human rights


  • Egypt: End Reprisals, Harassment and Threats Against Civil Society Leader Mostafa Fouad


    The undersigned civil society organisations call on Egyptian authorities to immediately end their harassment of Egyptian activist and Deputy Director of HuMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement, Mostafa Fouad.


  • Egypt: Mohamed El-Baqer: 1000 days of arbitrary detention


    Human rights defender Mohamed El-Baqer must be released immediately and unconditionally, stated 19 human rights organisations. His detention is arbitrary, aimed at punishing him for his legitimate human rights work and is only putting his life and psychological well-being at serious risk.


  • Egypt: Solidarity statement with poet Galal El Behairy on the 5th anniversary of his arbitrary arrest and his announcement of a hunger strike

    The undersigned organisations express their full solidarity with poet Galal El Behairy on the fifth anniversary of his arbitrary arrest and detention solely on the basis of his peaceful expression, an anniversary on which he has announced a hunger strike. The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) filed complaint no. 15196/2023, requesting the Public Prosecution to open an investigation into El Behairy’s hunger strike, to ensure prompt medical intervention and to order his release. Throughout his five years of detention, El Behairy has been denied his right to a fair trial and has been subjected to enforced disappearance, torture and medical negligence, which has led to the deterioration of his health. 


  • Egypt: Uphold rights to free expression at environmental summit


    36 organisations urge Egyptian authorities to end crackdown on civil society organisations and peaceful protests for a successful COP27

    Egyptian authorities should ease their grip on civic space and uphold the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly to enable a successful climate summit, known as the COP27, in Egypt, 36 organisations said today.


  • EL SALVADOR: ‘Patriarchal justice persecutes, tortures and abuses women’

    SaraGarciaGrossCIVICUS speaks with Sara García Gross about the recent judgment of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) against the Salvadoran state, and the struggle of Salvadoran women for the right to abortion.

    Sara García Gross is advocacy coordinator of the Citizens’ Group for the Decriminalisation of Abortion in El Salvador. Founded in 2009, the organisation promotes public awareness to change abortion laws, provides legal support to women who have been convicted or charged with abortion or related crimes and disseminates information on the importance of women receiving adequate sexual and reproductive healthcare to prevent them resorting to unsafe, life-threatening abortions.

    What is El Salvador’s feminist movement demanding when it comes to sexual and reproductive rights?

    As feminists we are fighting to change the law that criminalises abortion under all circumstances. In El Salvador women are unjustly persecuted. Women’s reproductive rights are violated, especially for younger women and those who live in poverty and in the country’s rural areas. In this sense, we in the feminist movement are fighting to change a restrictive, absolutist and absurd regulatory framework.

    We are also fighting for women’s freedom. There are currently 12 women in prison serving sentences that are extremely unjust. Our fight is for women’s freedom and women’s lives. We want abortion to be legal in El Salvador. We fight for women to have the right to build our own lives. We denounce forced pregnancies; this is a form of torture. There are girls as young as 10 years old who face forced motherhood. There are young women who have not received any sexual education and do not have access to contraceptive methods. We are fighting for the right to comprehensive sex education.

    We also fight for the recognition of the rights of LGBTQI+ people, because hate crimes are another cruel form of torture that the state imposes or condones.

    What tactics does the Citizens’ Group for the Decriminalisation of Abortion use?

    In our struggle for women’s freedom, we have pursued multiple strategies, starting with strategic litigation to obtain everything from commutations of sentences to sentence reviews. Our focus is on achieving freedom, putting into practice the feminist slogan ‘I believe you sister’. We fight for the recognition of the innocence of women facing unjust and absurd sentences.

    But the legal route has not been our only key strategy; social mobilisation at national and regional levels has also played a major role. The feminist movement has organised and spoken out in relation to the cases of criminalised women. Sit-ins have been organised in front of embassies in El Salvador and other countries, letters have been sent to the courts and campaigns for reproductive justice have been carried out, including the ‘We are missing 17’ campaign.

    Another very important strategy has involved the Inter-American human rights system. We brought the case of a woman known as Manuela to the IACtHR, which recently condemned the Salvadoran state for cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Strategic litigation in the Inter-American system has allowed us to address the problems of persecution, torture and judicial and police abuse faced by women in El Salvador. Justice in El Salvador is patriarchal justice.

    Another strategy has focused on collecting evidence. We have carried out an investigation called ‘From hospital to prison’, which allowed us to make this problem visible. Through a review and analysis of case files, sentences and investigations, we have been able to understand who anti-abortion legislation targets and who it persecutes: young and poor women living in rural areas. This constitutes intersectional discrimination.

    The campaigns, dialogues and debates we promote in academia as well as grassroots communities have also been part of our strategy. Advocacy processes are key, so that when we are able to identify windows of opportunity in the Legislative Assembly or other state institutions, we can promote the submission of new initiatives.

    In the past, several bills were submitted to reform article 133 of the Criminal Code to decriminalise abortion on four grounds. These bills were far from getting passed; in some cases they were quickly shelved and in others they languished for years in legislative committees. Women’s organisations were met with great hostility. However, our advocacy strategies allowed us to place the issue of abortion on the public agenda.

    What does Salvadoran public opinion think about abortion and what work are you doing to present an alternative narrative to criminalisation?

    Among public opinion, there is broad acceptance of abortion when it’s needed to save a pregnant woman’s life: more than half of the population has said so in various surveys.

    We live in a conservative country, with some fundamentalist groups calling themselves ‘pro-life’. The reality is that they are in favour of clandestine abortion, criminalisation and women dying. These groups maintain a double standard that we, as organised feminist civil society, work to expose. While women living in poverty are criminalised, those with economic resources are able to travel and access safe abortions. This double standard is unacceptable.

    For us, it is important to visualise other narratives and make women’s realities known. Reducing stigma requires showing, humanising and talking about life stories. These are women who had hopes and plans for their lives that state violence prevented them from realising.

    Talking about the issue in different places, humanising this reality and questioning this system that imposes the mandate of motherhood – a gender stereotype – allows us to address the issue without stigma or prejudice and, above all, from a human rights perspective.

    What are the implications of the IACtHR ruling in Manuela’s case?

    This ruling came after years of work and struggle. We started working on the case in 2011, providing psychosocial, political and legal support to Manuela’s family.

    Advocacy in the Inter-American system was key. The ruling in Manuela’s case is historic: the IACtHR has recognised that Manuela was innocent, that she really faced an obstetric emergency and that gender stereotypes, starting with the mandate of motherhood, permeated the entire process. The IACtHR has understood that the absolute ban on abortion results in criminalisation and obstacles to access to reproductive rights.

    The judgment will have both national and regional effects. The main regional effect is the establishment of jurisprudence that obliges both El Salvador and the rest of the countries in the region to take a series of measures. First, to guarantee professional secrecy of health personnel so that no woman seeking reproductive health services is denounced for alleged abortion-related crimes. Second, to ensure that gender stereotypes are not applied in the judicial sphere, including those claiming that women must act according to a reproductive role and, therefore, with maternal instinct. Third, to implement adequate protocols to attend to obstetric emergencies with accessible and quality health services.

    The Salvadoran state will have to carry out some additional actions in compliance with the IACtHR ruling. First, while it is in the process of regulating the obligation to maintain medical professional secrecy and the confidentiality of medical records, it must eliminate the practice of medical professionals denouncing women who seek reproductive health services. Second, it must provide full reparations to Manuela’s family. Third, it must make legislative and policy changes to ensure non-repetition, so that no one else goes through a similar experience, for instance by guaranteeing comprehensive care in cases of obstetric emergencies and adapting pre-trial detention so that it is only used in exceptional cases.

    We continue to fight so that women are never again criminalised. There are still 12 women who remain in prison, but we believe that Manuela’s case shines a light on these injustices and gives us the strength to continue fighting. For us, Manuela means justice and hope.

    What kind of support do abortion rights groups in El Salvador need from their peers around the world? 

    We believe feminist solidarity is key. We want to make this issue visible in the region and the world. We want people to talk about what is happening here. We want people to talk about the consequences of the absolute prohibition of abortion. We want people to talk about how this punitive system does not solve anything.

    It is not acceptable for the exercise of a reproductive right – a right to health – to be treated as a crime entailing prison sentences. We need to shine the spotlight on El Salvador and make the Salvadoran state feel it is being watched. Every chance we get, we must demand freedom for women, freedom for the 12 who are still in prison and reparations for all the women who have faced this kind of criminalisation. We must demand that abortion be legally recognised as a right.

    Civic space in El Salvador is rated ‘obstructed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with Citizens’ Group for the Decriminalisation of Abortion in El Salvador through itswebsite orFacebook andInstagram pages, and follow@AbortoPORlaVIDA on Twitter. 


  • 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: a real challenge to the UN system and the international community

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

    Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on human rights situation in Eritrea

    Delivered by Sibahle Zuma

    Thank you, Mr President,

    Despite being elected to the UN Human Rights Council for the period 2022-2024, Eritrea poses a real challenge to the UN system and the international community. Its continued failure to fully cooperate with the Special Rapporteur’s mandate and implement the recommendations of human rights bodies calls the credibility and integrity of the entire UN human rights system into question.

    We remain deeply concerned by reports of unlawful and arbitrary killings, forced disappearances, torture and arbitrary detentions perpetrated by the Eritrean government, indefinite military service, lack of freedom of expression, opinion, association, religious belief, and movement. 

    Over 20 journalists and politicians remain in detention since their arrests more than 20 years ago, they are the longest detained persons in the world. Eritrea’s involvement in the Tigrayan conflict significantly resulted in abhorrent human rights abuses which included the recruitment of child soldiers and the kidnapping and forced conscription of Eritreans to fight in the conflict.

    We call on the Eritrean government to release all detained journalists, civil society activists and illegally detained Eritreans from prison.

    Special Rapporteur, what should the Council do to ensure steps are taken towards meeting the five benchmarks for progress recently enshrined in the Human Rights Council’s resolution 50/2? 

    We thank you.

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


  • Eritrea: Council resolution should outline human rights situation & extend the Special Rapporteur’s mandate

    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 53rd session (19 June-14 July 2023), we, the undersigned non-governmental organisations, are writing to urge your delegation to support the development and adoption of a resolution that extends the mandate of the Special Rap­por­teur on the situation of hu­man rights in Eritrea for one year.

    Additionally, we highlight the need for the Council to put forward a strong resolution that clearly spells out and condemns the ongoing human rights viola­tions committed by Eri­trean authorities at home and abroad and the context of complete impunity that prevails.

    *    *     *

    We believe that the Council cannot fol­low a “business as usual” approach and that it is time for it to move be­yond merely procedural reso­lutions that extend the Special Rappor­teur’s mandate. The Council should produce a substantive assess­ment of Eritrea’s hu­man rights situation, adopting strong, meaningful reso­lu­tions on the country. These resolutions should include references to the Special Rapporteur’s “bench­marks for progress”[1] and recommendations by other UN and African bodies and me­cha­nisms, as well as substantive paragraphs ad­dres­sing violations committed by the country’s autho­rities inside and outside the country.[2]

    In this regard, this year’s resolution should at a minimum mention the following key human rights issues in Eritrea[3]:

    • Arbi­trary arrests and detentions, including in­com­mu­ni­cado de­ten­­tion of journalists and other dis­senting voices, as well as prolonged detention of Djiboutian pri­soners of war;[4]
    • Vio­lations of the rights to a fair trial, access to jus­tice, and due process;
    • Enforced disappearances;[5]
    • Conscription into the country’s abusive na­tional ser­vi­ce system,[6] including conscription for in­de­finite periods of national ser­­vi­ce, involving torture, sexual vio­len­ce against women and girls, and forced labour. Since Council resolution 50/2[7] was adopted, in July 2022, the Eritrean Govern­ment led an inten­sive forced conscription campaign during which it conducted waves of roundups to identify peo­ple it considers draft evaders or deserters, punishing family members of those seek­ing to avoid cons­cription or recall. Such punishment has included arbitrary detentions and home expulsions[8];
    • Restrictions on the media and media workers, severe res­tric­tions on civic space, inc­lu­ding the rights to freedoms of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly, association, move­ment, and non-discrimination,[9] as well as severe restrictions to freedom of religion or belief[10];
    • Widespread impunity for past and on­going human rights vio­la­tions; and
    • The Government of Eritrea’s refusal to engage in a serious dialogue with the inter­national com­mu­­ni­ty, including by cooperating with the Council, despite its election for a second term as a Coun­cil Member (2022-2024). For decades, Eritrean authorities have blatantly denied commit­ting serious human rights violations, including in relation to the presence of Eritrean for­ces in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.[11]

    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. These violations, and the associated complete lack of accountability, deserve the Coun­cil’s atten­tion.

    *     *     *

    In July 2022, the Council took a modest step toward addressing substantive human rights issues in Eritrea. For the first time since 2018, it went beyond a one-page resolution extending the Special Rap­por­teur’s mandate. It did so by referring to the benchmarks for pro­gress Special Rap­porteurs identified, thereby outlining a path for human rights reforms. These benchmarks include streng­then­ing the rule of law, refor­ming the national military service, protecting fundamental freedoms, addressing pervasive sexual and gender-based violence, and strengthening cooperation with international and Afri­can human rights bo­dies.

    Resolution 50/2 also extended the Special Rapporteur’s mandate for a year, which was the main purpose of Eritrea-focused resolutions adopted in 2019, 2020, and 2021.

    Although it went further than these three resolutions, which were merely procedural and contained no sub­stantive assessment of Eritrea’s situation, resolution 50/2 failed to clearly describe and condemn hu­man rights violations Eritrean au­thorities are responsible for. It failed to reflect the situation in the coun­try in the way Council resolutions did prior to 2019, as well as the atrocities Eritrean forces have committed in Ethiopia’s Tigray region since armed conflict broke out, in November 2020. Yet violations Eritrean authorities commit at home and abroad are two sides of the same coin, and the total closure of the civic space enables these violations to continue with impunity.

    Ahead of the Council’s 50th session, over 40 civil society organisations urged the Council to maintain its scrutiny of Eritrea’s human rights situation and to strengthen its annual resolution with a view to bringing it in line with pre-2019 resolutions.[12] We welcome the inclusion, in resolution 50/2, of a call on the Gov­ern­ment of Eritrea to “[commit] to making progress on the recom­mendations included in [the Special Rapporteur’s] reports and on the benchmarks and asso­cia­ted indi­ca­tors proposed in 2019.” We stress, however, that resolutions on Eritrea should fully reflect the country’s human rights situation.

    In 2016, the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea[13] found that there are “reasonable grounds to believe” that crimes against humanity have been committed in the country since 1991 and that Eritrean officials have committed and continue to commit the crimes of enslavement, imprisonment, enforced disappearance, tor­­ture, other inhumane acts, persecution, rape, and murder. The international com­munity and the African Union have failed to ensure adequate follow-up for these findings. Since 2019, the Human Rights Council has conveyed the impression to victims, survivors, and their families that it has given up on the account­a­bility agenda.

    Yet no Eritrean official has been held criminally accountable, and Eritrea’s human rights situation has not fundamentally changed. All the key issues identified in pre-2019 Council resolutions on the country and by independent experts and organisations remain valid. For ins­tance, in his 2022 report, the Special Rapporteur, Dr. Mohamed Abdelsalam Babiker, noted that “the vast majority of the recommendations made by human rights mechanisms […], as well as the recom­mendations from the country’s universal pe­riodic review in 2019, remain unimplemented.” He added that “the persistent human rights crisis in Eritrea deepened during the reporting period” and iden­tified several worrying trends.[14]

    Similarly, in the statement delivered during the enhanced interactive dialogue on Eritrea held on 6 March 2023, the Deputy UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Nada Al-Nashif, highlighted that “[t]he human rights situation in Eritrea remains dire and shows no sign of improvement. It continues to be cha­racterised by serious hu­man rights violations.”[15] She added: “It is alarming that all these human rights violations are committed in the context of complete impunity. Eritrea has not taken any de­mons­trable steps to ensure accountability for past and ongoing human rights violations.”

    *     *     *

    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 53rd session, the Council should adopt a resolution:

    • Extending the mandate of the Spe­cial Rap­porteur on Eritrea for a period of one year;
    • 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;
    • Condemning the ongoing human rights viola­tions committed by Eri­trean authorities at home and abroad and the context of complete impunity that prevails;
    • Welcoming the benchmarks for progress in improving the situ­a­tion of hu­man rights and associated indicators and recommendations, as well as recommendations formulated by other UN and African human rights bodies and mechanisms, and 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 human rights concerns in Eritrea and on accountability options for serious violations at the Coun­cil’s 55th session in an enhanced interactive dia­lo­gue that also includes the participation of civil so­ciety and requesting the Special Rap­porteur to present a comprehensive written report at the Council’s 56th ses­sion and to the General Assembly at its 78th


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


    1. Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture in the Central African Republic (ACAT-RCA)
    2. AfricanDefenders (Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network)
    3. The America Team for Displaced Eritreans
    4. Amnesty International
    5. Burkinabè Human Rights Defenders Coalition (CBDDH)
    6. Burundian Human Rights Defenders Coalition (CBDDH)
    7. Cabo Verdean Network of Human Rights Defenders (RECADDH)
    8. CIVICUS
    9. Coalition of Human Rights Defenders-Benin (CDDH-Bénin)
    10. Coordination of Human Rights Organizations (CODDH) – Guinea
    11. CSW (Christian Solidarity Worldwide)
    12. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    13. Eritrean Afar National Congress
    14. Eritrea Focus
    15. Eritrean Coordination for Human Rights
    16. Eritrean Law Society
    17. Geneva for Human Rights – Global Training (GHR)
    18. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P)
    19. Global Initiative to Empower Eritrea Grassroot Movement
    20. The Horn of Africa Civil Society Forum (HoACSF)
    21. Hawai’i Institute for Human Rights
    22. Human Rights Concern - Eritrea (HRCE)
    23. Human Rights Defenders Network – Sierra Leone
    24. Human Rights Watch
    25. Institut des Médias pour la Démocratie et les Droits de l’Homme (IM2DH) – Togo
    26. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    27. Ivorian Human Rights Defenders Coalition (CIDDH)
    28. Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada
    29. Libyan Human Rights Clinic (LHRC)
    30. Network of NGOs for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights (RONGDH) – Central African Republic
    31. Nigerien Human Rights Defenders Network (RNDDH/NHRDN)
    32. One Day Seyoum
    33. Togolese Human Rights Defenders Coalition (CTDDH)
    34. Vision Ethiopian Congress for Democracy (VECOD)
    35. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)


    [1] See Council resolution 38/15, available at: See also reports of the Special Rapporteur to the Council, UN Docs. A/HRC/41/53, A/HRC/44/23, and A/HRC/47/21.

    [2] See Annex for a review of elements contained in successive Council resolutions on Eritrea (2012-2022).

    [3] See DefendDefenders et al., “The Human Rights Council should strengthen its action on Eritrea,” 20 May 2022, (accessed on 12 April 2023), as well as previous civil society letters, namely 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, See also CSW, “Eritrea: General Briefing,” 22 March 2022, (accessed on 11 April 2023).

    [4] See for instance One Day Seyoum, “About Eritrea,” (accessed on 12 April 2023).

    [5] See, among others, Amnesty International, “Eritrea: Ten years on, Ciham Ali’s ongoing enforced disappearance ‘a disgrace’,” 7 December 2022, (accessed on 11 April 2023).

    [6] Human Rights Concern - Eritrea, “Eritrea Hunts Down its Young People for Enforced Military Service,” 6 September 2022, (accessed on 11 April 2023). See also Human Rights Watch, “Eritrea: Crackdown on Draft Evaders’ Families,” 9 February 2023, (accessed on 12 April 2023).

    [7] Available at:

    [8] Human Rights Watch, “Eritrea: Crackdown on Draft Evaders’ Families,” op. cit.

    [9] CIVICUS, Civic Space Monitor, “Eritrea,”

    [10] CSW – FoRB in Full blog, “Let Us Honour The Memory of Patriarch Antonios By Bringing an End to the Violations of the Eritrean Regime,” 9 February 2023,; CSW, “Eritrean Church Leader Denied Burial Site in His Hometown,” 21 April 2023,; “HRC52: Oral statement on the situation of human rights in Eritrea,” 6 March 2023, (all accessed on 24 April 2023).

    [11] 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 2023, Eritrea remains among the very few countries that have never received any visit by a special procedure (see

    On 9 February 2023, President Afwerki said that his country’s forces “never committed any human rights violations or interfered in the war” in Tigray and referred to allegations of crimes under international law, which have been credibly documented, as a “disinformation campaign” (Anadolu, “Eritrean leader denies rights violations by his forces in Ethiopian war,” 10 February 2023, (accessed on 27 April 2023)).

    [12] See footnote 3 above.

    [13] See (accessed on 12 April 2023).

    [14] A/HRC/50/20, available at See in particular paras. 75-76. These trends include the increased militarization of the country and the continued inde­finite conscription; the country’s continued involvement in human rights and humanitarian law violations in the context of the conflict in Ethiopia, as well as the increase in round-ups (giffas), recruitment of child soldiers, and kidnapping and forced conscription of Eritrean refugees to fight in the conflict; the continued closure of civic space, which remains “hermetically shut,” with no possibility for Eritreans to express dis­sent or participate in decision-making, the prolonged and arbitrary detention of hundreds of Eritreans for their real or perceived opposition to the Government; the increased pressure being placed on religious groups and on diaspora communities; and an increase in ethnic and political tensions in the diaspora as a result of the rifts opened by the war in Tigray.

    [15] She further highlighted: “Our Office continues to receive credible reports of torture; arbitrary detention; in­hu­mane conditions of detention; enforced disappearances; restrictions of the rights to freedoms of ex­pres­sion, of association, and of peaceful assembly. Thousands of political prisoners and prisoners of con­s­cience have, reportedly, been behind bars for decades. Furthermore, the harassment and arbitrary deten­tion of people because of their faith continues unabated with estimated hundreds of religious leaders and followers affected.”


  • Eritrea: Extend the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur

    Joint Letter
    To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations Human Rights Council 

    At the 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council (24 June-12 July 2019), the Council extended a hand to the Eritrean Government. While renewing the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the country, it signalled its willingness to offer Eritrea a constructive way forward, in particular by shifting the resolution from agenda item 4 to item 2. 

    While welcoming the adoption of Council resolution 41/1, and in particular the renewal of the mandate, many non-governmental organisations cautioned that any shifts in the Council’s approach should reflect corresponding changes in the human rights situation on the ground. 

    Regrettably, one year later, we, the undersigned non-governmental organisations, recall that the concerns expressed in a jointletter published last year remain valid, for the reasons set out below. Ahead of the 44th session of the Council (currently scheduled to begin in June 2020), we urge you to support the adoption of a resolution extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea. 

    As Eritrea has entered the second year of its Council membership term, its domestic human rights situation remains dire. A free and independent press continues to be absent from the country and 16 journalists remain in detention without trial, many since 2001. Impunity for past and ongoing human rights violations is widespread. Violations continue unabated, including arbitrary arrests and incommunicado detention, violations of the rights to a fair trial, access to justice and due process, enforced disappearances, lack of information on the fate or whereabouts of disappeared persons, violations of women’s and girls’ rights, and severe restrictions on the enjoyment of the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, association, and religion or belief. Secondary school students, some still children, continue to be conscripted in their thousands each year into the country’s abusive national service system. Indefinite national service, involving torture, sexual violence and forced labour continues; thousands remain in open-ended conscription, sometimes for as long as ten years or more, despite the 2018 peace accord with Ethiopia. 

    In resolution 38/15 (6 July 2018), the Council invited the Special Rapporteur to “assess and report on the situation of human rights and the engagement and cooperation of the Government of Eritrea with the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms, as well as with the Office of the High Commissioner [OHCHR], and, where feasible, to develop benchmarks for progress in improving the situation of human rights and a time-bound plan of action for their implementation.” The Council should ensure adequate follow-up by allowing the Special Rapporteur to pursue her work and OHCHR to deepen its engagement with the Eritrean Government. 

    As a Council member, Eritrea has an obligation to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights” and to “fully cooperate with the Council.” However, during the Council’s 43rd session, in February 2020, both the Special Rapporteur, Ms. Daniela Kravetz, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Michelle Bachelet, reported that no concrete evidence of progress in Eritrea’s human rights situation, including against the benchmarks, could be reported. 

    By streamlining its approach and adopting resolution 41/1 under its item 2, the Council offered a way forward for human rights reform in Eritrea. In March 2019, Eritrea took an initial step by meeting with the Special Rapporteur in Geneva. More recently, in February 2020, a human rights dialogue took place between the Government and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in a more constructive spirit than during Eritrea’s 2019 review by the Human Rights Committee. Unfortunately, despite the window of opportunity provided by Eritrea’s CEDAW review and the Eritrean Ambassador indicating, at the Council’s 43rd session, that his country was committed to confidence-building measures and technical cooperation, Eritrea refuses to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur, and recently launched yet another unwarranted attack on her and her mandate. The Government continues to reject findings of ongoing grave violations, as well as calls for reform, and human rights-based recommendations, including in relation to the Covid-19 crisis.  

    The Council should urge Eritrea to make progress towards meeting its membership obligations and to engage with the UN human rights system constructively. It should not reward non-cooperation by, but rather maintain scrutiny of, one of its members. We believe that a technical rollover of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate, under the same item, would contribute to this aim. 

    At its upcoming 44th session, the Council should adopt a resolution: (a) Extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for a further year; (b) Urging Eritrea to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur by granting her access to the country, in accordance with its obligations as a Council member; (c) Calling on Eritrea to develop an implementation plan to meet the progress benchmarks, in consultation with the Special Rapporteur and OHCHR; (d) Requesting OHCHR to present an oral update on Eritrea at the Council’s 46th session; and (e) Requesting the Special Rapporteur to present an oral update at the Council’s 46th session in an interactive dialogue, and to present a report on the implementation of the mandate at the Council’s 47th session and to the General Assembly at its 76th session. 

    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
    2. AfricanDefenders (the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network)
    3. Amnesty International 
    4. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies 
    5. Center for Civil Liberties (Ukraine) 
    6. CIVICUS 
    7. Civil Rights Defenders 
    8. Committee to Protect Journalists 
    9. CSW (Christian Solidarity Worldwide)
    10. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    11. Eritrean Law Society (ELS) 
    12. Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR) 
    13. Geneva for Human Rights / Genève pour les Droits de l’Homme
    14. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect 
    15. Human Rights Concern - Eritrea (HRCE) 
    16. Human Rights Watch
    17. International Service for Human Rights 
    18. Network of Eritrean Women (NEW)
    19. Network of Human Rights Defenders in Central Africa / Réseau des Défenseurs des Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale (REDHAC)  
    20. One Day Seyoum 
    21. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights 
    22. Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN) 
    23. West African Human Rights Defenders Network / Réseau Ouest Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (ROADDH/WAHRDN) 
    24. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)


  • Eritrea’s membership of the Human Rights Council at odds with the dire human rights situation in the country

    Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Interactive Dialogue on the oral update of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea

    Delivered by Helen Kidan

    CIVICUS and the EMDHR welcome the Special Rapporteur’s update.


  • Ethiopia: Amidst a humanitarian crisis, violations are compounded by civic space restrictions

    State,emt at the 51st Session of the UN Human Rights Council – 51st Session 

    Interactive Dialogue on Ethiopia 

    Delivered by Lisa Majumdar 

    Thank you, Mr President, and thank you to the Commission for their first report. 

    It paints a grim picture of resumed hostilities compounding violations which could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

    We are seriously concerned by the civic space restrictions that are adding to the crisis – from restrictions to humanitarian access, to imposition of internet blackouts, to widespread arbitrary detention. 

    The situation in Ethiopia, including the humanitarian disaster that has unfolded, will have consequences well beyond its borders. It is critical that full, unfettered, and sustained humanitarian access to Tigray is immediately restored. 

    The report references the arbitrary detention of thousands of Tigrayans across the country, including in administrative detention centres, as well as on a massive scale in western Tigray.

    We note that mass arbitrary detention can amount to a crime against humanity. 

    We call on the Ethiopian government to cease all forms of intimidation of human rights defenders, journalists and other media actors. 

    We note with serious concern the constraints on the work of the Commission owing to shortfalls in resources and lack of access. We therefore urge this Council to not only renew the mandate of the commission, but to ensure its adequate resourcing, and we call for the Commission’s unhindered access. 

    We thank you. 

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


  • EU-Southeast Asia CSOs Recommendations to the 4th EU-ASEAN Policy Dialogue on Human Rights

    On behalf of the CSOs[1] that participated at the 2nd EU-Southeast Asia CSOs Forum held on October 24-22, 2022 in Jakarta, and in parallel with the 4th EU-ASEAN Policy Dialogue on Human Rights, we would like to express our gratitude to the EU-ASEAN Forum on Human Rights for the space and opportunity to engage in a dialogue with civil society representatives. We believe that this is proof of commitment for improved communication, coordination, and meaningful engagement between CSOs, ASEAN, and the EU to achieve our common aspiration to leave no one behind.

    On this occasion, we hereby submit the following recommendations to strengthen human rights protection within the ASEAN and the EU. The recommendations are based on present and emerging challenges faced by human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists, and on recommendations submitted by CSOs at the EU-ASEAN Human Rights Dialogue in 2019. We request for the inclusion of the attached submission as part of the official meeting notes. In this light, we urge immediate steps to be taken, collectively with civil society organisations across both regions, towards the implementation and monitoring of our recommendations.

    Present and Emerging Challenges

    After the First EU-ASEAN Human Rights Dialogue with CSO in 2019, the socio-political and economic situations in the ASEAN and the EU have tremendously regressed. These were mainly brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, climate crisis, and the rise of militarism and authoritarianism. With respect to critical security issues, the Russian invasion of Ukraine led by President Vladimir Putin has resulted in deaths and injuries of thousands of civilians. Since 1 February 2021, the attempted military coup in Myanmar has spurred a cross-regional political, human rights, and humanitarian crisis. As of this writing, more than 1,000,000 people have been displaced, with more than 2,000 civilians killed, and 15,000 arrested. The use of excessive force by police and military against civilians claiming their basic human rights and fundamental freedoms has been perpetuated with impunity across the region.

    The COVID-19 pandemic has, indeed, aggravated the shrinking of civic spaces. Instead of meaningfully addressing challenges and needs of the vulnerable, authoritarian states have even accumulated more power by convoluting health emergencies and national security approaches. Numerous documents have revealed how COVID-19 was used as a pretext to adopt restrictive laws to curb access to information, justice, and basic services. State-sponsored disinformation and misinformation were intensified. Dissenting opinions towards government pandemics measures were purged. Furthermore, measures to mitigate viral infection limited peoples’ movement and participation in social, economic and political affairs. The proclivity towards securitized approaches has led ASEAN to further exclude civil society and neglect peoples’ voices. This is in breach of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025, which aims to promote a people-centred and people-oriented regional community.

    The climate crisis has led to the global health emergency, political upheavals, gross human rights violation, and humanitarian disasters. Climate change has disproportionately affected planetary health, which is closely linked with the health of its population and their ability to achieve their right to life. These have contributed to the uncertainty and instability of the future, particularly of those who live in fragile situations. In fact, Southeast Asia is already bearing the brunt of climate emergencies. Moreover, rising sea levels, flooding, and typhoons have tremendously increased more recently.

    The current economic systems have perpetuated capitalist greed. Extractive industries have greatly contributed to multiple rights violations, particularly land grabbing. Moreover, they have put the lives of indigenous communities and environmental human rights defenders. With respect to climate action, communities' access to decision-making processes and participation remains virtually absent. As their concerns are neglected, this crisis continues to hinder State obligations to protect and fulfil human rights, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Worse, more and more people have become vulnerable and disempowered.

    Amidst these crises, communities with pre-existing intersectional vulnerabilities are further discriminated against and marginalised. Pandemic recovery plans have failed to meaningfully address the specific needs of women, youth, children, LGBTQIA+ communities, and persons with disabilities. Furthermore, conflicts and climate emergencies have forcibly displaced people, rendering many stateless and without protection.

    The steady rise of militarism and authoritarianism has many lives at greater risk. Repressive laws and practices, both in offline and online spheres, have become dangerously normalised. These include systematic proliferation of censorship, harassment, arbitrary arrests, violence, misinformation, and state-sponsored propaganda. As of this writing, human rights and environmental rights defenders, pro-democracy activists, dissenters, children, youth, journalists, academics, LGBTQIA+ communities - historically marginalized based on their sexual orientation, gender identity & expression and sexual orientations and sex characteristics (SOGIESC) are finding themselves on the edge of uncertainty and danger.

    These shared lived experiences have proven the urgent need to establish and sustain safe and brave transnational and cross-sectoral networks and solidarity. It is crucial for marginalised individuals and communities to meaningfully engage in multilateral advocacy on human rights, and intersectional issues that matter to them the most.


    Building on the 2019 Consolidated Recommendations from the first EU-ASEAN CSO Forum, our key recommendation is for EU and ASEAN Member States (referred to as ‘States’) to develop policies, implement measures, and invest in programmes that are inclusive, non-discriminatory, participatory, and proportionate. These should promote greater accountability and sustainability in order to address issues related to public health emergencies, security and climate crises, and the rise of authoritarianism.

    States should ensure that development programs, which are in line with international human rights standards and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), are designed and implemented to fully advance inclusion, equality, dignity and justice in all corners of ASEAN and the EU.


    Civic space in Indonesia is rated ‘obstructed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor.


  • Every single person is a potential activist today 

    Civil society actors and leaders from around the world gathered from 30 May to 3 June 2022 at the World Justice Forum in The Hague, the home of the United Nations’ International Court of Justice, and online to share insights and recommendations on three important priorities for strengthening justice and the rule of law.

    The forum, which focused on fighting corruption, closing the justice gap, and countering discrimination, served as an ideal platform to collectively address the declining state of civil society. I had the privilege of participating in the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Legacy conversation with Sherrilyn Ifill and the Recommendations, Commitments, and Investments to Advance Justice and Rule of Law plenary.  

    Throughout the conference, immense emphasis was placed on the constant threats to and continuously shrinking civic space. Our research from the CIVICUS Monitor shows that, currently, only 3% of the world’s population live in conditions of open civic space, where their governments broadly respect and promote the democratic freedoms of association, peaceful assembly, and expression and allow their citizens to participate meaningfully in the decisions that affect them. Data from the CIVICUS Monitor also shows that in the last year, the top two violations in relation to civic space were the detention of protestors and the intimidation of human rights defenders. This points to a trend of a lack of investment in and strengthening of institutions that are meant to defend human rights and the people that speak on behalf of human rights.  

    In the wake of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, we are witnessing a number of states, and international institutions, particularly in European democracies, divert funding and resources away from institutions and mechanisms that are devoted to defending human rights and strengthening civic space. Not only does this pattern of behaviour display a negative vote against democracy, but it contributes to the continuous fall of trust in public institutions, and not enough is being done to challenge the lack of investment in civil society from those in power. At this point, the fight for democracy rests solely on the shoulders of individuals who are constantly putting their lives at risk to fight against the worldwide decline of civic space.  

    While international and public institutions have the power and resources to address the humanitarian crisis that faces us, their abstinence from actively investing in and protecting civil society displays a glaring lack of moral empathy for those on the ground.   

    In light of these global challenges, the panel discussions at the World Justice Forum brought forth much-needed insights and recommendations to rebuild and strengthen civil society and the rule of law with respect to the three main priorities of the forum.  

    One of the key recommendations from the World Justice Forum’s Outcome Statement highlighted the need for states to create enabling environments for innovation and for civil society to operate. During the pandemic, we witnessed some of the most significant protest movements despite extreme COVID-19 restrictions; this indicates that people are able and willing to mobilise regardless of restrictive laws intended to silence dissent.  

    Conversations during the forum also pointed to the dire need for people-centred approaches. A practical example is citizen assemblies whereby people-driven resolutions are prioritised at international levels. Access to information and access to solidarity mechanisms also play a vital role in enabling people on the ground to advocate for fundamental rights, and states must invest in creating spaces for citizen participation.  

    A stronger effort needs to be taken to ensure that institutions are open to scrutiny and to being held accountable. Too many a times do we witness leaders making promises of a better tomorrow on international stages but do not hold open dialogues with and remain accountable to those who elected them. This includes extending open standing invitations for UN experts to visit and provide recommendations to affected countries.  

    There is a need for norms, narratives and investments that will help stimulate larger segments of trust and support towards civil society from a wide range of state and non-state actors. Concrete examples of how this can be done are available from CIVICUS’ work on reviewing approaches to civil society sustenance and resilience, including in the context of the pandemic.  

    In the 2020 Sustainable Development Goals, we said that this would be the Decade of Action, it is actually the Decade of Agitation, and governments that wake up to this sooner will be wiser because every single person on the planet with a phone is a potential activist today.  

    Lysa John is the Secretary-General of CIVICUS. She is based in South Africa and can be reached via her Twitter handle:@LysaJohnSA. 


  • Extend the mandate of the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan

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


  • Fiji: Government rejects review of restrictive laws used to target journalists, activists and its critics

    Statement at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Fiji's adoption of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights
    Watch us deliver our statement below:

    PIANGO, CCF and CIVICUS welcome the government of Fiji’s engagement with the UPR process. 

    In our UPR Submission, we documented that since its second cycle review, where it received 22 recommendations relating to civic space, accepting 12, the Government of Fiji has to date partially implemented 10 of these recommendations and fully implemented one. 

    In its third cycle review, we welcome that recommendations pertaining to freedom of expression, assembly and association were accepted, including to ensure that criminal and speech-related legislation are not misused to supress criticism We also welcome the governments’ support to implement the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders at the national level.

    However, sedition provisions in the Crimes Act and the Public Order (Amendment) Act have been used to target journalists, activists and government critics The Media Industry Development Act (Media Act) has also created a chilling effect for the media and press freedom We are disappointed that specific recommendations to amend or repeal these repressive laws were not accepted, many of which are based on draconian decrees enacted after the 2006 military coup and not fit for purpose.

    The right to peaceful assembly has been arbitrarily restricted with the use of the Public Order (Amendment) Act 2014, particularly against trade unions. We welcome that Fiji accepted recommendations to ensure that criminal statutes will not be used to curtail workers’ rights, but we regret that Fiji did not accept broader recommendations to promote and protect freedom of assembly by revising such restrictive laws. We encourage Fiji to genuinely support the right to peaceful assembly and to bring local legislation in line with international law and standards.

    Fiji’s UPR presents an opportunity for the country to make at the national level the commitments to civic space and human rights that it demonstrates through its engagement with and leadership within the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms. We urge the government of Fiji to take this opportunity to create and maintain an enabling environment for civil society, in line with the rights enshrined in international human rights law.

    Civic space in Fiji is currently rated as Obstructed  by the CIVICUS Monitor

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

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


  • Five human rights trends in South Africa

    Students protest SA

    Photo by Sharon Seretlo/Gallo Images via Getty Images

    By Mawethu Nkosana, LGBTQI+ Advocacy and Campaigns Lead at CIVICUS & Safia Khan, Innovation and Communications Officer at CIVICUS

    From the rise in student activism to the rise in levels of xenophobia in South Africa, Mawethu and Safia list five human rights trends since COVID-19 took over.

    Read on The Daily Vox


  • Five years since genocide, the world must act to ensure justice for Rohingya

    In marking the five-year commemoration of the genocide committed against the Rohingya in 2017, 384 civil society organisations reaffirm our commitment to continue to stand in solidarity with and seek justice for the Rohingya, to ensure the full restoration of their rights in Myanmar, and to end the impunity of the Myanmar military. The plight of the Rohingya must not be forgotten.


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

    In our Universal Periodic Review submission, we documented that since its last review, France only partially implemented one of the two recommendations it received relating to civic space. We regret that the recommendations pertaining to the ban on full face veils in public places were not accepted by the government, despite being criticised as a violation of the rights to freedom of expression and religious freedom.

    Mr. President, we are deeply concerned by the recent introduction of a new national security and counter terrorism law which effectively makes permanent extraordinary powers given to French security forces since the November 2015 state of emergency was implemented. Through this now-permanent legal regime, French police have expanded powers of arrest, detention and surveillance without adequate judicial oversight or due regard for the proportionality of measures taken to restrict fundamental freedoms.

    CIVICUS also notes with concern the police’s use of disproportionate force against protestors including during labour protests in 2016; anti-racism demonstrations in 2013; and, most seriously, in October 2014 when ecologist Rémi Fraisse was killed after police threw a flash grenade into a crowd of demonstrators opposing the construction of a dam in Sivens. Mr. President, just two months ago, French police again used disproportionate force, firing thousands of tear gas canisters as part of an operation to forcibly remove a peaceful anti-capitalist community in Notre-Dame-des-Landes.

    Finally, in its submission, CIVICUS set out a range of concerns that risk eroding the right to freedom of expression in France, including the use of legal proceedings to compel media to release their sources. In France, losing a libel case against a public official can result in a fine of up to four times the fine for losing a case against a private citizen; this has been criticised for creating a “chilling effect” on the media’s scrutiny of government.

    Mr. President, CIVICUS calls on the Government of France 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 in all circumstances.