human rights council


  • UN Human Rights Council: New Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association

    38th Session of the Human Rights Council  
    Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and the  Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity

    CIVICUS welcomes this occasion to dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and the Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

    We note with great appreciation the Special Rapporteur’s prioritisation of consultation and engagement with a range of civil society actors during the first months of his mandate. 

    Mr President, the report presented by the Special Rapporteur today exemplifies the endemic threat civil society across the world is facing. In both severity and frequency, the 1156 communications sent to governments by the mandate since 2011 expose the systematic campaigns to silence dissent as well as the resoluteness of civil society to continue protecting and promoting human rights.

    CIVICUS’ research comports with the Special Rapporteur’s analysis that state and non- state actors are using a range of unwarranted and pernicious tactics with the explicit intent to stifle fundamental rights.

    We remain deeply concerned that many governments in this chamber routinely pay lip service to the need to protect all human rights and at the same time actively persecute defenders and civil society leaders who work tirelessly to defend these very same rights. This hypocrisy and deceit has rarely, if ever, been so acute.

    On this, the first day of the 38th Council Session, we call on all states to heed the Special Rapporteur’s recommendation to treat civil society an ally, rather than an adversary.

    We further urge all States to pledge their support to the Special Rapporteur including by providing all necessary informational and financial resources to discharge the mandate and to work closely with civil society.

    See latest updates from CIVICUS' work at the UN Human Rights Council here. Follow the latest events on Twitter #HRC38


  • UN Human Rights Council: Response to High Commissioner´s update

    CIVICUS deeply appreciates High Commissioner’s update, regretfully on an ever darker and more dangerous world.

    We are shocked by the report of the man-made disaster in YemenIn addition, according to the CIVICUS Monitor journalists and human rights defenders continue work in risky conditions caused by the ongoing conflict that has forced three million people to flee their homes.  The conflict has left more than seven million at risk of famine and there are currently 500,000 suspected cases of cholera - a third of these are children. NGOs have called for an independent international Inquiry into human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, and we strongly reiterate this call and urge members of the Council to vote for a resolution with such a mandate.

    We equally share the HC’s concern about Venezuela. Findings from CIVICUS Watch show that there are serious violations of the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression. Freedom of expression is severely constrained; Radio and Television channels have been closed and, according to Espacia Publica 49 radio stations removed from the air.  800 attacks against freedom of expression documented. Due to new regulations on peaceful assembly more than 5000 were detained during anti -government protest since April 2017 with more than 1,300 persons still in detention. Detainees were often subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and, in several cases documented, the ill-treatment amounted to torture. We call on members of the Council to address the situation in Venezuela as a matter of urgency.  The government should be made aware of the fact that those responsible for these human rights abuses will be brought to justice once judicial independence is restored. In addition we call on the Maduro government to:

    • End the repression and release all political prisoners
    • Set a date for free and fair elections with proper independent oversight
    • Restore judicial independence and the power of the National Assembly, and
    • Immediately allow sufficient international aid into the country


  • UN Human Rights Council: Statement on widespread arbitrary detention

    UN Human Rights Council
    36th session
    12 September 2017

    Statement at the UN Human Rights Council during interactive diialogue with the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
    CIVICUS welcomes the annual and mission reports of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.  We applaud the Working Group for its unstinting dedication and invaluable work in exposing the wilful and unwarranted persecution of human rights defenders.

    As noted by the Working Group from its annual missions to both Azerbaijan and the United States, politically motivated detention of those who dare to speak out against the government or its policies afflicts both mature and emerging democracies across the world.

    It is a matter of deep concern that despite constitutional protections, peaceful demonstrators engaged in legitimate activities continue to face judicial harassment in the US. At least 20 states that have proposed legislation making it harder to protest, creating harsher penalties for protesters who are arrested.

    One recent example of the criminalisation of protests is the trial of protesters arrested during the mass demonstration on Inauguration Day in January 2017. Initially, approximately 230 people were arrested and charged with felony rioting. However, on 27th April 2017, additional charges were made against 212 defendants, including three of whom had not previously been charged. 

    In Azerbaijan, the authorities have failed to head repeated calls from the Work Group and a range of independent UN experts to end the use of judicial harassment to suppress independent dissent. On 3 March 2017, Journalist and blogger, Mehman Huseynov was sentenced to two years in prison on libel charges.

    Weeks earlier on 17 February 2017, another Azeri journalist, Elchin Ismayilli, was arrested. Ismayilli is well-known for his articles detailing acts of corruption and human rights violations in Azerbaijan. The authorities haev since charged him with extortion and abuse of power in a position of influence.

    We urge both Azerbaijan and the United States to immediately and unconditionally implement the recommendations made by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, including releasing all persons detained for exercising their legitimate rights and repeal all laws and policies which criminalise international and national enshrined rights to association, assembly and expression. 


  • UN Member States must protect the independence of the special procedures

    Amnesty International delivers this statement on behalf of 15 NGOs.

    We are deeply concerned by continued attacks on the Special Procedures and efforts to undermine their independence. We urge all states to affirm their commitment to human rights and the effectiveness of the international human rights system, by rejecting and condemning these efforts.

    We welcome the continued efforts of the Coordination Committee to address objective non-compliance of mandate holders under the Internal Advisory Procedure, including in response to the failure of the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy to submit his reports to the Council in time for their consideration at this session. We urge all states to support the Coordination Committee in their efforts to respond to concerns related to the working methods of the Special Procedures, as well as complaints against individual mandate holders.

    At the same time, we deplore the efforts of some states to use this process as a cover to undermine the independence and effectiveness of the Special Procedures for political reasons. As on numerous previous occasions, certain states repeatedly accuse the Special Procedures of politicization but fail to substantively address the human rights concerns they raise.

    We particularly regret the Russian Federation’s efforts, on 5 March, to suspend the HRC session altogether and their continued attempts, together with other states, to introduce unwarranted state oversight on the Special Procedures.

    We were also alarmed to witness personal attacks on the Special Procedures, most worryingly against the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, by the Chinese delegation, who during the interactive dialogue accused the mandate holder of ‘spread[ing] false information’ and ‘lack[ing] minimum professional ethics.” Such ad hominem attacks are unacceptable, and the Council must respond in the strongest terms to condemn such incidents. They also reveal a broader rejection of dialogue on human rights challenges – despite repeated statements urging the Council to privilege ‘dialogue and cooperation’ - and a lack of willingness on the part of the state concerned to take action to protect human rights.

    It is time for states at this Council to take a strong proactive stand for its independent mechanisms, ensuring that they have the support and resources needed to fulfil their mandates and to hold states accountable when they commit human rights violations.

    Amnesty International
    ARTICLE 19
    Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    Center for Reproductive Rights
    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    Forum Menschenrechte e.V.
    Human Rights House Foundation
    Human Rights Watch
    International Commission of Jurists
    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR)
    International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    Privacy International
    Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom



  • UN must condemn systematic violations of fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong

    The UN’s highest official principally responsible for human rights, High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, should publicly denounce the Hong Kong Government for its systematic violations of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, and condemn the unnecessary and disproportionate use of force by police in Hong Kong. 

    The Hong Kong Police Force have systematically suppressed the right to peaceful assembly by using excessive force against individuals exercising their rights, including beating peaceful protesters and using tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets. Police have increasingly denied permits for assemblies and marches and arbitrarily detained individuals for “unlawful assembly.” 

    The Hong Kong and Chinese Central governments have allowed police to operate with complete impunity. No police officer has faced legal action over excessive use of force or abuse of power in connection to the violent suppression of the protests since the demonstrations broke out. In contrast, police have arrested almost 4,500 individuals in connection to the protests since June 9. There has been credible evidence of torture and ill-treatment of protestors by police in detention.

    On November 19, the Office of the High Commissioner released a press briefing which stated incorrectly that the Hong Kong “authorities have by and large respected the exercise of [the] right [to peaceful assembly].” The Office of the High Commissioner failed to condemn police violence. This amounts to a denial of the extensive documentation from credible sources of violations of human rights in Hong Kong and ignores concerns raised by other UN independent experts.

    According to the mandate determined by the UN General Assembly, the High Commissioner has the responsibility to “promote and protect the effective enjoyment by all of all human rights,” and to “play an active role in removing the current obstacles and in meeting the challenges to the full realization of all human rights and in preventing the continuation of human rights violations throughout the world.”

    This mandate asks that the High Commissioner use her position to raise serious concerns about human rights abuses everywhere in the world. By not doing so, the Office has harmed its credibility by ignoring police brutality and the suppression of the Hong Kong people’s largely peaceful exercise of their fundamental freedoms. 

    China’s Government in Beijing has increasingly signalled that it is ultimately in charge in Hong Kong. On November 16, People’s Liberation Army soldiers cleared up debris and bricks, without being invited by the Hong Kong Government to assist, as required by the Basic Law. On November 18, China’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom Liu Xiaoming said, “We [the Central Government] have enough resolution and power to end the unrest.” Holding the China-controlled Hong Kong Government accountable for its human rights abuses is a key test if the UN can resist interference in the UN human rights system by an increasingly powerful China. 

    Beginning in June, millions of people in Hong Kong have publicly demonstrated against an extradition bill to Mainland China that would have undermined the separate freedoms that are enshrined in law in Hong Kong. The police have repeatedly responded to these peaceful protests with excessive force, and the protests have since morphed into a movement denouncing police violence and demanding full democratic rights for the people of Hong Kong. Police inaction in the face of attacks on protesters, journalists and bystanders at the Yuen Long MTR Station on July 21 represented a clear failure to protect the rights to life and security of persons. Journalists trying to cover the protests have faced violence, intimidation, and threats from police, including an incident in which police shot an Indonesian journalist in the face with a rubber bullet while she covered the protests, permanently blinding her in one eye. Medics and social workers providing assistance to arrestees and injured individuals have also faced police obstruction.

    The political situation in Hong Kong has deteriorated since October. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam used colonial-era emergency powers to ban face-masks at assemblies (which was later ruled unconstitutional) and police have used live ammunition to shoot three young protesters. The death of 22-year-old student Chow Tsz-lok (周梓樂) on November 8 after being injured close to a police operation sparked the most recent outbreak of violence; the campuses of Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and Polytechnic University have been turned into battlefields. While certain protestors have used violence, including petrol bombs, bricks and arrows, the Hong Kong Police Force’s response has been severe and disproportionate. Hong Kong police must distinguish violent elements from peaceful protestors and restrict the use of force to the minimum extent necessary, in accordance with the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.

    On June 28, four UN independent human rights experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Council sent a communication to the Chinese Government raising concern over allegations of excessive use of force by Hong Kong police on June 12 against “overwhelmingly peaceful” demonstrators. These same four experts then issued a public statement on September 12 stating, “We are seriously concerned by credible reports of repeated instances where the authorities failed to ensure a safe environment for individuals to engage in public protest free from violence or interference.” We are disappointed that this language does not appear in the Office of the High Commissioner’s November 19 press statement. 

    On August 13, the High Commissioner’s spokesperson said the Office has “credible evidence” of law enforcement officials using some anti-riot measures which are “prohibited by international norms and standards” and urged the Hong Kong authorities to “act with restraint.” The failure of Hong Kong authorities to heed this call from the High Commissioner’s office should have been raised in the latest press statement. Instead, the statement lacks a sense of proportion between the violent actions of small groups of protesters and the systematic use of unnecessary and disproportionate force by police against unarmed protesters.

    The High Commissioner herself called on the Hong Kong Government to immediately carry out an “effective, prompt, independent and impartial investigation” into violence during a press conference on October 5. Hong Kong has no independent mechanism to investigate excessive use of force by authorities, as the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC)’s expert advisers themselves re-confirmed recently. The IPCC does not have investigatory powers such as subpoenaing documents and summoning witnesses. The Human Rights Committee, which monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, raised concern over the lack of independence of the IPCC to the Hong Kong Government in 2013. 

    The High Commissioner for Human Rights must call on Hong Kong authorities to take concrete steps to de-escalate tensions and reduce violence on both sides - police and protesters. As a minimum first step, Hong Kong authorities must establish an independent commission of inquiry into excessive use of police force, bringing to justice any law enforcement official responsible for unlawful use of force, as well as their superior officers. Any response to allegations of violent attacks on police must be handled through a fair judicial process. Those detained solely for exercising their rights to peaceful assembly and free expression should be unconditionally released and charges against them should be immediately dropped.

    This statement is endorsed by: 

    Amnesty International 
    Article 19 
    Australia Tibet Council
    Child Rights International Network (CRIN)
    Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD)
    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    Covenants Watch Taiwan
    CSW (Christian Solidarity Worldwide)
    Free Tibet
    Geneva for Human Rights
    International Campaign for Tibet 
    International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR)
    International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) 
    International Tibet Network Secretariat
    International Women's Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific
    Safeguard Defenders
    Students for a Free Tibet
    Taiwan Association for Human Rights
    Tibet Action Institute
    Tibet Justice Center
    World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
    World Uyghur Congress 


  • UN resolution needed to help protect freedom of expression

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

    Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression

    Madame President, Special Rapporteur;

    We thank the Special Rapporteur for his timely report.

    The CIVICUS Monitor watchlist highlights countries where there is a serious and rapid decline in respect for civic space, including where undue restrictions on freedom of expression – whether pre-existing, or introduced in response to the pandemic – consolidate authoritarian power and further human rights violations.

    Currently, this includes the Philippines, where a provision in the emergency law introduced in response to the pandemic penalises the spreading of "false information," which could curtail freedom of speech and silence the media. Journalists and social media users have already been targeted. We also stand with prominent journalist Maria Ressa, who was convicted for ‘cyberlibel’ last month in a politically motivated case.

    It also includes Hungary, where an act was passed in March criminalising spreading false information in connection with the pandemic. This could lead to further censorship of independent media in Hungary and the erosion of media freedom. Access to information for journalists has already diminished.

    In Niger, authorities have used the 2019 Cybercrime Law against critics, including over social media posts and even private WhatsApp messages. Journalist and blogger Samira Sabou was arrested in June over a Facebook post. The National Assembly approved a law allowing for the interception of communication in May 2020.

    In Azerbaijan, at least six activists and a pro-opposition journalist have been sentenced to prison after criticism of the government.

    Finally, in the USA, journalists covering Black Lives Matter protests have been physically attacked, detained and had equipment seized by law enforcement. These are not isolated cases but reflect mounting hostility against the press in the country, with several cases of vilification, harassment and smear campaigns against journalists from both state and non-state actors.

    We remind States that free flow of information will be paramount in our collective recovery from the pandemic. We call on the Council to support the resolution protecting freedom of expression currently before it, and to commit to ensuring protection for journalists, and for those who speak out.

    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




  • UN resolution needed to protect peaceful protests during the pandemic and beyond

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

    Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on freedom of association and peaceful assembly

    Madame President, Special Rapporteur,

    We thank the Special Rapporteur for his report, and for the work the mandate has done to protect freedom of assembly and association worldwide. These fundamental rights underpin the very existence of civil society.

    The report highlights that there have been multiple examples of civil society and social movements across the world galvanizing positive change, defending hard-won democratic values and developing innovative practices to address issues of injustice. People coming together to speak out have won better working conditions, furthered equality, ended forms of oppression.

    The benefits of a vibrant civil society, and of human rights defenders who are free to do their work, are tangible. In the past months, we have seen that society is central to crisis response and will continue to be central in building back better. There are so many gains still to come.

    States who suppress individuals and groups simply for speaking out willfully deny such enrichment.

    In Hong Kong, a sweeping security law imposed by China last week risks destroying its free and open civil society. Protesters have already been criminalized by the law. In India, suppression of peaceful protests against a discriminatory citizenship and arrests of human rights defenders who took part in these meetings represent efforts to silence voices against inequality and injustice. In the USA, Black lives Matter protests against systemic racism and police brutality have been met with state-sanctioned violence, including the deliberate targeting of journalists. In Egypt a systematic crack-down on civil society, human rights defenders and independent journalists has accelerated in the last several months.

    The current pandemic has accelerated and exacerbated existing challenges and there are numerous cases of States weaponizing the COVID-19 pandemic against civil society, from Hungary to Algeria to the Philippines.

    The rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly are simply the right to organize and mobilise for a fairer, more just world. This session, the Council members have the opportunity to better protect these rights. We urge all States to support the resolution on peaceful protests, and to commit to ensuring space and voice for those who come together to speak out.

    Thank you.

    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    International Service for Human Rights
    East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project
    Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
    The African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies
    Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

    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




  • Une réponse internationale unifiée et coordonnée s’impose face aux attaques de la Russie en Ukraine

    L'alliance mondiale de la société civile CIVICUS est solidaire du peuple ukrainien et appelle à une réponse internationale rapide, unifiée et ciblée sur la Russie.


  • Unified and coordinated international response a must in face of Russia’s attacks on Ukraine

    Read the statement in Russian

    Global civil society alliance CIVICUS stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and calls for a swift, unified and targeted international response on Russia.


  • United Arab Emirates at UN Human Rights Council: Adoption of Universal Periodic Review Report

    38th Session of UN Human Rights Council
    Adoption of the UPR report of the United Arab Emirates 

    The Gulf Centre for Human Rights, the International Service for Human Rights and CIVICUS welcome the chance to engage in the process of the UAE’s UPR. However, we are deeply dismayed that having gone through the UPR process for the third time, the conditions under which civil society operate are worsening, despite it being clearly an issue of concern in the last review.

    Since its last review, the UAE has not implemented any of the 17 recommendations relating to civic space. We regret that no recommendations pertaining to the full protection of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly were accepted by the government.

    Mr. President, the UAE continues to use Federal Law 6 of 1974 Concerning Public Utility Associations to interfere in the operations of civil society organisations. The law goes as far as allowing the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to send representatives to monitor meetings of CSOs.

    The UAE continues to use anti-terror laws to punish human rights defenders. The “’UAE94” - a group of political activists, human rights defenders, lawyers, academics, teachers and students – are still serving heavy sentences handed down in 2013, on spurious charges of attempting to overthrow the government.

    Journalists and researchers are still arrested, deported and jailed for carrying out their work. Ahmed Mansoor, who was jailed in 2017 for making posts on social media, was sentenced to 10 years in prison last month. Academic Nasser Bin Ghaith is also serving a 10-year prison sentence after he was arrested in 2015 for making posts on social media and continues to be denied access to medical treatment. Both men are believed to be held in solitary confinement.

    We call on the Government of the UAE to cease persecuting human rights defenders, reverse these draconian laws and create an enabling environment for civil society.


  • United Nations adopts resolution on human rights on the internet

    CIVCUS welcomes the adoption by the Human Rights Council of a new resolution on human rights on the internet, particularly the resolution’s focus on internet shutdowns.

    The shutdown of internet access or access to social media has become a widespread tactic used by the authorities to quell protests or forms of online dissent. In the last year, the CIVICUS Monitor documented such tactics used in BangladeshChad, Ethiopia, India, Myanmar and Palestine, among other countries. The shutdowns significantly disrupt people’s ability to seek, receive or impart information online; in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, this has prevented people from obtaining essential information and services during the crisis. Such restrictions on access to the internet cannot be justified on public order or national security grounds.

    The adopted resolution strongly condemns the use of internet shutdowns to intentionally and arbitrarily prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online. It further mandates the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to study the trend in internet shutdowns and present findings to the Council next year.

    Over the last year, as participation has moved online, new tactics of online restriction have subsequently developed. We welcome that the resolution calls upon all States to refrain from and to cease online censorship. Given the increasing use by repressive governments of online attacks against human rights defenders and activists, and online surveillance, we call on States to ensure that measures offline or online for the protection of national security, public order and public health are in full compliance with international law obligations and respect the principles of lawfulness, legitimacy, necessity and proportionality.

    Given that the digital divide has proven one of the biggest challenges facing civil society participation over the past year, it is particularly relevant that the resolution calls upon all States to accelerate efforts to bridge digital divides while applying a human rights-based approach.


  • UNITED NATIONS: ‘The existing human rights system must be criticised, while still being defended’

    CIVICUS speaks with Brian Schapira, Director of Institutional Relations at the Center for Latin America´s Opening and Development (Centro para la Apertura y el Desarrollo de América Latina, CADAL), a foundation based in Argentina that works to defend and promote human rights. With a focus on supporting those who suffer severe restrictions to their civil and political liberties, CADAL promotes international democratic solidarity in collaboration with activists and civil society organisations (CSOs) around the world.


  • Unprecedented use of excessive force against peaceful protests

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

    The meaningful participation of people in governance is essential for securing human rights, social stability and peace. We share your alarm at the deterioration of civic space and we call on members and observers of the Human Rights Council, over the coming weeks, to listen to the voices of those who are the most affected by the decisions made in this room. 

    We have witnessed popular action increase across the globe as people take to the streets to demand justice, equity and democratic rights. We are alarmed by the unprecedented use of excessive force and arbitrary detention to silence the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of assembly. In 2019, the CIVICUS Monitor found that one of the most commonly logged violations of civil society rights was against the right to peaceful assembly.

    High Commissioner, we share your serious concerns on India, particularly the discriminatory citizenship law and the violent repression of protests with impunity. In Iran, hundreds of people were killed when security forces unleashed lethal force against unarmed protesters in cities across the country. In Iraq, para-military forces fired live ammunition during protests throughout the country in 2019, killing and injuring hundreds of peaceful demonstrators.

    Finally, High Commissioner, heard throughout the high-level segment commitments made by states to strengthen the Council’s prevention mandate. We have seen time and time again that unwarranted restrictions on civic space, including crackdowns on peaceful protest and attacks against human rights defenders, enable wider human rights violations. The actualization of an early warning system, which takes restrictions of fundamental freedoms into account, would send a clear signal that the Council stands ready to protect, promote and fulfil the right to protect around the world.

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


  • Upholding fundamental rights is crucial for global crisis response

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

    Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights

    Madame High Commissioner,

    Thank you for your timely report. This is a statement on behalf of the Civic Space Initiative, including CIVICUS, Article 19, ICNL, ECNL and the World Movement for Democracy.

    The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated existing challenges to civic freedoms.

    The CIVICUS Monitor shows that it has exacerbated the ongoing use of restrictive laws; restrictions on funding; reprisals, attacks and acts of intimidation; the ongoing violent repression of mass mobilisations for change; and the wilful exclusion of civil society from decision making processes. It has provided cover for executive overreach and spurred new growth in the use of surveillance technologies. According to ICNL-ECNL’s Civic Freedom Tracker, at least 145 countries have enacted 280 measures in response to COVID that further affect civic freedoms and human rights.

    But it has also revealed the centrality of civil society in crisis response: in providing critical information and services to communities, running feeding schemes and health screenings, providing aid and monitoring abuses.

    Civil society has again proved itself to be an integral stakeholder. And time of crisis is a time of opportunity. As has been so often said, this is the time to build back better.

    We have seen many examples of good practice to draw on. Several States are developing specialised online platforms for better consultation on emergency measures. Others are establishing oversight bodies inviting the public to share views on the measures governments have taken, or conducting surveys to gauge public response on government handling of the crisis.

    We call on all States, in their response to the crisis, to:

    1. Create avenues for inclusive participation and feedback and reach out to those most at risk and those most likely to be excluded.
    2. Ensure transparency and access to information to enable civil society to respond with the most accurate information available.
    3. Ensure that existing channels of civil society participation, at local, national and international levels are maintained – and possibly expanded – in the COVID-19 context.
    4. Undertake thorough human rights impact assessments to ensure that measures and actions in response to the crisis do not infringe human rights and fundamental freedoms.

    We have seen time and time again positive change emerge when people are able to organize, speak out and take action. A strong and vibrant civil society is a core pillar of a thriving democracy. We must not allow emergency responses to undermine democratic gains.


  • Uyghur Violations a Litmus Test for Global Governance and Rules-Based International Order

    By Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Programs and United Nations Representative at CIVICUS

    This week is a momentous one for the world’s premier human rights body. At stake is a resolution to decide whether the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva can hold a debate on a recently released UN report. The report concludes that rights violations by China’s government in its Xinjiang region ‘may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity’.Unsurprisingly, China’s government is doing everything in its power to scotch plans for a debate on the report’s contents. Its tactics include intimidating smaller states, spreading disinformation and politicising genuine human rights concerns – the very thing the Human Rights Council was set up to overcome.

    The historic report, which affirms that the rights of Xinjiang’s Uyghur Muslim population are being violated through an industrial-level programme of mass incarceration, systemic torture and sexual violence, attracted huge controversy before it was released on 31 August 2022, minutes before the end of the term of the outgoing High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet.

    Read on Inter Press Service


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

    The Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, International Partnership for Human Rights and CIVICUS welcome the government of Uzbekistan’s engagement with the UPR process, including its decision to accept over 200 recommendations on a range of human rights issue. 

    While we note the release from detention of 28 activists, political opponents and journalists in the last two yars, as well as the authorities’ steps to allow for greater  independent dissent, we regret that freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association remain willfully suppressed by the State limited. Of the 28 people released in the last two years, many remain under surveillance. According to human rights monitors, at least five people remain behind bars for exercising their right to freedom of expression. We are concerned that since 25 August 2018 at least twelve bloggers have also been detained in connection with posts they made on social media. 

    We regret that national legal mechanisms remain partial and subject to political interference. Courts continue to place arbitrary restrictions on protests, including  rulings that unwarrantedly limit people’s support for demonstrations off and online under the guise of    incitement to public disorder. During detention, torture is frequently used and procedural rights for detainees are often disregarded. Those who submit written complaints to the President or speak to the press are sometimes added to the “black list” of people deemed “undesirable” and are denied freedom of movement.

    We regret that tight state controls on CSO  registration, funding and activities, coupled with ongoing restrictions on freedom of expression, prevent independent media outlets and human rights CSOs s from operating unencumbered .  

    Although some activists have been allowed to travel abroad in recent months, restrictions on international travel remain in place for other human rights defenders. 

    Mr President, we call on Uzbekistan to implement recommendations it accepted on promoting the right to freedom of association and participation in public affairs to lift prohibitive registration requirements of CSOs, to ensure CSOs and journalists can fully exercise their freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and to create a safe environment for human rights defenders, including for women human rights defenders.


  • Venezuela failed to implement over 80% of UN recommendations on civic rights

    International human rights groups raise alarm about the state of civic rights in Venezuela ahead of the country's review at the United Nations Human Rights Council on 25 January, 2022.

    CIVICUS, the Latin American and Caribbean Network for Democracy (REDLAD) and Espacio Público call on UN member states to urge the government of Venezuela to protect civic freedoms as its human rights record is examined by the UN Human Rights Council on 25 January 2022 as part of the 40th session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

    The last time the country’s rights record was reviewed was in November 2016, when UN member states made a total of 274 recommendations, 40 of which related to civic freedoms. Venezuela subsequently accepted 23 recommendations and committed to taking concrete measures. Among these measures, to “fully guarantee freedom of expression and free access to information and protect journalists against threats and attacks” and to ensure “a proportional use of force by security forces and ensure that cases of torture are investigated and that the perpetrators are brought to justice.”

    In a joint submission to the Human Rights Council this UPR cycle, our organisations assessed the implementation of these recommendations and compliance with international human rights law and standards over the last five years. The submission found that since 2016, Venezuela has persistently failed to address unwarranted restrictions on civic space, particularly those related to the rights to the freedoms of peaceful assembly and expression. Of the 40 recommendations received, Venezuela only partially implemented seven and did not implement 33.

    We are deeply concerned by the restrictions facing civil society organisations, particularly those working on humanitarian and human rights issues. Judicial persecution and financial restrictions against civil society, rights defenders and journalists have intensified, combined with a stigmatising discourse that seeks to justify attacks against the legitimate exercise of the freedoms of association and expression. We are also alarmed by the continuing systematic suppression of peaceful protests.

    The 2017 Anti-Hate Law for Peaceful Coexistence and Tolerance uses vague wording about ‘hate’ offences to give the government ample power to censor dissent and curtail independent media. It has been used to criminalise peaceful protests and prosecute human rights defenders, civil society activists and journalists. Since the law was enacted, at least 42 people have been prosecuted under its provisions, including HRDs, journalists, protesters, healthcare workers and individuals who expressed dissatisfaction on social media.

    The operation of civil society organisations is restricted through a repressive regulatory framework and a hostile environment. The 2010 Law for the Defence of Political Sovereignty and National Self-Determination remains in force, bans organisations working on promoting and protecting political rights from receiving foreign funding. In 2020 and 2021, authorities created additional registration and reporting requirements that create bureaucratic hurdles for organisations and restrict their operation. 

    Despite commitments to freedoms of expression guaranteed in the Constitution, the government has also continued to use restrictive laws such as criminal defamation provisions under the Penal Code to criminalise criticism of the authorities. Tactics to curtail independent press such as financial strangulation, cancellation of broadcasting licences, equipment confiscation, and censorship are widespread.

    ‘States must take the opportunity of Venezuela’s human rights review to hold the government to account for violations. The authorities have not only failed to deliver on the human rights commitments it made but has continued to use the judicial system to silence dissent,’ said David Kode, Advocacy & Campaign Lead at CIVICUS

    Between 2016 and 2020, Venezuela has experienced waves of mass demonstrations and frequent localised social protests demanding a range of rights. These were invariably met with brutal repression, including widespread and systematic excessive use of force by security agents against protesters. In 2017 alone, at least 120 people were killed and 5,000 detained in the mass protests sparked by a constitutional crisis after the government and the country’s highest court disavowed the National Assembly. In this period, the response to protests was characterised by a pattern of violations that included arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions.

    ‘It is time for Venezuela to take action to reverse this environment of violations. The authorities must stop creating a legal framework that suppresses the defence of human rights,’ commented Ángela Rodríguez, Research Assistant at REDLAD.

    As highlighted in our joint submission, CIVICUS, REDLAD, and Espacio Público urge states to make recommendations to Venezuela, which, if implemented, would guarantee the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression, and the state’s duty to protect.
    Key recommendations that should be made include:

    • Cease actions to suspend and close civil society organisations and remove all undue restrictions on their ability to receive international and domestic funding.
    • Provide civil society members, HRDs and journalists with a safe and secure environment to carry out their work and ensure that they can carry out their legitimate activities without fear or undue hindrance, obstruction, or legal and administrative harassment.
    • Review and amend laws to remove undue restrictions on civil society and the press, including the Law for the Defence of Political Sovereignty and National Self-Determination and Penal Code articles on criminal defamation
    • Repeal the Anti-Hate Law and immediately and unconditionally release all those detained under the law for exercising their fundamental rights.
    • Reinstate all media outlets that have unwarrantedly been closed and cease practices of confiscating equipment and materials and censoring media.
    • Immediately and impartially investigate all instances of extrajudicial killing and excessive force committed by security forces in the context of protests. Provide recourse to judicial review and effective remedy to victims.

    The examination of Venezuela will occur during the 40th Session of the UPR. The UPR is a process, in operation since 2008, which examines the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States every four and a half years. The review is an interactive dialogue between the State delegation and members of the Council and addresses a broad range of human rights topics. 11 other countries will also have their rights record reviewed, including Haiti, Syria and Zimbabwe. Following the review, a report and recommendations are prepared, discussed and adopted at the following session of the Human Rights Council (June 2022).

    Civic space in Venezuela is rated as ‘repressed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor.


  • Venezuela: Continúan las ejecuciones extrajudiciales. Presentación de pruebas ante las Naciones Unidas.

    Declaración en el Consejo de Derechos Humanos de la ONU - 46º período de sesiones;

    Agradecemos a la Mision de Determinacion de los hechos por esta oportuna actualización, que asegura que la situación de derechos humanos en Venezuela continúe siendo documentada oportunamente. La Oportunidad de sostener espacios de diálogo más frecuentes ayuda a garantizar un seguimiento independiente y continuo de la implementación de las recomendaciones anteriores.

    A pesar de las reiteradas condenas de organismos e instituciones internacionales, las ejecuciones extrajudiciales continuan en Venezuela. Expresamos nuestra preocupacion por los recientes hechos ocurridos en La Vega ,Caracas, donde al menos 650 agentes de las fuerzas de seguridad venezolanas fueron desplegados debido a presuntos enfrentamientos entre pandillas y policías. Al menos 14 personas fueron asesinadas durante la operación. Las organizaciones de derechos humanos refutan enérgicamente que las muertes fueron el resultado del enfrentamientos. Las pruebas y los testimonios de testigos muestran que en su mayoría fueron ejecuciones extrajudiciales.

    Además, la situación del espacio cívico continúa deteriorándose. En medio de la pandemia, las protestas no cesaron. Las organizaciones locales documentaron 412 incidentes en los que manifestantes fueron reprimidos por fuerzas de seguridad pública y grupos paramilitares en 2020. Al menos 415 personas fueron detenidas y 150 heridas. Esto refuerza el patrón de represión y uso excesivo de la fuerza contra quienes toman las calles para reclamar sus derechos.

    Continúa la criminalización de defensores de derechos humanos. Estamos profundamente preocupados por la detención de activistas de Azul Positivo, una organización humanitaria que ha estado brindando ayuda humanitaria a comunidades vulnerables en Zulia, particularmente a personas que viven con el VIH / SIDA.

    La rendición de cuentas y el fin de la impunidad son fundamentales para proteger a las personas que trabajan en el pais. Le pedimos a la Mision cómo los estados miembros del Consejo pueden apoyar al pueblo de Venezuela impulsando procesos de rendición de cuentas.

    El CIVICUS Monitor califica el estado de las libertades cívicas en Nicaragua como REPRESIVO.


  • 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