship practices, and by releasing all those detained for defending human rights and expressing themselves. 

    Thank you very much.  


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

     

  • Venezuela: Serious human rights violations continue during COVID-19

    Statement at the 45th Session of the UN Human Rights Council -- delivered by Marsyabel Rodriguez from Espacio Público

    Interactive Dialogue on the fact-finding Mission on Venezuela. 


    From the Venezuelan organisation Espacio Público and on behalf of the victims we support, we would like to thank the work of the Fact-finding Mission in its first report. This work was carried out with important challenges, such as the State's refusal to collaborate and the ban on access to the country and the limitations imposed by the pandemic. 

    However, the victims were heard and recognized, which reduces the strength of the mechanisms of impunity, contributes to overcoming collective fear and makes possible paths of justice and reparation.

    Many of the documented violations are associated with the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, participation, association, and peaceful assembly. 

    Cases of serious human rights violations continued during the Covid-19 pandemic. The recent pardons do not constitute a structural improvement; there are still illegitimate judicial proceedings, disappearances, torture and ill-treatment, arbitrary detentions and politically motivated persecution in a pre-electoral context. 

    The Venezuelan situation demands that the universal system for the protection of human rights contribute to the reversal of impunity in order to increase the defense and protection of the dignity of persons.

    We urge the Council to renew the mandate of the Mission; the systematic violation of rights persists in the country. Venezuela needs to hear loud and clear from the universal community of human rights. 


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

     

  • Video Statement Guide: Human Rights Council

    The COVID-19 pandemic has posed significant challenges for NGOs to deliver in-person statements to the Human Rights Council at the Palais de Nations in Geneva. The HRC Secretariat has opened some opportunities for remote participation for civil society, including through delivering video statements for general debates, interactive dialogues, panel discussions, and UPR outcomes (pending further decisions from the Council when the 46th Session of the Human Rights Council opens). 

    The Secretariat has provided guidelines in its Information Note for registering and uploading video statements, which must be strictly followed. Please see the HRC NGO participation page for the latest version of the Note. This guide can be read in conjunction with the Information Note to help format and edit statements accordingly and avoid any technicalities preventing the statements from being delivered. 

    Once your organization has registered for an Oral Statement, there are four further steps to take: 

    • Speaker registration on Indico; 
    • Recording the statement; 
    • Editing the statement;
    • Creating subtitles; and 
    • Uploading the statement.

    1. Accreditation through Indico

    Everyone who delivers a statement via video must be registered on Indico. To register, you will require either a UN grounds pass or an accreditation letter from the organization who registered for the Oral Statement slot to upload on Indico as part of your registration. Registration takes a few days to process so register as early as possible, as the video statement will not be played if the speaker is not registered.

    2. Recording the video statement

    The video file must keep strictly to official time limits: 

    • General Debates: 1 min 30 sec 
    • Interactive Dialogues: 1 min 30 sec
    • Universal Periodic Review Outcomes: 2 mins
    • Panel Discussions: 2 mins

    Before recording your statement, please keep in mind that: 

    • The video statement must be a single shot of one individual delivering a statement, seated against a neutral, monochrome background 
    • No symbols, flags, banners or other images are permitted in the shot, either in the background or on the clothing of the person delivering the statement
    • The camera should be focused on the speaker’s face and should not move during the shot. Make sure your camera is positioned landscape (horizontally).
    • Ensure your statement is within the time limit, preferably a second below.
    • Online statements stand and fall with the quality of the audio recording. If your budget allows, buying a microphone can greatly enhance your video statement. 

    3. Editing the video statement

    Once the video has been recorded, check that it aligns with the technical specifications outlined in the Information Note (and below). If not, you can edit the video to fit these specifications. If you have a Mac, iMovie has inbuilt functionality for checking and editing for specifications. If not, we suggest downloading and using two free tools for this: VCL Media Player and DaVinci Resolve 16

    To check the format (MOV, MP4, AVI/WMV), the video encoding, the audio encoding (sample rate), the video resolution and the frame rate: upload your video to VCL Media Player by clicking on Media --> Open File, select your file and click on Open. Click on Tools --> Codec Information (Windows) or Window --> Media Information (Mac). 

    On iMovie for Mac, choose Share --> Export Using QuickTime; choose the file format you want to export to, and click Options to see the default settings. You can change these settings in the export process.

    MP4
    Video encoding/codec: H.264
    Audio encoding/sample rate: min. 44100Hz
    Video resolution: min. 640x480 max. 1920x1080
    Frame rate 24, 30 fps 

    MOV
    video encoding/codec: H.264
    Audio encoding/sample rate: min. 44100Hz 
    Video resolution: min. 640x480, max. 1920x1080
    Frame rate 24, 30 fps

    AVI/WMV
    Video encoding/codec: WMV3 (Windows Media Video 9)
    Audio encoding/sample rate: min. 44100Hz 
    Video resolution: min. 640x480, max. 1920x1080
    Frame rate 24, 30 fps

    Formatting the video statement

    If the properties do not match the Secretariat specifications, or if you want to adjust the colour or sound, DaVinci Resolve is a free video editing tool and can be downloaded to allow you to edit your video, adjust sound, resolution and colours. On iMovie, you can change settings when exporting: check this article for more details. 

    If using VLC/DaVinci Resolve:

    • To change the format of your video or video encoding, stay in VCL Media Player, click on Media --> Convert / Save --> Convert / Save. Then, select the profile to which you want to convert your video to and save the new file accordingly. 
    • To change your audio encoding, upload your video to DaVinci Resolve. For this, click on File --> Import File --> Import Media, select your file ---> Open. Your audio will automatically be upboosted to at least 44100 Hz as required by the Secretariat.
    • To change the video resolution, upload your video to DaVinci Resolve. On the bottom right corner of the application, find the project settings. Click on the little wheel. Under Master Settings, you will now be able to change the timeline resolution to fit the Secretariat’s requirements.
    • To change the frame rate, upload your video to DaVinci Resolve and open Master Settings as above. Here, you will be able to change the timeline frame rate and the playback frame rate to fit the Secretariat requirements.
    • To edit the length of your video to be within the allotted time, upload your video to DaVinci Resolve. Focus on the highlighted area of the screen. You can select your starting and end point of the video by clicking on the timeline. Select your starting point on the timeline and click on the toggle highlighted in the screen shot. To select the end point of your video, select the moment on the timeline and click on the second toggle highlighted in the screen shot.  The Secretariat does not allow you to cut your video throughout your statement, you can only edit the end and starting point. 
    • To export your file: Click on Deliver (the little rocket on the bottom of your screen) and follow the steps in this online guide

    ​​​​​​​4. Creating subtitles for your video statement

    Captioning of the video is strongly encouraged by the Secretariat in order to ensure accessibility of persons with disabilities. Here are practical guidelines to create video captions on YouTube, which can be exported as an .srt file and uploaded separately. iMovie for Mac also has inbuilt subtitle functionality.

    If you export your subtitles as a separate file as in the guidelines, you can upload them separately on the registration system. 

    5. Uploading your video statement 

    If the properties of your video statement align with the Secretariat guidelines and these technical requirements, and you are happy with how it looks and sounds, congratulations, you are now ready to upload your video directly through the online registration system. 

    Here, you will need to upload:

    1. The transcript of the statement;
    2. A scan of the passport of the speaker;
    3. The accreditation letter of the speaker;
    4. The video file.
    5. If you have exported subtitles separately, you can also upload them as a separate file. 

    The deadline to upload the video-message is at 6PM on the day prior to the debate (or 6PM on Friday, if the debate is scheduled for the following Monday).


    DOWNLOAD PDF VERSION

     

  • Wanted: Strong UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

    38th Session Human Rights Council
    Joint Statement*

    We want to highlight key features for the next High Commissioner – one of the world’s premier human rights defender – whose mandate includes providing technical assistance and capacity building to States, as well as standing up for universal human rights and those who defend them. 

    The work of the next High Commissioner, and of human rights defenders more broadly, is essential to justice, fairness and dignity for all. Defenders contribute to sustainable and inclusive development. They combat corruption and the misuse of power. They promote good government, transparency and accountability. They seek to ensure that no-one gets left behind. 

    Despite this, around the world, defenders face mounting attacks and criminalisation for standing up to power, privilege, prejudice and profit. Their work has never been more important, nor more imperiled. 

    Mr President, it is in this context we say that the next UN High Commissioner needs to be a dedicated human rights defender. S/he need to be committed to working with and for human rights defenders; consulting and partnering with them, supporting their causes, and speaking out and protecting them when they are threatened or attacked.

    The next High Commissioner needs to build strategic alliances with States, civil society, academics and business enterprises with a shared interest in human rights and the rule of law. S/he need to be fiercely independent, but also collaborative and capable of building influential partnerships and coalitions. 

    With the promotion, protection and realisation of human rights being linked to the attainment of peace, security and sustainable development, the next High Commissioner needs to be strongly supported by the UN Secretary-General and key UN agencies. Mr President, while the High Commissioner may be the UN’s premier human rights defender, it is time for the entire organisation to put human rights defenders up front.

    *International Service for Human Rights, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Human Rights House Foundation, The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), CIVICUS, Peace Brigades International Switzerland, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Conectas Direitos Humanos, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), West African Human Rights Networks

     

  • Why the Human Rights Council matters to grassroots activists

    By Clémentine de Montjoye, CIVICUS

    On 19th June 2018, the United States announced it was leaving the United Nations Human Rights Council, citing the foremost international human rights body’s political bias and questionable membership. But as an institution made up of member states, none of which have perfect human rights records, its value is greater than the sum of its parts.

    During this session, for example, Eritrea, a country sometimes referred to as the ‘North Korea of Africa’, is on the agenda. For Helen Kidane, an exiled Eritrean human rights activist, this represents a unique opportunity to meet with diplomats and lobby for international action against a repressive government. The Council created a commission of inquiry in 2014 which found reasonable grounds to believe that the Eritrean government had committed crimes against humanity.

    "Resolutions may not be always implemented but at least they’ve kept Eritrea on the agenda", Helen told me after the U.S. announcement. "Otherwise it would just be swept under the carpet, and the situation would definitely be worse if no one spoke about it."

    While flawed, the Council presents an unequalled platform to raise human rights violations at a multilateral level, enable human rights defenders from the ground to address representatives from 193 countries, and interact with key decision-makers to push for justice.

    It has played a key role in shining a light on some of the most egregious human rights violations in the world today. The Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, whose mandate is up for renewal during this session, has been prominent in raising awareness of violations and giving a voice to victims in Eritrea. By allowing its position to be influenced by global political fault lines, the U.S. is also withdrawing its support for victims of oppression.

    This vital UN body cannot end conflicts and crises, and as a multilateral institution, regional dynamics and geopolitical manoeuvring will always restrict it. For instance, since the refugee crisis hit Europe and states have been working with repressive governments to repatriate refugees, some have indeed been less inclined to draw attention to human rights violations in Eritrea and other source countries. Eritreans refugees, who flee indefinite military service and face a shoot to kill policy at the border, represented the largest group of African refugees in Europe in 2015. 

    As is often the case in the microcosm that is the Council, the support we see for the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea will be a good gauge of international attitudes towards this pariah state, and how migration policies are affecting them.

    But the Human Rights Council is also a place where those who have been persecuted, threatened, arrested, and tortured for speaking out on human rights violations at home can be heard, and sometimes get results. Beyond the politicking and horse trading, this is a place where grassroots activists can make sure that the human suffering they are working to alleviate isn’t reduced to operative paragraphs and resolutions, but that the voices of the victims remain an integral part of the process. By leaving, the U.S. is turning its back on victims and refusing to work with the system to deliver justice for human rights violations.

    As we finish our coffee, Helen tells me ‘As a human rights defender I don’t think human rights should be politicised. We can’t escape this but it doesn’t help anyone to disengage like the U.S has done, we need to work to improve the Council from the inside.’ Sadly, the U.S.’s decision to leave creates a vacuum which will likely be filled by traditional backers of national sovereignty like Russia and China who are increasingly working to undermine the legitimacy and substantive work of the Council.

     

  • Yemen: Urgent need to address humanitarian crisis

    39th Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Joint statement during Interactive Dialogue on High Commissioner's Report on Yemen

    Urgent need to address the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and its impact on the most vulnerable populations: A call for renewal and strengthening of the mandate for the Group of Eminent Experts

    This statement is made on behalf of Save the Children and 15 civil society organisations, including organisations
    with current operations in Yemen.

    Fighting around Hodeidah city has increased since early September and throughout the country, the welfare of
    at least 8.4 million people on the brink of starvation, including at least 4.2 million children, is at stake. This year
    alone we expect some 400,000 children under five to suffer from severe acute malnutrition.

    Humanitarian access remains extremely challenging with more than 1.4 million people in need of assistance
    living in districts with high access constraints [1]. Parties to the conflict continue to deny or delay basic humanitarian
    services, access to essential supplies into and within the country.

    We have repeated on many occasions that the humanitarian situation has escalated to an unacceptable level
    of widespread violations and abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. Since
    June, at least 425 attacks on and military use of schools and hospitals have been documented and verified [2].
    450 civilians have lost their lives in the first nine days of August alone [3].

    We call on Member States to take immediate action to hold all parties to the conflict to account for violations of
    international law. In particular, we urge Member States to:

    • Call on all parties to the conflict to comply with their obligations under international law, and take immediate measures to prevent and end violations against civilians, notably children, including by supporting all authorities in Yemen to implement the Safe Schools Declaration and associated Guidelines for Protecting Schools and University from Military Use during Armed Conflict;
    • Urgently renew and strengthen the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen;
    • Suspend the sale or transfer of arms, munitions and related materials to all parties to the conflict; and
    • Engage all parties to the conflict to find an inclusive peaceful, sustainable and implementable political solution that involves women, youth, children, minority groups and civil society.

    Adventist Development and Relief Agency
    Action contre La Faim
    Danish Refugee Council
    Defence for Children International
    CARE International
    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    INTERSOS
    The International Rescue Committee
    Islamic Relief
    Médecins du Monde
    Mercy Corps
    Oxfam International
    Relief International
    War Child UK
    ZOA


    [1] https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/sites/www.humanitarianresponse.info/files/documents/files/20180806_humanitarian_update_final.pdf
    [2] https://www.unicef.org/yemen/YEM_sitreps_Jun2018.pdf
    [3] http://www.unhcr.org/news/briefing/2018/8/5b8503637/unhcr-calls-protection-civilians-fleeing-yemens-al-hudaydah.html

     

  • Yemen: Urgent need to address humanitarian crisis

    39th Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Joint statement during Interactive Dialogue on High Commissioner's Report on Yemen

    Urgent need to address the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and its impact on the most vulnerable populations: A call for renewal and strengthening of the mandate for the Group of Eminent Experts

    This statement is made on behalf of Save the Children and 15 civil society organisations, including organisations with current operations in Yemen.

    Fighting around Hodeidah city has increased since early September and throughout the country, the welfare of at least 8.4 million people on the brink of starvation, including at least 4.2 million children, is at stake. This year alone we expect some 400,000 children under five to suffer from severe acute malnutrition.

    Humanitarian access remains extremely challenging with more than 1.4 million people in need of assistance living in districts with high access constraints [1]. Parties to the conflict continue to deny or delay basic humanitarian services, access to essential supplies into and within the country.

    We have repeated on many occasions that the humanitarian situation has escalated to an unacceptable level of widespread violations and abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. Since June, at least 425 attacks on and military use of schools and hospitals have been documented and verified [2]. 450 civilians have lost their lives in the first nine days of August alone [3].

    We call on Member States to take immediate action to hold all parties to the conflict to account for violations of international law. In particular, we urge Member States to:

    • Call on all parties to the conflict to comply with their obligations under international law, and take immediate measures to prevent and end violations against civilians, notably children, including by supporting all authorities in Yemen to implement the Safe Schools Declaration and associated Guidelines for Protecting Schools and University from Military Use during Armed Conflict;
    • Urgently renew and strengthen the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen;
    • Suspend the sale or transfer of arms, munitions and related materials to all parties to the conflict; and
    • Engage all parties to the conflict to find an inclusive peaceful, sustainable and implementable political solution that involves women, youth, children, minority groups and civil society.

    Adventist Development and Relief Agency
    Action contre La Faim
    Danish Refugee Council
    Defence for Children International
    CARE International
    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    INTERSOS
    The International Rescue Committee
    Islamic Relief
    Médecins du Monde
    Mercy Corps
    Oxfam International
    Relief International
    War Child UK
    ZOA


    [1] https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/sites/www.humanitarianresponse.info/files/documents/files/20180806_humanitarian_update_final.pdf
    [2] https://www.unicef.org/yemen/YEM_sitreps_Jun2018.pdf
    [3] http://www.unhcr.org/news/briefing/2018/8/5b8503637/unhcr-calls-protection-civilians-fleeing-yemens-al-hudaydah.html