un geneva

  • #HRC51: States must ensure systematic investment in meaningful, safe and inclusive participation of civil society

    Statement at the 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council

    General Debate on Item 3

    Delivered by Nicola Paccimiccio

    Thank you, Madame Vice-President.

    We welcome the report of OHCHR on the essential role of civil society, which concludes that civil society must be empowered and protected. It highlights that there is much more to be done to address challenges in this respect.

    Looking forward, civil society should be meaningfully included in all post-pandemic processes, and we urge States to take particular note of the recommendation to urgently and actively facilitate meaningful participation of diverse civil society entities in the development of a pandemic treaty.

    The resolution on the Council’s role in prevention adopted by this Council during its 45th Session acknowledged the important role played by civil society organizations and human rights defenders in preventing human rights violations, including by providing information on early warning signs. This role is only possible through the protection, and empowerment, of civil society to operate without risk of reprisals.

    As access to resources continues to be an existential threat to civil society participation, we similarly call on States to implement the recommendation to refrain from limiting receipt of funds, including from foreign sources. We look particularly to States introducing or misusing legislation which undermines this recommendation, including India’s Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, Zimbabwe’s proposed Private Voluntary Organisation Amendment Bill, and legislation relating to so-called ‘Foreign Agents’ in Russia.

    We call on States to ensure more systematic investment in meaningful, safe and inclusive participation at all levels, including by proactively addressing threats to civil society and human rights defenders. By doing so, States would be ultimately securing the mechanisms, enablers, and spaces that they themselves need to work with and for the societies they serve.

    We thank you.

  • 17th session of the Human Rights Council Item 4: Report of the High Commissioner under Human Rights Council resolution S-15/1

    Interactive Dialogue

    9 June 2011 

    Delivered by Renate Bloem


    Thank you Mr. President,

    Mme High Commissioner, CIVICUS welcomes your detailed update as requested by the resolution of the Special Session on Libya of 25 February, as complimentary information to the report of the Commission on Inquiry (COI). We laud you own continued calls for impartial investigations, protection of journalists and restraint in military interventions during this time. It is surely worthwhile to also recall the legal framework and applicable law both for State and non-State actors.

    In this regard CIVICUS wants nevertheless to put the spotlight on the peculiar governance structure of the jamahiriyan system instituted by the Qadhafi regime since its revolution in 1969.  A one man rule using fear, intimidation and incentives based on loyalty without any independent legislative or judiciary institution, nor any independent media. Instead a number of paramilitary and security apparatuses to consolidate a climate of fear, mistrust and submission.

  • 18th Session of the Human Rights Council Interactive Dialogue on Cambodia

    28 September 2011, Delivered by Renate Bloem


    Thank you, Mme President,

    This is a joint statement by our partner the Cooperation Committee for Cambodia, which represents over 130 members as well as the more than 400 endorsees of the Joint Statement on the Law on Association and NGOs.

    We thank Professor Subedi for his report and want to underline that we appreciate that state-civil society cooperation has been a key factor in the development of Cambodia from a war-torn country to a peaceful, vibrant developing country. While government and civil society organizations have often held different opinions, these bodies have met in constructive discussions and cooperated.

    The proposed Law on Associations and NGOs (LANGO) indicates a departure from this successful path. Civil society organizations are very concerned that the third draft of the law grants far-reaching power to government authorities to control the rights of citizens to organize and express themselves. These rights are set out in the Cambodian Constitution and in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which Cambodia has signed and ratified, as well as in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

  • Addressing human rights violations in Eritrea and the UN Commission of Inquiry’s findings

    To Permanent Representatives of
    Members and Observer States of the
    UN Human Rights Council

    Your Excellency,

    We, the undersigned civil society organisations (CSOs), write to express our grave concern about the Eritrean Government’s continued and egregious violations of human rights. We urge your delegation to co-sponsor a resolution renewing the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea and supporting the establishment of robust accountability mechanisms to facilitate access to justice to the victims of human rights violations and crimes against humanity in Eritrea during the 32nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC).

  • Addressing the human rights situation in Uzbekistan at the UN Human Rights Council


    10 years removed from the massacre in Anadijan, Uzbekistan, which left hundreds of civilians killed by security forces, the country remains one of the most persistent human rights violators in the world. To mark the anniversary, CIVICUS and nine other organisations have written a letter to representatives of the UN Human Rights Council urging them to take action.

  • Adoption of the UPR Report of Sudan

    16th session of the Human Rights Council

    23 September 2011

    Delivered by Mme Heimat KUKU


    Thank you Mme. President

    This is a joint statement by CIVICUS, the Arab NGO Network for Development and the Sudanese National Civic Forum, the Human Rights and Legal Aids Network in Sudan, the Sudanese Gender Research Centre, the Child’s Center in Sudan, and the Sudanese Development Initiative.

    We welcome the sincere desire stated by the Delegation to cooperate with Human Rights Council and the UPR mechanism and we are pleased with the acceptance of some of the recommendations received during the Working Group session, including those related to economic and social rights. We ask to immediately act to translate them into comprehensive, concrete and effective action.

  • Advocacy priorities at 47th Session of UN Human Rights Council

    The 47th Session is set to run from 21 June to 15 July, and will cover a number of critical thematic and country issues. Like all Sessions held over the course of the pandemic, it will present challenges and opportunities for civil society engagement. CIVICUS encourages States to continue to raise the importance of civil society participation, which makes the Human Rights Council stronger, more informed and more effective.

  • Advocacy priorities at the 48th Session of UN Human Rights Council

    The 48th Session of the UN Human Rights Council will sit from 13 September - 08 October, 2021 and there are a number of critical human rights resolutions up for debate and for the 47 Council members to address. Stay up to date by following @civicusalliance and #HRC48 

    During the 48th Session of the Human Rights Council, CIVICUS encourage States to continue to raise the importance of civil society participation, which makes the Human Rights Council stronger, more informed and more effective.

    We look forward to engaging on a range of issues in line with our civic space mandate, set out in more detail below. In terms of country-specific situations on the agenda of the Council, CIVICUS will be engaging on resolutions on Cambodia and Burundi and debates on the Philippines, Myanmar, Venezuela and Tigray, as well as calling for formal Council action on Cameroonand for the for the urgent establishment of an investigative mechanism on Afghanistan.

    On thematic issues, CIVICUS will be engaging on the resolution on equal participation in public and political affairs and the resolution on cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights.

    CIVICUS will also engage in the panel discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests; the debate with the Working Group on arbitrary detentions; and the debate with the Working Group on enforced disappearances.

    Country-specific situations


    Since the last resolution on Cambodia was negotiated and adopted at the Human Rights Council’s 42nd Session in September 2019, the human rights situation in the country has drastically worsened. Research undertaken by the CIVICUS Monitor shows that laws are routinely misused in Cambodia to restrict civic freedoms, undermine and weaken civil society, and criminalize individual’s exercise of their right to freedom of expression. Human rights defenders, civil society activists and journalists are often subject to judicial harassment and legal action.

    These concerns have escalated over the past two years. COVID-19 and the government’s repressive response has only exacerbated restrictions on fundamental freedoms. Engagement by Cambodia with the Council to date has been minimal at best, with no tangible human rights progress to be seen, and weaponized by Cambodia at worst.

    Should the resolution continue its current cycle, the next opportunity for renegotiation on a Cambodia resolution would be September 2023: that is, after both commune elections set for July 2022 and national elections set for July 2023. The last round of elections in the country took place under, essentially, a one-party state. They were neither free nor fair. The next round of elections are likely to be even less so. The government has shuttered almost all independent media outlets and totally controls national TV and radio stations. Repressive laws – including the amendments to the Law on Political Parties, the Law on Non-Governmental Organizations, and the Law on Trade Unions – have resulted in severe restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. It is imperative that the Council takes action with regards to these developments ahead of the next round of elections, and puts into place a robust monitoring mechanism to assess and address further election-related violations.

    The gravity of the situation, along with the current dire trajectory of human rights in Cambodia, merits action under Item 2 or indeed Item 4. We call on States to ensure that, at the minimum, an Item 10 resolution which adequately addresses the situation would include additional monitoring from the High Commissioner, particularly in the context of the lead-up to elections. A resolution should similarly highlight the deteriorating situation, raising particularly persisting restrictions on civic space and the repression of dissent; arbitrary arrests and detentions; acts of intimidation or reprisal; violations of the right to peaceful and public demonstrations; and repressive laws or decrees that unduly restrict the rights to the freedoms of expression and association.

    Cambodia is rated as repressed on the CIVICUS Monitor.


    The UN joint programme on human rights, developed to implement Human Rights Council resolution 45/33 and focusing on specific areas for capacity-building and technical cooperation, was signed into existence earlier this year. However, the Joint Programme does not further any steps towards accountability for the thousands of murders under the auspices of the ‘war on drugs’ over the past five years, nor does it address their root causes. National efforts towards accountability have remain in name only; worryingly, they also serve to establish a false perception of sufficient action while atrocities continue as routine.

    The situation urgently requires direct accountability action by the Council. That the ICC Prosecutor, after a four-year process, has called for a full investigation into the Philippines confirms the severe gravity of the situation. The ICC only has jurisdiction on Philippine cases dating before the country’s official withdrawal for the Rome Statute in March 2019. It is therefore incumbent on the Council to investigate the violations that have continued past this date.

    During the Council’s 48th Session, we urge States to raise the Philippines in the Item 10 General Debate, drawing attention to the ongoing lack of tangible action towards accountability. We further call on States to consider a more robust response to the High Commissioner’s report with a Council-mandated independent investigative mechanism to address the ongoing systemic human rights violations perpetrated with impunity. This is clearly warranted by the situation set out in the 2020 OHCHR report as well as the demonstrable lack of adequate domestic investigative mechanisms.

    The Philippines is rated as repressed on the CIVICUS Monitor.


    CIVICUS is deeply concerned about the safety of human rights defenders, journalists and staff of civil society organisations in Afghanistan following the collapse of President Ashraf Ghani’s government and the takeover by the Taliban. The resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council during its Special Session in August 2021 in response to the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan failed to effectively address grave human rights violations in the country. The Council now has a further opportunity to respond affectively to the crisis by establishing an independent investigative mechanism.

    The Taliban have a track record of attacking civilians and engaging in reprisals against those who criticise them. Some have been abducted and killed. Following the takeover of Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, human rights defenders have reported that lists of names of representatives of civil society have been revealed by the Taliban and raids have been carried out in their homes. Women human rights defenders and journalists are particularly at risk. Demonstrations, often led by women, have been violently dispersed. The courage of those calling for justice on the ground, at grave personal risk, cannot be overstated and it is vital that their efforts be supported by the international community.

    The failure of the Human Rights Council to address the human rights concerns of the people of Afghanistan and hold the Taliban accountable for its human rights violations was a missed opportunity. It must now take action to establish an urgent investigative mechanism to investigate all crimes under international law and human rights violations and abuses with a view to furthering accountability and justice – as called for by civil society, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, a number of Special Procedure mechanisms, and the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

    Afghanistan is rated as repressed on the CIVICUS Monitor.


    Despite some improvements over the past year, the human rights situation in Burundi has not changed in a substantial or sustainable way. All the structural issues the CoI and other human rights actors have identified since 2015 remain in place. In recent months, there has been an increase in arbitrary arrests of political opponents or those perceived as such, as well as cases of torture, enforced disappearances and targeted killings, apparently reversing initial progress after the 2020 elections. Serious violations, some of which may amount to crimes against humanity, continue. Impunity remains widespread, particularly relating to the grave crimes committed in 2015 and 2016. Even if some human rights defenders have been released, national and international human rights organisations are still unable to operate in the country.

    In the absence of structural improvements, and in view of the recent increase in human rights violations against persons perceived as government opponents, there is no basis, nor measurable progress, that would warrant a failure to renew the mandate of the CoI.

    We call on States to ensure continued scrutiny on Burundi through a resolution which continues documentation, monitoring, reporting, and debates on Burundi’s human rights situation, with a focus on justice and accountability.

    Burundi is rated as closed on the CIVICUS Monitor.


    In the English-speaking North-West and South-West regions, abuses by armed separatists and Government forces continue to claim lives and affect people’s safety, human rights, and livelihoods. The grievances that gave rise to the “Anglophone crisis” remain unaddressed. In the Far North, the armed group Boko Haram continues to commit abuses against the civilian population. Security forces have also committed serious human rights violations when responding to security threats. In the rest of the country, Cameroonian authorities have intensified their crackdown on political opposition members and supporters, demonstrators, media professionals, and independent civil society actors, including through harassment, threats, arbitrary arrests, and detentions.

    We call on States to consider raising these concerns. A joint oral statement could include benchmarks for pro­gress, which, if fulfilled, will cons­ti­tute a path for Came­roon to improve its situation. If these bench­marks remain unfulfilled, then the sta­te­ment will pave the way for more formal Council action, inclu­ding, but not limited to, a reso­lution esta­bli­shing an in­vestigative and accoun­tability mechanism.

    Cameroon is rated as repressed on the CIVICUS Monitor.


    Since the military coup of 1 February, over 800 people have been unlawfully killed, most during protests and with impunity. More than four thousand activists, protesters, journalists and politicians have been arbitrarily detained and some activists are facing trumped-up charges, including of treason. There have also been credible first-hand reports of torture or other ill-treatment of political prisoners by the military. Despite the intimidation and violence by the security forces, the anti-coup protests continue, but the military has amended laws to impose restrictions on civic space and imposed internet blackouts.

    A strong resolution adopted in the Council’s 46th Session in response to the military coup in Myanmar mandated reports of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar. We strongly encourage States to engage in the interactive debates following the updates of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rightsand the progress report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar.

    Myanmar’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is due to be adopted at this Session after being posponded from the Council’s 47th Session. CIVCIUS and other national and international organisations strongly urges the Council to postpone again the adoption of the outcomes of Myanmar’s UPR Council amid the military coup. We further call on the Member and Observer States of the Human Rights Council to reject the representative of the Myanmar military junta to the UN Offices in Geneva and recognize the National Unity Government formed on the basis of the outcomes of the November 2020 elections as the legitimate government of the people of Myanmar.

    Myanmar is rated as repressed on the CIVICUS Monitor.


    The resolution adopted during the Council’s 47th Session, which ensures Council scrutiny on the Tigray region of Ethiopia, was a vital step towards preventing further human rights violations and abuses in Tigray and furthering accountability.

    Since Prime Minister Ahmed Abiy came to power in April 2018, his initially much-lauded domestic reforms have been severely undermined by ethnic and religious conflicts that have left thousands dead. Conflict broke out in the Tigray region in November 2020 between the Ethiopian army and the leading party in the Tigray region, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Since then, an overwhelming number of reports have emerged of abuses and violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, including a surge in sexual violence and assault, massacres of civilians, and reports of ethnic cleansing. There have been widespread arrests of and attacks against journalists covering the conflict.

    We encourage States to engage in the enhanced ID on the High Commissioner’s update on the situation of human rights in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, and particularly on questions relating to ensuring accountability for crimes perpetrated.

    Ethiopia is rated as repressed in the CIVICUS Monitor.


    Since 2018, President Ortega’s administration has precipitated a socio-political and human rights crisis in Nicaragua. Human rights defenders, journalists and members of the political opposition have been subjected to acts of intimidation, arrests and detentions by security agents. In March 2021, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution in response to human rights violations which renews and strengthens scrutiny on Nicaragua. In March 2021, Nicaragua was placed on the CIVICUS Monitor Watch List, due to concerns about the country’s rapidly declining civic space.

    The situation continues to deteriorate; just months before the November elections, the authorities have increased their attacks against members of the political opposition, human rights defenders and journalists. Nicaraguan human rights defender Medardo Mairena Sequeira was detained a month ago as part of a wave of arrests targeting activists and people who expressed their desire to stand for the Presidency ahead of Presidential elections scheduled for November 2021. In addition to Medardo, those detained include labour leaders Freddy Navas Lopes, Pablo Morales and Pedro Joaquin Mena. Many of those arrested are accused of complicity in the kidnapping and killing of police officers in 2018 during large scale protests that swept through Nicaragua that year. The authorities have stated that they are investigating those arrested for inciting foreign interference and violating national sovereignty.

    The government has not adopted any electoral reforms – a key ask of the resolution adopted in March 2021. On the contrary, for several months, leaders and members of Unamos have been subjected to arbitrary arrests and detentions. The authorities have also imposed travel bans on other members of the political opposition and civil society, and froze their bank accounts.

    At a critical time for Nicaragua, we call on States to take the opportunity to call for the immediate and unconditional release of political opposition, human rights defenders and journalists who have been arbitrarily detained, as well as for Nicaragua to implement crucial electoral reforms as a matter of urgency.

    Nicaragua is rated as repressed on the CIVICUS Monitor.


    The Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) will present is second report to the Council during the 48th Session. With local elections due for November 2021, the ongoing scrutiny of the FFM is vital. Parliamentary elections held in December 2020 were neither free nor fair, and the environment for enjoyment of fundamental democratic freedoms has deteriorated still further since then.

    A raft of repressive laws and ordinances introduced this year risks restricting the work of CSOs in the country, and highlights a growing trend identified by the FFM in March: that of the targeting of individuals and non-governmental organizations engaged in humanitarian and human rights work. Such laws would have a devastating impact on organisations working to provide much needed humanitarian assistance in the country.

    Restrictions on freedom of expression continue; recent attacks against media outlets include the raid and seizure of newspaper El Nacional, and acts of arson of the offices of media outlet CNP in Sucre. 153 media outlets were affected by digital censorship in Venezuela in 2020. As people continue to take to the streets in the context of a dire socioeconomic situation, security forces continue to use excessive force against protesters. Local organisations reported that during the first four months of 2021, 23 demonstrations were repressed, and one person killed.

    Venezuela has shown some indications of engagement with regional actors; however, it continues to refuse to engage with the FFM and its ongoing processes. We urge States to engage with the dialogue of the FFM and to ensure its adequate funding, and, in line with an emphasis on accountability, to consider investigating and prosecuting those identified by the FFM to be suspected of committing crimes under international law. We further call on States to support the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC in using FFM findings to determine whether to open a formal investigation into Venezuela.

    Venezuela is rated as repressed on the CIVICUS Monitor.

     Thematic situations

    Resolution on equal participation in political and public affairs

    Equal participation in political and public affairs relies on access to information and the protection and promotion of the freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of peaceful assembly. In the last two years, these preconditions have been put under severe strain by the COVID-19 pandemic and its responses. In particular, participation has been impeded by rollbacks in democratic freedoms engendered by governmental response to the pandemic; the growing phenomenon of internet shutdowns; the impact of a growing digital divide; and elections postponed on grounds of both genuine public health concerns but also overreach of emergency powers.

    During 2020 and into 2021, the CIVICUS Monitor documented a range of restrictions on rights introduced by governments under the pretext of protecting people’s health and lives which had a significant impact on democratic rights. This includes the use of restrictive legislation to silence critical voices, including through the proposal, enactment and amendment of laws on the basis of curbing disinformation.

    According to a report published by Clement Voule, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of association and peaceful assembly, in June 2021, Internet shutdowns continue to be “a growing global phenomenon.” These measures have the ultimate aim of stifling dissent, stopping the free flow of information, and concealing grave human rights violations. More broadly, online forms of participation expedited owing to the pandemic have shown starkly the impact of unequal access to the internet - the digital divide - on equal participation. At times of crisis, it is even more critical that people have a voice, and a platform where they can hold their governments to account.

    This is particularly the case as a number of governments postponed elections as a result of the health crisis, with corresponding impact on the right to participation. From 21 February 2020 until 21 August 2021, at least 79 countries and territories across the globe decided to postpone national and subnational elections. The postponement of elections can be a legal and legitimate response to emergencies, to avoid diverting resources from more urgent life-saving work. In this context, however, there was a real risk that the pandemic was used for political purposes. This was particularly prevalent in States with a narrowed, repressed or closed civic space, and often in line with the establishment of restrictive emergency laws which similarly curtailed freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association.

    We encourage States to support a resolution which highlights and seeks to address these barriers to equal participation which have been engendered or exacerbated by COVID-19, in order to strengthen such participation.

    Peaceful Protests

    In a report presented to the Human Rights Council at its 47th Session, Special Rapporteur Clement Voule described Internet shutdowns as “a growing global phenomenon.” Authorities in Myanmar, Iran, India, Chad, Belarus and Cuba, among others, have particularly turned to shutdowns in response to, or to pre-empt protest. The number of governments imposing internet shutdowns during mass demonstrations continues to grow, and shutdowns have increased in length, scale and sophistication.

    HRC res. 44/20, adopted by the Council in 2020, mandated a panel discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests, with a particular focus on achievements and contemporary challenges, to be held during the Council’s 48th Session. It also mandated a report by the Special Rapporteur on the protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests during crisis situations.

    Crises take interrelated forms which have socio-political impacts. In response to such crises, governments across the world have increasingly imposed internet shutdowns, which have a serious impact on the rights to assembly and other civic-space related rights. Shutdowns have been used as pre-emptive tools against peaceful assemblies, and have been especially deployed to target marginalized and at-risk populations. Such shutdowns, often implemented hand in hand with other repressive tactics against protesters, facilitate abuses and gross human rights violations committed in the context of peaceful protests.

    We call on States to engage with the panel discussion on peaceful protests and raise the increasing issue of internet shutdowns.

    Resolution on cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights

    UN action is only possible with strong engagement from civil society on the ground, who not only provide information and analysis, but are on the front line of ensuring that human rights standards are respected by their own governments, and that violations are held to account. Reprisals have a significant impact on citizen participation at every level of the international human rights infrastructure and are another example of civic space being squeezed.

    At the moment, there is no political cost to States engaging in reprisals. There are a number of emerging trends in types of reprisals leveled against individuals and civil society – false narratives driven on social media and the engagement of non-state actors being just two such escalating tends.

    Until such a political cost is established, the only deterrent to States engaging in this practice remains to publicly name them. We recommend that States use the Interactive Dialogue with the Assistant Secretary General to raise specific cases of reprisals – cases of reprisals in Egypt, Bahrain, Viet Nam and China are particularly prevalent.

    CIVICUS also recommends that reprisals taking place within the UN itself are highlighted – such as that perpetrated by the delegate of Cambodia against prominent Cambodian human rights defender and monk, Venerable Luon Sovath, during a debate held in the Human Rights Council’s 45th Session.

    Current council members:

    Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, BrazilBulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, China, Côte d'Ivoire, CubaCzech Republic, Denmark, Eritrea, Fiji, FranceGabon, GermanyIndiaIndonesia, Italy, JapanLibya, MalawiMarshall Islands, Mauritania, Mexico, Namibia, Nepal, NetherlandsPakistanPhilippinesPolandRepublic of Korea, RussiaSenegal, SomaliaSudan, Togo, UkraineUnited KingdomUruguay, UzbekistanVenezuela

    Civic space ratings from the CIVICUS Monitor



  • Advocacy priorities at the 49th Session of UN Human Rights Council

    The 49th Session of the Human Rights Council will run from 28 February to 1 April 2022. For the first time since 2020, the session will be held in hybrid mode: civil society will be able to engage in certain debates in person as well as via video, while still being limited to video statements during General Debates. CIVICUS encourages States to continue to highlight the importance of civil society participation, which makes the Human Rights Council stronger, more informed and more effective.

  • Annual High-Level Panel on the 2030 Agenda, human rights and the Right to Development

    31st session of the Human Rights Council
    Delivered by Renate Bloem

    CIVICUS welcomes this timely high-level debate when we move from adoption to implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

  • Annual Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

    Delivered by Renate Bloem

    "Thank you Mr. President,

    Madame High Commissioner, 

    CIVICUS welcomes your last annual report and wishes to pay tribute to your tenure, to your and your Office’ overall success and leadership in mainstreaming human rights throughout the UN system and beyond, so exemplarily underscored by the SG’s most recent initiative and plan of action “Rights Up Front”. You combated courageously human rights violations wherever they occurred, becoming the voice of victims and a beam of hope. We laud your smiling diplomacy which so effectively withstood every attempt to undermine or control your independence. "

    Read the full statement 


  • Appeal to swiss government to make human rights the focal point of Bahrain state visit

    letter to swiss gov

    Attention MFA Didier Burkhalter


    We, the undersigned, write to you concerning Switzerland’s hosting of the King of Bahrain and his state delegation on Thursday 12 May. Bahrain continues to severely restrict the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly; torture remains systematic; use of the death penalty has increase; and the state is arbitrarily rendering activists and juveniles stateless.

  • Bahrain: NGOs call for an end to reprisals against human rights defenders as Nabeel Rajab arrested and Bahraini rights defenders banned from travel to Geneva

    As the 32nd Session of United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) opened in Geneva on 13 June, Nabeel Rajab, Bahrain's most high profile human rights defender, was arrested after dozens of police officers raided his home at around 5am and confiscated his electronic devices. The day before, Bahraini human rights defenders and victims of violations were prevented from flying to Geneva.

  • Belarus: Letter to Permanent Representatives of Member & Observer States of the Human Rights Council

    To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the UN Human Rights Council:


    The Human Rights Council will consider the possible renewal of the mandate of the OHCHR examination of the human rights situation in Belarus at its 49th session.

    We, the undersigned national, international and Belarusian organisations, urge your delegation to support the renewal of this mandate, which is critical for maintaining scrutiny on Belarus’s human rights crisis.

    The human rights situation in Belarus which necessitated Council action in 2021 is deteriorating. There are continuing cases of arbitrary detention and arrest, torture and cruel,  inhuman, or degrading treatment, and unfair and closed trials on trumped-up charges against persons perceived by the authorities as being critical of the government.

    As of 1 February 2022, well over 1000 prisoners are recognized as “political prisoners” by the Belarusian human rights organisation Viasna. However, the number of those detained for political reasons is much higher and might reach as many as 5,000. Torture and ill-treatment of those detained continue, with the objective of eliciting forced “confessions”, and punishing and silencing those carrying out human rights and civic activities. 

    In 2021, civil society came under prolonged systematic attack by the Belarusian authorities. The government liquidated at least 275 civil society organisations, including all independent human rights organisations. Authorities have initiated criminal cases against 13 human rights defenders, 12 of whom have been detained.

    Legislative amendments to the Criminal Code adopted in December 2021 re-introduced criminal liability for "acting on behalf of unregistered or liquidated organisations.” The liquidation of all independent human rights organisations by the authorities has therefore led to a de facto criminalisation of human rights work. Independent media also face systematic persecution, with journalists frequently being labelled as “extremist”, targeted under defamation charges, and blocked from publishing. At least 31 journalists and media workers remain behind bars on criminal charges and at least 22 lawyers have been disbarred by Belarusian authorities on political grounds or because of their representation of defendants in politically sensitive cases . In addition, Belarus is considering introducing criminal proceedings in absentia, with implications for those who have fled the country.

    Those who are subject to human rights violations in Belarus do not currently have any effective legal remedies or recourse to justice, and look to the United Nations Human Rights Council to ensure an accountability process for serious human rights violations.

    At the 46th session, the Human Rights Council mandated the OHCHR to conduct an examination. This was a welcome development given the widespread and systematic, human rights violations that occurred in Belarus in the context of 2020’s presidential election, and the environment of impunity and lack of accountability within which they occurred.

    Unfortunately, the OHCHR examination received only around 50 per cent of the budget for its work in 2021 against what was originally approved by the Council at HRC46. It became fully operational only in the final months of 2021. Despite these challenges, the OHCHR examination is still expected to provide a report to the Human Rights Council at the 49th session.

    Given the current dire human rights situation in Belarus, and the ongoing importance and unique nature of the OHCHR examination, we call on this Council to renew the mandate at HRC49, and ensure its work is sufficiently resourced and funded.

    Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of our highest consideration,


    • Amnesty International
    • ARTICLE 19
    • The Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House
    • CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    • Civil Rights Defenders
    • FIDH - International Federation for Human Rights
    • Human Rights House Foundation
    • Human Rights Watch
    • IFEX
    • Index on Censorship
    • International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI)
    • International Commission of Jurists 
    • World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

    Civic space in Belarus is rated as "closed" by the CIVICUS Monitor . Belarus is also on the CIVICUS Monitor Watchlist 

  • Belarus: Summary of Second Universal Periodic Review

    Following the second UPR of Belarus, CIVICUS has produced a summary of the country's current human rights situation, associated recommendations from member states, and recent civil society advocacy activities that have taken place at the UN in Geneva.

  • Call for United Nations Human Rights Council Special Session on the Human Rights Situation in the Syrian Arab Republic

    April 6, 2011

    To: All Member States of the UN Human Rights Council

    Call for United Nations Human Rights Council Special Session on the Human Rights Situation in the Syrian Arab Republic

    As Human Rights non‐governmental organizations from all regions of the world, we express our serious concerns over the deteriorating human rights situation in Syria since the country’s security forces started using live ammunition against protesters on 18 March 2011. We call on the UN Human Rights Council to pursue its mandate by responding to the grave on‐going crisis by convening a special session as soon as possible.

    Since 18 March 2011, Syrian security forces have used live ammunition to silence growing protests, almost entirely peaceful, calling for greater freedoms in the country. Scores of protesters – at least 100 ‐ have been killed, apparently by live ammunition fired by the security forces, in Dera’a, al‐Sanamayn, Latakia, Duma and elsewhere. Under international law and applicable standards, lethal force may only be used when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life. The violent crackdown over Syria should be stopped immediately.

  • Call on the UN Human Rights Council to Address the Deteriorating Human Rights Situation in Cambodia: Joint NGO Letter

    Cambodia letter signatories

    Geneva, 20 August 2015,

    Re: Addressing the deteriorating human rights situation in Cambodia and ensuring that the United Nations retains its protection role and monitoring capacity in the country 

    Your Excellency, 

    We urge your delegation to address the deteriorating human rights situation in Cambodia by supporting a resolution, at the 30th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council (14 September-2 October 2015), that highlights patterns of serious violations and calls on the Cambodian Government to put an end to such violations and to abide by its domestic and international legal obligations. The resolution should also extend the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia.

  • CIVICUS activities at the Human Rights Council to help protect human rights defenders

    During the second week of the council, on the 6th of March, we organised a joint side event with the HRHF on the “Criminalisation of Human Rights Defenders in the Russian Federation “. This followed on the heels of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Margaret Sekaggya’s report to the council and gave ample illustration to her previous report to the UNGA on the theme of “criminalisation”. It was also meant to prepare for the upcoming Universal Periodic Review on Russia in April. Read the full report here.

    This was followed by another CIVICUS event on March 13th 2013 titled “Eurasia: The silencing of Human Rights Defenders in Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan” which was also in preparation for the UPR Reviews of these three countries next month. The event had received considerable attention already. At the last minute one of our speakers from Uzbekistan was not allowed to leave the country and the other, well known exiled Uzbek activist Mutabar Tadzhibaeva, who had caused media attention after speaking out at the previous Human Rights Film Festival and afterwards trying to visit the Uzbek Ambassador’s residence of Gulnara Karimov (daughter of Uzbek President). She found herself facing an official complaint from the Uzbek authorities and she was sought after by the Geneva Police. Fortunately, we could settle the dispute in time. The report of the side event can be found here.

  • CIVICUS alliance assesses human rights progress in Moldova, Syria, Uganda, Venezuela, Zimbabwe

    20 March 2012

    The UN Human Rights Council, meeting in Geneva, Switzerland from 27 February to 23 March 2012, sees a number of countries come under the spotlight as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, in which States report on their human rights records. CIVICUS alliance members are active in monitoring countries' progress on human right, and have recently made inputs to the UPR processes on Moldova, Syria, Uganda, Venezuela and Zimbabwe, available here.

  • CIVICUS alliance examines the human right situations in Cote d’Ivoire, the DR Congo, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Qatar

    CIVICUS makes interventions for the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which scrutinizes each country's human rights record every four years. In advance of the 19th session of the UPR, CIVICUS has made five joint submissions on threats to the freedoms of expression, association and assembly in Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Nicaragua and Qatar. The submissions further highlight the need for an enabling operating environment for civil society and the need to protect human rights defenders.


    In Cote d’Ivoire, CIVICUS, the West African Human Rights Defenders Network and the Ivorian Coalition of Human Rights Defenders examine the persistent harassment, intimidation and attacks against journalists and human rights defenders by the country’s military forces and armed militia groups.

    In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, CIVICUS’ joint submission with the League for Human Rights in the Great Lakes Region gravely notes the lack of any discernible improvement in the treatment and safety of protestors, members of the media, and civil society activists since 2009.

    In Ethiopia, CIVICUS, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and the Human Rights Council analyse the continued invocation of broad and imprecise legislation, including the 2009 Charities and Societies Proclamation and the 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, to silence all forms of independent dissent.

    In Nicaragua, CIVICUS and the Nicaraguan Network for Democracy and Local Development warn about the growing use of judicial, financial and administrative channels, by the Nicaraguan authorities, to restrict freedom of expression, independence of the media and access to information.

    In Qatar, CIVICUS’ joint submission with the Gulf Center for Human Rights examines the criminalization of the creation of an independent civil society sector, severe limitations on freedom of association and to collective bargaining for unions, and strict controls domestic media outlets.


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