human rights council


  • COVID-19 restrictions cannot set new precedents for civil society participation at the UN

    Joint statement at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council



    Madame President,

    The Vienna Declaration recognizes the important role of non-governmental organizations in the promotion of all human rights activities at national, regional and international levels, and emphasizes the importance of continued dialogue and cooperation between Governments and non-governmental organizations.

    In a time of crisis, civil society is vital to developing and implementing the solutions. The President’s Statement on the human rights implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, adopted by this Council last month, reaffirms this.

    We fully understand that the pandemic has created an unprecedented situation. Indeed, COVID-19 has exacerbated existing restrictions on participation worldwide with closing spaces on assembly, association and movement. Numerous countries have enacted emergency legislation which serve to stifle criticism and curtail freedom of the press. Not only do these measures counter the principles enshrined in the Vienna Declaration, they inhibit our collective ability to forge collective solutions.

    It is crucial that civil society voices are not excluded from the Council. That all those who are affected by the decisions made in this room are fully able to participate – virtually or otherwise. This is particularly the case for our civil society colleagues in the global south, who face intersectional barriers to participation.

    The Human Rights Council must lead by example and set the highest standards on civil society space and participation, including through its working methods, by ensuring a process that is accessible, transparent, inclusive and responsive to civil society voices.

    We urge Human Rights Council members and observers to make every effort to ensure that restrictions on participation do not set new precedents at the Council which would make it less effective and less inclusive, hindering its ability to address human rights.

    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    Child Rights Connect
    Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
    Humanists International
    International Commission of Jurists
    International Service for Human Rights
    Save the Children
    Sexual Rights Initiative
    World Organisation Against Torture

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


  • CSOs call for an open, transparent & merit-based process to appoint the next UN High-Commissioner

    In an open letter to the UN Secretary-General, Mr António Guterres, various civil society organisations urge the Secretary General to find a compelling leader for human rights within the UN system and throughout the world through a consultative process.

     Dear Secretary-General,

    Re: Appointment of next UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

    The post of High Commissioner for Human Rights is critical to the promotion and protection of human rights globally, particularly at a time when human rights standards and mechanisms face enormous pressure from powerful governments. This role is key for the implementation of the Call to Action for Human Rights and Our Common Agenda.

    The undersigned organisations represent and work closely with human rights defenders, victims of violations and affected communities, as well as with the UN. In this capacity, we write to you regarding the process for appointing the next High Commissioner, as well as the key qualifications and qualities required for the position.

    The post of High Commissioner should be filled by someone of high moral standing and personal integrity, and who is independent and impartial and possesses competency and expertise in the field of human rights. It requires a human rights champion who is courageous and principled. Your nominee should have a proven record of effective public advocacy, as well as demonstrated experience working with defenders and victims of violations. The post requires a strong commitment to addressing discrimination, inequality, oppression and injustice in all its forms, as well as combating impunity and pursuing redress and accountability for all human rights violations and abuses, including those committed by the most powerful governments. The High Commissioner’s role is to be the world’s leading human rights advocate, as distinct from the role of a diplomat or political envoy. Demonstrating solidarity with victims and publicly calling out abuses should take precedence over friendly dialogue with governments.

    The process of nominating the next High Commissioner is critical to identifying the most qualified candidate and ensuring the credibility of their appointment. This process should be open, transparent and merit-based. It should involve wide and meaningful consultation with independent human rights organisations and human rights defenders. Given that High Commissioner Bachelet’s mandate will end on 31 August 2022, it is imperative that this process move quickly.

    Human rights are primary values, legal obligations, and indispensable for peace, security and sustainable development. It is vital that the next High Commissioner be a compelling leader for human rights within the UN system and throughout the world. In addition to identifying an outstanding candidate through a consultative process, we urge you to vigorously defend the independence of the Office of the High Commissioner, including through adequate resourcing. For our part, we pledge to support the High Commissioner and the Office of the High Commissioner in their principled and good faith efforts to promote and protect human rights worldwide.

    We look forward to your response and to meaningful civil society engagement with this process.

    Yours faithfully,

    1. Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran

    2. Adalah  The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel

    3. Advocates for International Development

    4. Al Mezan Center for Human Rights

    5. All Human Rights for All in Iran

    6. Amnesty International

     Arab NGO Network for Development

     ARTICLE 19

    9. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUMASIA)

    10. Association for the Human Rights of the Azerbaijani People in Iran (AHRAZ)

    11. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

    12. Center for Economic and Social Rights

    13. Center for International Environmental Law

     Center for Reproductive Rights

    15. Centre for Civil and Political Rights

    16. Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)

    17. Child Rights Connect

    18. Citizen, Democracy and Accountability

    19. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

    20. Colombian Commission of Jurists

    21. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative

    22. Conectas Direitos Humanos

    23. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)

    24. Dominican Leadership Conference

    25. Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort (ECPM)

    26. Environmental Defender Law Center

    27. Franciscans International

    28. Front Line Defenders

    29. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

    30. Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

    31. Gulf Centre for Human Rights

    32. Haiti Rehabilitation Foundation

    33. Hawai’i Institute for Human Rights

    34. HIV Legal Network

    35. Human Rights Activists in Iran

    36. Human Rights House Foundation

    37. Human Rights Law Centre

    38. Human Rights Watch

    39. ILGA World (The International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association)

    40. Impact Iran

    41. Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH)

    42. International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI)

    43. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)

    44. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

    45. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

    46. Iran Human Rights
    47. JASS/Just Associates

    48. Just Fair

     Kenya Human Rights Commission

    50. Kurdistan Human Rights AssociationGeneva (KMMKG)

    51. Law & Society Trust Sri Lanka

    52. Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada

    53. Make Mothers Matter (MMM)

    54. MINBYUN  Lawyers for a Democratic Society

    55. Minority Rights Group International (MRG)

    56. Open Society Foundations

    57. Plan International

    58. Programa Venezolano de Educación Acción en Derechos Humanos, PROVEA

    59. Siamak Pourzand Foundation

    60. United Nations Association  UK

    61. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

     World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

    63. World Uyghur Congress


  • CSOs urge the UN to renew its Expert mandate on sexual orientation & gender identity

    1117 Civil Society Organisations(CSOs) urge the Human Rights Council to renew the mandate of the Independent Expert on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity(SOGI) during its 50th session. 


    In every region of the world, widespread, grave and systematic violence and discrimination based on one’s real or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity persists.

    Killings and extrajudicial executions; torture, rape and sexual violence; enforced disappearance; forced displacement; criminalisation; arbitrary detentions; blackmail and extortion; police violence and harassment; bullying; stigmatization; hate speech; disinformation campaigns; denial of one’s self defined gender identity; forced medical treatment, and/or forced sterilization; repression of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, religion or belief; attacks and restrictions on human rights defenders and journalists; denial of services and hampered access to justice; discrimination in all spheres of life including in employment, healthcare, housing, education and cultural traditions; and other multiple and intersecting forms of violence and discrimination. These are some of the human rights violations and abuses faced by persons of diverse sexual orientations and/or gender identities.

    This dire human rights situation has motivated significant action at the United Nations, which we celebrate, to recognize and protect the human rights of these persons and communities. In 2016, the Human Rights Council took definitive action to systematically address these abuses, advance positive reforms and share best practices – through regular reporting, constructive dialogue and engagement – and created an Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI).

    In 2019, the renewal of this mandate was supported by more than 50 States from all the regions of the globe and by 1,314 organisations from 174 States and territories. This growing support is evidence of the critical importance of this mandate and its work to support persons of diverse sexual orientations and/or gender identities, and those who defend their rights, both at international human rights fora and at the grassroots level.

    Over the past 6 years the two mandate holders have conducted in-depth documentation of discrimination and violence based on SOGI through reports and statements; have sent over 100 communications documenting allegations of such violations in all regions; have carried out 5 country visits; have identified root causes; and addressed violence and discrimination faced by specific groups, including lesbian, bisexual, trans and gender diverse persons.

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

    Despite these positive advances, today over 68 countries still criminalize consensual same-sex conduct and relations of which 11 jurisdictions still carry the death penalty and more than 10 countries still criminalise diverse gender expressions and identities, and the abovementioned human rights violations persist. Furthermore, at least 4042 trans and gender-diverse people were reported murdered between 1 January 2008 and 30 September 2021. With many more cases going unreported, 2021 has been the deadliest year for trans and gender-diverse people since data collection began. It is clear that this mandate remains essential.

    A decision by Council Members to renew this mandate would send a clear message that violence and discrimination against people of diverse sexual orientations and/or gender identities cannot be tolerated. It would reaffirm that specific, sustained and systematic attention continues to be crucial to address these human rights violations and ensure that LGBT people are in fact free and equal in dignity and rights.
    We, the 1,117 NGOs from 134 States and territories around the world, urge this Council to ensure we continue building a world where everyone can live free from violence and discrimination. To allow this important and unfinished work to continue, we urge you to renew the mandate of the Independent Expert on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.


  • Dear African Commission on Human Rights: Don’t provide cover for repressive Egyptian government

    Joint letter to Chair of the African Commission on Human and People's Rights: Don’t provide political cover for brutal repression of Egyptian government(below letter sent to Chair Soyota Maiga, while ACHPHR meets in Banjul, Gambia)

    Dear Chair Soyota Maiga,

    We are writing to urge you to reject the bid to hold the upcoming African Commission on Human Rights and People's Rights (ACPHR) 64th ordinary session in Egypt. This decision, if taken could tantamount to ignoring the current violations taking place in the country. Egypt, under the rule of President Sisi, is in the throes of the most widespread and brutal crackdown on human rights committed by any Egyptian government in its modern history. Reflecting this reality, the United Nations (UN) human rights system, including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and Special Procedures, has become increasingly vocal and robust in its criticism of the human rights situation in the country. This includes  recent  statements that strongly denounce the recent issuance of mass death sentences for individuals who have participated in protests within the country –and a rare call by experts representing six thematic mandates of the UN Human Rights Council to “urgently respond” to the government’s “appalling” behaviour. The EU’s European External Action Service has made similar criticism.

    The Egyptian government’s continuous disregard to constitutional law and international human rights obligations lead to a series of appalling human rights violations (see annex attached to this letter). The judiciary has largely failed to hold to account those responsible for grave violations of international and national law and, in many cases, the courts have served as an instrument of repression for the authorities. Egyptian NGOs have documented 1,520 cases of enforced disappearance in Egypt between July 2013 and August 2018. More than 60,000 political prisoners are currently detained in Egypt, in dreadful conditions. The Egyptian NGO Committee for Justice documented at least 129 cases of death in custody in 2017 alone. Moreover, The UN Committee Against Torture’s 2017 annual report concluded “torture is a systematic practice in Egypt” fed by security forces’ impunity and high-level State acquiescence, and may amount to crimes against humanity.
    Amid a national milieu distinguished by endemic torture and enforced disappearance and impunity, Egypt is currently in the middle of the most sweeping and repressive crackdown on fundamental freedoms, including dissent and other political expression in its modern history. This systematic repression threatens to wipe out any form of independent journalism and civil society in the coming period and had sweeping effects on the enjoyment of all individuals to their right to freedoms of expression, association and reunion. Indeed, the Egyptian government’s rejection of fundamental democratic processes and human rights principles is represented by its recent presidential elections held in March this year, which were assessed by fourteen regional and international organizations as neither free nor fair. Leading Egyptian human rights organizations previously warned the elections had become a dangerous "charade” likely to “exacerbate violence, terrorism and instability" in the country. Now the authorities are widely expected to soon make concrete moves to amend Egypt’s Constitution to abolish presidential term limits and allow President Sisi to run for a third term in 2022.

    In face of this, a free and effective participation of Egyptian and non-Egyptian civil society organizations during the ACHPR sessions is also put into question. Our organizations have serious doubts all conditions would be met to allow NGOs to access the ACHPR, according to its mandate and practices. The security and safety of human rights defenders participating in this session may also not be guaranteed. The ACHPR has a key role to play and should reinforce its engagement with Egyptian national authorities, in order to contribute to upholding respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in the country.

    The ACPHR should not turn a blind eye to these atrocities. We fully support the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s recent denunciation of the injustice of the Egyptian court. We urge the ACHPR to follow the High Commissioner lead in denouncing these violations in Egypt instead of rewarding it with hosting the 64th ordinary session. The African Commission should not raise its flag over the gravestone of human rights in Egypt.

    Thank you for your consideration of our request.

    We remain at your service should you require further information.

    See Annex for more detailed information on the state of human rights and civic space in Egypt.

    With Assurances of our Highest Consideration:

    1    Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS);    
    2    Committee for Justice (CfJ)
    3    Action for Community Transformation (ACT-NOW)
    4    Adalah Center for Rights & Freedoms (ACRF)- Egypt
    5    African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
    6    Afrique arc-en-ciel
    7    Afrique Arc-en-Ciel Togo
    8    Algerian League for Human Rights (LADDH)
    9    Arab Foundation for Civil and Political Rights-Nedal- Egypt
    10    Associação Justiça, Paz e Democracia (AJPD) Angola
    11    Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE)
    12    Associazione Ricreativa Culturale Italiana – (ARCI)
    13    Belady Island for Humanity
    14    Border center for support and consulting- Egypt
    15    Center for Civil Liberties-Ukraine
    16    CIVICUS
    17    CNCD-11.11.11
    18    Coalition of African Lesbians
    19    Independent Commission for Human Rights in Western Sahara
    20    Conectas Direitos Humanos
    21    Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA)
    22    Defend Defenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    23    Dignity
    24    Egyptian Front for Human Rights
    25    EuroMed Rights
    26    Great Lakes Initiative for Human Rights and Development (GLIHD)
    27    Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA)
    28    Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum- Uganda
    29    Human Rights Concern - Eritrea (HRCE)
    30    Human Rights Defenders Network- Sierra Leone
    31    HuMENA for Human Rights and Sustainable Development
    32    Initiative For Equal Right- Nigeria
    33    Initiative for Equality and Non- Discrimination- Kenya
    34    Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA)
    35    International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute
    36    International Commission of Jurist (ICJ)
    37    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    38    International Institute for Child Protection
    39    International Lawyers (Geneva)
    40    International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    41    Iranti-South Africa
    42    Kenya Human Rights Commission 
    43    Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation
    44    Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH)
    45    Moroccan Organization for Human Rights (OMDH)
    46    Nadeem Center- Egypt
    47    National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders-Uganda
    48    National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders - Kenya (NCHRD-K)
    49    National Human Rights Defenders Network Sierra Leone
    50    National Human Rights Defenders Somalia/ Somaliland
    51    Network for Solidarity, Empowerment and Transformation for All – NewSETA
    52    Odhikar-Bangladesh
    53    Organization for Women and Children (ORWOCH)
    54    Queer Youth Uganda
    55    Réseau des Défenseurs des Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale (REDHAC)
    56    Réseau Doustourna (Tunis)
    57    Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network
    58    Synergia Initiatives for Human Rights
    59    The Freedom Initiative
    60    The Regional Center for Rights And liberties
    61    Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH)
    62    Uganda National NGO Forum
    63    West African Human Rights Defenders ‘Network (ROADDH/WAHRDN)
    64    World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
    65    Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights


  • Declaración: Nicaragua no implementa recomendaciones de derechos humanos

    42 Consejo de Derechos Humanos de la ONU
    Declaración: Adopción del informe EPU de Nicaragua

    Red Local y CIVICUS saludan el compromiso del gobierno de Nicaragua con el proceso EPU. Sin embargo, nuestra presentación conjunta documenta que, desde su evaluación anterior, Nicaragua no ha implementado ninguna de las 26 recomendaciones recibidas en relación con el espacio cívico, 17 de ellas referidas a la libertad de expresión y acceso a la información. También lamentamos que, durante el ciclo actual, las recomendaciones sobre el acceso de y la cooperación con mecanismos regionales e internacionales de derechos humanos, la investigación de los abusos de derechos humanos cometidos contra manifestantes, y la seguridad y libertad de periodistas y personas defensoras encarceladas, no fueron aceptados por el Gobierno.

    Como lo detalla nuestra presentación, la legislación nicaragüense sigue tratando a la calumnia y la injuria como delitos penales, y la libertad de prensa continúa limitada por la manipulación de la distribución de publicidad oficial, la denegación de acceso para cubrir actividades gubernamentales, el control estricto del flujo informativo desde la cúspide del aparato estatal, y la concentración de medios en manos de la familia presidencial y sus aliados. También se han registrado actos de censura explícita.

    Asimismo, nuestra presentación documenta que la legislación que regula la creación, el funcionamiento y la disolución de OSC es aplicada de manera arbitraria, con el objeto de obstaculizar e intimidar al personal de OSC independientes, las cuales también se han visto afectadas por restricciones legales o de facto para recibir financiamiento externo y mantener colaboraciones internacionales. Las personas defensoras del derecho al territorio, activistas por los derechos de las mujeres y las personas LGBTI, periodistas y blogueras también son rutinariamente estigmatizadas, acosadas, criminalizadas, arrestadas arbitrariamente y atacadas físicamente.

    El ejercicio de la libertad de reunión pacífica enfrenta obstáculos en la ley y en la práctica, desde requisitos de autorización para realizar manifestaciones y una Ley de Seguridad Soberana que define ampliamente las amenazas de seguridad para criminalizar tácticas comunes de los movimientos de protesta, hasta el uso ilegal de fuerza excesiva y mortal contra manifestantes, que entre abril y agosto de 2018 causó la muerte de por lo menos 300 personas.

    Hacemos un llamado al Gobierno de Nicaragua para que tome medidas proactivas para abordar estas preocupaciones e implemente recomendaciones para crear y mantener, en la ley y en la práctica, un entorno propicio para la sociedad civil.


  • Detention and disappearance of activists is widespread

    42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    -Statement on report of Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

    CIVICUS thanks the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention for their report. We are concerned that it shows Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Qatar, Saudi Arabia - Human Rights Council member states from the Middle East – as well as Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, and the UAE, all using arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance to silence civil society and shut down dissent with impunity. 

    Bahrain arbitrarily detained Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and Nabeel Rajab on 9 April 2011 and 13 June 2016 respectively. They are among dozens of human rights defenders whom the authorities have arbitrarily detained, including Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace and Naji Fateel, both subject to mistreatment by officials. The authorities denied them medical treatment and interfered with their family visits. We are particularly alarmed by the Working Group’s reports of reprisals against those who have been subject of an urgent appeal or opinion in Bahrain. This falls far short of the standards that every state, but particularly members of the Human Rights Council, should uphold.

    We condemn Egypt's arbitrary arrest of lawyer Ibrahim Metwally in 2017 en route to attend an HRC session, to present cases of enforced disappearance, and his ill-treatment. His and the cases of 12 others arbitrarily arrested in June 2019 reflect Egypt's closure of civic space.

    In Iraq, we condemn the detention of journalists, protesters and civil society activists. During protests in Basra, at least seven Iraqi journalists were assaulted or detained including Reuters photographer Essam al-Sudani.

    Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on women’s and other human rights defenders forms its systematic use of arbitrary detention in which thousands have been detained.

    Those detained in 2018 included Aziza al-Yousef; Loujain al-Hathloul, Eman al-Nafjan and other women’s rights advocates who also campaigned to end the driving ban, as well as writers, academics and family members of WHRDs. “Charges” were only brought against them in March 2019. They remain in prison, alongside members of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA); Mohammed al-Qahtani, and Abdullah al-Hamid; blogger Raif Badawi and human rights lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair.

    Iran systematically arbitrarily detains trade unionists, HRDs, minority rights activists and lawyers like Nasrin Sotoudeh and Narges Mohammadi.

    Kuwait’s arbitrary arrest in July, of stateless rights activists including Abdulhakim al-Fadhli exemplifies the intersectionality of rights and how guaranteeing civil space bolsters other rights. 

    The UAE’s March 2017 arbitrary arrest and enforced disappearance of HRD Ahmed Mansoor continues to tarnish the UAE, showing that its “year of tolerance” does not include human rights.

    Mr. President, the report of the Working Group shows that the use of arbitrary detention – often without charge, recourse to access independent legal representation, and in poor conditions of detention – remains an active method to quell dissent across the Middle East. 

    CIVICUS joins civil society in calling for full cooperation with the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and we call on states who have instrumentalized arbitrary detention to immediately release those detained and provide justice and remedy to victims and their families. 

    We ask the Working Group: what more can be done to ensure implementation of its appeals and opinions in states where arbitrary detention remains so widespread?


  • Dialogue with U.N Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed

    40th Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    CIVICUS statement during dialogue with UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed

    After the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations delivered a statement on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, representatives from governments, UN agencies and civil society were able to respond and ask questions. CIVICUS was able to participate and issued the following statement:

    The “future we want” outcome document, which led to the adoption for the Agenda 2030, is unequivocal that democracy, good governance and rule of law are essential for sustainable development.

    This explicit acknowledgment of the need to nurture democratic freedoms and institutions is indicative of the growing recognition that civil society must play a prominent role in developing and implementing policies and practices to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  Notably, civil society often provides essential services, based on and in response to the needs of their communities and perform an important watchdog role over public resources.  However as crucial civic space is to the realisation of the SDGs, the CIVICUS Monitor finds that only 4% of the world’s population live in countries where these freedoms are adequately protected.

    Although democracy, good governance and rule of law are most readily realised through civic space and civil society partnerships as enshrined in Agenda 2030 in Goal 16.7, 16.10 and 17.17 we are witnessing more development actors coming under attack. Some are being swept up in drag net tactics that include disproportionate enforcement of anti-terrorism laws while others are being deliberately targeted by States and non-state actors alike. This is a worrying trend that threatens the full realization of the SDGs.

    Additionally, the pledge to 'Leave No One Behind' will not be met if we do not actively enable the agency of women and other traditionally excluded groups to organise and hold governments to account.

    CIVICUS encourage States to set positive examples in relation to civic space and civil society participation, including through moves to adopt enabling NGO laws and by involving civil society representatives in decision making structures. But how can you as Deputy Secretary General, as spokesperson for the SDGs, help us to further,  accelerate the civic space agenda and the rights-based approach to development and the 2030 Agenda also into the NY discussions?


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

    CIVICUS, DefendDefenders, and FIDH welcome the government of Djibouti's engagement with the UPR process. We also welcome the government’s commitment during its 3rd cycle review to ensure that no restrictions will be imposed on visits by Special Rapporteurs and to guarantee fundamental freedoms.

    However, in our joint UPR Submission, we documented that since its last review, Djibouti has not implemented any of the recommendations it received relating to civic space. 

    We regret that anti-terrorism measures continue to be used as a smokescreen for severe restrictions on civic space. Indeed, a November 2015 decree effectively banned all public meetings and gatherings and heavily restricted the political opposition’s activities ahead of the 2016 presidential elections. 

    During its 3rd cycle review, the government claimed that ‘to date, no human rights defender has been detained or even prosecuted.’ Yet in our joint submission, we documented numerous arrests and detentions of human rights defenders, journalists and political opposition members Authorities rarely followed due process and at times subjected prisoners to ill-treatment and torture.

    On 15 April 2018, just two days after returning home from Djibouti’s UPR Pre-session in Geneva, security agents briefly detained HRD Mr. Kadar Abdi Ibrahim, confiscated his passport and raided his home. Since then, he has been unable to leave the country.

    Finally, we deplore the lack of transparent and credible investigations into security forces’ killing of at least 27 people and injuring of 150 others at a religious festival in Balbala on 21 December 2015. The government has accepted recommendations to ensure the respect for and protection of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, and we urge the government to rapidly and thoroughly investigate and bring to justice any violators.

    Mr. President, CIVICUS, DefendDefenders and FIDH call on the Government of Djibouti 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.


  • Djibouti: Reprisals against human rights defender Kadar Abdi Ibrahim for his advocacy at the UN Human Rights Council

    Johannesburg, 17 April 2018 - DefendDefenders, CIVICUS and the Observatory condemn acts of reprisals against human rights defender Mr. Kadar Abdi Ibrahim ahead of Djiboutian Government’s oral exam before the UN Human Rights Council.

    On 15 April 2018, just two days after coming back from Geneva, where he carried out advocacy activities ahead of Djibouti’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which will take place on 10 May before the UN Human Rights Council, Mr. Kadar Abdi Ibrahim, member and Movement for Democracy and Freedom (MoDEL) Secretary-General, was briefly detained and got his passport confiscated by agents of Djibouti’s Information and Security Service (SDS), who raided his home. SDS agents provided no reason for his arrest and the confiscation of his passport. As a result, Mr. Abdi Ibrahim is de facto unable to leave the country.

    “That Djibouti attempts to silence the few voices who denounce human rights violations committed in the country shows how intolerant to criticism Ismaïl Omar Guelleh’s power is,” our organizations say. “The review that is due to take place on 10 May 2018 must shed light on the serious situation that prevails in the country and demand reforms that guarantee the protection and promotion of human rights.”

    Mr. Abdi Ibrahim traveled to Geneva (Switzerland) from 9-12 April 2018 to carry out advocacy activities, including through presenting recommendations from a joint Defend-Defenders/CIVICUS/FIDH report and taking part in a “pre-session” organized by the NGO UPR Info on 10 April. During his stay, he also met with representatives of a dozen States and of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

    DefendDefenders, CIVICUS and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (an FIDH-OMCT partnership) call on the Djiboutian authorities to put an end to all forms of harassment and reprisals against Mr. Kadar Abdi Ibrahim and all human rights defenders in Djibouti, and to give him back his passport.

    More generally, our organisations urge the Djiboutian authorities to abide by the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and regional and international human rights instruments to which Djibouti is a party.

    Contact persons:

    • For DefendDefenders: Nicolas Agostini, Representative to the United Nations, +41 79 813 49 91 / - For CIVICUS : Clémentine de Montjoye, / +33 6 58 56 26 50
    • For FIDH: Samuel Hanryon: +33 6 72 28 42 94
    • For the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT): Delphine Reculeau: +41 22 809 49 39 /


  • DRC: 500 political prisoners released under new administration but concerns persist

    42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Statement during Adoption of the Universal Periodic Review report of the Democratic Republic of Congo

    The Ligue des Droits de la personne dans la région des Grands Lacs (LDGL) and CIVICUS welcome the government of DRC's engagement with the UPR process. We also welcome some positive initial steps with regards to civic space taken by President Félix Tshisekedi during his first nine months in office, including his commitment to release more than 500 political prisoners. 

    In our joint UPR Submission, we documented that since its last review, DRC has not implemented, nor taken any concrete steps to implement, recommendations relating to civic space. We welcome the government’s acceptance of recommendations on civic space in this UPR cycle, and look forward to their implementation, although we regret that the DRC did not accept recommendations relating to engagement with Special Procedures mandate holders. 

    Press freedom in DRC is seriously hampered by restrictive legislation, which contains provisions criminalizing press offenses. Journalists are subjected to threats, intimidation, physical attacks, arbitrary arrest and judicial prosecution, with almost complete impunity. TV reporter Steeve Mwanyo Iwewe was sentenced on 1 March 2019 to one year in prison – later reduced to a six- month suspended sentence - on charges of ‘insulting authorities’ while he covered a protest of local state employees.

    Under the former administration, protests were systematically banned, protesters arbitrarily arrested and often met with excessive force by security personnel, leading to hundreds of deaths. Although protests are no longer systematically banned, excessive use of force, including the use of live ammunition, is still a recurrent issue. One person was killed during opposition protests in Kinshasa and Goma on 30 June 2019.

    Some restrictive draft legislation should be amended or withdrawn. The draft law on the protection of HRDs contains restrictive provisions and limitations that are not in line with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. The draft modifying the Law on Associations would restrict civic space if approved in its current state. 

    Mr President, the DRC’s UPR review provides an opportunity for the DRC to put into practice its promises. LDGL and CIVICUS call on the Government of DRC to take proactive measures to implement recommendations relating to create and maintain, in law and in practice, an enabling environment for civil society.


  • DRC: Attacks on activists and journalists persist

    Statement at the 45th Session of the UN Human Rights Council -- Enhanced Dialogue on the Democratic Republic of the Congo


    Thank you, Madame President, and thank you High Commissioner for your report.

    We welcomed measures taken by DRC in 2019 under President Tshisekedi to open democratic space but regret ongoing civic space violations in 2020. Journalists and HRDs have been subject to threats, harassment, intimidation and arbitrary arrests – often on accusations of contempt of officials or defamation. Activist Joseph Bayoko Lokondo was sentenced in March 2020 to 13 months in prison for ‘contempt of a member of the government’ and ‘defamatory statements’ for having criticized the provincial governor. He was released in July after an appeal court reduced his sentence. Freddy Kambale, activist for the social movement LUCHA, was killed in May 2020 by live ammunition during a peaceful protest against increasing insecurity in North Kivu.

    Several protests in Kinshasa against the appointment of a new president of the national electoral commission (CENI) in July 2020 were banned by authorities on grounds of the health emergency, while protests in several cities were dispersed and in some cases met with excessive and lethal force. Other protesters in Kinshasa, Goma and Kisangani were dispersed, and tens of protesters detained.

    We call on the administration to ensure that fundamental freedoms are respected, including by reviewing all restrictive legislation, decriminalising press offences as a matter of urgency, and ensuring the protection of human rights defenders and journalists.

    Further sustained progress will prove impossible without the full participation, and protection, of civil society. We ask the High Commissioner how members and observers of this Council can best support our colleagues on the ground?

    Finally, we call on the Council to ensure the continuation of this vital mandate in order to maintain and build on the increasingly fragile improvements we have seen since 2019.

    Civic space in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is rated as Closed by the CIVICUS Monitor


  • DRC: No steps taken to end impunity enjoyed by state actors for human rights violations

    41st Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Interactive dialogue on the Democratic Republic of the Congo

    CIVICUS welcomes some positive first steps with regards to civic space taken by President Felix Tshisekedi during his first six months in office, including his commitment to release more than 500 political prisoners. The President pledged, during his inauguration speech, to 'ensure that every citizen is guaranteed the respect of the exercise of their fundamental rights’, and that the government would have among its priorities the fight against impunity and the promotion of the press and the media to turn into a ‘real fourth estate’.

    Despite these initial positive developments, no steps have been taken to end the widespread impunity enjoyed by state actors for human rights violations, including by security forces. Despite some noticeable improvements in the area of peaceful assembly, restrictions including the use of excessive use of force to disperse protesters, are at times still imposed.

    One person was killed when police dispersed protesters during opposition protests in Kinsasha and Goma on 30 June 2019.  It was reported that security forces used tear gas against protesters and some of those involved in the protests were physically assulted. Although there has been a decline in media violations, press offenses are still criminalised. TV reporter Steeve Mwanyo Iwewe was sentenced on 1 March 2019 to one year in prison and the sentence was later reduced to a six-month suspended sentence, in Mbandaka, Equateur province, on charges of ‘insulting authorities’ while he covered a protest of local state employees.

    We call on the Tshisekedi administration to take concrete and sustained measures to implement human rights commitments made and to ensure that the freedoms of peaceful assembly, expression and association are respected. This includes reviewing all restrictive legislation–  notably the draft Law on Associations and the draft Law on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders – to bring them in line with international human rights law.

    We further urge the DRC  to take concrete measures to end widespread impunity by fully investigating all human rights violations and bringing those responsible swiftly to justice.


  • DRC: Statement on human rights violations


    Statement at the 40th Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Response during the Interactive Dialogue on the Democratic Republic of Congo

    CIVICUS welcomes the decree signed by newly-elected Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi to pardon about 700 political prisoners detained for participating in peaceful protests or expressing dissenting opinions. While we commend the President for fulfilling a pledge made in his inaugural address, we urge that this is swiftly followed by the actual release from prison of those detained.

    Mr.  President, the people of DRC have experienced years of widespread human rights violations and repression, including serious restrictions on freedom of association, assembly and expression. The use of violence to disperse peaceful protesters was a hallmark of the former regime and continued after the December 2018 elections.  Those targeted have largely been representatives of civil society groups and supporters of the political opposition.  

    The right to freedom of expression and access to information was severely restricted in the aftermath of the elections, when authorities shut down electronic and radio communications under the pretext of preventing the spread of false information.  The government should now lift all restrictions on media freedom, including the 2017 Decree on Freedom of the Press, as a crucial step towards creating an enabling environment for all to express their views without fear of violence and intimidation.

    The human rights violations perpetrated in the DRC have been compounded by the impunity enjoyed by government officials and members of the security forces, including the army, presidential guard and intelligence services.  A major priority for the new administration should be to investigate all human rights violations, including killings, sexual violence, abductions, arbitrary detentions and extra-judicial executions, and to ensure that all perpetrators be held accountable for their actions.  

    The new administration has a responsibility to ensure that the rule of law is strengthened, and freedom of expression, assembly and association upheld. If this is to happen, the new leadership must guarantee the independence of institutions that promote and protect human rights, and to ensure that they are able to carry out their activities without any interference from the state.

    The CIVICUS Monitor rates the state of civic space in the Democratic Republic of Congo as Closed.


  • DRC: The press and the right to protest remain unprotected

    Statement at the 46 Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner on the Democratic Republic of Congo

    Thank you, Madame President, and thank you High Commissioner for your update. We share your concerns on the deteriorating human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including ongoing restrictions on civic freedoms.

    Despite some positive developments and measures taken in 2019, human rights violations have increased in 2020. Journalists and HRDs continue to face threats, harassment, intimidation and arbitrary arrests, while several protests have been repressed by security forces. 

    In the past year, several journalists have been detained or summoned - often on accusations of contempt of officials, insulting authorities or criminal defamation. Christophe Yoka Nkumu of community radio station Radio Liberté Bikoro was arrested on 22 February 2021 after reporting that a parliamentary representative had used a vehicle earmarked for public health officials fighting Ebola. 

    Protests are too often met with excessive force on the part of security forces, while activists have been arbitrarily arrested for their participation in peaceful protests. In December 2020 and January 2021, ten LUCHA activists were arrested during protests in Beni. Eight activists, detained in the course of a protest criticising the UN peacekeeping mission 's (MONUSCO) ability to protect civilians in eastern DRC, were brought before a military court on charges of ‘sabotage and violence against state security guards’ – facing 10 years in prison – before they were acquitted. On 12 January 2021, police officers beat and physically assaulted several journalists while they were covering a student protest in Bukavu. 

    We call on the Tshisekedi administration to ensure that fundamental freedoms are respected, including by reviewing all restrictive legislation, decriminalising press offences as a matter of urgency, and ensuring the protection of human rights defenders and journalists. 

    To ensure sustained improvements, ending impunity for rights violations, including those against civil society, must be a priority, and we call on the government to ensure that those responsible for such violations be held to account. We ask the High Commissioner how members and observers of this Council can best support those on the ground in order to prevent further backsliding on human rights, and what steps the Council should take should the deterioration continue?

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


  • El Salvador: No aceptó recomendaciones para proteger las activistas

    Consejo de Derechos Humanos de la ONU - 43 ° período de sesiones 
    Declaración conjunta sobre la adopción del Examen Periódico Universal para El Salvador

    CIVICUS y FESPAD agradecen el compromiso de El Salvador con el proceso del EPU.

    Sin embargo, estamos profundamente preocupados por la continua violencia y la estigmatización de los defensores de los derechos humanos, en particular los defensores de los derechos LGBTQI, los derechos de las mujeres, los derechos sexuales y reproductivos y el medio ambiente. Lamentamos que El Salvador no aceptó las recomendaciones para adoptar legislación para reconocer y proteger a los defensores de los derechos humanos. Desde la última revisión del EPU de El Salvador, dos defensores de los derechos humanos han sido asesinados y varios más han denunciado campañas de estigmatización y criminalización, incluso a través de mensajes en las redes sociales que tienen la clara intención de disuadirlos de continuar su trabajo.

    En el caso de la violencia y la estigmatización contra los defensores del medio ambiente, muchos de estos ataques ocurren con impunidad y con la participación de grupos empresariales que ven sus intereses afectados por la defensa del medio ambiente.

    CIVICUS y FESPAD también están alarmados por los continuos ataques, la falta de protección y los asesinatos de periodistas, y los mecanismos de salvaguardia inadecuados. Según la Asociación de Periodistas de El Salvador (APES), entre enero de 2015 y diciembre de 2017, 10 periodistas fueron asesinados en El Salvador. La CIDH también ha informado sobre un número inquietante de amenazas, intimidaciones y ataques contra periodistas en el país, particularmente contra aquellos que han denunciado corrupción o ejecuciones extrajudiciales por parte de las fuerzas de seguridad, o que cubren temas relacionados con la crisis de seguridad y las pandillas. En los últimos años, FESPAD ha informado un aumento en las nuevas formas de amenazas y hostigamiento contra periodistas, como la inestabilidad laboral, que se utilizan para silenciarlos. Lamentamos que El Salvador rechazó una recomendación de adoptar legislación para proteger a los periodistas de tales ataques.

    El espacio cívico en El Salvador está actualmente clasificado como 'Obstruido' por el Monitor CIVICUS, lo que indica la existencia de serias limitaciones a los derechos fundamentales de la sociedad civil. Hacemos un llamado al gobierno de El Salvador para que utilice este proceso del EPU para proporcionar a los miembros de la sociedad civil, periodistas y defensores de los derechos humanos un entorno seguro en el que puedan llevar a cabo su trabajo sin temor u obstáculos indebidos, obstrucciones o acoso legal y administrativo.

    Ve nuestro recommendaciones para El Salvador


  • El Salvador: Violence and stigmatization continues against activists

    Joint statement at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    El Salvador's adoption of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights
    Watch us deliver our statement below

    CIVICUS and FESPAD welcome El Salvador’s engagement with the UPR process.

    However, we are deeply concerned about the continuing violence and stigmatization of human rights defenders, particularly defenders of LGBTQI rights, women's rights, sexual and reproductive rights and the environment. We regret that El Salvador did not accept recommendations to adopt legislation to recognize and protect human rights defenders. Since El Salvador’s last UPR review, two human rights defenders have been killed and several others have reported stigmatization and criminalization campaigns, including through messages on social networks that have the clear intention of discouraging them from continuing their work.

    In the case of violence and stigmatization against environmental defenders, many of these attacks occur with impunity and with the participation of business groups that see their interests affected by the defense of the environment. 

    CIVICUS and FESPAD are also alarmed by continued attacks, lack of protection and murders of journalists, and inadequate safeguard mechanisms. According to the Association of Journalists of El Salvador (APES), between January 2015 and December 2017, 10 journalists were killed in El Salvador. The IACHR has also reported a disturbing number of threats, intimidations and attacks against journalists in the country, particularly against those who have reported corruption or extrajudicial executions by the security forces, or that cover issues related to the security crisis and gangs. In recent years, FESPAD has reported an increase in new forms of threats and harassment against journalists, such as job instability, used to silence them. We regret that El Salvador rejected a recommendation to adopt legislation to protect journalists from such attacks.

    Civic space in El Salvador is currently classified as 'Obstructed' by the CIVICUS Monitor, indicating the existence of serious limitations on the fundamental rights of civil society. We call on the government of El Salvador to use this UPR process to provide civil society members, journalists and human rights defenders with a safe environment in which they can carry out their work without fear or undue obstacles, obstructions or legal and administrative harassment.

    See our joint recommendations that were submitted to the UN Human Rights Council about the conditions of human rights in El Salvador.

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



  • Enhance the process to select new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

    In a letter to the UN Secretary-General, a coalition of more than 70 civil society organisations has put forward proposals to revitalise and enhance the process to select the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

    Mr. António Guterres, UN Secretary-General

    The appointment of the new United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, due to take place later this year, is a vital moment for the United Nations, with implications for the human rights of millions of people around the world.

    The new High Commissioner faces a world in which universal human rights norms are under threat or even in retreat, including in established democracies. The person appointed will have to confront global human rights challenges in the context of historic and on-going underfunding for the United Nation’s human rights pillar – now dubbed by many as “the forgotten pillar”. Against this backdrop, the need for global leadership and international cooperation in the area of human rights is greater than ever.

    It is therefore crucial that the most highly qualified candidate is selected who will be able to rise to the challenges of this demanding and important post. Under General Assembly resolution 48/141, the High Commissioner is expected to, inter alia: 

    • Monitor and speak out about human rights violations – ‘preventing the continuation of human rights violations throughout the world’;
    • Act as the secretariat to the ‘competent bodies of the United Nations system in the field of human rights and making recommendations to them;’
    • Provide capacity-building, advisory services and technical assistance, at the request of the State concerned, ‘with a view to supporting actions and programs in the field of human rights’;
    • Engage in human rights diplomacy (‘dialogue’) with governments and ‘enhance international cooperation,’ in order to promote the implementation of international human rights obligations and commitments, and respect for human rights;
    • Coordinate human rights mainstreaming across the UN system; and
    • Make recommendations and driving efforts to ‘rationalize, adapt, strengthen and streamline the United Nations machinery in the field of human rights with a view to improving its efficiency and effectiveness.’

    Additionally, given the pressure that civil society is under in many parts of the world, it is increasingly important that the High Commissioner be civil society’s champion. The High Commissioner is in a unique position to guarantee civil society space, not just through words but also through actions (e.g. by meeting marginalised or at-risk groups and human rights defenders while on country missions). 

    In recent years, international organisations, including the UN, have made major improvements and reforms to recruitment processes to enhance the transparency and accountability of high-level appointments. Of course, your own appointment as UN Secretary-General benefited greatly from a fairer, more open and more inclusive process. For the credibility of the United Nations as well as the standing and authority of the next High Commissioner, it is imperative that a rigorous selection process is undertaken which meets the high standards now expected by governments, civil society and the general public – standards which are also enshrined as part of universal human rights norms.

    In the opinion of the undersigned, a group of civil society organisations strongly committed to upholding the UN Charter and its values, the procedure adopted by the General Assembly in 1993 to appoint the High Commissioner can be enhanced – to make it more transparent, inclusive, meritocratic, and engaging for civil society and the general public. We believe this can be achieved in a manner consistent with existing UN documents, while avoiding politicisation and keeping the final decision in your independent hands.

    Specific proposals for consideration should include: publishing a formal set of selection criteria; improving the global visibility of the formal call for candidatures; publishing a clear timetable for the selection process that enables adequate assessment of candidates; publishing an official list of candidates; and requiring all candidates to produce vision statements.  We also believe, in the interests of transparency, inclusivity and public engagement, that the selection process should include wide consultation with all stakeholders, including civil society. 

    Such a process would, we believe, improve the authority, independence and credibility of the new High Commissioner, contribute to the existing reform agenda with regards to the revitalisation of the UN and, more broadly, improve the Organisation’s global legitimacy.

    Finally, we believe thought should be given to changing the mandate of the High Commissioner to a single non-renewable term of five years. This would help any new High Commissioner avoid political pressure and would strengthen her or his independence. We recognise that this would require bringing changes to the relevant General Assembly resolution, and should thus be carefully explored by the relevant actors.

    As the United Nations celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights this year, we hope that you will seize this historic opportunity to bring the procedure for the selection of the High Commissioner more squarely into line with the high principles set down in that inspiring document, including by giving due consideration to the proposals outlined above. This will help ensure that the best and most qualified candidate is selected to become the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

    Yours sincerely,

    Asian Human Rights Commission
    Association for the Prevention of Torture
    Association of Ukrainian Human Rights Monitors (UMDPL)
    Avaaz Bond · Society Building (United Kingdom)
    Canadian Council for International Co-operation
    Cecade (El Salvador)
    Centre for Civil Liberties (Ukraine)
    Child Rights International Network
    Coordinación de ONG y Cooperativas de Guatemala
    Deca Equipo Pueblo (Mexico)
    European Centre for Non-for-Profit Law
    Fundación para la Paz y la Democracia
    Freedom House
    Geneva Infant Feeding Association
    Fundacion Multitudes (Chile)
    Helsinki Citizens' Assembly-Vanadzor (Armenia)
    Human Rights Information Centre (Ukraine)
    Index on Censorship (United Kingdom)
    Institute of Social Sciences (India)
    International Centre for Non-for-Profit Law
    International Planned Parenthood Federation
    Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (Ukraine)
    National Forum for Voluntary Organizations (Sweden)
    Network of Democrats in the Arab World
    Open Estonia Foundation
    Open Lithuania foundation
    Quê Me: Vietnam Committee for Human Rights
    Riksförbundet för Sexuell Upplysning - RFSU / The Swedish Association for Sexuality Education
    Sexual Rights Initiative
    Small Planet Institute
    Solidarity Center (United States)
    The Right Livelihood Award Foundation
    Transparency International Portugal
    United Nations Association – UK (UNA-UK)
    Universal Rights Group
    World Movement for Democracy
    Human Rights House Tbilisi on behalf of:
    Article 42 of the Constitution
    Georgian Centre for Psychosocial and Medical Rehabilitation of Torture Victims
    Human Rights Centre
    Media Institute
    Union Sapari – Family without violence
    Human Rights House Azerbaijan (on behalf of the following NGOs):

    • Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center
    • Legal Education Society
    • Women’s Association for Rational Development

    Human Rights House Belgrade (on behalf of the following NGOs):

    • Belgrade Centre for Human Rights
    • Civic Initiatives
    • Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia
    • Lawyers Committe for Human Rights
    • Policy Centre

    The Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House (on behalf of the following NGOs):

    • Belarusian Association of journalists
    • Belarusian Helsinki Committee
    • Belarusian Language Society
    • Belarusian PEN Centre
    • Human Rights Centre Viasna
    • Legal Initiative

    Human Rights House Oslo (on behalf of the following NGOs):

    • Health and Human Rights Info
    • Human Rights House Foundation
    • The Norwegian Tibet Committee

    Human Rights House Yerevan (on behalf of the following NGOs):

    • PINK Armenia
    • Socioscope
    • Human Rights House Zagreb (on behalf of the following NGOs):
    • B.a.B.e. Be active. Be emancipated.
    • Center for Peace Studies
    • Croatian Platform for International Citizen Solidarity – CROSOL
    • Documenta - Center for Dealing with the Past


  • Eritrea: Extend the UN Special Rapporteur mandate and enshrine his “benchmarks for progress”

    To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations Human Rights Council (Geneva, Switzerland)


    Ahead of the UN Human Rights Council’s 50th session (13 June- 8 July 2022), we, the undersigned non-governmental organisations, are writing to urge your delegation to support the adoption of a resolution that extends the mandate of the Special Rap­por­teur on the situation of hu­man rights in Eritrea. Moreover, we highlight the need for the Council to move beyond merely pro­ce­dural reso­lutions and to enshrine the “bench­marks for progress in improving the situ­a­tion of hu­man rights” by incorporating them into Eritrea-focused resolutions.

    In July 2021, the UN Human Rights Council maintained its scrutiny of Eritrea’s human rights situation. Consi­dering that moni­to­ring of and re­por­ting on the situation was still needed, the Council extended the Special Rapporteur’s mandate. This was vital to address both Eri­trea’s domestic human rights violations and atrocities Eritrean forces have committed in the neigh­bou­ring Tigray region of Ethiopia.

    In October 2021, Eritrea was re-elected for a second term as a Member of the Council (2022-2024). Yet the Government shows no willingness to address the grave human rights violations and abuses UN bodies and mechanisms have documented or to engage in a serious dialogue with the inter­national commu­ni­ty, including on the basis of the benchmarks for progress the Special Rappor­teur identified in 2019. Despite its obli­ga­tions as a Council Member to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and pro­tection of human rights” and to “fully cooperate with the Council,” the Government refuses to co­ope­rate with the Special Rapporteur or other special procedure mandate holders. As of 2022, Eritrea remains among the very few countries that have never received any visit by a special procedure.[1]

    Furthermore, Eri­trean forces have been credibly accused of grave violations of international law in Tig­ray, some of which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, since the conflict started in November 2020.

    The concerns expressed in joint civil society letters released in 2020 and 2021 remain va­lid. Key human rights issues in Eritrea include[2]:

    • Widespread impunity for past and on­going human rights vio­la­tions;
    • Arbi­trary arrests and in­com­mu­ni­cado de­ten­­tion;
    • Vio­lations of the rights to a fair trial, access to jus­tice, and due process;
    • Enforced disappearances and lack of infor­ma­tion on dis­appeared per­sons;
    • Conscription into the country’s abusive na­tional ser­vi­ce system, including in­de­finite national ser­vi­ce, involving torture, sexual vio­len­ce against women and girls, and forced labour; and
    • Restrictions on the media and media workers, as well as severe res­tric­tions on civic space.

    In 2019, when the former sponsors of Eritrea-focused resolutions, Djibouti and Somalia, discontinued their leadership, civil society welcomed the initiative a group of six States took to maintain multilateral scrutiny of Eritrea’s human rights situation. However, while welcoming the adoption of Human Rights Council resolutions 41/1 (2019), 44/1 (2020), and 47/2 (2021),[3] many civil society orga­ni­sations cau­tioned that any shifts in the Council’s ap­proach should reflect cor­responding changes in the human rights situation on the ground. Civil society also emphasised the need for the new core group, and for the Euro­pean Union (which sub­sequently took over sponsorship of these resolutions), to be ambitious.

    We believe that it is time for the Council to move beyond merely procedural resolutions that extend the Special Rappor­teur’s mandate, and to clearly describe and condemn violations Eritrean authorities com­mit at home and abroad.

    We also believe that the bench­marks for progress in improving the situ­a­tion of hu­man rights,[4] which form a comprehensive road map for human rights reforms, should be incorporated into this year’s resolution. These bench­marks[5] include:

    • Benchmark 1: Improvement in the promotion of the rule of law and strengthening of national jus­tice and law enforcement institutions;
    • Benchmark 2: Demonstrated commitment to introducing reforms to the national/military service;
    • Benchmark 3: Extended efforts to guarantee freedoms of religion, association, expression and the press, and extended efforts to end religious and ethnic discrimination;
    • Benchmark 4: Demonstrated commitment to addressing all forms of gender-based violence and to promoting the rights of women and gender equality; and
    • Benchmark 5: Strengthened cooperation with the United Nations country team.
    • Associated indicators outlined in paragraphs 78-82 of UN Doc. A/HRC/41/53, as well as all recom­­men­dations pertaining to the benchmarks formulated in successive reports of the Special Rapporteur, should also be referenced in the resolution.

    The Human Rights Council should allow the Special Rapporteur to pursue his work and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to deepen its engagement with Eritrea.

    At its upcoming 50th session, the Council should adopt a resolution:

    • Extending the mandate of the Spe­cial Rap­porteur on Eritrea;
    • Urging Eritrea to cooperate fully with the Spe­cial Rap­por­teur by granting him access to the country, in accordance with its obligations as a Council Member;
    • Welcoming the benchmarks for progress in improving the situ­a­tion of hu­man rights and associated indicators and recommendations, and em­phasising the need for Eritrea to in­corpo­rate these benchmarks in its institutional, legal, and policy framework. The resolution should enshrine the five benchmarks and associated indicators;
    • Calling on Eritrea to develop an implementation plan to meet the benchmarks for pro­gress, in consultation with the Special Rapporteur and OHCHR; and
    • Requestingthe High Commissionerand the Special Rappor­teur to present updates on the human rights situation in Eritrea at the Council’s 52nd session in an enhanced interactive dia­lo­gue, and requesting the Special Rapporteur to present a comprehensive written report at the Council’s 53rd ses­sion and to the General Assembly at its 77th


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


    1. African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
    2. AfricanDefenders (Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network)
    3. Amnesty International
    4. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    5. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
    6. Cercle des Droits de l’Homme et de Développement – DRC
    7. CIVICUS
    8. Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform – Liberia
    9. Coalition Burundaise des Défenseurs des Droits de l’Homme (CBDDH)
    10. Coalition des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CDDH-Bénin)
    11. Coalition Ivoirienne des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CIDDH)
    12. Coalition Togolaise des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CTDDH)
    13. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
    14. CSW (Christian Solidarity Worldwide)
    15. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    16. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)
    17. Eritrea Focus
    18. Eritrean Law Society
    19. Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR)
    20. Eritrean National Council for Democratic Change (ENCDC)
    21. Eritrean Political Forces Coordination Committee (EPFCC)
    22. Forum pour le Renforcement de la Société Civile (FORSC) – Burundi
    23. Freedom United
    24. Geneva for Human Rights / Genève pour les Droits de l’Homme (GHR)
    25. Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)
    26. Human Rights Defenders Network – Sierra Leone (HRDN-SL)
    27. Human Rights Defenders Solidarity Network – HRDS-NET
    28. Human Rights Watch
    29. Independent Human Rights Investigators – Liberia
    30. Information Forum for Eritrea (IFE)
    31. Institut des Médias pour la Démocratie et les Droits de l’Homme (IM2DH)
    32. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
    33. Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada
    34. Network of Human Rights Journalists – The Gambia
    35. Network of the Independent Commission for Human Rights in North Africa (CIDH AFRICA)
    36. One Day Seyoum
    37. Protection International Africa
    38. Réseau des Citoyens Probes (RCP) – Burundi
    39. Réseau Nigérien des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (RNDDH)
    40. Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (Southern Defenders)
    41. West African Human Rights Defenders Network (ROADDH/WAHRDN)
    42. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

    [1] See The Special Rapporteur on Eritrea has conducted official visits to neighbouring countries, namely Ethiopia and Djibouti, as well as to other countries, and met with members of the Eritrean diaspora, including refugees, in these countries. All visit requests to Eritrea have been denied. Other special procedure mandate holders have requested, but were systematically denied, visits to Eritrea. They include special procedures on extrajudicial executions, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to education, the right to health, arbitrary detention, torture, freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, freedom of religion or belief, and the right to food (data as of 7 April 2022).

    [2] See DefendDefenders et al., “Eritrea: maintain Human Rights Council scrutiny and engagement,” 5 May 2020,; DefendDefenders et al., “Eritrea: renew vital mandate of UN Special Rapporteur,” 10 May 2021,; CSW (Christian Solidarity Worldwide), “Eritrea: General Briefing,” 22 March 2022, (accessed on 7 April 2022).

    [3] Resolutions available at:; and

    [4] See Human Rights Council resolution 38/15, available at:

    [5] See reports of the Special Rapporteur to the Council, UN Docs. A/HRC/41/53, A/HRC/44/23, and A/HRC/47/21.


  • Eritrea: Government fails to address grave human rights violations

    Statement at the 47th Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Interactive Dialogue on the Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea

    Delivered by Helen Kidan, Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights 

    CIVICUS and the Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights welcome the Special Rapporteur’s report and engagement with the mandate.

    Eritrea’s government remains one of the world’s most repressive. It has no independent civil society organisations or media outlets, imposing severe restrictions on freedom of expression and opinion, peaceful assembly, association and religion or belief. Eritrean forces have been implicated in violations in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.

    Both the High Commissioner and Special Rapporteur report a lack of progress, and still the government remains unwilling to address grave human rights violations and abuses. This is particularly concerning given that Eritrea is a Member of this Council.

    Human rights violations continue unabated including arrests and incommunicado detention and enforced disappearances. The indefinite national service continues and involves torture and forced labour. In late 2020, Eritrean forces indiscriminately attacked civilians in Axum in the Tigray region, killing and injuring many, and destroyed property including healthcare facilities.

    We urge the Council to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, and to mandate reporting on the role played by Eritrean forces in Ethiopia’s Tigray region since November 2020. We ask the Special Rapporteur: in the continued absence of cooperation by Eritrea, what other avenues for international pressure could be leveraged to engender progress?

    Thank you.

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


  • Eritrea: Human rights monitoring extended

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

    Reaction to extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea

    CIVICUS welcomes the ongoing international scrutiny on Eritrea guaranteed today as the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea was extended by the Human Rights Council for another year. 

    The human rights situation in Eritrea continues to worsen – a closed civic space means there is no free and independent press, and at least 16 journalists have remained in detention without trial for about two decades. a culture of impunity reigns for perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses, and those expressing dissent face arbitrary and incommunicado detention.

    Where there is a lack of political will for domestic solutions, it is even more vital that international scrutiny remains. With the extension of the mandate, we urge the government of Eritrea to fully cooperate and allow access to UN Human Rights Council mechanisms as befits a member of the Council, and to take immediate steps to address its human rights and humanitarian emergency. We further call on the Human Rights Council to monitor closely Eritrea’s progress towards human rights benchmarks set out by the Special Rapporteur.

    ‘We appreciate that the Council has recognised that the situation in Eritrea remains dire. Our partners on the ground report that that the government is failing to make critical progress on human rights situation inside the country, and continues to restrict civic space, conscripting youth into national army, and illegally detaining political prisoners. Eritreans deserve to be free and to have their basic rights respected. It is critical that Eritrea recognises that the whole world is watching', said Paul Mulindwa, CIVICUS advocacy officer.

    Civic space is currently rated as Eritrea by the CIVICUS Monitor