human rights

 

  • CANADA: ‘Indigenous people who are most marginalised experience significant human rights violations.’

    Melanie OmenihoCIVICUS speaks about Indigenous people’s rights in Canada with Melanie Omeniho, president of Les Femmes Michif Otipemisiwak/Women of the Metis Nation (LFMO).

    Founded in 1999 and incorporated in 2010, LFMO is a national representative civil society organisation that advocates for the rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada, and specifically for the right to equal treatment, health and wellbeing of women and gender diverse people and sexual minorities of the Metis Nation.

    What is the current situation of Indigenous people in Canada?

    In our experience at LFMO, Indigenous people who are most marginalised experience significant human rights violations. Indigenous people are trying to survive traumas and do not have the time or resources required to deal with the systemic racism that continues to violate their rights.

    For instance, we have heard numerous concerning experiences regarding difficulties to access Canada’s victim services scheme. In some provinces, policy dictates that if a person has had any prior engagement with the criminal justice system, even if decades earlier, and this remains on their record, they might not be eligible to receive victim services. This policy severely impacts on and violates the rights of Indigenous victims of crimes, including sexual assault.

    At LFMO we are keenly aware of the experience of anti-Indigenous racism. Some of us are attacked based on how we look or talk when we are going about our lives in mainstream society. We are particularly concerned about the lack of willingness to identify physical attacks on Indigenous women as hate crimes.

    We encourage change in policy and practice in all facets of the criminal justice system to identify hate crimes against Indigenous people instead of classifying them as regular assaults. To create change and hold offenders properly accountable, we need to ensure that anti-Indigenous racism is recognised as a hate crime.

    How is LMFO working to advance the rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada?

    LMFO is the national representative body for Métis women across the Métis Nation Motherland. Métis are one of the three recognised Indigenous peoples of Canada, along with First Nations and Inuit. According to the 2016 census, there are nearly 600,000 Canadians who self-identify as Métis.

    LMFO advocates for the equality of Métis women, Two-Spirit and gender diverse Métis people across the Métis Nation Homeland – our Métis Motherland. The term ‘Two-Spirit’ was coined in the 1990s to refer to Indigenous LGBTQI+ people, corresponding to an age-old concept in Indigenous communities that means someone who embodies both a masculine and feminine spirit.

    LFMO plays a significant role in enhancing the social, cultural, economic, environmental and leadership space occupied by Métis women and gender minorities. Our overarching mission is to ensure the equal treatment, health and wellbeing of all Métis people, with a focus on Métis women, young people and those who are Two-Spirit and gender diverse.

    As part of our strategic plan, we have 10 objectives: advocating for the priorities and needs of women in the Métis Nation, Canada and the world; taking care of the land and waters; guarding the traditional knowledge of Métis women; promoting social justice and equality; creating opportunities for Métis women to develop leadership skills; helping Métis people lead healthier lives and supporting healthy and vibrant communities; ensuring that the perspectives and priorities of Métis women are included in economic development initiatives, and that support is provided for their entrepreneurship; fostering culturally appropriate early learning environments and lifelong learning to improve educational outcomes for Métis children, women and all Métis learners; developing a Métis-specific research strategy to build disaggregated data; and building a strong, successful, inclusive, responsible and transparent organisation.

    We are part of a global movement of Indigenous groups around the world who are all collectively fighting and advocating to be seen, heard and recognised. The more we speak up and share our stories and fight to preserve our traditions and cultures, the more likely it is that we will achieve the recognition of our rights and the creation of policies that serve us and protect us.

    What should the government do to help advance the rights of Canadian Indigenous peoples?

    We hope that in domesticating the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the government will implement policies to realise Indigenous rights and Indigenous women will be a part of those conversations. To that effect, LFMO advocates for a gender-based approach and an intersectional lens on policy development and the co-design of legislation.

    Civic space in Canada is rated ‘open’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with Les Femmes Michif Otipemisiwak through itswebsite orFacebook andInstagram pages, and follow@LesMichif on Twitter. 

     

  • Celebrating our 10,000 strong alliance!

    Secretary General’s Update: August 2020

    lysajohn

     

  • CHINA: ‘Its international role both originates in and enables domestic political control’

    CIVICUS speaks about China’s growing international role withSharon Hom, Executive Director of Human Rights in China (HRIC), Adjunct Professor of Law at the New York University School of Law and Professor of Law Emerita at the City University of New York School of Law. Founded in 1989by overseas Chinese students and scientists, HRIC isa Chinese civil society group that promotes international human rights and advances the institutional protection of these rights in the People’s Republic of China. Through case and policy advocacy, media and press work, and capacity building, HRIC supports civil society as the driving force for sustainable change in China. HRIC has offices in New York and Hong Kong, and is active on local, regional, and global platforms.

    Have there been any recent changes in the ways China engages in the United Nations (UN) system?

    China has been increasingly active and sophisticated in its engagement with the UN human rights system. As one of the five permanent members of the Security Council – where it formally replaced Taiwan, the Republic of China (ROC) in 1971 – China has invoked its ‘One China Policy’ to block the recognition and admission of the ROC by other international bodies. At the same time, the shift of key players within the UN human rights system, and particularly the withdrawal of the USA from the Human Rights Council (HRC), has weakened principled leadership by Western democratic governments. This is especially concerning in the face of China’s increasingly aggressive, multi-pronged and sophisticated challenges to international standards and norms. A key element of China’s strategy has been essentially to counteroffer a model of governance that it refers to as human rights, democracy and rule by law ‘with Chinese characteristics.’

    In addition to the HRC, China is active on human rights-related issues before various UN General Assembly committees, including the Third Committee, on social, humanitarian and cultural issues, and the Fifth Committee, on administrative and budgetary issues. Some key issues it engages in include counterterrorism, information security, treaty body strengthening processes and other human rights mechanisms and procedures, and civil society participation.

    China Interview SharonHom

    As part of the party-state’s overarching strategy to expand and strengthen China’s influence internationally, China has been promoting the appointment and influence of Chinese nationals to key UN bodies and UN specialised agencies. For example, Mr Zhao Houlin was the first Chinese national to serve as Secretary-General of the 150-year-old International Telecommunication Union (ITU), from 2014 to 2018 and 2019 to 2020. As a key agency for information and communications technologies promotion, collaboration and standardisation, the ITU was a leading UN agency involved in the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS). Endorsed by UN General Assembly Resolution 56/183 of 21 December 2001, the WSIS was convened in two phases. The first phase took place in Geneva from 10 to 12 December 2003 and the second in Tunis from 16 to 18 November 2005. China was active in pushing back against the inclusion of human rights-focused language in the outcome documents of phase one – the Geneva Declaration of Principles and Geneva Plan of Action – and opposed the accreditation of what it perceived to be hostile civil society groups, including HRIC.

    In addition, Mr Liu Zhenmin, appointed in 2017 as UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, advises the UN Secretary-General on social, economic and environmental issues and guides the UN secretariat’s support for follow-up processes under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Chinese nationals have also served on the International Court of Justice, including Ms Xue Hanqin, who has served as a jurist since 2010 and was named Vice President of the Court in 2018.

    The appointments of nationals of a UN member state to key positions in UN bodies and agencies is not, of course, inherently problematic. Issues from a human rights perspective only emerge when any member state challenges existing standards regarding the rule of law as ‘inappropriate’ or advances a model of development that rejects a rights-based framework, as China now does.

    What are the Government of China’s motivations in its international engagements? What agendas is it particularly pursuing?

    The Chinese party-state’s motivations in its international engagements are primarily aimed at advancing the ambitious vision of President XI Jinping to see China take a leading role on the global stage, as laid out in part in his vision for the realisation of a ‘China Dream.’ Internationally, the party-state wants to ensure the narrative of China is ‘properly’ told, without questioning of or pushback against some of the more problematic elements of its model of governance.

    Specific objectives include limiting civil society engagement with and input into UN human rights mechanisms to government-approved civil society groups; redefining the foundational principle of the UN human rights system from one of the universality of human rights to that of the ‘conditionality’ of human rights; and shifting human rights protection from state accountability to a cooperative enterprise among member states. If achieved, these objectives will undermine the integrity and efficacy of the existing human rights system and enable states to become the arbiters of what human rights to confer on their people, the ‘operators’ of their respective human rights systems, and the overseers of accountability.

    Is one of the benefits of China's increasing international role that there is less oversight of its domestic human rights record?

    The international role of the Chinese party-state both originates in and enables its agenda for domestic political control. China’s increasing efforts to undermine and redefine fundamental human rights and specific human rights mechanisms on the international stage limits the protections and redress available to Chinese people for violations of international rights guarantees. Its agenda for international influence also serves to legitimise as well as decrease scrutiny of its domestic policies and practices. In addition, the tendency for international actors to either appease or otherwise act in complicity with the Chinese state has also led to serious consequences both for Chinese people as well as others around the world.

    One of the most vivid examples of China’s attempts to redefine human rights accountability and the lack of pushback by governments is the passage of the China-led resolution A/HRC/37/L.36 in March 2016 at the HRC. The resolution, ‘Promoting mutually beneficial cooperation in the field of human rights’, which included language of the so-called ‘Xi Jinping Thought’, passed with 28 votes in favour and 17 abstentions; the only vote against came from the USA.

    What kind of alliances or partnerships is China making with other states to work internationally?

    One of China’s most ambitious and formidable global development strategies in recent years is the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’, an international infrastructure and investment programme that has already involved almost 70 countries across Africa, Asia and Europe. Proposed by Xi Jinping in 2013, the Initiative is aimed at connecting major African and Eurasian nations through infrastructure development and investment, including a ‘digital silk road’ of Chinese-built fibre-optic networks. The Initiative has raised serious political and economic concerns among an increasing number of states, including Japan and the USA, about the Chinese political and strategic ambitions embedded in these economic partnerships. More recently, even some member states, the putative beneficiaries, are starting to push back against the ‘win-win’ arrangements that are now clearly ending up with them as client or debtor states.

    In addition, as one of the leading states in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) – a regional multilateral organisation with the primary goal of coordinating counterterrorism efforts and economic and military cooperation – China has been deployed in troubling joint military exercises, including simulated rescues of hostages being held by Muslim or Chechnian separatists. In accordance with SCO member and observer obligations, member states have returned Muslims to China to face uncertain fates, an action very much in conflict with the international non-refoulement obligations of all states. The SCO consists of eight member states and four observer states. However, though all the members of the multilateral regional organisation have incredibly troubling domestic human rights records, the SCO has been warmly welcomed by the UN as an observer at the UN General Assembly since 2005.

    What are the impacts of China’s involvement on international institutions and on the space for civil society in those institutions?

    China’s increasing involvement and influence in international institutions such as the UN poses a steep and growing challenge to the meaningful participation of civil society organisations (CSOs). As a member of the UN NGO Committee, China and ‘like-minded’ states act in concert to block UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) accreditation to CSOs they deem critical or disparaging of China. When CSOs legitimately seek to participate as part of partner or league organisations, China has sought to challenge their participation. For example, the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) often participates as a member of the Unrepresented Nations and People’s Organisation. However, China has attempted to block interventions by the WUC in the HRC sessions and even to ban them from the buildings and grounds. China once even branded the WUC President Mr Dolkun Isa as a terrorist in an effort to block his participation in side events at the HRC in Geneva, and at General Assembly side events in New York. Ironically, these unfounded smear efforts served only to increase interest in various events.

    How is civil society working on issues around China’s international-level engagement, and what support does civil society need to be able to work effectively on this issue?

    Despite the many and significant challenges inherent in this work, CSOs around the world are increasingly working together to address China’s efforts to distort and subvert human rights norms on the international stage, and to address serious rights abuses. This includes collaborations between local, regional and international civil society groups to issue joint letters, briefings and submissions for UN human rights mechanisms and procedures, interventions at HRC sessions and side events and other targeted activities.

    The key support that civil society needs, especially smaller CSOs, is two-pronged: financial support to continue to carry out their missions and conduct the necessary research and projects related to understanding and responding to China’s actions on the international stage; and for governments of other states to act more aggressively and effectively to counter China when it acts inappropriately, and in particular to ensure a safe and enabling environment for domestic CSOs.

    Civic space in China is rated as ‘closed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with the Human Rights in China through itswebsite andFacebook page, or follow@hrichina on Twitter.

     

  • Citizens' Security Law under reform, Rule of Law in Spain at stake

    Commissioner Didier Reynders
    European Commission
    Rue de la Loi 200 / Wetstraat 200, 1040 Brussels
    Cc: Vice President Vera Jourová, Commissioner Helena Dalli

     

    Objectif: Citizens’ Security Law under reform, the right to freedom of peaceful

    assembly and expression, rule of law in Spain at stake

    Honourable Mr Reynders,

    This letter is sent on behalf of No Somos Delito, a broad coalition of more than one hundred associations and social movements belonging to a significant segment of the Spanish civil society, together with Defender a quien Defiende, European Civic Forum, CIVICUS and Civil Society Europe.

    In 2015, a very restrictive law, the Organic Law on the Protection of Citizen Security(2015/4, commonly known as Gag Law), was adopted in Spain. This Law has strained freedom of assembly and expression, including targeting journalists covering police actions during public gatherings, with negative repercussions on the Rule of Law. The Law is currently in the process of reform.

    We are writing to call on the European Commission to implement its mandate of ensuring the Rule of Law is upheld in a key moment for the guarantee of fundamental freedoms and Rule of Law in Spain by:

    • Meeting relevant Spanish CSOs that have been working to mitigate the negative impact of the Law on fundamental rights and the Rule of Law;
    • Expressing publicly with a statement on the Law reiterating the analysis of the 2021 rule of law report on Spain, calling for impact assessment and engagement of civil society in the reform process and for ensuring the reform will address concerns raised;
    • Engaging in dialogue with the Spanish Government to ensure the guarantee of fundamental freedoms and Rule of Law in Spain.

    Already in 2015, several UN Special Rapporteurs denounced that this Law represents a threat to fundamental rights and should be rejected[1]. More recently, the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe issued an opinion pointing at the disproportionate and arbitrary nature of the restrictions on fundamental freedoms imposed by this Law[2]The European Commission 2021 rule of law report on Spain also stated with regards to the Law that if a "norm leads to abuses in practice, this norm should be changed, circumscribed, or accompanied by additional safeguards" and called for an in-depth assessment of its impact on fundamental rights[3].

    After many years of pressure by civil society and human rights groups, finally, the Government started a process of reform of this Law. However, the reform in its current form does not overcome the repressive nature of the Law as it does not address the more detrimental articles concerning the right to freedom of assembly, expression, and information, as well as other human rights.

    • The draft reform does not put in place measures to guarantee the right to freedom of information with regards to the recording of images or video of police officers on duty, which is crucial to ensure police accountability. The sanction for recording police images and personal data "that could endanger the safety of the agents" is not eliminated but qualified. The recording will still be sanctioned when "it entails a certain danger", and it will be the police to decide on this possibility (art. 36.23, serious offence, fine of 601 to 30.000€). This provision has been applied against journalists covering the actions of the law enforcement forces during public demonstrations.
    • The draft reform fails to withdraw the 'presumption of the veracity of police officers (art. 52) from the Law, which continues to allow police arbitrariness and to violate the right to a fair trial(Art.6 ECHR) and the right to an effective remedy (Art. 13 ECHR).
    • The draft reform does not withdraw the most applied offences in the repression of protest, namely "Disobedience" (Art. 36.6) and "Disrespect" (art. 37.4). As pointed out by the Commission of Venice in March 2021, the vague terms allow police arbitrariness and undermine legal certainty[4],putting at risk the Rule of Law.
    • The draft reform fails to guarantee the principle of non-discrimination in the regulation of identifications (art. 16), searches (art. 18) and frisks (art. 20). It does not prohibit ethnic and racial profiling, nor does it implement effective mechanisms for its prevention, as recommended by the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent on its mission to Spain in 2018[5]. Specific measures should also be taken to guarantee the rights of the LGTBIQ+ community. Such measures would contribute to implementing the EU Anti-racism action plan principles and the LGBTIQ Equality strategy.
    • The draft reform also fails to establish mechanisms of control to ensure police accountability, such as proper identification of police officers and to ban the use of rubber bullets as an anti-riot material. This weapon does not allow compliance with international human rights standards because of its lack of precision and traceability[6]. Rubber bullets have been used against journalists while performing their professional duties in public demonstrations[7], which constitutes a violation of the right to freedom of information as sentenced by the European Court of Human Rights[8].

    The Citizens' Security Law reform process is a crucial opportunity to strengthen the Rule of Law and protect civic space in Spain. However, without the inclusion of these provisions, the repressive nature of the Citizens' Security Law will remain unaffected and continue to have a negative impact on rights and freedoms. For this reason, we call on your institution to support civil society to protect the Rule of Law in Spain.

    Yours sincerely,
    No Somos Delito (Spain)
    Defender a quien Defiende (Spain)
    European Civic Forum (Europe) 
    Civil Society Europe (Europe)
    CIVICUS (Global)

    The civic space in Spain is rated as 'Narrowed' by the CIVICUS Monitor.


    1- For more information, see

    https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=15597&LangID=E.

    2- For more information, see https://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/?pdf=CDL-AD(2021)004-e.

    3- European Commission,  Rule of Law Report Country Chapter on the rule of law situation in Spain, 2021.

    4- Opinion by The Venice Commission (22 March 2021)

    5- See: https://undocs.org/en/A/HRC/39/69/Add.2

    6- Novact and Irídia (2021), Stop Balas de Goma. Report - Executive summary.

    7- For more information, see: https://www.eldiario.es/catalunya/jueza-no-identifica-policia-disparo-bala-goma-periodista-protestas-sentencia-proces-archiva-caso_1_6752210.html

    8- Najafli c. Azerbaijan (oct.), no. 2594/07, ECHR 2012

     

     

     

  • CIVICUS : Les États doivent placer les droits de l'homme au centre de toutes les réponses au COVID-19

     

    • Pendant la pandémie mondiale COVID-19, les États ne devraient pas imposer de loi d'urgence comme prétexte pour restreindre les droits civiques
    • Les défenseurs des droits de l'homme et les prisonniers politiques doivent être libérés pour enrayer la propagation
    • Les gouvernements devraient faire preuve de transparence dans leur réponse aux menaces que représente le COVID-19
    • CIVICUS exhorte les États à lever les mesures d'urgence dès que les menaces liées au virus diminuent

     

    Alors que la communauté mondiale continue à prendre des mesures pour stopper la propagation du COVID-19 et finalement l'éradiquer, les États devraient s'assurer que la protection des droits de l'homme est au centre de toutes les réponses.

    En mars 2020, l'Organisation mondiale de la santé (OMS) a déclaré que l'épidémie du virus COVID-19 avait atteint le niveau d'une pandémie mondiale. L'OMS a alors demandé à tous les gouvernements de prendre les mesures nécessaires pour arrêter la propagation de la maladie.

    Cependant, comme on l'a observé dans d'autres situations d'urgence, certains gouvernements ont utilisé la crise pour restreindre les libertés civiques et maintenir les restrictions - même après que les menaces sanitaires qui justifiaient les actions des gouvernements se soient atténuées. Les États qui réagissent à la propagation du virus COVID-19 doivent veiller à ce que les lois et les normes internationales en matière de droits de l'homme soient au cœur de leurs interventions.

    Alors que l'attention de la communauté mondiale au cours des prochains mois sera dirigée vers le virus, les États pourraient multiplier les attaques contre la société civile et imposer des restrictions. Les États devraient prendre des mesures proactives pour s'assurer que les organisations de la société civile et les groupes vulnérables sont protégés de manière adéquate. En Chine, des militants ont été harcelés et intimidés pour avoir partagé des informations sur le virus, tandis que les reportages ont été censurés. Dans d'autres parties de l'Asie, des lois répressives sont déployées pour arrêter ceux qui sont soupçonnés de propager des mensonges sur le virus.

    En tant que maladie infectieuse, le risque de COVID-19 augmente dans les espaces fermés comme les prisons, les postes de police et les centres de détention. Le surpeuplement, la mauvaise alimentation et le manque d'accès à une hygiène adéquate augmentent le risque d'infection des prisonniers. Les États ont désormais l'obligation de libérer les défenseurs des droits de l'homme et les prisonniers politiques des prisons afin d'enrayer la propagation de la maladie.

    Certains prisonniers des prisons iraniennes ont contracté le virus. Si nous félicitons les autorités iraniennes pour la libération temporaire de 85 000 prisonniers, les défenseurs des droits de l'homme - dont le seul crime est de défendre les droits des femmes et des jeunes - devraient également être libérés. D'autres Etats ayant un passé de détention de défenseurs des droits de l'homme et de membres de l'opposition politique, comme l'Egypte, le Vietnam et le Cameroun, devraient suivre cet exemple.

    Les déclarations d'état d'urgence pour des raisons de santé et de sécurité doivent être faites en conformité avec la loi : les États ne doivent pas imposer une loi d'urgence comme prétexte pour restreindre les droits civiques et cibler des groupes, des minorités et des individus particuliers. Les lois d'urgence ne doivent pas être imposées pour réduire au silence les défenseurs des droits de l'homme et elles doivent être levées dès que les menaces que représente le virus diminuent. En outre, les groupes de la société civile devraient être consultés dans la mesure du possible.

    Il est obligatoire pour toutes les personnes touchées, en particulier les groupes marginalisés et les groupes de la société civile qui travaillent avec eux, d'avoir accès à des informations significatives concernant la nature et l'étendue des menaces posées par le virus. Ils doivent également disposer d'informations sur les moyens de réduire les risques en temps utile. Les restrictions et les coupures d'Internet dans des pays comme le Myanmar, l'Inde et l'Éthiopie mettent des milliers de personnes en danger.

    A cet égard, CIVICUS appelle les Etats à:

    • Collaborer avec les médias et la société civile pour faire preuve de transparence dans la réponse aux menaces que représente le COVID-19. Lutter contre la désinformation à tout moment sans recourir à la censure et aux sanctions pénales.
    • S'abstenir d'utiliser les réponses au COVID-19 comme prétexte pour imposer des restrictions à la société civile, cibler les défenseurs des droits de l'homme et restreindre les libertés en ligne.
    • Libérer tous les défenseurs des droits de l'homme et les prisonniers politiques qui ont été emprisonnés pour leurs activités en faveur des droits de l'homme ou pour avoir exprimé des opinions contraires à celles de l'État.
    • Lever les lois d'urgence et assouplir les mesures imposées pour freiner la propagation du virus dès que les menaces diminuent.
    • Maintenir un accès fiable et sans entraves à internet et mettre fin à toute interférence délibérée avec le droit d'accès et de partage de l'information.

    FIN

     

    Contact:

    Nina Teggarty, Responsable de la communication, des campagne et du plaidoyer de CIVICUS

    Email:

    Phone: +27 (0)785013500

    CIVICUS media team:

     

  • CIVICUS Addresses the New UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

  • CIVICUS and Colombian Confederation of NGOs concerned about aggressions and impending restrictions on civil society

    Click here to read a Spanish language version of this release

    CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, and the Colombian Confederation of NGOs (CCONG) are deeply worried about the growing challenges faced by civil society in Colombia. Several activists have been attacked while potentially restrictive legislation is underway and would curtail civil society organisations’ ability to contribute to the implementation of the peace agreements.

     

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

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

    Thank you Mr. President,

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

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

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

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

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

    We thank you.

     

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

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

    Thank you Mr. President,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    We thank you

     

  • CIVICUS at the 37th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    The opening week of the 37th Session of the UN Human Rights Council will be dominated by the high level segment which will include approximately 99 high level speakers including top political leaders from UN member states as well as UN Secretary General, Mr Antonio Guterres, and the President of the General Assembly amongst others.
     
    To note is the oral update given by the High Commissioner for human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, on the 7th March which will address a number of pressing issues on the Councils agenda as well as bringing to light issues that are not being properly addressed by the Council and merit further attention.
     
    On the agenda this session of Interest to CIVICUS will be reports on the safety of journalists, the report on effectiveness and reform of the Human Rights Council, the report on Human Rights Defenders and People on the move by Michel Forst, SR for Human Rights Defenders. Also of note, the right to privacy and a number of country specific situations. CIVICUS will be following many discussions where civic space is touched upon and will continue to advocate for an enabling environment for civil society.

    Thursday, 1 March 14:00 - 15:00 (Room XXVII) | Human Rights & Citizenship in the Gulf Region | Organised by: SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion, Bahrain Center for Human Rights, CIVICUS, International Federation for Human Rights, and
    Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l'Homme

    Across the Gulf Region, the relationship of citizenship and human rights has become a central issue. This event will examine how the authorities have increasingly sought to strip human rights defenders of their citizenship as a reprisal for their perceived political views and legitimate human rights work. See full invitation.

    PANELISTS: 

    • Tor Hodenfield, CIVICUS
    • Tara O'Grady, SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights
    • Mohamed Sultan, Bahrain Center for Human Rights
    • Abdelbagi Jibril, Darfur Relief & Documentation Centre
    • Moderator: Asma Darwish, SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights

    Friday, 2 March 11:30 - 13:00 (Room XXIV) | Ethiopia: The role of the international community in ending impunity and ensuring accountability for violations of fundamental rights | Organised by: Defend Defenders,Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia, and CIVICUS

    The event will provide an opportunity to examine the state of civic space in Ethiopia and the setbacks in has suffered over the last decade. Civic space has become increasingly controlled and restricted as human rights defenders have faced threats, arrests, and detention while attempting to exercise their rights to assembly, association, and expression. This even will ook at these threats and trends. See full invitation.

    PANELISTS: 

    • Yared Hailiemariam, Director, Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia
    • Tsedale Lemma, Editor-In-Chief, Addis Standard Magazine
    • Bayisa Wak-Woya, Director, Global Refugee & Migration Council 
    • Moderator: Hassan Shire, Executive Director, DefendDefenders

    Friday, 2 March 15:00-16:30 (Room XI) | Counterterrorism, Emergency Powers, and the Protection of Civic Space | Organised by: Article 19, ECNL, CIVICUS, ICNL, World Movement for Democracy, and International Federation for Human Rights

    The use of exceptional national security and emergency powers to combat terrorism has become increasingly common. The event will look at how counterterrorism measures and emergency powers have increasingly resulted in the restrictions of fundamental freedoms, including the rights to assembly, association and expression. See full invitation.

    PANELISTS: 

    • Fionnuala Ni Aolain, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism
    • Kerem Altiparmek, Ankara University, Faculty of Political Science
    • Yared Hailemariam, Director, Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia
    • Lisa Oldring, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
    • Sonia Tanic, Representative to the UN, International Federation for Human Rights
    • Moderator: Nicholas Miller, International Center for Not-for-Profit Law

     

  • CIVICUS at the 37th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    The opening week of the 37th Session of the UN Human Rights Council will commence with the high level segment which will include approximately 99 high level speakers including top political leaders from UN member states as well as UN Secretary General, Mr Antonio Guterres, and the President of the General Assembly amongst others.
     
    To note is the oral update given by the High Commissioner for human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, on the 7th March which will address a number of pressing issues on the Councils agenda as well as bringing to light issues that are not being properly addressed by the Council and merit further attention.
     
    Of interest to CIVICUS will be reports on the safety of journalists, the report on effectiveness and reform of the Human Rights Council, the report on Human Rights Defenders and People on the move by Michel Forst, SR for Human Rights Defenders. Also of note, the right to privacy and a number of country specific situations. CIVICUS will be following many discussions where civic space is touched upon and will continue to advocate for an enabling environment for civil society.

    Thursday, 1 March 14:00 - 15:00 (Room XXVII) | Human Rights & Citizenship in the Gulf Region | Organised by: SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion, Bahrain Center for Human Rights, CIVICUS, International Federation for Human Rights, and Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l'Homme

    Across the Gulf Region, the relationship of citizenship and human rights has become a central issue. This event will examine how the authorities have increasingly sought to strip human rights defenders of their citizenship as a reprisal for their perceived political views and legitimate human rights work. See full invitation.

    PANELISTS: 

    • Tor Hodenfield, CIVICUS
    • Tara O'Grady, SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights
    • Mohamed Sultan, Bahrain Center for Human Rights
    • Abdelbagi Jibril, Darfur Relief & Documentation Centre
    • Moderator: Asma Darwish, SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights

    Friday, 2 March 11:30 - 13:00 (Room XXIV) | Ethiopia: The role of the international community in ending impunity and ensuring accountability for violations of fundamental rights | Organised by: Defend Defenders,Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia, and CIVICUS

    The event will provide an opportunity to examine the state of civic space in Ethiopia and the setbacks in has suffered over the last decade. Civic space has become increasingly controlled and restricted as human rights defenders have faced threats, arrests, and detention while attempting to exercise their rights to assembly, association, and expression. This even will ook at these threats and trends. See full invitation.

    PANELISTS: 

    • Yared Hailiemariam, Director, Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia
    • Tsedale Lemma, Editor-In-Chief, Addis Standard Magazine
    • Bayisa Wak-Woya, Director, Global Refugee & Migration Council 
    • Moderator: Hassan Shire, Executive Director, DefendDefenders

    Friday, 2 March 15:00-16:30 (Room XI) | Counterterrorism, Emergency Powers, and the Protection of Civic Space | Organised by: Article 19, ECNL, CIVICUS, ICNL, World Movement for Democracy, and International Federation for Human Rights

    The use of exceptional national security and emergency powers to combat terrorism has become increasingly common. The event will look at how counterterrorism measures and emergency powers have increasingly resulted in the restrictions of fundamental freedoms, including the rights to assembly, association and expression. See full invitation.

    PANELISTS: 

    • Fionnuala Ni Aolain, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism
    • Kerem Altiparmek, Ankara University, Faculty of Political Science
    • Yared Hailemariam, Director, Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia
    • Lisa Oldring, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
    • Sonia Tanic, Representative to the UN, International Federation for Human Rights
    • Moderator: Nicholas Miller, International Center for Not-for-Profit Law

    Thursday, 15 March 15:00-16:00 (Room XXII) | The Link Between the Deterioration of Human Rights in Egypt and the Massive Violations in the Gulf States | Gulf Center for Human Rights | International Federation for Human Rights | OMCT | International Service for Human Rights | CPJ | ALQST | CIVICUS | CPJ

    A look at the middle east governments' coordinated efforts to target human rights defenders and journalists across the region. See full invitation.

    PANELISTS:

    • Yahya Al-Assiri, Director of ALQST for Human Rights in Saudi Arabia
    • Justin Shilad, Committee to Protect Journalists
    • Nardine Al-Nemr, Academic & Activists from Egypt
    • Sara Brandt, Advocacy & Campaigns Officer, CIVICUS

     

  • CIVICUS calls on Belarus to adopt Universal Periodic Review recommendations on the Freedom of Association

    Geneva. 13 May 2010. Yesterday, the Universal Periodic Review of the Republic of Belarus at the United Nations Human Rights Council resonated with civil society concerns regarding severe restrictions on the freedom of association. 

    A number of fundamental rights violations, including against the freedom of association were highlighted during the session, especially with respect to the infamous Criminal Code Article 193.1, which criminalises participation in activities of non-registered associations as being punishable by up to two years in prison. Since its entry into force in 2006, 17 people, including several minors, have been convicted under this legal provision. Not only does this provision run contrary to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but it also violates the Constitution of Belarus. 

     

  • CIVICUS concerned about repressive wave in Cuba

    Spanish

    CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, is deeply worried about rising repression in Cuba. Despite the restoration of diplomatic relations with the United States and the expectations generated by the possibility of an imminent lifting of sanctions, Cuban journalists and civil society activists and their organisations are facing a serious clampdown for exercising their rights to freedom of association, expression and peaceful assembly.

    “As activists attempt to reclaim public space following recent political developments, short-term detentions have been on the rise as a way to discourage acts of democratic dissent,” said Inés Pousadela, policy and research officer with CIVICUS. “In addition to high-profile activists and protest-oriented organisations who have been traditionally targeted, groups engaged in research, monitoring and providing information to citizens have also faced increased government repression.”
     
    In October, several journalists were victims of raids on their homes and subjected to verbal threats, physical violence and the confiscation of equipment in clear acts of intimidation intended to stop them from doing their work. The Cuban Institute for Freedom of Expression and the Press (ICLEP) denounced a wave of repression directed against nine independent journalists for cooperating with the organisation. A group of journalists of the new independent media project Periodismo de Barriowere detained for reporting on the effects of Hurricane Matthew without a permit.
     
    In September, the offices of the Center of Legal Information (Cubalex), which provides free legal advice to Cuban citizens and reports on human rights issues, were raided. Police sought to justify breaking into Cubalex’s offices, intimidating its staff and confiscating paperwork and equipment on the grounds that its lawyers were carrying out “illicit economic activity” even though Cubalex does not charge for its services. The organisation’s application for legal status has been rejected by the Cuban Justice Ministry and its Director, Laritza Diversent has repeatedly faced harassment for engaging with regional and international human rights bodies.
     
    CIVICUS calls on the Cuban government to enable the exercise of civic freedoms to speak up, organise and petition the authorities. Accordingly, we urge Cuban authorities to (i) cease the harassment of activists and journalists carrying out their regular legitimate activities, (ii) begin a process of dialogue to create a more enabling environment for civil society and the independent media, and (iii) initiate reforms to give legal recognition to a wider plurality of civil society endeavours.
     
    Cuba is listed in the ‘closed’ category of the CIVICUS Monitor

     

  • CIVICUS condemns crackdown on Civil Society in Bahrain

    Johannesburg. 10 December 2010. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is deeply concerned about the deteriorating operating environment for civil society in the Kingdom of Bahrain. The past few months have been marred by growing intolerance towards dissenters, which began in the run up to the October elections and continues in the post election phase.

    Authorities in Bahrain are waging a relentless campaign against activists whose views are not in line with the official position. Currently, 24 prominent human rights defenders are facing trial under Bahrain's anti-terrorism laws. They have been charged with collaborating with foreign organisations and circulating false information. They have also been accused of forming terrorist networks, destruction of public and private property and defaming the authorities.

    The arrested activists have complained about torture and abuse meted out to them by the National Security Agency. They have so far appeared in court on four occasions and the next hearing has been scheduled for 23 December. During their first appearance in court on 27 October, detainees informed the court that while in detention they were beaten, electrocuted, verbally and physically assaulted and denied adequate sleep. Those detained were not allowed access to legal representation during interrogation and some family members did not know where they were being detained for two weeks after their arrest. It has also been reported that prior to, during and after the elections about 350 other activists have been arrested.

    "In a worrying trend, it has become commonplace in Bahrain to arrest activists for writing articles and delivering speeches which are critical of the government's discriminatory policies and official corruption,"  said Netsanet Belay, CIVICUS' Director of Policy and Research. "Persecution and torture of public-spirited individuals offering legitimate criticism against official policies and the clampdown on their organisations amounts to a repudiation of Bahrain's accession to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Against Torture."

    The Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS), a CIVICUS partner for the Civil Society Index and one of the few remaining independent groups striving for the protection of civil and political freedoms in the country, has been targeted in the recent crackdown. On 6 September, the Ministry of Social Development issued an order to dissolve the Board of the BHRS and went ahead to appoint an administrator 'an employee from the Ministry' to lead the BHRS. The BHRS has had to go to court in response to these arbitrary actions and its fate currently depends on the court's response. The first hearing of the case scheduled for 26 October has been postponed to 4 January 2011.

    According to Abdullah Aldorazi of BHRS, "The unfair order issued by the Ministry of Social Development to dissolve the Board of the BHRS is a security strategy aimed at preventing the documentation of atrocities carried out by the authorities during the crackdown and preventing families of the detainees from using the society as a safe haven."

    CIVICUS urges the authorities of the Kingdom of Bahrain to live up to their commitments under international law and guarantee civil society the space to freely express, associate and assemble.

    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is a global movement of civil society with members and partners in over a hundred countries. The Civil Society Watch (CSW) Project of CIVICUS tracks threats to civil society freedoms of expression, association and assembly across the world.


    For more information please contact CIVICUS:


    Jessica Hume ( , +27 82 768 0250), Communications Manager

    or

    David Kode ( , +27 73 775 8649), Policy Officer
    Office Tel: +27 11 833 5959

    CIVICUS House, 24 Gwigwi Mrwebi Street, Newtown 2001, Johannesburg, South Africa
    PO Box 933, Southdale 2135, Johannesburg, South Africa
    tel: +27-11-833-5959 | fax: +27-11-833-7997 | email:
    web: www.civicus.org

     

  • CIVICUS condemns the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill

    17 November 2009. Johannesburg, South Africa. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation condemns the introduction of the Anti Homosexuality Bill 2009 in the Uganda Parliament on 14 October 2009. The Bill contains derogatory references to members of the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) community as well as sexual rights activists -- whom it accuses of “seeking to impose their values of sexual promiscuity on the people of Uganda.”

    “The Bill flagrantly violates personal freedom and the guarantee of non-discrimination enshrined under international human rights law,” said Ingrid Srinath, Secretary General of CIVICUS. “It is deeply disturbing that such a Bill that seeks to breach the country’s existing human rights commitments has been introduced in the Ugandan Parliament.”

     

  • CIVICUS Joint UN Universal Periodic Review submissions on civil society space

    Submissions on civil society space– Afghanistan, Chile, Eritrea, Macedonia, Vietnam & Yemen

    CIVICUS and its partners have submitted joint UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on six countries in advance of the 32nd UPR session in January 2019. The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.  

    Afghanistan: CIVICUS, Afghanistan Human Rights Organization (AHRO), Civil Society and Human Rights Network and People’s Action for Change Organization explore the continued insecurity in Afghanistan, which has resulted in the closure of space for civil society, including through targeted attacks on humanitarian workers, protesters and journalists. We further discuss violence against women and the desperate situation faced by women HRDs in Afghanistan who are subjected to a heightened level of persecution because of their gender and their human rights activism.

    Chile: CIVICUS and Pro Acceso Foundation (Fundación Pro Acceso) highlight serious concerns regarding the persistent misuse of the Anti-Terrorism Law to silence members of the Mapuche indigenous community advocating for land rights. We are also concerned by the lack of government commitment to amend legislation regulating the right to peaceful assembly and by the violent suppression of social protests, especially those led by the student movement and indigenous communities. 

    Eritrea: CIVICUS, EMDHR and Eritrea Focus highlight the complete closure of the space for civil society in Eritrea to assemble, associate and express themselves. We note that there are no independent civil society organisations and private media in the country. We further discuss how the government selectively engages with international human rights mechanisms including UN Special Procedures. 

    Macedonia: CIVICUS, the Balkan Civil Society Development Network and the Macedonian Centre for International Cooperation outline serious concerns over the institutional harassment of NGOs in receipt of foreign funding since 2016. Despite a recent improvement in respect for civic freedoms, the submission discusses several restrictions on investigative journalists and media outlets. We also remain alarmed over smear campaigns against human rights defenders and critics of the government orchestrated by nationalist groups. 

    Vietnam: CIVICUS, Civil Society Forum, Human Rights Foundation (HRF), VOICE and VOICE Vietnam examine systematic attempts in Vietnam to silence HRDs and bloggers, including through vague national security laws, physical attacks, restrictions on their freedom of movement and torture and ill-treatment in detention. The submission also explores strict controls on the media in law and in practice, online censorship and the brutal suppression of peaceful protests by the authorities.

    Yemen: CIVICUS, Gulf Centre for Human Rights and Front Line Defenders discuss the ongoing extreme violence against and HRDs and journalists including regular abductions, kidnappings and detention in undisclosed location. We further examine restrictions on freedom of association including raids on CSOs causing many to reduce their activities drastically and even closed entirely. 

    See full library of previous UPR country submissions from CIVICUS and partners. For the latest news on civic space in all UN Member States, see country pages on the CIVICUS Monitor

     

  • CIVICUS makes a case for the release of Popov at the 14th Session of the Human Rights Council

    Item 3
    Promotion and Protection of all Human Rights
    ID on the Reports of the Special Rapporteurs on Violence against Women, Extreme Poverty and the Right to Health
    7 June 2010


    Mr. President,

    CIVICUS wishes to thank all three Rapporteurs for their reports and wants to highlight a few aspects of their work.

    1. On violence against women: CIVICUS welcomes Ms Rashid Manjoo's first report and her focus on reparations. In particular, we want to underscore the importance she gives to structural and multiple forms of discrimination and that reparations cannot be just about returning women to the situation on which they were found before the individual instance of violence, but instead should strive to have a transformative potential. We would like to ask her to elaborate further on how to achieve this transformative potential on the ground, for example the area of dismantling patriarchal understanding that is so often the reason for systemic violence.

    2. On extreme poverty: CIVICUS thanks Magdalena Sepulveda for her very clear demand to invest in social protection floors, including through non-contributory pensions, as a human rights obligation for governments as duty bearers, to prevent older persons from falling into extreme poverty and society as a whole from gliding into an appalling inequality. CIVICUS also commends her for her stand during her Zambian visit on the rights of civil society to participate freely and/or in cooperation with governments on all these important decisions regarding social protection issues, and not be curtailed through any unwarranted controls and restrictions on their independence and freedom of association.

     

  • CIVICUS stands in solidarity with Egyptian activist Azza Soliman, urges end to persecution against her

    Global civil society alliance CIVICUS is deeply concerned at the harassment of Egyptian activist Azza Soliman. Ms Soliman, a well-respected defender of women’s rights, is the founder of Centre for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance (CEWLA). She was arrested on 7 December by Egyptian police from her home in Cairo in a worrying escalation of the continuing crackdown on civil society in Egypt. Ms Soliman was later released on 20,000 EGP (1,100 USD) bail.

    “Azza Soliman has been an ardent advocate of women’s rights in Egypt for over 20 years and is no stranger to persecution for her work," said Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Policy and Research at CIVICUS. “We believe that the current acts of intimidation against her, including through the imposition of questionable legal charges, are another ploy to silence her and prevent her from carrying our her legitimate work in the defence of human rights.”

    Ms Soliman has been presently charged with contravening Article 78 of the Egyptian Penal Code, which criminalises receipt of international funding for perceived “activities against national interest.” She is also being questionably accused of tax evasion. Last month, on 19 November, she was prevented from leaving Cairo Airport to travel abroad. In an attempt to further harass her, Egyptian authorities have also frozen her private assets and those of the legal firm that she directs.

    In 2015, Ms Soliman had to endure a lengthy trial and was subjected to judicial persecution for providing testimony as a witness in the murder of poet and writer Shaimaa al-Sabbagh during a public protest by the police. She was ultimately acquitted of the charges of unauthorised protest and breach of security and public order framed against her.

    CIVICUS believes that Ms Azza Soliman is being persecuted for her legitimate work as a human rights defender. CIVICUS urges the Egyptian Government to end acts of persecution against Ms Soliman and to take steps to create a safe and enabling environment for civil society in the country.

    Egypt is rated as repressed on the CIVICUS Monitor.

     

  • CIVICUS UN Universal Periodic Review submissions on civil society space

    CIVICUS and its partners have submitted joint and stand-alone UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on 9 countries in advance of the 28th UPR session (November 2017). The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.  

    Countries examined: Benin, Gabon, Guatemala, Pakistan, Peru, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Ukraine and Zambia.

     

  • CIVICUS UN Universal Periodic Review submissions on civil society space in Benin, Guatemala, Pakistan, Peru, Sri Lanka and Zambia

    The United Nations Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States once every 4.5 years.


    CIVICUS and its partners have submitted UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on six countries in advance of the 42nd UPR session in January-February 2023. The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 3rd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations. 

    Benin EN | FR – The submission by the Coalition des Défenseurs des Droits Humains-Benin (CDDH-Bénin), West African Human Rights Defenders Network (WAHRDN/ROADDH), the Réseau des Femmes Leaders pour le Développement (RFLD) and CIVICUS, highlights the adoption of restrictive legislation, particularly the Criminal Code and the Digital Code, with its provisions being used against human rights defenders (HRDs) and journalists. Additionally, the submission also draws attention to the increasing restrictions and violations of the freedom of peaceful assembly, which includes blanket bans on protests, the militarisation of law enforcement and the use of excessive force, including live ammunition, against protesters, along with increasing legal restrictions to the right to protest.

    GuatemalaCIVICUS and Accíon Ciudadania detail the use of extreme violence against HRDs and journalists, aggravated by the continued criminalisation and stigmatisation they face from authorities and non-state actors. In this submission, we also express our concern on the adoption of a restrictive legislative framework which could significantly impact on the work of civil society in Guatemala, in a context where the work of CSOs is already vulnerable to obstruction through abusive judicial and administrative proceedings.

    PakistanIn this submission, CIVICUS and Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) report, among other issues, the legal and extra-legal barriers imposed on civil society organisations (CSOs) registration and operations in Pakistan, the criminalisation, threats and harassment of human rights defenders and the failure to hold perpetrators to account. It also highlights the alarming efforts to intimidate and censor journalists and media outlets, the criminalisation of online expression and restrictions and attacks on peaceful protests, especially by ethnic Pashtun minorities and women’s rights activists.

    PeruCIVICUS and Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos (APRODEH) underline the pervasive violence against HRDs, civil society groups and protesters, who continue to face attacks harassment stigmatisation and killings. State and non-state actors, despite the newly adopted protection mechanisms, have been able to escalate attacks with impunity. The submission further reports cases of judicial harassment against journalists and the gradual reduction of the space for a free and independent press.

    Sri LankaIn this joint submission, CIVICUS and the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) denounce the ongoing use of excessive force against HRDs and protesters and restrictive laws to limit civic space and fundamental freedoms. Between 2017 and 2022, we observed alarming trends of a government crackdown on protests, arbitrary detention against activists and violations of the freedoms of opinion and expression. The submission further reports the alarming and continuous judicial persecution, harassment and intimidation of HRDs, journalists, student protesters and others expressing dissenting opinions against the government.

    ZambiaCIVICUS and Governance, Elections, Advocacy, Research Services Initiative Zambia (GEARS Initiative) report acts of intimidation and attacks on citizens, HRDs, CSOs and journalists in the period leading up to and during the presidential and parliamentary elections in August 2021. The submission also documents the continued use of excessive force by security forces in response to protests. We are moreover particularly worried by the restrictive legal framework, which undermines the freedoms of association, assembly and expression.


    Civic space in Guatemala, Peru, Sri Lanka and Zambia is rated Obstructed, whereas Benin and Pakistan’s is rated as Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor.