human rights council


  • Brazil: it is time to rebuild a stronger democracy and a more open civic space  

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

    UPR Outcome Adoption – Brazil

    Delivered by Maria Eduarda Pessoa de Assis

    Instituto Igarapé and CIVICUS welcome the government of Brazil’s engagement with the Universal Periodic Review process.

    During the 3rd UPR cycle, the outgoing Brazilian government received 17 recommendations related to civic space. Brazil accepted all of them. However, 14 of these recommendations were not implemented and only one of them was fully implemented. Last year, our research showed that the last Brazilian government not only failed to confront restrictions on civic space, but also sponsored measures that constrained the work of Brazilian civil society.

    Among the setbacks, we highlight the restriction of spaces for civil society participation in the formulation of public policies, and official attempts to tighten controls and increase surveillance of civil society.

    Throughout its four-year mandate, the former Brazilian administration neglected to address reported human rights violations in cases of alleged excessive force by public agents, a critical oversight in a country known for high levels of police lethality and victimisation. The wide facilitation of access to guns and ammunition represented major setbacks for reducing Brazil’s excessive rates of violence and lethality.

    We reiterate our reproval of the official use of legal and extralegal instruments to intimidate, criminalize, and silence community leaders, journalists, and human rights defenders. Such measures only amplify the threat of violence these leaders routinely confront.

    In 2021 and 2022 alone, the Igarapé Institute identified 3,088 attacks on civic space in Brazil, classified by the CIVICUS Monitor as "obstructed."

    Now we are living in another moment. The change of government that took place in January 2023 brings hope for new times. The new Brazilian government has committed to restoring democratic order, rebuilding the Brazilian civic space, and safeguarding, in both law and in practice, a safe environment for the action of Brazilian civil society.

    In this light, we highlight the need for the new Brazilian government to establish, as recommendations, the guarantee of conditions for the execution and access to the national protection programme, and strengthening of training programs for the progressive use of force, and state capacities for investigation and accountability for violations of rights committed by state agents.

    Thank you very much.

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


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

    Coalition Burkinabé des Défenseurs des Droits Humains, the West Africa Human Rights Defenders Network and CIVICUS welcome the government of Burkina Faso's engagement with the UPR process. We also welcome passing of a new law on the protection of human rights defenders in June 2017, making Burkina Faso only the second African country to do so.

    However, in our joint UPR Submission, we documented that since its last review, Burkina Faso only partially implemented the one civic space recommendation received during its 2nd Cycle review. Despite several positive developments since the popular uprising of 2014, such as the decriminalisation of defamation and the adoption of a law on the protection of human right defenders, restrictions on the freedom of expression including suspensions of media outlets by the national media regulator and attacks and threats against journalists continue.

    A new law on freedom of association, passed in 2015, allows authorities to delay the granting of legal personality in order to conduct a “morality” test on the applicant if deemed necessary. Civil society in Burkina Faso are further concerned about article 56 of the law which establishes a mediation commission, the members of which are not guaranteed to be independent of government.

    Despite the new HRD law, in recent years journalists and civil society activists, in particular those critical of the government, have continued to experience threats, intimidation and physical attacks. Freedom of expression has been undermined in recent years, including through the forced closure of some media outlets. 

    Serious violations of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, including the killing of at least 14 unarmed protestors, took place during a coup d’etat in September 2015.

    Mr President, we call on the Government of Burkina Faso to take proactive measures to address these concerns and implement recommendations to create and maintain, in law and in practice, an enabling environment for civil society.


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

    38th Session of UN Human Rights Council
    Adoption of the UPR report of Burundi 

    Mr. President, DefendDefenders and CIVICUS take note of the government’s engagement with the UPR process and welcome its decision to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or punishment.  However, we regret the fact that the provisions of the Optional Protocol have not been implemented.  In fact torture and the inhumane treatment of citizens have become commonplace in Burundi since its last review.  

    Burundi has not fully implemented any of the recommendations it accepted relating to civic space. Instead the authorities have selectively used restrictive legislation like the Law on Assemblies and Public Demonstrations (2013) to pre-empt and prevent peaceful demonstrations by citizens.  

    Since April 2015, the Burundian authorities have used violence against peaceful protesters and are responsible for the numerous killings, abductions, acts of torture, disappearances and arbitrary arrests of real or perceived opponents of the regime.  These acts have largely been carried out by security forces, intelligence services and the youth wing of the ruling party – the Imbonerakure.  Some of these crimes amount to crimes against humanity and they have been carried out with utmost impunity.  

    Legal restrictions adopted by the national assembly that increase government control of the activities and funding of national and international NGOs and the ban imposed on some civil society organisations have stifled freedom of association. The violence against representatives of civil society has forced many human rights organisations to close down and most of them now operate from abroad. 

    Mr. President, DefendDefenders and CIVICUS call on the Government of Burundi to take proactive measures to address these concerns and implement recommendations to create and maintain, in law and in practice, an enabling environment for civil society.



  • Burundi: Continued UN investigation of human rights violations needed


    To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Geneva, Switzerland
    Burundi: Call to renew the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry


    Ahead of the 39th session of the UN Human Rights Council (“HRC” or “the Council”), we, the undersigned national, regional and international civil society organisations, write to urge your delegation to support a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on Burundi. [1] Such a resolution should also ensure continuity for the work of the CoI through continued adequate resourcing of its secretariat, including its crucial investigative and evidence-gathering work.

    The renewal of the CoI’s mandate is critically important to improve the human rights situation in Bu-rundi, and it offers the Council a number of practical and effective advantages. Among other things, it would allow the Council to:

    • Avoid a monitoring gap, which is all the more important given the Burundian Government’s ongoing refusal to cooperate with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and to sign a new Memorandum of Understanding regarding its presence in the coun-try; [2
    • Ensure the continued documentation of human rights violations and abuses ahead of the upcoming elections of 2020, through testimonies of victims, witnesses, human rights defenders, and other actors operating in and outside of the country;
    • Ensure ongoing public reporting and debates — while the African Union’s observers continue to monitor the human rights situation in Burundi despite a number of limitations imposed by the authorities, their findings are not publicly reported. Interactive dialogues at the Council provide the only regular space for public reporting and debates on human rights developments in the country; and
    • Enable the CoI to continue to highlight under-addressed aspects of the crisis — for instance, the Commission has stressed the importance of dedicating more attention to violations of economic, social and cultural rights.

    At the Council's 36th session (September 2017), the CoI informed the HRC that there were “reasonable grounds to believe that serious human rights violations and abuses have been committed in Burundi since 2015,” and that some of the violations may constitute “crimes against humanity.” At the 37th and 38th sessions of the Council (March and June-July 2018), the CoI described a political, security, econ-omic, social and human rights situation that has not improved since September 2016. In March 2018, the Commission’s Chairperson, Mr. Doudou Diène, stressed that the situation in the country continued to deserve the Council’s “utmost attention.” In October 2017, the International Criminal Court (ICC) authorised an investigation into crimes committed in Burundi since April 2015. A preliminary exam-ination of the situation had been opened in April 2016.

    The constitutional referendum that was held on 17 May 2018 was marred with violence and repression, with arbitrary arrests, beatings and intimidation of citizens campaigning for a “no” vote. [3] The BBC and VOA, two of the country’s main international radio stations, have been suspended for 6 months at the start of the official campaign, illustrating the climate of fear in which journalists and medias were pre-vented from a proper coverage of the event. [4]  In the Commission’s words, as of June 2018 “human rights violations, among which extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment […], facilitated by a continuing environment of threats and intimidation,” continue unabated. The CoI added: “The fact that several missing people have not been found and that unidentified bodies continue to be discovered in various parts of the country gives reason to fear the continuation of practices consisting of getting rid of the bodies of people arrested sometimes by individuals in police uniform or identified as agents of the National Intelligence Service (SNR) or the Imbonerakure.” [5

    Since it became a member of the Council, on 1st January 2016, Burundi has delivered multiple state-ments that have made clear its refusal to cooperate with human rights monitoring and investigation bodies and mechanisms. The Government has repeatedly launched attacks, which have sometimes des-cended to a personal level, against the High Commissioner, UN officials, and independent experts. With no basis or evidence, it has publicly questioned the independence, competence, professionalism, inte-grity and legitimacy of High Commissioner Zeid and his Office, and has threatened, stigmatised, and exercised reprisals against human rights defenders and civil society organisations. [6] Burundians who have sought protection outside of Burundi have been subjected to harassment and persecution, including by members of the National Intelligence Service (SNR) and Imbonerakure.

    Members of the CoI continue to be denied access to Burundi. Furthermore, at the time of writing, the Burundian authorities have withdrawn visas from the team of experts mandated by HRC resolution 36/2, despite the fact that the latter was adopted at Burundi’s own initiative, with its support and the support of members of Burundi’s own regional group. Burundi’s action in this regard clearly violates its Council membership obligations.

    Recalling the letter a group of civil society organisations wrote in September 2017,7 we urge the Council, consistent with its mandate to address situations of violations of human rights, including gross and systematic violations, to pave the way for accountability by renewing the mandate of the CoI to enable it to continue monitoring human rights developments in the country, documen-ting violations and abuses, and publicly reporting on the situation.

    We thank you for your attention to these pressing issues and stand ready to provide your delegation with further information as required.


    Action des Chrétiens pour l’Abolition de la Torture – Burundi (ACAT-Burundi) African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS)
    Amnesty International
    Association Burundaise pour la Protection des Droits Humains et des Personnes Détenues (APRODH)
    Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE)
    Centre for Civil and Political Rights (CCPR)
    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    Coalition Burundaise pour la Cour Pénale Internationale (CB-CPI)
    Collectif des Avocats pour la Défense des Victimes de Crimes de Droit International Commis au Burundi (CAVIB)
    Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation South Sudan (CEPO)
    DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (EHAHRD-N)
    Eritrean Law Society (ELS)
    Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR)
    Forum pour la Conscience et le Développement (FOCODE)
    Forum pour le Renforcement de la Société Civile au Burundi (FORSC)
    Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P)
    Human Rights Concern – Eritrea
    Human Rights Watch
    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    International Federation of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (FIACAT)
    International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR)
    International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    Ligue Iteka
    Mouvement Citoyen pour l’Avenir du Burundi (MCA)
    Mouvement des Femmes et des Filles pour la Paix et la Sécurité (MFFPS)
    National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Burundi (CBDDH)
    Observatoire de la Lutte contre la Corruption et les Malversations Économiques (OLUCOME)
    Organisation pour la Transparence et la Gouvernance (OTRAG)
    Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network
    Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
    Réseau des Citoyens Probes (RCP)
    TRIAL International
    Union Burundaise des Journalistes (UBJ)
    World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

    1. See its webpage:
    2. See the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights’ statement at the Council’s 37th session (OHCHR, “Introduction to country reports/briefings/updates of the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner under item 2,” 21-22 March 2018,, accessed 20 July 2018).
    3. FIDH and Ligue Iteka, “A forced march to a Constitutional Referendum,” May 2018, (accessed 27 July 2018). 
    4. Reporters Without Borders, “Harassment of Burundi’s media intensifies for referendum,” 16 May 2018, (accessed 7 August 2018). 
    5. OHCHR, “Oral briefing by the members of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi to the Human Rights Council,” 27 June 2018, (accessed 20 July 2018). 
    6. See DefendDefenders, “Headlong Rush: Burundi’s behaviour as a member of the UN Human Rights Council,” 25 July 2018, (accessed 25 July 2018). 
    7. “Renewing the Mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi and Ensuring Accountability for Serious Crimes,” 19 September 2017, (accessed 30 July 2018).


  • Burundi: Disappearances and detentions continue ahead of May elections

    Statement at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council during Interactive Dialogue with the UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi
    Watch us deliver our statement below:

    CIVICUS and independent Burundian civil society organisations welcome the important work of the Commission of Inquiry, and thank the Commission for its update, despite the government of Burundi’s continued refusal to grant access to the country.

    Just months before general elections set for May, the human rights and security situation remains perilous. Forced disappearances and arbitrary detentions of opponents and other dissenting voices continue unabated. In January 2020, Jacques Nibigira, Gilbert Ndayishimiye, Eslon Nshinyabigoye and Juma were arrested by the Burundian Intelligence Service. Their whereabouts remain unknown.  In October 2019, journalists Christine Kamikazi, Agnès Ndirubusa, Égide Harerimana and Térence were arbitrarily arrested while investigating rebel activities. Human rights defender Germain Rukuki is still in jail serving a 32-year prison sentence on Trumped-up charges of “rebellion.”

    On 16 January 2020, journalist Blaise Pascal Kararumiye was arrested and detained incommunicado for five days by the Governor of Karuzi province and released without any charges. Freedom of speech, access to information, and association remain restricted in Burundi. There have been violent attacks by the ruling party youth wing on members of other political parties. We are concerned that such attacks will continue as the elections approach.

    We call on the government of Burundi to fully cooperate and allow access to UN Human Rights Council mechanisms, including the Commission of Inquiry, and for all UN mechanisms on peace, security and human rights to fully support the Commission’s work and recommendations. We further call on the Council to take serious heed of the Commission’s analysis of risk factors and take steps to prevent atrocities and ensure that the government of Burundi is held accountable for its human rights violations.

    We ask the Commission whether it plans for the deployment of an observation mission before, during and after the upcoming elections so that election-related human rights violations can be reported on in a timely manner to help prevent the escalation of electoral violence. 

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


  • Burundi: Human rights continue to worsen ahead of 2020 elections

    42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi

    CIVICUS and independent Burundian civil society organisations welcome the important work of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, and specifically this report which provides critical oversight of the human rights situation in the country.

    As the report makes clear, the human rights situation in Burundi remains dire and continues to worsen. Sustained monitoring and reporting is vital. The civic space in Burundi is closed, with independent and critical voices, including civil society organisations and human rights defenders, particularly targeted. We remain deeply concerned that the sentencing of human rights defender Germain Rukuki was upheld by the Court of appeals in July 2019.

    Burundi is scheduled to hold elections in 2020. The fragile pre-electoral context and rising political tensions are likely to give rise to further human rights violations. We are particularly alarmed by the political intolerance of the ruling party’s youth wing “Imbonerakure” of political opposition members. Offices of political opposition parties have been burned or destroyed and members of those parties arbitrarily detained.

    In light of the banning of international media and unwarranted restrictions imposed on independent private media in Burundi, it is imperative that human rights violations are documented by the international community. We urge the Council to renew the Commission’s mandate to ensure continued monitoring and documentation of the human rights situation in Burundi, especially ahead of the 2020 election, as limited civic and democratic space in the country hinders independent and critical sources of information. The renewal of the Commission’s mandate would make clear that obstructionism, indifference, and threats made by the Burundi government against the UN are not rewarded.

    We call on the government of Burundi to fully cooperate and allow access to UN Human Rights Council mechanisms, and we ask the Commission of Inquiry what further support they need from the Human Rights Council to continue and strengthen their work?


  • Burundi: Human rights violations continue


    UN Human Rights Council – 40th regular session
    Interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi

    CIVICUS is extremely concerned that grave human rights violations in Burundi continue without any signs of abating.

    The Commission of Inquiry reported in September 2018 that serious violations, including crimes against humanity, remained routine. During the May 2018 referendum, local authorities, the youth wing of the ruling party, the police and intelligence services summarily executed, abducted, detained and intimidated those who voted against the constitutional changes or those perceived to have done so.  In total more than 20 people were killed in incidences related to the referendum. 

    The 32-year jail sentence handed to human rights defender Germain Rukuki under trumped up charges of “participating in an insurrectionist movement and breaching state security” despite repeated calls for his release from the international community is a vivid reflection of the state of human rights in Burundi. Other human rights defenders have been jailed under similar circumstances.  Three representatives of the CSO – PARCEM are serving ten-year sentences after being charged with “threatening national security,” and human rights defender Nestor Nibitanga is also in detention in an unrelated case.

    Mr. President, media restrictions continue as most private radio stations remain closed since 2015.  The National Communication Agency suspended the broadcasting licenses of the BBC and VOA after accusing them of violating Burundi’s media laws.  The activities of more than130 INGOs providing vital health and social services in Burundi were affected after they were banned in Burundi for three months in September 2018.

    We call for the immediate release of all human rights defenders and urge Burundi to fully cooperate with the COI and re-open the OHCHR office.


  • Burundi: la situation des droits humains continue de s'aggraver avant les élections de 2020

    Conseil des droits de l'homme de l'ONU - 42ème session
    Dialogue interactif avec la Commission d'enquête des Nations Unies sur le Burundi

    CIVICUS et les organisations indépendantes de la société civile burundaise se félicitent de l'important travail de la Commission d'enquête des Nations Unies sur le Burundi, et en particulier de ce rapport qui fournit un aperçu critique de la situation des droits humains dans le pays.

    Comme l'indique clairement le rapport, la situation des droits de l'homme au Burundi reste désastreuse et continue de se dégrader. Il est essentiel d'assurer une surveillance et une communication continues de l'information. L'espace civique au Burundi est fermé, et des voix indépendantes et critiques, notamment celles des organisations de la société civile et des défenseurs des droits humains, y sont particulièrement ciblées. Nous demeurons profondément préoccupés par le fait que la condamnation du défenseur des droits humains Germain Rukuki a été confirmée par la Cour d'appel en juillet 2019.

    Des élections sont prévues au Burundi en 2020. La fragilité du contexte pré-électoral et la montée des tensions politiques risquent de donner lieu à de nouvelles violations des droits humains. Nous sommes particulièrement alarmés par l'intolérance politique de la section jeunesse "Imbonerakure" du parti au pouvoir face aux membres de l'opposition. Les bureaux des partis politiques d'opposition ont été brûlés ou détruits et des membres de ces partis ont été détenus arbitrairement.

    Compte tenu de l'interdiction des médias internationaux et des restrictions injustifiées imposées aux médias privés indépendants au Burundi, il est impératif que les violations des droits humains soient documentées par la communauté internationale. Nous exhortons le Conseil à renouveler le mandat de la Commission afin d'assurer une surveillance et une documentation continues de la situation des droits humains au Burundi, en particulier avant les élections de 2020, car l'espace civique et démocratique limité du pays entrave les sources d'information indépendantes et critiques. Le renouvellement du mandat de la Commission montrerait clairement que l'obstructionnisme, l'indifférence et les menaces du gouvernement burundais contre l'ONU ne sont pas récompensés.

    Nous appelons le gouvernement du Burundi à coopérer pleinement et à permettre l'accès aux mécanismes du Conseil des droits de l'homme des Nations Unies, et nous demandons à la Commission d'Enquête de quel soutien supplémentaire elle a besoin de la part du Conseil des droits de l'homme afin de poursuivre et renforcer son travail.


  • Burundi: les disparitions et les arrestations continuent en amont des élections de mai

    Déclaration à la 43ème session de Conseil des droits de l'homme des Nations Unies durant le dialogue interactif avec la Comission d'enquête des Nations Unies sur le Burundi

    CIVICUS et les organisations indépendantes de la société civile burundaise saluent le travail important de la Commission d'enquête et remercient celle-ci pour son actualisation, malgré le refus persistant du gouvernement du Burundi d'accorder l'accès au pays.

    A quelques mois des élections générales prévues pour le mois de mai, la situation des droits humains et de la sécurité reste précaire. Les disparitions forcées et les détentions arbitraires d'opposants et d'autres voix dissidentes se poursuivent sans relâche. En janvier 2020, Jacques Nibigira, Gilbert Ndayishimiye, Eslon Nshinyabigoye et Juma ont été arrêtés par le service de renseignement burundais. On ignore toujours où ils se trouvent.  En octobre 2019, les journalistes Christine Kamikazi, Agnès Ndirubusa, Égide Harerimana et Térence ont été arbitrairement arrêtés alors qu'ils enquêtaient sur les activités des rebelles. Le défenseur des droits humains Germain Rukuki est toujours en prison et purge une peine de 32 ans de prison sous de fausses accusations de "rébellion".

    Le 16 janvier 2020, le journaliste Blaise Pascal Kararumiye a été arrêté et détenu au secret pendant cinq jours par le gouverneur de la province de Karuzi, puis libéré sans aucune charge. La liberté d'expression, l'accès à l'information et l'association restent limités au Burundi. Des membres d'autres partis politiques ont été violemment attaqués par la branche jeunesse du parti au pouvoir. Nous craignons que de telles attaques se poursuivent à l'approche des élections.

    Nous demandons au gouvernement du Burundi de coopérer pleinement et de permettre l'accès aux mécanismes du Conseil des droits de l'homme des Nations unies, y compris la Commission d'enquête ; et à tous les mécanismes des Nations unies sur la paix, la sécurité et les droits de l'homme de soutenir pleinement les travaux et les recommandations de la Commission. Nous appelons en outre le Conseil à tenir sérieusement compte de l'analyse des facteurs de risque effectuée par la Commission et à prendre des mesures pour prévenir les atrocités et faire en sorte que le gouvernement du Burundi soit tenu responsable de ses violations des droits de l'homme.

    Nous demandons à la Commission si elle prévoit le déploiement d'une mission d'observation avant, pendant et après les prochaines élections afin que les violations des droits de l'homme liées aux élections puissent être signalées en temps utile pour contribuer à prévenir l'escalade de la violence électorale.



  • Burundi: Political activists arrested earlier this month and journalists remain in prison since 2019

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

    Interactive Dialogue with the UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi


    CIVICUS and independent Burundian civil society organisations welcome the important work of the Commission of Inquiry, and thank the Commission for its report. 

    We welcome that President Ndayishimiye has invited more than 300,000 refugees to return to Burundi, having previously been forced to flee the country. But despite remarks by President Ndayishimiye during his inauguration speech promising accountability and a more transparent approach to tackling human rights violations, the police, the National Intelligence Service, and members of the armed wing of the ruling CNDD-FDD party – the Imbonerakure – continue to harass and intimidate human rights defenders and activists. Several members of the new government are subject to international individual sanctions for their alleged responsibility in human rights violations in Burundi since 2015. We call for thorough and impartial investigations to end impunity.

    Last week, two former military officers, Pontien Baritonda and Prime Niyongabo, were arrested by the NSI. They remain in detention without charge. 29 political activists were arrested earlier this month. Journalists Christine Kamikazi, Agnès Ndirubusa, Égide Harerimana and Térence, of Iwacu media group, remain in prison for investigating rebel activities in October 2019.

    We call on the government to unconditionally release all politically motivated detainees including activists, human rights defenders and journalists and to carry out credible investigations into attacks against them. We further call on the government to lift bans on broadcasting outlets, end the use of internet disruptions to control the flow of information, and review repressive legislation.

    The political transition in Burundi presents an opportunity to reset Burundi’s relationship with the UN human rights system. We ask the commission to elaborate on opportunities for renewed engagement with the government for the implementation of its findings and recommendations, particularly towards accountability.

     With real opportunities for meaningful human rights progress in Burundi, we further call on the Council to renew this vital mandate at this critical time.

    Civic space in Burundi is rated as Closed by the CIVICUS Monitor


  • Burundi: Progress since 2020 elections, but rights abuses persist

    Statement at the 46th Session of the UN Human Rights Council 
    Delivered by Cyriaque Nibitegeka

    CIVICUS and independent Burundian civil society organisations welcome the important work of the Commission of Inquiry and thank the Commission for its update. 

    We welcome the Presidential pardon of four journalists of Iwacu media group, who were prosecuted for investigating rebel activities in the country in October 2019. We also welcome the return of about 3,000 refugees from Rwanda, having previously been forced to flee the country. 

    But serious human rights violations and abuses have continued since the 2020 elections, often with a view to deprive the main opposition party of opportunities to re-organise. These are mainly committed by members of the Imbonerakure youth league of the ruling party and by local officials who continue to enjoy nearly total impunity, often with participation from or tacit support of security officers.

    Several recent returnees are reported missing, and the extrajudicial killings, arrests and arbitrary detentions of opposition members are far from ending. In February alone, there were at least 17 cases of extrajudicial execution, 170 cases of arbitrary detention and five cases of torture. Germain Rukuki, a human rights activist sentenced to 32 years in prison in April 2018, remains deprived of his liberty.

    We call on the government to unconditionally release all politically motivated detainees including activists and human rights defenders.

    The new administration in Burundi still has an opportunity to reset Burundi’s relationship with UN human rights mechanisms. We ask the commission to elaborate on opportunities for renewed engagement with the government for the implementation of its findings and recommendations, particularly towards accountability and long-term reform. 

    Civic space in Burundi is rated as Closed by the CIVICUS Monitor


  • Cambodia: the Council must address human rights and political crisis

    Statement at 48th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Item 10: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia

    Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

    Thank you, Madame President, and thank you Special Rapporteur. The shrinking civic space and political monopolisation raised in the report has entrenched Cambodia into a de facto one-party state.

    Repressive laws are routinely misused to restrict civic freedoms, undermine and weaken civil society, and criminalize individuals for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of peaceful assembly. Human rights defenders, trade unionists, youth activists and journalists and other critical voices are routinely subject to judicial harassment and increasing online surveillance. Environmental activists from Mother Nature Cambodia, along with political activists, have been particularly targeted. Highly politicized courts mean that those arbitrarily detained and charged are often held for prolonged periods in pre-trial detention and have no chance of getting a fair trial.

    These concerns have escalated over the past two years. The COVID-19 pandemic and the government’s repressive response have exacerbated restrictions on fundamental freedoms.

    The main opposition party was dissolved in 2017 and its politicians remain barred from politics. Communal and national elections, set for 2022 and 2023 respectively, are likely to take place under a political climate severely unconducive to being free or fair.

    The fragile veneer of democracy engendered by the Paris Peace Accords has disintegrated past the point of no return in recent years. Those calling for human rights on the ground can no longer afford for the Council to treat the situation as business-as-usual. The Council must take meaningful action now to address the ongoing human rights and political crisis in Cambodia.

    Special Rapporteur, given that the Cambodian government has indicated no political will towards democratic or human rights reform, what action must the Council and member states take to protect civic space and contribute to concrete human rights progress on the ground?

    We thank you.

    Civic space in Cambodia is rated as "repressed" by the CIVICUS Monitor


  • Cambodia's attempts to silence dissent are racheting up

    Joint statement at the 45th Session of the UN Human Rights Council -- CIVICUS and the Cambodian Center for Human Rights

    The Royal Government of Cambodia’s attempts to silence dissent in the country - by criminalising political opposition, shutting down media outlets, jailing journalists, and targeting human rights defenders and civil society groups who speak out – is ratcheting up. Twenty activists, artists and human rights defenders have been imprisoned since July. CIVICUS and our member organization CCHR are alarmed by this sharp deterioration of human rights, which at the moment shows no sign of abating.

    The arrest of union leader Rong Chhun in July precipitated the arrest of 13 further people for calling for the release of political prisoners. In addition, recent weeks have seen environmental activists, rappers, and even a Buddhist monk detained simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression. One youth activist was arrested after leaving the OHCHR offices in Phnom Penh, where she had sought protection from fear of arrest.

    Prominent rights groups have been targeted by authorities for their work and this year alone, at least fifteen journalists have been summoned or arrested by police and judicial authorities as a result of their reporting.

    Repressive laws are used to curtail civic freedoms. Most recently, in April 2020, the Royal Government of Cambodia used the COVID-19 crisis to adopt a draconian state of emergency law that provides the authorities with broad and unfettered powers to restrict fundamental freedoms. A heavily criticized draft law on public order and a highly concerning draft sub-decree establishing a national internet gateway loom, brimming with potential to facilitate further human rights violations.

    We question the Special Rapporteur’s suggestion that the Cambodian authorities have displayed "increased awareness of international human rights norms and standards" during her tenure as Special Rapporteur.

    During this period, a systematic crackdown on political opponents, labour activists, independent media, civil society organizations and human rights defenders has transformed Cambodia’s human rights situation for the worse. Such severe, and ongoing, crackdown on all forms of dissent and curtailment of civic space should be clearly condemned.

    It is increasingly clear that that the mandate is not sufficient to adequately address the current situation, nor to protect human rights defenders and civil society members in Cambodia who increasingly risk arbitrary detention, physical attacks and threats.

    An escalation in human rights violations merits a similar escalation in Council action, and we call for the Council to take such action before Cambodia’s hard-fought democratic freedoms are lost completely.

    Civic space in Cambodia rated as Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor


  • Cambodian civil society needs international support

    42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Joint statement during interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia

    CIVICUS and the Cambodian Center for Human Rights welcome the Special Rapporteur’s report. We are alarmed that the situation of civic space in the country is worsening, with individuals and organisations attacked for raising human rights abuses, while Cambodians face ever-decreasing levels of freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

    In July this year, authorities detained two youth activists, Kong Raya and Soung Neakpoan, who participated in a commemoration ceremony on the third anniversary of the murder of prominent political commentator Kem Ley in Phnom Penh. Other peaceful protests have been blocked or restricted. In recent weeks, two local human rights organizations – LICADHO and Samakum Teang Tnaut STT – were called in for questioning by the government after releasing a report on the human rights impact of micro-finance loans; the director of a third CSO – Transparency International Cambodia – was also called in for separate comments he made in a newspaper.

    We echo the Special Rapporteur’s comments that ‘judicial institutions are themselves key to ensuring accountability in society’. Given this, we are dismayed that such institutions continue to be used by the government to silence human rights defenders and others who dissent. Such lack of justice at the national level calls for heightened international scrutiny.

    The dissolution of the main opposition party in 2018 has effectively transformed the country into a one-party state and undermines democratic space. At least 150 opposition activists have been detained or otherwise judicially harassed since 2018, six in the last week alone.

    As highlighted by the Special Rapporteur, Cambodia’s press freedom indices continues to fall. Independent media outlets perceived as critical towards the government were subject to a severe crackdown in 2017 and 2018 through threats and sanctions including shutdowns, and the environment for independent media remains fraught with danger. Two RFA journalists, Yeang Sothearin and Uon Chhin, face up to 16 years in prison for baseless espionage charges. Their verdict is pending.

    Cambodia participated in the third cycle of the UPR process earlier this year, committing to various human rights reforms. During its review, CSOs highlighted that this should be the first step towards improving the deteriorating human rights situation. Developments on the ground since these commitments were made does not bode well for their fulfillment.

    With independent media all but quashed and civic space under threat, international scrutiny is all the more urgent. At a minimum, the mandate of the special rapporteur must be renewed. But to see real change in Cambodia, the situation merits enhanced monitoring and reporting from the High Commissioner of Human Rights, to outline benchmarks the government must meet to comply with its international human rights obligations.

    Cambodian civil society deserves, and needs, international support. We ask the Special Rapporteur where the international community, including the Council, can exert pressure in order to ensure a substantive improvement of civic space, and whether she sees any avenue for Cambodia’s human rights record to improve substantively, given its current political framework.

    We also use this opportunity to call on the Human Rights Council to pass by consensus the resolution on Cambodia tabled during this Session.



  • Cameroun : L'action de l'ONU est nécessaire pour faire face à la crise des droits humains

    Lettre conjointe

    Aux Représentants permanents des États Membres et Observateurs du Conseil des droits de l’homme des Nations Unies (Genève, Suisse)

    Une action multilatérale robuste est nécessaire pour répondre à la crise au Cameroun

    Madame, Monsieur le Représentant permanent,

    Nous soussignées, organisations de la société civile, sommes gravement préoccupées par les viola-tions graves et persistantes des droits humains au Cameroun. Alors que le Conseil des droits de l’homme de l’ONU (ci-après « CDH » ou « Conseil ») s’apprête à tenir sa 47ème session, du 21 juin au 15 juillet 2021, nous exhortons votre délégation à soutenir une action multilatérale en réponse à la crise des droits humains dans le pays, sous la forme d’une intervention orale conjointe. Cette intervention devrait comporter des indicateurs de progrès qui, s’ils étaient remplis, constitue-raient pour le Cameroun un chemin vers l’amélioration de sa situation. Si, à l’inverse, ces indica-teurs restaient lettre morte, l’intervention orale conjointe ouvrirait alors la voie à une action plus formelle du Conseil, notamment (mais pas nécessairement uniquement) une résolution instituant un mécanisme d’enquête et de redevabilité.

    Au cours des quatre dernières années, les organisations de la société civile ont appelé le Gouvernement du Cameroun, les groupes séparatistes armés et les autres acteurs non étatiques impliqués à mettre un terme aux violations et atteintes aux droits humains1. Compte tenu de l’incapacité des institutions came-rounaises à garantir la justice et la redevabilité, la société civile a également appelé les organes et méca-nismes africains et internationaux de protection des droits humains à enquêter, surveiller et faire rapport publiquement sur la situation au Cameroun.

    Un niveau élevé d’attention au Cameroun, d’un côté, et, de l’autre, dialogue et coopération, ne s’exclu-ent pas mutuellement. Au contraire, ils sont de nature à se renforcer. Ils visent le même objectif : aider le Gouvernement camerounais à mettre fin aux violations, à garantir la justice et la reddition des comp-tes et à remplir ses obligations en termes de droits humains. À cet égard, l’établissement d’une coopé-ration entre le Bureau de la Haute-Commissaire des Nations Unies aux droits de l’homme (HCDH) et le Gouvernement du Cameroun, à la suite de la visite à Yaoundé de la Haute-Commissaire, Michelle Bachelet, en mai 20192, et s’appuyant sur les capacités du bureau régional du HCDH pour l’Afrique centrale (CARO)3, est un pas en avant.

    Toutefois, depuis qu’un groupe de 39 États a co-signé une intervention orale conjointe lors de la 40ème session du CDH (mars 2019) et en dépit de la visite de la Haute-Commissaire, de la tenue d’un dialogue national et de la présence du HCDH dans le pays, les violations se sont poursuivies. Certaines d’entre elles, commises par les forces gouvernementales et des groupes armés non étatiques, pourraient être constitutives de crimes de droit international. L’impunité demeure la norme.

    Dans les régions anglophones du Nord-Ouest et du Sud-Ouest, les atteintes perpétrées par les sépara-tistes armés et les forces gouvernementales continuent de causer des pertes en vies humaines et d’af-fecter la sécurité, les droits et les moyens de subsistance des habitants. Les griefs ayant donné naissance à la « crise anglophone » demeurent intacts4. Dans l’Extrême Nord, le groupe armé Boko Haram conti-

    nue à commettre des violations à l’encontre de la population civile. Par leur réponse aux menaces sécu-ritaires, les forces de sécurité ont également commis de graves violations des droits humains. Dans le reste du pays, les autorités camerounaises ont intensifié leur répression des membres et soutiens de l’opposition politique, des manifestants, des professionnels des médias et des acteurs de la société civile, notamment via des actes de harcèlement, des menaces, des arrestations arbitraires et des détenions.

    Le Cameroun fait partie des crises des droits humains face auxquelles le Conseil des droits de l’homme a échoué à formuler une réponse appropriée. L’inaction d’autres organes (notamment l’Union africaine (UA) et le Conseil de sécurité des Nations Unies), rend d’autant plus indispensable l’envoi par le CDH d’un message clair, qui élève son niveau de surveillance et d’engagement.

    Nous pensons qu’une action multilatérale plus robuste est nécessaire. Lors de la 47ème session du Conseil, nous exhortons les États Membres et Observateurs à soutenir, au minimum, une inter-vention orale conjointe. Cette intervention devrait indiquer clairement que si le Cameroun échouait à prendre des mesures concrètes pour enquêter sur les violations des droits humains, garantir la reddition des comptes et améliorer sa situation des droits humains, une action plus formelle du Conseil s’ensuivrait sous la forme d’une résolution instituant un mécanisme d’en-quête et de redevabilité.

    Une intervention orale conjointe devrait :

    • Répondre aux violations et atteintes commises à la fois par les forces gouvernementales et par les groupes armés non étatiques dans le Nord-Ouest, le Sud-Ouest, l’Extrême Nord et d’autres régions du Cameroun, et exhorter toutes les parties à mettre un terme immédiat à ces violations et atteintes ;
    • Rappeler au Gouvernement camerounais sa responsabilité primaire de protéger sa population des crimes et autres violations des droits humains ;
    • Exhorter le Gouvernement camerounais, en coopération avec le HCDH et les organisations came-rounaises de défense des droits humains, à mettre au point et à appliquer une feuille de route pour les réformes en matière de droits humains et la redevabilité, dans le but de prévenir des violations supplémentaires et de garantir la reddition des comptes, ceci dans le cadre d’un effort global de règlement de la crise que traverse le pays, en particulier dans les régions du Nord-Ouest et du Sud-Ouest, ainsi que le conflit armé dans la région de l’Extrême Nord ;
    • Au surplus, l’intervention conjointe devrait définir des indicateurs de progrès devant être remplis par le Gouvernement du Cameroun afin de démontrer la réalité de tout progrès en termes de droits humains, y compris en :
      • mettant un terme immédiat aux violations commises à l’encontre des membres et des soutiens de l’op-position, des professionnels et organes des médias, des manifestants et des membres de la société civile, notamment avocats, responsables syndicaux, professeurs et défenseurs et organisations des droits hu-mains ;
      • libérant les prisonniers de conscience ;
      • respectant pleinement les droits humains de tous les citoyens camerounais, notamment leurs droit à la liberté d’opinion et d’expression, de réunion pacifique et d’association, ainsi que leur droit à la vie, à la liberté et à la sûreté ;
      • coopérant pleinement avec le HCDH, y compris en lui permettant un accès sans entrave aux régions du Nord-Ouest et du Sud-Ouest, afin qu’il y conduise des enquêtes et un travail de surveillance de la situation et de rédaction de rapports publics ;
      • coopérant pleinement avec le Conseil et ses mécanismes, conformément aux obligations du Cameroun en tant que Membre du Conseil, y compris en permettant aux titulaires de mandats de procédures spé-ciales d’accéder au pays ;
      • fournissant un accès plein et sans entrave aux organisations et aux travailleurs humanitaires et de pro-tection des droits humains – ceci inclut la restauration de l’accès au pays pour les organisations non gouvernementales (ONG) internationales afin qu’elles puissent faire rapport sur la situation des droits humains dans le pays ; et
      • coopérant avec les organes et mécanismes régionaux, y compris la Commission africaine des droits de l’homme et des peuples (CADHP)5.
    • Encourager la Haute-Commissaire aux droits de l’homme à rendre publiques les conclusions des enquêtes menées en 2019 par le HCDH dans les régions anglophones et à fournir des mises à jour régulières au Conseil, notamment en tenant des briefings ou des conversations informelles avec les Membres et Observateurs, entre les sessions. Ces mises à jour devraient inclure des informa-tions sur son dialogue avec les autorités camerounaises, la situation dans le pays et le travail du HCDH dans le pays ;
    • Encourager les États à augmenter leurs contributions volontaires en faveur des activités du HCDH, notamment pour le travail du bureau régional du HCDH pour l’Afrique centrale au Cameroun et en Afrique centrale ; et
    • Indiquer clairement que si le Cameroun échouait à prendre des mesures concrètes pour améliorer sa situation et démontrer des progrès en termes de droits humains d’ici à la 48ème session du Conseil (13 septembre-1er octobre 2021), une action plus formelle du Conseil s’ensuivrait, sous un point de l’ordre du jour approprié.

    Nous vous remercions de l’attention que vous porterez à ces préoccupations et nous tenons prêts à fournir à votre délégation toute information supplémentaire.

    Dans l’attente, nous vous prions de croire, Madame, Monsieur le Représentant permanent, en l’assu-rance de notre haute considération.

    1. Africa Call – South Sudan
    2. AfricanDefenders (Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network)
    3. Amnesty International
    4. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
    5. CDDH – Benin
    6. Center for Human Rights Defenders Zimbabwe (CHRDZ)
    7. CIVICUS 8. Club Humanitaire sans Frontières (CHF)
    9. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
    10. Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO) – South Sudan
    11. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    12. Defenders Coalition – Kenya
    13. Dialogue and Research Institute (DRI) – South Sudan
    14. Dignity Association – Sierra Leone
    15. Economic Justice Network Sierra Leone
    16. Franciscans International
    17. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
    18. HAKI Africa
    19. HRDSNET Uganda Ltd – Human Rights Defenders Solidarity Network
    20. Human Rights Defenders Network – Sierra Leone
    21. Human Rights Watch
    22. Initiative for Plataforma das Organizações Lusófonas dos Direitos Humanos (POLDH)
    23. International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN)
    24. International Refugee Rights Initiative
    25. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    26. Kenya Human Rights Commission
    27. National Alliance of Women Lawyers (NAWL) – South Sudan
    28. Network of the Independent Commission for Human rights in North Africa
    29. Nouvelle Génération de la Cinématographie Guinéenne (NOGECIG)
    30. Oasis Network for Community Transformation
    31. Pan African Lawyers Union
    32. Partnership for Justice, Lagos – Nigeria
    33. Protection International – Kenya (PIK)
    34. Raise The Young Foundation
    35. REDRESS
    36. Réseau des Organisations de la Société Civile pour l’Observation et le Suivi des Élections en Guinée (ROSE)
    37. Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN)
    38. South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network (SSHRDN)
    39. Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC)
    40. The Independent Medico-Legal Unit
    41. Togolese Human Rights Defenders Coalition / Coalition Togolaise des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CTDDH)
    42. Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International (TASSC)
    43. West African Human Rights Defenders Network / Réseau Ouest Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (ROADDH/WAHRDN)
    44. Watch Democracy Grow
    45. Women’s Centre for Guidance and Legal Awareness (WCGLA) – Egypt

    62. 17 organisations supplémentaires se joignent à cette lettre, portant le nombre total de signataires à 62. En raison du contexte sécuritaire auquel elles font face, leur nom demeure confidentiel.

    L'espace civique au Cameroun est classé comme Réprimé par CIVICUS Monitor.


  • Civic space and fundamental freedoms in Zimbabwe

    Joint Statement at the 41st Session of the Human Rights Council

    CIVICUS and the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) welcome the High Commissioner’s update. With a continued focus on prevention, we request the High Commissioner and the Council to pay attention to the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe. The government has continued with its crackdown on civil society in violation of fundamental rights and freedoms.

    The state’s attacks on civil society have been systematic. Since the January 2019 shutdown atrocities where more than 17 people were shot dead and several injured, civil society members across the country have reported an increase in surveillance, abductions, arbitrary arrests and detention and interruption of their meetings by suspected state agents. Their legitimate and vital work of providing oversight, supporting and protecting vulnerable citizens, is now criminalised.

    The nation is currently gripped with a crippling economic situation which is creating a restless population. The response of the government by closing civic space and trampling on fundamental freedoms is deplorable.

    In the same period, Zimbabwe’s state-controlled media has led an onslaught against civil society leaders whom they accuse of planning to topple the government. These baseless allegations have been followed by a spate of arrests of civil society activists.  A total of eleven civil society leaders are currently facing charges designed to criminalise human rights work.

    CIVICUS and the Forum request the members of the Council to pay special attention to the situation in Zimbabwe, to read the warning signs of a deteriorating situation and act accordingly.

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


  • Civic Space Initiative statement on public participation guidelines

    39th Session of the Human Rights Council
    General Debate

    Civic Space Initiative, including Article 19, CIVICUS, European Center for Not-for-profit Law, International Center for Not-for-profit Law and World Movement for Democracy, welcomes the draft guidelines on effective implementation of the right to participate in public affairs prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

    We emphasise the critical importance of equal and meaningful participation in the realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as already laid out in Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Equally, we recognise the centrality of participation in building democratic societies, social inclusion, gender equality and in advancing economic development and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

    We welcome the transparent, open, and inclusive manner in which the OHCHR developed the draft guidelines, including consultations our organizations participated in all parts of the world.

    We underscore allpractical recommendations at national and international level which will help UN member States to create an environment necessary for the public to have their say. We highlight in particular the rightof access to information and States’ obligations to encourage and support civil society to do its work and refrain from any harassment and reprisal of rights-holders.

    Therefore, we strongly encourage the Council to endorsethe guidelines on effective implementation of the right to participate in public affairs, and call on all UN Member States, local authorities, relevant United Nations bodies, specialized agencies, funds and programmes to promote the use and implementation of the guidelines within their work and public outreach.    

    We look forward to working with OHCHR, as well as States at the international and national level to enhance the right to public participation.


  • CIVICUS Addresses the New UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

    39th Session of the Human Rights Council  
    Opening Statement to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

    High Commissioner Bachelet, CIVICUS warmly welcomes you to the Council and congratulates your appointment as 7th UN High Commissioner. You take up this position at a time when human rights and the institutions to uphold them are under attack, and we look to you to be the voice of the thousands of human rights defenders working on the front lines, risking their lives on a daily basis. 

    We also welcome your call for new strategies and stronger tools for prevention, early intervention and also accountability so that the power of justice can deter and prevent even the worst violations and crimes. 

    The CIVICUS Monitor, a platform that tracks and rates civic space globally, has developed a Watch List of countries where on which individual activists and civil society organisations are experiencing a severe infringement of their civic freedoms as protected by international law, and urgent action is needed to reverse the trend. The Monitor  recently placed Bangladesh, Cameroon, the DRC, Guatemala, Maldives and Nicaragua on its Watch List

    These violations include brutal attacks by police on peaceful protests in Nicaragua and Bangladesh; the killing of 18 human rights defenders since January 2018 in Guatemala; flagrant disregard for the rule of law in Maldives ahead of elections scheduled this month; killing of protesters, targeted campaigns of harassment and arbitrary detention of activists and political opposition in the DRC; and the prosecution of human rights defenders and journalists on trumped-up charges in Cameroon amidst an escalating civil conflict and humanitarian crisis. 

    We call on you, High Commissioner and on all delegations to address these attacks and restrictions as a bellwether for further violations to come, and act now to reverse these worrying trends.


  • CIVICUS at Human Rights Council: Civil society helps fulfil human rights commitments

    35th session of the Human Rights Council
    Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on freedom of assembly and of association and the Special Rapporteur on the right to education
    7 June 2017

    Thank you Mr. President,

    CIVICUS welcomes the reports of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of assembly and of association and the Special Rapporteur on the right to education.  We again commend the former Special Rapporteur, Maina Kiai, for his steadfast support for civil society across the world. We also welcome the new Special Rapporteur, Annalisa Ciampi, and remain committed to supporting the mandate to undertake its essential work.

    The Special Rapporteur’s report on mapping the achievements of civil society articulates an unassailable case for why civil society should be seen as an ally, rather than an adversary. As expressed by the mandate holder, civil society has played a crucial role in shepherding and realizing scores of progressive values and rights. The report provides a wealth of examples of these achievements, including through pursuing accountability, supporting participation and empowerment, driving innovation and fostering sustainable development. We urge all states to explicitly acknowledge the integral role that civil society plays in ensuring that states can actualize their domestic and international human rights commitments.

    We further reiterate the recommendations raised by the Special Rapporteur in his report on the  United States. National and public security concerns must not be misused to suppress freedom of assembly. The continued use of excessive force by police departments across the United States against peaceful protesters requires a concerted and proactive federal response. We also regret that immigrant workers face the specter of official harassment and deportation for attempting to exercise their right to freedom of association, including joining labor unions. 

    In the United Kingdom, we remain equally concerned by recent reports that Prime Minister Theresa May is willing to forfeit human rights in the pursuit of countering terrorism. Such a wholesale forfeit of human rights undermines the United Kingdom’s international obligations as well as efforts to address the roots causes of terrorism.

    We 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.

    We thank you.


  • Civicus at Human Rights Council: Statement on global state of civil society

    35th session of the Human Rights Council
    General debate on High Commissioner´s oral update
    7 June 2017

    Thank you Mr. President,

    CIVICUS welcomes the High Commissioner’s oral update. We applaud the prominence given to civic space and we share his concern that civil society faces growing and debilitating threats.

    Yesterday, CIVICUS released its annual State of Civil Society report which explores the worrying backsliding on democratic norms across the world. The report underscores that The world is facing a democratic crisis through unprecedented restrictions on the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly which constitute a global emergency. 

    The report further highlights that around the world it is becoming increasingly dangerous to challenge power, and to do so risks reprisals. In several countries, right-wing populist and neo-fascist leaders have gained prominence by winning elections or commanding enough support to push their ideas into the mainstream. Their politics and worldview are fundamentally opposed to civil society seeking to promote human rights, social cohesion and progressive internationalism.

    This is happening even in countries where we believed the concepts of constitutional, participatory democracy had long been established. And while much of the world’s attention has lately focused on political shifts in the US and Europe, we see populist strongmen increasing their grip in countries such as India and the Philippines, as well as longstanding autocratic states such as Ethiopia, Eritrea, Burundi, Saudi Arabia and others where independent civil society space has long been closed.

    However, Mr. President, Civil Society is also fighting back. 

    The last 6 months were marked by multiple forms of mass peaceful protests. Around the world, whenever new leaders have come to power on polarizing right-wing populist platforms, they have been met with major demonstrations by those taking a stance against them. The democracy of the street is alive and well.

    We call on all member and observer States of Council to understand, articulate and make clear to their governments that the realization of civil society rights is an essential part of the defense of democracy and a healthy society.

    We thank you