United Nations


  • Human Rights Council adopts resolution to ensure scrutiny on Tigray

    CIVICUS welcomes a new Human Rights Council resolution which ensures Council scrutiny on the Tigray region of Ethiopia. This resolution is 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. Ethiopia is currently on the CIVICUS Monitor's Watchlist.

    On 25 March 2021, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) announced a joint investigation into violations and abuses. The resolution adopted today ensures that the High Commissioner can update the Council on the situation of human rights in the Tigray region and on progress made in the context of the joint investigation during debates to be held in its next two sessions.


  • Human rights groups globally call for end to killing of activists in record numbers

      • Human rights activists are being violently attacked and killed in record numbers 20 years after historic UN declaration adopted to protect them.
      • More than 900 organisations sign global statement raising concern about crisis for rights campaigners and calling for greater protection of activists
      • December 9 is 20th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders
      • More than 3,500 human rights campaigners have been killed since then, mostly at the hands of governments, businesses and armed groups

    Activists in Jail Around the World -- See Map & Get Involved

    Exactly twenty years after the United Nations adopted a historic declaration to protect human rights defenders, activists are being violent attacked and killed globally in unprecedented numbers.

    This crisis for rights campaigners has prompted more than 900 organisations working on human rights to endorse a global statement raising serious concerns about the glaring gaps between the provisions in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the treatment of those on the frontlines of the fight for human rights.

    The statement comes as the world commemorates the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders on December 9.

    The Declaration is an inspirational text that upholds the rights of all human rights defenders (HRDs) to promote, protect and defend human rights, from the individual to global spheres. It affirms the responsibility and duty of states to protect defenders against violence, threats, retaliation and arbitrary actions resulting from the exercise of their fundamental rights.

    “Twenty years after the adoption of the Declaration on HRDs, HRDs across the world are exposed to excesses by state and non-state actors. There are glaring gaps in the recognition of the work of HRDs and in protecting them. A lot more needs to be done to ensure HRDs are able to do their work without fear of intimidation, threats or violence.” Said David Kode, CIVICUS’s Advocacy and Campaigns Lead.  

    The global statement is a collective call to governments, identified as the primary perpetrators of violence against HRDs, to respect the Declaration’s provisions, recognise rights activists as key players in the development of societies and create an enabling environment for them to engage in their activism without fear of intimidation, threats and violence.

    As the international community commemorates this milestone, we are reminded of the dangerous environment in which many HRDs operate. Over the past two decades, more than 3,500 rights activists have been killed for their work. Last year alone, more than 300 were murdered in some 27 countries. Despite the fact that these heinous crimes are preceded by threats, which are often reported to the authorities, in almost all cases, pleas for help and protection are routinely ignored. The high levels of impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of these acts are enhanced by the fact that culprits are often not prosecuted even when they are known to the authorities.

    HRDs continue to be subjected to judicial persecution and are charged with serious crimes such as terrorism, secession, treason, engendering state security and drug trafficking for their part in pro-democracy and human rights campaigns. Most of these charges carry hefty penalties and, in most cases, trials are flawed.

    Rights defenders are also subjected to acts of intimidation and smear campaigns and, in a time of heightened geopolitical tensions and bolstered government counter-terror programmes, are labeled “agents of foreign powers,” and “enemies of the state.” The objective is to discredit their work and force them to self-censor or leave their base communities.

    Many HRDs have been abducted and simply disappeared with no official information on their whereabouts. Others have fled to other countries to avoid state reprisals. While activists are targeted for violence and attacks by states, increasingly they also face specific and heightened risks because they challenge business interests.  

    “It is time for states to ensure that they fully commit to their international human rights obligations. Women human rights defenders, environmental, land rights and indigenous activists as well as those defending the rights of excluded communities continue to bear the brunt of attacks and restrictions by state and non-state actors.” Kode continued.

    As leaders of civil society organisations working across different nations and regions at all levels, the statements’ signatories have called on governments as primary duty bearers to guarantee that human rights defenders can carry out their work safely, without fear of intimidation or the threats of violence. The group has urged businesses to respect the rights of people to express their views and protest, in accordance with UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.


    For more information, please contact:

    David Kode

    Grant Clark


  • Human rights monitoring needed in Democratic Republic of Congo

    Letter sent to UN Member State Missions
    Re: Creating a dedicated country-wide human rights monitoring and reporting mechanism on the Democratic Republic of Congo at the UN Human Rights Council

    Your excellency,

    We, the undersigned Congolese, regional, and international organizations, write to urge your delegation to support the creation of a country-wide human rights monitoring and reporting mechanism on the Democratic Republic of Congo at the upcoming 39th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

    The ongoing human rights violations committed by Congolese security forces and armed groups throughout the country – coupled with a pattern of impunity and the potential for renewed outbreak of large-scale violence in the coming months, amidst a crackdown on human rights in the context of the uncertain electoral process – necessitate increased and dedicated human rights monitoring and public reporting to help prevent further abuses and achieve the goals of accountability.

    Congo is facing a human rights crisis, as the authorities clamp down on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly of critics who insist that President Joseph Kabila has stayed in power beyond his constitutionally mandated two-term limit by delaying elections and suppressing dissent. The elections are now scheduled to be held on 23 December 2018. Civil society and the political opposition in Congo have expressed serious concerns about the credibility, fairness, and inclusivity of the electoral process, and risks of further delays. There is a real risk of more crackdowns and potential political violence as the election deadline nears, with possible consequences throughout the volatile region.

    From August 1 to 7, Congolese security forces fired teargas and live ammunition to disperse political opposition supporters, killing at least two people – including a child – and injuring at least seven others with gunshot wounds, during the candidate registration period for presidential elections. Authorities also restricted the movement of opposition leaders, arrested dozens of opposition supporters, and prevented one presidential aspirant, Moïse Katumbi, from entering the country to file his candidacy.

    Since 2015, Congolese security forces have killed nearly 300 people during largely peaceful protests. Congolese authorities have banned meetings and demonstrations by the opposition and civil society groups. Hundreds of opposition supporters and democracy activists have been jailed. Many have been held in secret detention facilities without charge or access to family members or lawyers. Others have been tried and convicted on trumped-up charges. The government has also shut down Congolese media outlets, expelled international journalists and researchers, and periodically curtailed access to the internet and text messaging.

    The human rights crisis has been linked to political tensions and violence in Congo, which could worsen as the election approaches. Armed groups and security forces have attacked civilians in many parts of the country, including the Kasaïs, the Kivus, Ituri, and Tanganyika. Today, some 4.5 million Congolese are displaced from their homes. More than 100,000 Congolese have fled abroad since January 2018, raising the risk of increased regional instability.

    At the Human Rights Council in June, the team of international experts on the Kasai region presented their final report, expressing shock at the magnitude of the violence and the dire human rights situation that has persisted since 2016. An estimated 5,000 people, and possibly many more, have been in killed, and more than 1.4 million people displaced from their homes. No one has been held to

    account for the murders in March 2017 of UN investigators Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalán and the disappearance of the four Congolese who accompanied them, and only a few low-level suspected perpetrators have been prosecuted for the violence against Congolese in the region. In July 2018, the Council requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to dispatch a team of two international human rights experts to monitor and report on the implementation by Congolese authorities of the Kasai investigation’s recommendations.

    Since early this year, violence intensified in various parts of northeastern Congo’s Ituri province, with terrifying incidents of massacres, rapes, and decapitation. Armed groups launched deadly attacks on villages, killing scores of civilians, torching hundreds of homes, and displacing an estimated 350,000 people.

    Armed groups and security forces in the Kivu provinces also continue to attack civilians. According to the Kivu Security Tracker, assailants, including state security forces, killed more than 580 civilians and abducted at least 940 others in North and South Kivu since January 2018.

    In the southeastern province of Tanganyika, more than 200 people were killed, 250,000 others displaced, and numerous villages and displacement camps burned since intercommunal violence broke out in mid-2016. Nobody has been held to account to date, and the situation remains volatile.

    Considering the scale and complexity of the human rights challenges in Congo, and the many regions in the country requiring scrutiny, a dedicated mechanism is needed with the mandate to cover the country as a whole which can conduct the needed monitoring and reporting to the Human Rights Council and make recommendations to the government of Congo and the international community with a view to preventing further human rights violations and abuses and achieving accountability. The Council should create such a mechanism in September to complement the work of the UN joint human rights office in Congo and ensure adequate scrutiny and reporting of human rights violations and abuses in the electoral context.

    We urge your delegation to support the creation of such a mandate.

    With assurances of our highest consideration,

    Action pour la Restauration de la Paix et la Justice (ARPJ)
    Agir Ensemble pour les Droits de l’Homme (AEDH)
    Agir pour des Élections Transparentes et Apaisées (AETA)
    Amnesty International
    Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    Association Africaine de Défense des Droits de l’Homme (ASADHO)
    Association Congolaise pour l’Accès à la Justice (ACAJ)
    Association des Femmes Juristes Congolaises (AFEJUCO)
    Carrefour pour la Justice, le Développement et les Droits Humains (CJHD-RDC)
    CCFD – Terre Solidaire
    Centre d’Observation des Droits de l’Homme et d’Assistance Sociale (CODHAS)
    Centre d’Études et de Formation Populaire pour les Droits de l’Homme (CEFOP/DH)
    Cercle National de Réflexion sur la Jeunesse en RDC (CNRJ-RDC)
    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    Commission Justice et Paix Belgique
    Ecumenical Network Central Africa (OENZ)
    European Network for Central Africa (EurAc)
    Fastenopfer/Action de Carême
    Femmes et Enfants en Détresses/Uvira et Fizi (SOS FED)
    Forum réfugiés Cosi
    Franciscans International
    Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
    Groupe d’Associations de Défense des Droits de l’Homme et de la Paix (GADHOP)
    Groupe Lotus
    Human Rights Watch
    International Commission of Jurists
    International Federation for Human Rights Leagues (FIDH)
    International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI)
    Justicia Asbl
    La Voix des Sans Voix pour les Droits de l’Homme (VSV)
    Ligue des Électeurs (LE)
    Never Again Coalition
    Nouvelles Dynamiques pour le Développement Rural Intégral (NODRI)
    Œil des Victimes des Violations des Droits de l’Homme (OVVDH)
    Pax Christi International
    Protection International
    Réseau des Femmes pour les Droits des Enfants et des Femmes (REFEDEF)
    Réseau des Victimes de l’Insécurité au Congo (REVI Asbl)
    Réseau pour la Réforme du Secteur de Sécurité et Justice (RRSSJ)
    Secours Catholique – Caritas France
    The African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
    The Enough Project
    Tournons la Page
    World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)


  • Human Rights Situations of Concern: Ethiopia


    While acknowledging the integral role that this Council plays in holding governments to account for wilfully persecuting individuals and groups who speak truth to power, we would like to use this opportunity to celebrate the recent civil and political liberation ushered in by sustained protest movements in Ethiopia,  while further encouraging the government of Ethiopia to ensure that this transformation is sustainable rather than fleeting, systemic rather than cosmetic. 

    For nearly a decade CIVICUS and its partners have stood before the Council urging it to address the devastatingly restrictive environment for civic space in Ethiopia. We warmly appreciate the determination of several governments including Ireland, Canada, Germany and Norway as well as a number of Special Procedure mandate holders who continued to voice their concerns about the unrelenting attacks on civic freedoms in Ethiopia. 

    Today, in large part due to the uncompromising and audacious resoluteness of protesters and human rights defenders, Ethiopia is on the precipice of emerging as country ruled by pluralism rather than authoritarianism. 

    However, this transformation will remain incomplete if the Government of Ethiopia does not take all necessary steps to ensure inclusive participation in policy making, ensure a free and safe environment in advance of upcoming elections, address long standing grievances especially pertaining to access to land, and hold to account all state officials responsible for grave right violations. 

    We urge all stakeholders, including state, civil society and UN agencies to endow this evolving transformation with the requisite support and resources.

    Civicspace is rated as Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor


  • India: Crackdown continues in Jammu & Kashmir

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

    Our organizations express grave concern over the human rights situation in Jammu & Kashmir, where the authorities imposed severe restrictions after a decision to revoke constitutional autonomy on 5 August 2019, including one of the world’s longest internet shutdowns, which the Indian Supreme Court has said violates the right to freedom of expression.

    Hundreds were arbitrarily arrested, and there are some serious allegations of beatings and abusive treatment in custody, including alleged cases of torture. Three former chief ministers, other leading politicians, as well as separatist leaders and their alleged supporters, remain in detention under the Public Safety Act (PSA) and other abusive laws, many without charge and in undisclosed locations outside of Jammu & Kashmir.  This violates fair trial safeguards of the criminal justice system and undermines accountability, transparency, and respect for human rights. Journalists and human rights defenders have been threatened for criticizing the clampdown. These violations, as those committed over the past decades, are met with chronic impunity. 

    We urge the government of India to ensure independent observers including all human rights defenders and foreign journalists are allowed proper access to carry out their work freely and without fear, release everyone detained without charge, and remove restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of movement, including where they have been denied the right to leave the country by being placed on the ‘Exit Control List’.

    We also call on the governments of India and Pakistan to grant unconditional access to OHCHR and other human rights mechanisms to Kashmir.

    We further urge the Council to establish an independent international investigation mechanism into past and ongoing crimes under international law and human rights violations by all parties in Kashmir, as recommended by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

    Amnesty International
    Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    Human Rights Watch
    International Commission of Jurists
    International Federation for Human Rights Leagues (FIDH)
    International Service for Human Rights
    World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

    This statement is also supported by the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) and the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS)

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


  • India: The UN must condemn crimes against peaceful protesters

    Joint statement at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council by Amnesty International India, CIVCUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, FORUM-ASIA and FIDH

    As the UN Human Rights Council meets in Geneva to discuss human rights developments globally, we urge states to speak up against serious human rights violations being committed in India against peaceful protesters and other civilians.

    Both international human rights law and the Constitution of India guarantee the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, the right to freedom of expression, and the right to freedom of association.

    Regrettably, those who have exercised their right to peaceful assembly against the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) since December 2019 have been arrested and intimidated under various repressive laws. Political leaders have demonised the protesters. At least 50 people have been killed in the protests, including an eight-year-old child, and thousands of people have been arrested and detained. 

    On 12 December 2019, the CAA was passed by the Indian Parliament and assented by the President of India. The CAA provides a path to Indian citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis, Christians, Buddhists, and Jains from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, excluding Muslims, thus legitimising discrimination based on religious grounds. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the European Parliament, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), and various US senators have raised serious concerns about the CAA. 

    The amendments to the Citizenship Act also weaponize the NRC, the National Population Register, and the Foreigners Tribunals to push minorities – particularly Muslims — towards detention and statelessness. As of now, over 1.9 million people are excluded from the NRC, a registration exercise that took place in Assam State over a period of five years. 

    Use of Repressive Laws

    Protesters have faced arbitrary arrests and detention under repressive laws, such as sedition provisions in the Penal Code and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). In January 2020, sedition charges were lodged against 3,000 people for protesting against the CAA in Jharkhand State. Cases of sedition have also been filed against a schoolteacher and mother of a student for “insulting” the Prime Minister through a school play; carrying a ‘Free Kashmir’ placard during a protest; and shouting “Pakistan Zindabad” [Long Live Pakistan]. 

    Indian courts have ruled that any form of expression must involve incitement to imminent violence for it to amount to sedition. But the sedition charges have been repeatedly used to arrest journalists, activists and human rights defenders simply for expressing their views. 

    Similarly, the UAPA is India’s primary counter-terrorism law and has been condemned by various human rights groups as being repressive and against the international human rights norms. In the past, the UAPA was abused by successive governments to target human rights defenders working with poor and marginalized communities and those who criticise government inactions or excesses. The abuse of the UAPA has continued under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration On 12 December 2019, Akhil Gogoi, an activist and leader of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), a peasant rights organisation based in Assam State, was arrested by the Assam police under various sections of the UAPA. 

    Excessive Use of Force by Authorities 

    Police across India have used excessive force to target peaceful protesters. In December 2019 in Varanasi, the constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the police indiscriminately used firearms and less lethal arms to disperse peaceful protesters. This led to the death of an eight-year old child who was crushed to death on 20 December 2019, and resulted in over a dozen injuries.

    The police also attacked student protesters in Jamia Millia Islamia University and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi in December 2019 and January 2020, respectively. Students were also attacked in Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) while they were protesting against the CAA in December 2019. Doctors at AMU stated that on 16 December 2019, police blocked ambulances from entering the university to treat the injured students. 

    On 24 February 2020, the Allahabad High Court criticised the role of the Uttar Pradesh Police and said, “The police force should be sensitised and special training modules prepared to inculcate professionalism in the personnel while handling such situations”. The court ordered the Uttar Pradesh government to pay compensation to students who were injured during the protests due to police brutality. 

    However, to date, no reports have been filed against police officers for using excessive force against protesters. 

    Hateful Rhetoric and Vigilante Violence

    While there has been a heavy-handed approach by the police towards the protestors, some political leaders have been inciting hatred and violence against the protesters. 

    Terms like “anti-nationals” and “traitors” have been used to encourage violence against the protesters. The 24/7 sit-in protest site, Shaheen Bagh in Delhi, which has become the epicentre of the anti-CAA protests in the country, has been routinely targeted. The peaceful protests in Delhi has been led primarily by Muslim women and students. 

    In response, some union ministers and chief ministers have engaged in violent rhetoric with statements such as “shoot the traitors”, “press the button with such anger that the current is felt at Shaheen Bagh”, “the protesters would enter citizens’ homes and rape your sisters and daughters and kill them”, “revenge will be taken” in  attempts to divide and fear-monger. In another incident on 23 February 2020, Kapil Mishra,  a leader from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, warned the police of dire consequences if the protesters did not vacate another protest site in Jaffrabad in north-east Delhi, where over 500 women had gathered to protest against the CAA. Shortly after his speech, clashes broke out in the area, which led to the deaths of at least 42 people, including a police constable, and injuring over 250 others. 

    This rhetoric has emboldened non-state actors to assault civilians. However, not a single political leader has been prosecuted for making hate speeches against the protesters. On 26 February, the Delhi High Court ordered the Delhi Police to register a police report against a number of political leaders immediately. 

    Restriction on Freedom of Movement and Right to Freedom of Assembly

    The space for protesting against the CAA and NRC has also been shrinking across India. Orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code were imposed in many parts of Karnataka State and Uttar Pradesh State to restrict gatherings of people at protest sites and to restrict their freedom of movement. 

    In Uttar Pradesh State, the police issued notices to over 3,000 people, cautioning them to neither participate nor incite others to participate in the protests. Such bans on protests have also been imposed in other parts of the country including Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Bhubaneswar, Nagpur, and Bhopal. In in December 2019, the space for peaceful protests in Varanasi was severely restricted with police officers openly threatening the protesters. 

    In addition to the criminalisation of peaceful assemblies, the freedom of assembly has also been restricted by burdening civilians with recovering the cost of damages to public property. In December 2019, after the violence broke out in Uttar Pradesh, the state government sent notices seeking to recover INR 45 millions’ (USD 628,403) worth of damage to public property. These notices were sent without any form of judicial scrutiny, raising concerns of arbitrariness and bias. Furthermore, to require assembly organisers to shoulder costs for cleaning up after a public assembly is inconsistent with Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Such costs deter those wishing to enjoy their right to freedom of assembly.

    Internet Shutdowns

    As people took to the streets to protest against the CAA, the Indian authorities imposed internet shutdowns across the country to “maintain law and order.” Besides shutting down internet services in 29 districts of Uttar Pradesh State and the entire Assam State, the authorities also cut internet services in districts in the states of West Bengal, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, and Manipur. India has become the country with the highest number of internet shutdowns in the world.

    These shutdowns did not meet requirements for permissible restrictions on the right freedom of expression, as set out under international human rights law. It is unclear under what criteria decisions were made to cut off internet access or what mechanisms were available to challenge such decisions, in violation of the requirement of legality. There is no evidence to show that internet shutdowns prevent the escalation of violence during protests, which makes them in violation of the requirement of necessity. 

    The UN Human Rights Council has unequivocally condemned “measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online in violation of international human rights law”, and has called on all states to “refrain from and cease such measures”. 

    Use of Mass Surveillance 

    Police in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh State have also used facial recognition technology to monitor, identify, and arrest protesters. Currently, India does not have data protection legislation, resulting in a lack of oversight and regulation of this technology. The absence of a legal framework that specifically regulates facial recognition technology renders the use of such tool susceptible to abuse.  Moreover, the use of facial recognition technology for law enforcement purposes raises concerns of indiscriminate mass surveillance, which is never a permissible interference with the rights to privacy, freedom of expression, freedom of association and peaceful assembly.

    In light of this, we urge the international community, and in particularly UN Human Rights Council member states, to hold the Indian government accountable by calling on the Indian authorities to:

    1. Immediately denounce the state-sponsored and vigilante violence against peaceful protesters.
    2. Drop all charges against peaceful protesters.
    3. Ensure those detained and arrested are treated in line with international human rights law and standards. 
    4. Take necessary measures to establish a fully independent investigation into reports of excessive use of force by law enforcement agencies towards protestors and vigilante violence. The findings should be made public and the perpetrators of such acts should be prosecuted without undue delay.
    5. Ensure that elected political leaders and public officials who have incited violence and promoted hatred between communities are held accountable

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


  • International community must end “double standards” and act in Syria

    Johannesburg. 25 May 2011. The United Nations Security Council decision to act resolutely in Libya and failure to issue resolution on Syria smacks of double standards, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation said today. The international community and particularly the Arab League should make clear to the Syrian government that it has lost its legitimacy as a member of the international community.

    Since anti-government protests started two months ago, about 1100 people have been killed by Syrian security forces. At least 60 people were killed within the space of two days on Friday May 20 and Saturday May 21 alone.  Reports indicate that thousands of civilians and prisoners of conscience have been detained.


  • Iran: Freedom of assembly is being violently curtailed

    Statement at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Watch us deliver our statement below:


    Volunteer Activists and CIVICUS note with concern the continued closure of civic space through restrictive laws, arbitrary detention and a crackdown on civil society. 

    The violent response to nation-wide protests in November 2019 resulted in 1,500 killed by police and over 7,000 imprisoned, many of whom have been subjected to torture. We reiterate the Special Rapporteur’s call for prompt, independent and impartial investigations into the violence in order to hold those responsible to account.

    This is a further deterioration of closed civic space in which freedom of assembly is severely and violently curtailed, and scores of human rights activists remain detained – including Nasrin Sotoudeh, Nargess Mohammadi, and Farhad Meysami.

    Despite being a signatory to the ICCPR, Iran continues to restrict civic space through ambiguous and overbroad legislation. Article 26 of the Constitution guarantees the right to the freedom of association, but qualified through compliance with “independence, freedom, national unity, Islamic Standards and the foundations of the Islamic Republic.” The Government of Iran continues to repress civic space through legal and extra-legal platforms, including through arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings.

    In line with recommendations in the Special Rapporteur’s report, we urge the Government of Iran to immediately and unconditionally release all protestors and human rights defenders detained for their work. We urge the government to reform its legal framework to facilitate a more open environment for civil society and put an immediate end to all extra-legal processes that curtail civic space.

    We further call on the Council to renew this critical mandate and we ask the Special Rapporteur whether he could expand further on what more could be done to protect human rights defenders in Iran?

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


  • Iran: the UN must establish a fact-finding mission to ensure accountability and stop gross human rights violations.

    UN Human Rights Council – 35th Special Session on Iran 

    Delivered by Nicola Paccamiccio

    Thank you, Mr. President.

    I deliver this statement on behalf of the OMCT, Volunteer Activists and CIVICUS. 

    Iran’s brutal crackdown against peaceful protesters continues unabated. Since 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in the custody of the “morality” police in September 2022 for allegedly violating the discriminatory and abusive compulsory veiling laws, more than 14000 protesters, journalists, students including school children and human rights defenders have been arrested. Family members of human rights defenders are being threatened and their houses raided. 

    Human rights groups report that at least 416 people including 51 children and 27 women have been killed by security forces as they use live ammunition and metal pellets to violently disperse protesters and target bystanders. As the protests continue, the Iranian authorities have deployed special forces and Islamic Revolutionary Guard corps units, armed with military assault rifles and armored vehicles. Since 15 November, Iran has increasingly been using excessive force in areas predominantly populated by Kurds and other ethnic groups. 

    Those detained are kept in overcrowded spaces. Many are tortured, subjected to physical assaults, electric shocks, threats, and sexual harassment. Many of those arrested have been subjected to judicial persecution and forced to make confessions. As of 21 November 2022, death sentences were handed to at least 6 protesters on charges of corruption on earth and enmity against God. The authorities are currently seeking the death penalty for at least 21 others associated with the protests. 

    In addition, the authorities continue to arrest lawyers representing protesters and activists. For example, in late September, human rights lawyers Milad Panahipour and Saeed Jalilian were arrested at Evin Court and detained for representing activist Hossein Ronaghi.  

    We call on the Council to create a fact-finding mission to investigate the deadly crackdown on protests as a first step towards accountability.  

    We thank you.

    Civic space in the Iran is rated as 'Closed' by the CIVICUS Monitor


  • Is the USA fit to rejoin the UN Human Rights Council?

    A month into Joe Biden’s presidency, the U.S. has rejoined nearly all the multilateral institutions and international commitments that it withdrew from under Trump. These include the World Health Organization and the Paris Climate Accords. Most recently, on February 8th, the U.S. announced it would also rejoin the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) as an observer. The U.S.’ role in the human rights forum looks different than it did four years ago in light of its recent track record on civil liberties.

    Read on Inter Press News Service


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

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

    Mr. President, this is a joint statement by the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO), the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) and CIVICUS. Israeli authorities continue to commit systematic and gross human rights violations against Palestinians. They have failed to implement human rights obligations as a state party to ICCPR and ICESCR and continue to disregard recommendations from UN Special Rapporteurs that call for an immediate end to the occupation.

    In our joint UPR report, we documented undue restrictions on the right to freedom of assembly and recommended that Israeli authorities stop using excessive and lethal force during protests. Recently in the Gaza Strip, Israeli occupation forces used snipers, plastic coated steel bullets, explosive bullets and gas grenades fired from drones in a calculated attempt to kill, maim and inflict serious bodily harm on Palestinians. Since March 20th, 2018, Israeli forces have killed 127 Palestinians and injured an estimated 14,000. Earlier this month, Razan al-Najar, a 21-year old nurse wearing a medical vest was killed by Israeli sniper fire while tending to injured protesters.

    Systematic violations also include the detention of Palestinian human rights defenders. Legislation enacted in 2016 granted Israeli authorities the power to indefinitely detain individuals without trial. These provisions are routinely used to detain human rights defenders. In May 2017, there were over 6,000 political prisoners with 490 imprisoned without trial. 

    We also express concern over Israel’s muzzling of social media. New legislation enacted in 2017 grants Israeli authorities power to arbitrarily block web content and arrest individuals for social media posts. 

    Mr.  President, PNGO, ANND and CIVICUS urge Council members to call on the Israeli government to respect its obligations under international law, by ending the occupation and recognising Palestinian self-determination. 


  • It’s time the UN reviewed development goals

    The countdown to the post-Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agenda is a time for debate about how the development community and countries around the world should collaborate on improving wellbeing, sustainability and social justice from 2015.

    Look beyond the proposals and the wrangling over priorities, imagine a new development framework in place and fast-forward two decades: how many questions will we be able to answer about what has and hasn’t worked?

    The value of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) is clear when we reflect on progress made in the past decade or so: with the benefit of hindsight, answering questions about the MDGs’ impact has been far from straightforward.

    Read more at Business Daily


  • Joint Call for a Global Arms Embargo on Myanmar

    Over 130 Organisations write an open letter to the UN Security Council and individual UN Member States to urgently institute a coordinated global arms embargo on Myanmar in response to the military coup.

    We, the undersigned organizations, call on the United Nations Security Council and UN member states to urgently institute a coordinated, global arms embargo on Myanmar in response to the February 1, 2021 military coup that has deprived the people of Myanmar of the right to democratically elect their government. Our concerns are heightened by ongoing violations of human rights and the security forces’ history of grave abuses against peaceful critics of military rule, as well as against the Rohingya and other ethnic minority groups.

    Under the commander-in-chief, Sr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the Myanmar military has detained the elected civilian leaders of the country, nullified the results of the November 2020 democratic elections, and installed a junta, the State Administration Council, under a manufactured “state of emergency.” Since February 1, the junta has increasingly used excessive and at times lethal force at demonstrations; threatened and arbitrarily detained activists, journalists, students, and civil servants; and imposed rolling internet shutdowns that put lives at risk.

    Days after the coup, UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated, “We will do everything we can to mobilize all the key actors and international community to put enough pressure on Myanmar to make sure that this coup fails.” The UN special rapporteur on Myanmar has called for targeted UN sanctions on the military and an arms embargo, while the deputy high commissioner for human rights has voiced support for targeted UN sanctions on the coup leaders.

    In that spirit, we urge the Security Council to immediately impose a comprehensive arms embargo on Myanmar. Such a resolution should bar the direct and indirect supply, sale, or transfer of all weapons, munitions, and other military-related equipment, including dual-use goods such as vehicles and communications and surveillance equipment, as well as the provision of training, intelligence, and other military assistance. The embargo should be accompanied by robust monitoring and enforcement mechanisms.

    Any sale or transfer of military-related equipment to Myanmar could provide the means to further repress the people of Myanmar in violation of international humanitarian and human rights law.

    Until the Council acts, individual UN member states should adopt measures at the national and regional levels to block sales and other transfers of weapons and materiel to Myanmar, with the goal of extending an arms embargo to as close to a global scale as possible. 

    For decades, the Security Council’s response to crimes by the Myanmar security forces has been inadequate, emboldening the military to continue committing abuses without fear of serious consequences. The current crisis demands a change in course.

    On February 4, the Security Council spoke with a single voice to demand the release of all those arbitrarily detained and the protection of the country’s democratic institutions. Council members should use that newfound consensus to take swift and substantive action. An arms embargo would be the centerpiece of a global effort to shield the people of Myanmar from a return to abusive and autocratic rule.

    The time to act is now.


    Access Now
    Advocacy Forum-Nepal
    All Arakan Students’ and Youths’ Congress
    Arakan Information Center 
    Arakan Rivers Network
    Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights
    ARTICLE 19
    ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights
    Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs
    Asia Democracy Network
    Asia Justice and Rights (AJAR)
    Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    Asian Human Rights Commission
    Asian Migrant Centre
    Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL)
    Asian Resource Foundation
    Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters
    Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation (AWAM)
    Australian Centre for International Justice
    Australian Lawyers for Human Rights
    BALAOD Mindanaw
    Bir Duino Kyrgyzstan
    Brotherhood For Democracy (BFD)
    Burma Campaign UK
    Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN)
    Burmese Rohingya Association in Japan
    Burmese Rohingya Community in Australia
    Bytes For All
    Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR)
    Cambodian Food And Service Workers Federation (CFSWF)
    Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC)
    Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)
    Canadian Rohingya Development Initiative
    Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (CENTRAL)
    Center for Peace Education, Miriam College
    Center for Social Integrity
    Centre for Human Rights and Development
    Centre for Peace and Justice, Brac University
    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    Climate Change Working Group-Myanmar
    Colorful Girls
    Community Resource Centre Foundation (CRC)
    Cross Cultural Foundation 
    Dawei Pro Bono Lawyer Network 
    Democracy, Peace and Women Organization
    DHEWA (Development for Health, Education, Work, and Awareness) Welfare Society
    Equality Myanmar
    Equitable Cambodia
    European Rohingya Council
    Federal Association of Vietnamese Refugees in the Federal Republic of Germany
    Fortify Rights
    Free Rohingya Coalition
    Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
    Global Justice Center
    Global Witness
    Htoi Gender and Development Foundation
    Human Rights First
    Human Rights Foundation of Monland 
    Human Rights Law Centre
    Human Rights Office-Sri Lanka
    Human Rights Watch
    Human Rights Without Frontiers
    Info Birmanie
    Innovation for Change Network 
    Institute for Asian Democracy
    Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion
    International Campaign for the Rohingya
    International Movement of Catholic Students (IMCS), Asia Pacific
    International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID)
    International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT)
    Jewish Alliance of Concern Over Burma
    Jubilee Australia
    Justice for All/Burma Task Force
    Justice for Myanmar
    Kachin State Women’s Network
    Karapatan Alliance Philippines
    Karen Human Rights Group
    KontraS Aceh
    Loka Ahlinn Social Development Organization 
    Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN)
    MAP Foundation
    Medical Association for Prevention of War (Australia)
    Mekong Migration Network
    Mennonite Central Committee
    Mother Nature Cambodia
    Myanmar Human Rights Alliances Network (MHRAN)
    National Campaign for Sustainable Development Nepal
    Never Again Coalition
    New School for Democracy
    No Business With Genocide
    Nonviolence International
    Olof Palme International Center
    OutRight Action International
    Pax Christi Aotearoa New Zealand
    Pax Christi Australia
    Pax Christi International
    Pax Christi Korea
    Pax Christi Philippines
    People’s Empowerment Foundation
    People’s Watch
    Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)
    Progressive Voice
    Prosecute; don’t perpetrate
    Public Association “Dignity”
    Pusat KOMAS
    Refugees International
    Restless Beings
    Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
    Rohingya Association of Canada
    Rohingya Human Rights Initiative
    Rohingya Today
    Rohingya Women Education Initiative
    Rohingya Youth for Legal Action 
    Smile Foundation
    Swedish Burma Committee
    Taiwan Association for Human Rights
    Taiwan Forever Association (台灣永社)
    Tampadipa Institute
    The Arakan Project
    The May 18 Memorial Foundation
    The PLAN: Public Legal Aid Network
    The Swedish Rohingya Association 
    Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania
    US Campaign for Burma
    Viet Tan
    Vietnamese Women for Human Rights
    Voice of Rohingya 
    Win Without War
    World Federalist Movement/Institute for Global Policy
    World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
    YMCA Mandalay
    Youth Resource Development Program (YRDP)

    Civic space in Myanmar is rated "Repressed" by the CIVCICUS Monitor



  • Joint Letter to Human Rights Council: Upholding international law in South Sudan

    To Permanent Representatives of member and observer States of the United Nations Human Rights Council

    RE: Renewing the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan and addressing the need for accountability for past and on-going crimes under international law and human rights violations in South Sudan


  • Joint Letter to Secretary-General António Guterres on his visit to Vietnam

    Mr. António Guterres


    United Nations

    UN Headquarters, S-3800

    New York, NY 10017

    Re: October visit to Vietnam

    Dear Secretary-General,

    We are writing ahead of your visit to Vietnam later this week. You have emphasized the importance of combatting climate change, but this cannot be achieved without the role of environmental rights defenders. During your trip, we urge you to publicly call on the Vietnamese government to release the four environmental human rights defenders who were sentenced on trumped-up charges of “tax evasion” earlier this year. These political prisoners are emblematic victims of a new wave of repression in Vietnam which, through a combination of threats and judicial harassment, is threatening progress in combatting climate change, protecting human rights and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

    The persecution of environmental defenders is only the tip of Vietnam’s broader crackdown on dissent. Organizations that monitor the situation have documented how Vietnam is currently holding hundreds of political prisoners. UN Human Rights Mechanisms have noted that once arrested, most of these people are prosecuted for vaguely worded national security crimes, subjected to prolonged periods of incommunicado detention, and denied access to legal counsel and family visitation, often while being subjected to willful neglect or mistreatment. These are people who have been persecuted for exercising their civil and political rights. These are people who should not be prosecuted, and should not be in prison.

    The United Nations should urgently press the Vietnamese government to end its policies and practices that are subverting rather than supporting human rights, and emphasize that there can be no progress on climate change and development without an active civil society that can freely exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly. We call on you to remind Vietnam that, as a newly elected member of the UN Human Rights Council, it has an obligation to uphold the highest human rights standards. Specifically, we urge you to:

    • Publicly urge Vietnam to protect, promote and fulfill human rights obligations enshrined in the international human rights treaties signed and ratified by the government.
    • Publicly urge Vietnam to cease criminalizing policy advocacy and the operation of advocacy coalitions by civil society. Specifically, Vietnam should implement the recommendations provided by the UN Human Rights Council’s independent experts in response to what they describe as Vietnam’s “undue restrictions on civil society…in violation of…international human rights law.”
    • Publicly urge Vietnam to immediately and unconditionally release the four environmental defenders Nguy Thi Khanh, Mai Phan Loi, Bach Hung Duong, and Dang Dinh Bach.
    • Publicly urge Vietnam to commit to stop arbitrarily arresting and detaining any additional environmental defenders, and all other human rights defenders, including journalists.
    • Publicly urge Vietnam to fundamentally amend Decree 58/2022/ND-CP on international civil society groups working in Vietnam to ensure that those regulations fully comply with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Vietnam is a state party.
    • Publicly urge Vietnam to clarify if, and in what circumstances, non-governmental development organisations are required to pay corporate tax. Specifically, the Vietnamese government should address ambiguity in and inconsistencies between the 2013 Science and Technology Law and the 2019 Law on Tax Administration in relation to the tax obligations of science and technology organisations.[1] These regulations represent a contradictory policy framework that is open to politically motivated attacks on civil society organisations.

    Finally, we believe that the UN system in Vietnam has an important role to play in this process. We urge you to call on the UN Resident Coordinator and UN agencies to publicly and pro-actively demand serious improvements to the government’s atrocious human rights record and to start holding it to account. The best way that the UN can do this is by making itself more accountable to Vietnamese civil society.


    1. Access Now
    2. Amnesty International
    3. Asia Democracy Network (ADN)
    4. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    5. ARTICLE 19
    6. CIVICUS
    7. Defend the Defenders
    8. FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights
    9. Frontline Defenders
    10. Human Rights Watch
    11. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    12. Legal Initiative for Vietnam
    13. The 88 Project
    14. Safeguard Defenders
    15. Quê Me: Vietnam Committee on Human Rights

    [1] For example, Article 143.2 (“Tax evasion”) of the 2019 Law on Tax Administration stipulates: “Failure to record the revenues relevant to calculation of tax payable in the accounting books.” Similarly, Article 200.1.b (“Tax evasion”) of the 2015 Criminal Code stipulates: “Failure to record revenues related to the determination of tax payable in accounting books.” However, Article 4.7 of the 2008 Law on Corporate Income Tax, describes “Tax-exempt incomes” as “received financial supports used for educational, scientific research, cultural, artistic, charitable, humanitarian and other social activities in Vietnam.” Similarly, Decree 218 (218/2013/NĐ-CP), providing guidance on implementation of Law on Corporate Income Tax, stipulates that only organisations that improperly use financial aid are subject to corporate income tax.

      Civic space in Vietnam is rated as "closed" by the CIVICUS Monitor


  • Joint Letter to UN Human Rights Council: More attention needed on human rights violations in China

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

    RE: Sustaining attention to human rights violations in China


    After another year marked by enforced disappearances, denial of due process, and continued efforts to suppress human rights, we call on your delegation to join with other States to take collective, coordinated action at the 34th session of the UN Human Rights Council to hold China accountable for its human rights record.

    One year ago today, the High Commissioner released a statement  calling on China to address a wide range of human rights violations. The concerns he raised were echoed by many States at the March 2016 Human Rights Council, including through a strong cross-regional statement delivered on behalf of twelve States.  These States reiterated the High Commissioner’s call for China to uphold its own laws and international commitments, and urged China to release lawyers and other human rights defenders detained for their human rights work.


  • Joint letter to UN Member States: Ensure meaningful virtual participation in 2020 review of the SDGs

    Joint letter to United Nations Member States: Ensure meaningful civil society participation in the 2020 virtual High Level Political Forum

    Civil society participation in the United Nations cannot be lost as the world fights COVID-19. This July, 48 Member States are reviewing national progress towards the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

    Dear Excellencies, 

    We, the undersigned 460 civil society organisations (CSOs) from 115 countries, write to seek your support in ensuring the effective participation of civil society during the upcoming UN High Level Political Forum (HLPF) scheduled for 7-16 July 2020. As the preeminent multistakeholder body responsible for the review and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), HLPF processes derive strength from the engagement of diverse actors including a broad range of civil society organisations (CSOs) working at various levels. As the HLPF transitions to virtual communication and convening for its July 2020 session due to the global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential that all relevant actors, including States and UN agencies, support and devise clear modalities to enable robust virtual civil society participation.

    In response to disruptions caused by COVID-19, a number of Inter-governmental bodies have taken concerted efforts to facilitate extensive virtual participation in official meetings. Inclusive virtual modalities are crucial to supporting international cooperation in the spirit of multilateralism. An enabling environment for all stakeholders to participate that takes into account digital divides is thus crucial. 

    In his “We are all in this Together” statement of 23 April 2020, UN Secretary General António Guterres underlined the importance of promoting and protecting civic space in response to COVID-19. With respect to the SDGs, Secretary General Guterres unequivocally stated that, “Looking ahead, we need to build back better.  The Sustainable Development Goals — which are underpinned by human rights — provide the framework for more inclusive and sustainable economies and societies”. Civil society is key to implementing the SDGs and we must take united action to ensure that the virtual HLPF reflects the broad spectrum of stakeholders who are committed to creating The World We Want. 

    To this end, we urge all states and UN agencies to support the following measures: 

    • Provide an opportunity for at least three Major Group and Other stakeholders to respond to each Voluntary National Review (VNR), one of which should be from civil society.
    • Representatives from national civil society groups voices should be prioritized for inclusion during the HLPF, with adequate representation from regional and international civil society organisations.
    • Written questions should also be presented and answered within a month of the HLPF for those who are unable to ask their question within the given time of the VNR session.
    • All civil society shadow VNR reports should be published on the UN’s official HLPF website. 
    • Ensure side events are inclusive of stakeholder participation, including a wide range of civil society led side online events to be shared in the official programme.
    • Identify more participatory approaches to engage with stakeholders on an ongoing basis, including best practice on use of online meeting technology to provide inputs, to ensure a more inclusive process before, during and after the main HLPF sessions

    We thank you in advance for your consideration.


    A Toda Voz AC 
    Aakash Welfare Society Hyderabad 
    Access Now 
    Acción Solidaria 
    ACCIONA Transformando Caminospara SER y HACER A.C.
    Accountability Lab
    Achtung labs private limited 
    ACT Alliance
    ActionAid Denmark
    ActionAid International
    Action for Sustainable Develpment
    ADAB (Association of Development Agencies in Bangladesh)
    ADD International
    Adivasi Women's Network
    Adivasi-Koordination, Germany
    Advocacy, Research, Training and Services (ARTS) Foundation 
    Afghan NGOs Coordination Bureau (ANCB)
    Ageing Nepal
    Agenda Cero A.C. 
    Aid Organization
    AIDS-Fondet - The Danish AIDS 
    AidWatch Canada
    Al Dua welfare organization
    Al Falah Organization Islampur Swat
    Alberta Council for Global 
    Alfalah Tanzeem Swat
    Alimentos de México a Compartir, A. C.
    Alkhidmat Foundation GB
    Allai Developement Organization
    American Civil Liberties Union 
    Amnesty International
    Amnistia Inernacional, Portugal
    Animis Philanthropic Ventures Inc.
    Arab Youth Platform for Sustainable Development - League of Arab States
    ARCADIA - Romanian Association for International Cooperation and 
    Argentine Network for International Cooperation - RACI
    ARTICLE 19
    Asia Dalit Rights Forum
    Asia Development Alliance
    Asia-Pacific Human Rights Information Center
    Asian Solidarity Economy Council (ASEC)
    Asociación de Organismos No Gubernamentales (ASONOG)
    Asociación Mexicana de Amigos Metabólicos, A.C. A.C.
    Asociación Nacional de Síndrome de Williams AC
    Association femmes leadership et développement durable 
    Association for Farmers Rights Defense, AFRD
    Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia
    Association For Promotion Sustainable Development
    Association Nationale des Partenaires Migrants
    Associations 21
    Augustinians International (Curia Generalizia Agostiniana)
    Avoid Accident
    Awaz Foundation Pakistan
    Azat Foundation
    Bai Indigenous Womens Network in the Philippines
    Bangladesh Indigenous Women's Network
    Bangladesh Nari Progati Shangha (BNPS)
    Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio & Communication
    Born Free Foundation
    Bright Star Development Society Balochistan (BSDSB)
    British Columbia Council For International Cooperation
    Bulgarian Platform for International Development (BPID)
    Burundi Child Rights Coalition (BCRC)
    CAFSO-WRAG for Development
    Canadian Council for International Co-operation 
    Cancer Aid Society
    Caribbean Coalition for Development and the Reduction of Armed Violence (CDRAV)
    Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE-NGO) 
    Center for Civil Liberties
    Center for Environmental Concerns - Philippines
    Center for National and International Studies
    Centre for Environmental Justice
    Centre for Human Rights and Development 
    Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur
    Centre for Social Equity and Inclusion (CSEI)
    Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights
    Centro de Arte y Cultura Popular Tonalteca A.C.
    Centro de Justicia y Paz - Cepaz
    Centros de cuidado, Atencion y educación integral coralitos AC
    ChildHelp Sierra Leone
    Christian Blind Mission
    Church of Sweden
    Church Women United Washington DC Unit
    Civic Initiatives
    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    Civil Society Coalition on Sustainable Development
    Civil Society SDGs Campaign/GCAP Zambia
    CIVILIS Derechos Humanos
    COAST Trust
    Colectivo Ollin, Alternativas para la Comunicaciòn, la Sexualidad y el Desarrollo Comunitario AC
    Colectivo pro Inclusión e Igualdad Jalisco, A. C.
    Colores del Rincón A.C. - MY World México 
    Commons Cluster of the UN NGO Major Group
    Commons for EcoJustice
    Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
    Commonwealth Medical Trust
    Community Advancement through Research & Development CARD 
    Community Initiatives for development in Pakistan
    Comunidad de Organizaciones Solidarias
    Concord Italia
    CONCORD Sweden
    Congrégation des soeurs de Notre Dame de Charité du Bon Pasteur
    Congregation of Notre Dame de Montreal
    Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd
    Congregation of the Mission
    Consorcio para el Diálogo Parlamentario y la Equidad Oaxaca A.C:
    Cooperation for Peace and Development (CPD)
    CoopeSoliDar R.L
    Coordinación de ONG y Cooperativas CONGCOOP
    Council for NGOs in Malawi - CONGOMA
    Council for Participatory Development
    Crispin Swedi Bilombele
    CRV & Co
    D.C. Unit Church Women United
    Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation
    Dalit NGO Federation, Nepal
    Dalit Youth Alliance (DYA)
    Danish United Nations Association
    Dawn Development Organization
    Debasis Chowdhury Rana
    DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    Dehi Ijtimai Tarqyati Social Workers Council (DITSWC)
    Dehi Taraqiati Tanzeem (DTT) BILLITANG KOHAT KPK
    Derecho, Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (DAR)
    Desértica, Soluciones Endovasculares A.C.
    Despertares Derechos Humanos
    Development Dynamics 
    DHEWA (development for health education work & awareness) Welfare Society Chakwal Bheen
    Dillu Prasad Ghimire
    District Development Association
    District Development Association Tharparkar (DDAT)
    Dominican Leadership Conference
    Dosse SOSSOUGA
    Dr. Tristaca McCray
    DSW (Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevölkerung)
    DUF - The Danish Youth Council 
    Earth Community
    East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)
    Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research
    Edmund Rice International
    Empresa marhnos®
    Environmental Partnership Council
    EOS - Association for Studies, Cooperation and Development
    Equality Bahamas
    Equality For All Development Organisation 
    Estonian Roundtable for Development Cooperation
    Ethiopian Human Rights Council 
    European Youth Forum
    Fagaras Research Institute
    Federation of Environmental and Ecological Diversity for Agricultural Revampment and Human Rights
    Feminist Dalit Organizations (FEDO)
    FIAN Sri Lanka
    Finnish Development NGOs Fingo
    Fixing The World
    FOKUS - Forum for Women and Development
    Fondazione Proclade Internazionale - onlus
    Food Security Network-PRAN
    Foreign Spouses Support Group and Malaysian Campaign for Equal Citizenship
    Former Commissioner, National Human Rights Commission Nepal
    Forum for Women in Democracy
    Forum of women's NGOs of Kyrgyzstan
    Forum Syd
    Foundation for Older Persons' Development (FOPDEV)
    Foundation For Sustainable Development and Climate Action (FSDCA)
    Freshwater Action Network Mexico (FANMex)
    Friends of Angola
    Fundación Dibujando un Mañana
    Fundación Heinrich Böll - Ciudad de México, México y el Caribe
    Fundación Mexicana de Medicina Paliativa y Alivio del Dolor en Cáncer A.C.
    Fundación Mexicana para la Planeación Familiar, A. C. MEXFAM
    Fundación MYWM- MY World México
    Fundación Sanders AC 
    Gals Forum International 
    Gatef orginzation
    GESIP Centro para la Gestión Integral y Participativa S.C.
    Gestión Estratégica para Resultados de Desarrollo S.C.
    Gestos (soropositividade, comunicação, gênero)
    Global Call to Action against Poverty
    Global Citizen
    Global Integrity
    Global NGO Executive Committee
    Global Shepherds 
    Globalt Fokus
    Good Shepherd International Foundation- Nepal 
    Good Shepherd Sisters
    Gopal Kiran Samaj Sevi Sanstha 
    Governance, Elections, Advocacy, Research Services (GEARS) Initiative Zambia
    Gram Bharati Samiti (GBS)
    Groupe d'Action pour le Progrès et la Paix (G.A.P.P.-Afrique)
    Groupe d'Action pour le Progrès et la Paix (G.A.P.P.-BÉNIN)
    Groupe d'Action pour le Progrès et la Paix (G.A.P.P.-Mali)
    Grupo Holístico para el bienestar investigación y desarrollo social Integral, A.C 
    HAKI Africa
    HelpAge Deutschland
    Hevas Innovación 
    Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP)
    IMCS Pax Romana
    IMS (International Media Support)
    Incidencia y Gobernanza Ambiental AC
    INCIDIR, A. C.
    Institute for Socioeconomic Studies - INESC
    Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary -Loreto Generalate
    Instituto de Comunicación y Desarrollo (ICD)
    Instituto Potosino de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica, AC
    International Association for Religious Freedom Coordination Council for South Asia
    International Commission of Jurists
    International Federation of Business and Professional Women
    International IPMSDL
    International Movement for Advancement of Education Culture Social & Economic Development (IMAECSED)
    International Network of Women Engineers and Scientists
    International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development
    International Open Network
    International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR)
    International Planned Parenthood Federation 
    International Service for Human Rights 
    International Women's Development Agency (IWDA)
    International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs 
    Jaag Welfare Movement
    Jairos Jiri Association
    Jandran Welfare Foundation
    Japan Civil Society Network on SDGs
    Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation (JANIC)
    Jeunes Verts Togo
    Julián Carrillo My Words México Kids
    Juventud 2030 GTO. 
    K.U.L.U. - Women and Development (KULU)
    Kafka Welfare Organization
    Kamal Subedi
    Kanimi EcoTienda
    Karapatan Alliance Philippines 
    Kathak Academy 
    Khpal Kore Organization
    Kothowain (Vulnerable Peoples Development Organization)
    Kyawkrup Foundation
    La Transformación del Graffiti al Arte Pictorico, A. C.
    Lanakaná Princípios Sustentáveis 
    Lanka Fundamental Rights Organization
    Latvian Platform for Development Cooperation
    Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada
    Lepaje Environmental Organization
    Let There Be Light International
    LGBT+ Danmark
    Life Education and Development Support (LEADS)
    Light for the World
    LSO Sada-e-Thal Welfare Organization 
    Lutheran World Federation (LWF)
    Malaysian CSO SDG Alliance
    Maldives NGO Federation
    Maleya Foundation
    Maranatha Hope
    Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic, Inc. 
    Más Coudadanía, AC
    Mechanism for Rational Change MERC 
    Medical Mission Sisters 
    Mihai and Maria Foundation
    Mitini Nepal
    MPact Global Action for Gay Men's Health & Rights
    Mujer Y Salud en Uruguay - MYSU
    MY World Mexico
    Myanmar Youth Foundation for SDG
    Nagorik Uddyog 
    Natasha Dokovska
    National Advocacy for Rights of Innocent-NARI Foundation 
    National Campaign Against COVID-19
    National Campaign for Education Nepal
    National Campaign for Sustainable Development Nepal
    National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights
    National CSO Platform of Sri Lanka
    National Integrated Development Association (NIDA-Pakistan)
    National Organization for Sustainable Development (NOSD)
    National Trade Union Center (NTUC Phl)
    National Youth Council of Russia
    Neelab Children and Women Development council 
    Neighbourhood Community Network
    Nepal Development Initiative (NEDI)
    Nepal Climate Change Federation
    Nepal National Dalit Social Welfare Organization 
    Nepal SDGs Forum
    NGO EFA 
    NGO Federation of Nepal
    NGOCSW/NYC Women and Girls of African Descent Caucus N. America, Latin America and the Caribbean Descent N. America, 
    Nigeria Network of NGOs
    Noakhali Rural Development Organization 
    Observatory of Vulnerable peoples' Rights (OVPR)
    Okogun Odigie Safewomb International Foundation (OOSAIF)
    ONAAR Development Organization
    Open School of Sustainable Development (Openshkola)
    Organizacion Mexicana de Enfermedades Raras
    Organización por la Cooperación Ecológica A.C. 
    Organization for the Marginalized And Neglected Groups OMANG
    Our Fish, Denmark
    Outreach Social Care Project - OSCAR
    OutRight Action International
    Pakistan Development Alliance (GCAP-Pakistan) 
    Parliamentarians Commission for Human Rights 
    Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA)
    Participatory Research Action Network- PRAN
    Peace Infinity 
    Peace Justice Youth Organization
    Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement
    Plan International
    Plataforma de ONG de Accion Social
    Plataforma Portuguesa das ONGD (NGDO Portuguese Platform)
    Portuguese National Youth Council
    Portuguese Platform for Women's Rights
    POSCO Agenda 2030/GCAP Sénégal 
    Potohar Organization for Development Advocacy (PODA)
    Programa Venezolano de Educación-Acción en DDHH (Provea)
    Projonma Academy
    Promotora Juvenil don Bosco AC
    Proyecto Cantera Juntos por México AC
    Purvanchal Rural Development and Training Institute
    Radanar Ayar Association
    Real Vision Development Organization
    Reality of Aid - Asia Pacific (RoA-AP)
    Red Agenda 2030 MX
    Red Ciudadana 2030 por el Desarrollo Sostenible
    Red de Educadores Ambientales de Chihuahua 
    Red Nicaraguense de Comercio Comunitario (RENICC)
    Regional Centre for International Development Cooperation (RCIDC)
    REPACT Africa
    Rescue Alternatives Liberia (RAL)
    Research Centre for Gender, Family and Environment in Development (CHFED)
    Réseau Centrafricain au Leadership des Jeunes Femmes en Afrique Francophone 
    Réseau de Défenseurs des Droits Humains de l'Afrique Centrale (REDHAC)
    Roberto ravagnani
    Rozaria Memorial Trust
    Rural Area Development Programme (RADP)
    Rural community devlipment council Gwadar 
    S.O.S. - Criança e Desenvolvimento Integrale de ANG
    SAHARA Voluntary Social Welfare Agency
    Sahara Welfare Foundation 
    Saif Khan
    Sami Foundation
    Saudi Green Building Forum
    Save the Children International
    School of International Futures
    SDG Action Alliance Bangladesh
    SDGs National Network Nepal
    SDSN Youth Mexico
    Semillas para la Democracia
    SEND-GHANA/Ghana CSOs Platform on the SDGs
    SERR Servicios Ecumenicos para Reconciliacion y Reconstruccion 
    SEVERE Joseph
    Sex & Samfund / The Danish Family Planning Association
    Shaur Taraqiyati Tanzeem
    Shirley Ann Sullivan Educational Foundation
    Shivi Development Society
    Sindh Desert Development Organization 
    Sindh Rural Development Organization
    Sistemico, Regeneración Socioambiental AC
    SLOGA Slovene NGO Platform for Development, Global Education and Humanitarian Aid
    Slum Child Empowerment and Development Initiative
    Smile Myanmar
    Social and Economic Develepment Associares (SEDA)
    Social Economic and Governance Promotion Centre
    Society for Access to Quality Education 
    Society for Education and Development
    Society for Indigenous Women's Progress
    Society for Sustainable Development 
    Society for the Empowerment of the People
    Soka Gakkai International
    Soñando y Construyendo por un México Mejor a.c
    Soroptimist International
    Spektro Asociación para el Desarrollo Social 
    Sri Lanka Nature Group
    Sudan SDGs Platform
    Sukaar Welfare Organization
    Sustainable Agriculture and Environment.
    Sustainable Development Organization (SDO)
    Taiwan AID
    Takhleeq Foundation 
    Taraqee Foundation
    Teerath Kumar
    Temple of Understanding
    Teresa Kotturan 
    The Inclusivity Project
    The National Civic Forum - Sudan
    The National Council of NGOs/Action on Sustainable Development Goals Kenya Coalition
    The Nationwide Movement Yuksalish
    The Norwegian Forum for Development and Environment
    Think Centre
    Tirtha Biswokarma 
    Toktli Educación Ambiental 
    Uganda National NGO Forum
    Uganda Network of Young People living with HIV/AIDS (UNYPA)
    UNA Sweden
    Unanima International
    UNANIMA International
    Union de l'Action Féministe
    Unión Nacional de Instituciones para el Trabajo de Acción Social - UNITAS
    Unitarian Universalist Association
    United Disabled Person of Kenya 
    United Global Organization of Development (UGOOD)
    United Nations Association of Fiji 
    Universidad Anáhuac Mayab
    Universidad Tecnológica de los Valles Centrales de Oaxaca
    Urgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights
    Vabieka Fest, Festival Internacional de Payasas.
    Validity Foundation - Mental Disability Advocacy Centre
    Varieties of Democracy Institute 
    VIER PFOTEN International
    Village Development Organization (VDO) 
    Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund (DBA- Women First International Fund)
    Vision GRAM-International
    Voces de Cambio, Agenda para el Desarrollo
    Voices for Interactive Choice and Empowerment (VOICE)
    Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO)
    Wada Na Todo Abhiyan
    Water, Environment & Sanitation Society (WESS)
    Women & Child Welfare Society
    Women Deliver
    Women's Center for Guidance and Legal Awareness 
    Women's Rights and Democracy Centre (WORD Centre)
    WomenShade Pak
    World Animal Net
    World Federalist Movement - Canada
    Youth Action Hub Guinea - CNUCED
    Youth For Environment Education And Development Foundation (YFEED Foundation)
    Youth Inter-Active 
    Yuma Inzolia
    YZ Proyectos de Desarrollo a.C. 
    Zakir Hossain 
    Zonta International


  • Joint Letter to UN: Strengthen and renew the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan

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

    RE: Renewing and strengthening the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan to ensure accountability for gross violations of human rights and related crimes in South Sudan

    We, the undersigned national, regional and international non-governmental organisations, write to call on your delegation to renew and strengthen the mandate of the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan (the Commission), during the 37th session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in March. It is essential that the Commission continues its vital work to collect and preserve evidence of gross human rights violations, abuses and related crimes, with a view to end impunity and ensure accountability. The HRC should also strengthen the resolution to make explicit that the mandate of the Commission includes the identification of individual perpetrators, with a view to enable future prosecutions.

    The civil war in South Sudan broke out on 15 December 2013 in Juba, quickly spreading north. By the end of 2015, conflict had spread throughout the western and southern Equatorias region. Although the parties to the conflict signed a peace agreement in August 2015, major fighting resumed in July 2016 when the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army (SPLA) and opposition soldiers clashed in Juba, resulting in the loss of civilian lives, looting of civilian property, and further displacement of civilians.

    According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), over 4 million South Sudanese have been displaced since 2013, including 1.9 million people who have been internally displaced. In 2017 alone, 700,000 South Sudanese fled as refugees to neighbouring countries. OCHA further reports that 7 million South Sudanese need assistance and protection.

    After the Commission’s visit to South Sudan in December 2017, Commissioner Clapham expressed concern at the increased levels of violations and abuses, including sexual violence, committed by the parties against civilians. He noted that the “atrocities and the violations are no longer confined to a few parts of South Sudan but are rather spread across the entire country.”

    The Commissioners renewed their call for perpetrators of the widespread human rights violations to be brought to justice. Commissioner Yasmin Sooka emphasised the immediate need to establish the Hybrid Court and the Commission on Truth, Healing and Reconciliation. Although the South Sudan Council of Ministers reportedly approved the Hybrid Court statute and the government’s Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the African Union, the South Sudanese government is yet to take further steps to operationalise the Court.
    Regional actors have also voiced frustration and concern over the continued violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. In January, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) expressed frustrations with the parties’ failure to comply with the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities, Protection of Civilians, and Humanitarian Access and their violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws. IGAD’s Council of Ministers resolved “to take all necessary measures including targeted sanctions against individual violators and spoilers of the peace agreement.”

    In addition, during the 30th ordinary session of the African Union (AU) summit, Moussa Faki Mahamat, AU Commission Chairperson reiterated the support of the AU to IGAD to impose sanctions on leaders violating the ceasefire agreements. “In South Sudan, how can we not repeat that we cannot understand the insane violence that the belligerents inflict, with indescribable cruelty, on a population that has suffered too much. The time has come to impose sanctions on those who obstruct peace”. On 2 February 2018, the United States of America imposed a unilateral arms embargo on the country.

    With the violence ongoing, and in the absence of another international mechanism to monitor and document human rights violations and abuses, and pending the establishment and operationalisation of the Hybrid Court, the Commission’s role is vital. Moreover, the Commission might be needed even when the Court is established. Our organisations urge the UN HRC to take strong and meaningful action during its 37th Session to enhance the Commission’s mandate and enable it to support justice, truth, and reparation for the victims of the grave human rights violations committed in South Sudan.

    We call on all Member States to adopt a resolution that:

    • Renews the mandate of the Commission to conduct independent investigations into alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, collect and preserve evidence of gross human rights violations and abuses and related crimes, with a view to ending impunity and ensuring accountability, with a particular focus on sexual and gender-based crimes, and attacks or reprisals against human rights defenders;
    • Strengthens the language on accountability to make explicit that the mandate of the Commission includes the identification of individual perpetrators, with a view to future prosecutions.
    • Urges the Government of South Sudan to allow and facilitate access to all locations and persons of interest to the Commission;
    • Requests that the report of the Commission be transmitted to the AU Commission in order to support and inform future investigations of the Hybrid Court for South Sudan and the UN Security Council for consideration and further action;
    • Encourages the AU to take immediate steps to establish the Hybrid Court for South Sudan as recommended by the AU Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan, and provided for in the 2015 peace agreement;
    • Urges all States to encourage further concrete action to deter and address on-going violations of international human rights and humanitarian law at the UN Security Council.

    We thank you for your attention to these pressing issues.


    1. African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (The Gambia)
    2. Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia
    3. Burundian Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (CBDDH)
    4. CIVICUS
    5. Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation (South Sudan)
    6. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    7. End Impunity Organisation (South Sudan)
    8. Eritrean Law Society
    9. Eve Organisation for Women Development (South Sudan)
    10. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
    11. Global Society Initiative for Peace and Democracy (South Sudan)
    12. Human Rights Centre Somaliland
    13. Human Rights Watch
    14. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    15. International Refugee Rights Initiative
    16. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    17. International Youth for Africa (South Sudan)
    18. Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network
    19. South Sudan Christian Community Agency
    20. South Sudan Human Rights Society for Advocacy
    21. South Sudan Law Society
    22. Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition
    23. West African Human Rights Defenders Network (Togo)
    24. Women Monthly Forum (South Sudan)


  • Joint letter to United Nations on human rights crisis in Ethiopia


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

    Geneva, 25 May 2017

    RE: Addressing the pervasive human rights crisis in Ethiopia
    Your Excellency,

    The undersigned civil society organisations write to draw your attention to persistent and grave violations of human rights in Ethiopia and the pressing need to support the establishment of an independent, impartial and international investigation into atrocities committed by security forces to suppress peaceful protests and independent dissent.

    As the UN Human Rights Council (UN HRC) prepares to convene for its 35th session from 6 – 23 June 2017, we urge your delegation to prioritise and address through joint statements the ongoing human rights crisis in Ethiopia.

    In the wake of unprecedented, mass protests that erupted in November 2015 in Oromia, Amhara, and the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples (SNNPR) regional states, Ethiopian authorities routinely responded to legitimate and largely peaceful expressions of dissent with excessive and unnecessary force. As a result, over 800 protesters have been killed, thousands of political activists, human rights defenders, journalists and protesters have been arrested, and in October 2016, the Ethiopian Government declared a six-month nationwide State of Emergency that was extended for an additional four months on 30 March 2017 after some restrictions were lifted.

    The State of Emergency directives give sweeping powers to a Command Post, which has been appointed by the House of People’s Representatives to enforce the decree, including the suspension of fundamental and non-derogable rights protected by the Ethiopian Constitution, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and other international human rights treaties to which Ethiopia is party. More information on the human rights violations occurring under the current State of Emergency is included in the Annex at the end of this letter.

    Lack of independent investigations

    Few effective avenues to pursue accountability for abuses exist in Ethiopia, given the lack of independence of the judiciary – the ruling EPRDF coalition and allied parties control all 547 seats in Parliament.

    Ethiopia’s National Human Rights Commission, which has a mandate to investigate rights violations,in its June 2016 oral report to Parliament that the lethal force used by security forces in Oromia was proportionate to the risk they faced from the protesters. The written Amharic version of the report was only recently made public, and there are long-standing concerns about the impartiality and research methodology of the Commission. On 18 April 2017, the Commission submitted its second oral report to Parliament on the protests, which found that 669 people were killed, including 63 members of the security forces, and concluded that security forces had taken “proportionate measures in most areas.Both reports are in stark contrast with the findings of other national and international organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions has rated the Commission as B, meaning the latter has

    Refusal to cooperate with regional and international mechanisms

    In response to the recent crackdown, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has access for independent observers to the country to assess the human rights situation recently renewed his call for access to the country during a visit to the capital, Addis Ababa. Ethiopia’s government, however, has the call, citing its own investigation conducted by its Commission. UN Special Procedures have also made similar calls.

    In November 2016, the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights adopted a resolution calling for an international, independent, and impartial investigation into allegations of the use of excessive and unnecessary lethal force by security forces to disperse and suppress peaceful protests. Recent European parliament and US Congressional resolutions have also called for independent investigations. The Ethiopian embassy in Belgium dismissed the European Parliament’s resolution citing its own Commission’s investigations into the protests.

    As a member of the UN HRC, Ethiopia has an obligation to “uphold the highest standards” of human rights, and “fully cooperate” with the Council and its mechanisms (GA Resolution 60/251, OP 9), yet there are outstanding requests for access from Special Procedures, including from the special rapporteurs on torture, freedom of opinion and expression, and peaceful assembly, among others.


    During the upcoming 35th session of the UN HRC, we urge your delegation to make joint and individual statements reinforcing and building upon the expressions of concern by the High Commissioner, UN Special Procedures, and others.

    Specifically, the undersigned organisations request your delegation to publicly urge Ethiopia to:

    1. urgently allow access to an international, thorough, independent, impartial and transparent investigation into all of the deaths resulting from alleged excessive use of force by the security forces, and other violations of human rights in the context of the protests;
    2. respond favourably to country visit requests by UN Special Procedures;
    3. immediately and unconditionally release journalists, human rights defenders, political opposition leaders and members as well as protesters arbitrarily detained during and in the aftermath of the protests;
    4. ensure that those responsible for human rights violations are prosecuted in proceedings which comply with international law and standards on fair trials; and
    5. fully comply with its international legal obligations and commitments including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and its own Constitution.

    With assurances of our highest consideration,

    • Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia
    • CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    • Civil Rights Defenders
    • DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    • Ethiopia Human Rights Project
    • Freedom House
    • Front Line Defenders
    • Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
    • Human Rights Watch
    • International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    • International Service for Human Rights
    • Reporters Without Borders
    • World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

    Annex: Background

    A repressive legal framework

    The legal framework in Ethiopia restricts the enjoyment of civil and political rights, and therefore the activity of the political opposition, civil society, and independent media in the country.
    The Charities and Societies Proclamation (2009) caps foreign funding at 10% for non-governmental organisations working on human rights, good governance, justice, rule of law and conflict resolution. The law has decimated civil society and human rights activism in the country. Currently, a handful of independent human rights organisations continue to operate, but with great difficulty.
    The Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (2009) has been used repeatedly to silence critical voices. Political opposition party leaders and members, people involved in public protests, religious freedom advocates and journalists have been arrested and charged under this law. Both laws are a matter of great concern and have been repeatedly raised in international forums, including at Ethiopia’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2014.
    Overarching restrictions under the State of Emergency

    The State of Emergency directives restrict the organisation of political campaigns, demonstrations, and any communication that may cause “public disturbance.” It also bans communications with foreign governments and NGOs that may undermine ‘national sovereignty, constitutional order and security’, and the right to disseminate information through traditional and social media. Additionally, the Command Post was given sweeping powers to arbitrarily arrest and detain individuals without due process.
    A few weeks before the State of Emergency was extended by an additional four months, the government announced it was lifting some of these restrictions, including the Command Post’s power to arbitrarily arrest people or conduct property searches without warrants, curfews, and certain restrictions regarding sharing of information online and offline.
    Despite some improvements in internet access since mobile data services were restored throughout parts of the country on 2 December 2016, social media platforms such as Whatsapp, Facebook and Twitter remain inaccessible except through VPNs.

    Mass arrests

    Since the declaration of the State of Emergency, the Command Post announced that tens of thousands have been arbitrarily arrested and transported to different detention centers throughout the country. Most of the detainees were held for a period of around three months in Awash, Alage, Bir Sheleko, and Tolay police and military camps. In November 2016, authorities announced the release of 11,607 people who were detained under the State of Emergency following “rehabilitation training programs.” One month later, authorities announced they were releasing an additional 9,800 detainees.  Former detainees have reported being subjected to torture, harsh prison conditions, and other forms of ill treatment. In late March 2017, the Command Post announced through state media that 4,996 of the 26,130 people detained for allegedly taking part in protests would be brought to court.

    Continued targeting of the political opposition, the media and civil society

    According to the Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia, three of Ethiopia’s main opposition parties, the Unity for Democracy and Justice Party (UDJ), Blue Party, and All Ethiopian Unity Party (AEUP) have claimed that a large number of their members were targeted by Command Post and arbitrarily arrested.

    On 30 October 2016, Dr. Merera Gudina, a professor and prominent opposition leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress was arrested after his return from Brussels where he provided testimony on the current political crisis to some members of the European Parliament and described human rights violations being committed in Ethiopia. On 3 March 2017, prosecutors formally charged Dr. Merera with a bid to "dismantle or disrupt social, economic and political activity for political, religious and ideological aim [...] under the guise of political party leadership". Dr. Merera was also accused of meeting with an organisation designated as a terrorist group contravening restrictions contained in the State of Emergency directives.

    Members of the Wolqait Identity Committee, including Colonel Demeqe Zewude, have also faced allegedly politically motivated criminal charges under the 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation. Their attempted arrest sparked protests in the Amhara capital of Gondar in August 2016.

    On 18 November 2016, journalists Elias Gebru and Ananiya Sori were arrested by security forces, according to the Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia. Both were reportedly arrested in relation to their criticism of government policies and actions. Ananiya was released on 13 March 2017. At the time of writing, Elias is still being held in prison without due process of law.

    On 6 April 2017, Ethiopia’s Supreme Court ruled that two bloggers from the Zone 9 collective previously acquitted of terrorism charge should be tried instead on charges of inciting violence through their writing. If convicted of the charge, Atnaf Berhane and Natnael Feleke would face a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. The court also upheld the lower court’s acquittal of two other Zone 9 bloggers, Soleyana S Gebremichael and Abel Wabella.

    See additional assessment:

    Civic Space in Ethiopia is rated as ‘Closed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor.


  • Joint Letter: Human rights violations in Bahrain

    We, the undersigned Bahraini, regional and international human rights organizations, remain alarmed at the ongoing human rights crisis in the Kingdom of Bahrain. We are also concerned about the diminished response from states at the Human Rights Council since the situation began to dramatically deteriorate over one year ago. We welcome your country’s commitment to address situations of concern based on the objective criteria laid out in the joint statement delivered by Ireland at the 32nd session of the HRC. This commitment was reiterated in a subsequent joint statement on the improvement of membership standards, signed by 48 states at the 35th session this year. However, we have yet to see this commitment translate into a principled response to the deteriorating situation in Bahrain. As this letter outlines in detail, Bahrain demonstrably meets the criteria that should compel states and the Council to act to address this situation. We therefore call on your delegation to uphold your pledge and renew both individual and collective initiatives at the Council to address the Bahraini Government’s intensifying human rights violations.

    The Government of Bahrain has continued to suppress all forms of opposition, criticism, or dissent in 2017. The Government began the year by ending a de factomoratorium on the death penalty when it executed three victims of torture after trials marred by serious due process violations. In January, the Government restored domestic law enforcement powers to Bahrain’s National Security Agency (NSA), an institution implicated in systematic and widespread torture in 2011. In April, the King approved a constitutional amendment allowing civilians to be tried in military courts, further eroding the limited reforms made in line with the recommendations of the 2011 Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report. Bahrain’s leading Shia cleric, Sheikh Isa Qassim, was convicted of money laundering in May on politically motivated charges, and the Government used lethal force to clear a months-long peaceful sit-in around his home, killing five individuals in the process, injuring hundreds more, and arresting 286 individuals. In May, courts disbanded the Kingdom’s last major opposition political society, Wa’ad, and in June the Government indefinitely suspended operations at the country’s only independent newspaper, Al-Wasat. Meanwhile, the Government continued its relentless suppression of civil society, committing reprisals against activists and their families and convicting Bahrain’s leading human rights defender, Nabeel Rajab, for commenting on continuing human rights abuses during television interviews and on social media, violating his right to freedom of expression.

    We recall here the guiding considerations outlined in the June 2016 joint statement, and reaffirmed in the June 2017 joint statement, and their application to the situation in Bahrain:

    Whether  there  has  been  a  call  for  action  by  the  UN  Secretary  General,  the  High Commissioner for Human Rights or a relevant UN organ, body or agency:

    • On  13 September 2016, High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein stated: “In Bahrain,I am  concerned  by  harassment  and  arrests  of  human  rights  defenders  and  political activists, and legislation which enables revocation of citizenship without due process. I urge greater attention to this situation.[emphasis added] The past decade has demonstrated repeatedly and with punishing clarity exactly how disastrous the outcomes can be when a Government attempts to smash the voices of its people, instead of serving them.
    • Likewise, during his  Annual Report and Oral Update to the 34th  Session of the Human Rights Council, the High Commissioner said of Bahrain, “I am deeply concerned over the increasing levels of human rights violations in the Kingdom. I call on the Government of Bahrain to undertake concrete confidence building measures, including allowing my Office and Special Procedures mandate holders to swiftly conduct visits.
    • And, on  2 June 2017, the High Commissioner said, “Human rights defenders working in Bahrain reportedly continue to face restrictions, intimidation, interrogations, detentions and travel bans… I urge Bahrain to choose a different path – one of engagement and dialogue, as well as accountability for violence, regardless of the perpetrator. My Office stands ready to offer technical assistance and advice on the promotion and protection of human rights in Bahrain.

    Whether  a  group  of  Special  Procedures  have  recommended  that  the  Council  consider action:

    • On  16 June 2017, the Special Procedures on extrajudicial executions, peaceful assembly and association, human rights defenders, freedom of religion or belief, and the working group on arbitrary detention,  issued a statement saying: “We call on the Government of Bahrain  to  immediately  cease  its  campaign  of  persecution  against  human  rights defenders, journalists and anyone else with divergent opinions, and take all measures to guarantee  a  safe  and  enabling  environment  for  all  Bahrainis,  independent  of  their political opinions, beliefs or confession.”
    • On   18  July  2017,  the  Special  Procedures  further  stated:  “We  reiterate  our  serious concerns regarding the wider context of a general crackdown and mounting pressure exerted  on  civil  society  and  dissidents  in  Bahrain,  the  ongoing  prosecution  and punishment of human rights defenders, and especially intimidation and reprisals against people who have cooperated with UN human rights mechanisms.
    • Since 2016, Bahrain has been the subject of at least ten communications from Special Procedures concerning credible allegations of human rights violations including extrajudicial killing, torture and ill-treatment, arbitrary detention, and systematic persecution of religious groups. In many cases, these violations were in response to the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, and freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

    Whether the state concerned has a national human rights institution with A-status[and whether that institution has drawn the attention of the international community to an emerging situation and called for action]:

    • According to the most recent  review in May 2016, Bahrain’s National Institution for Human Rights has not been granted A-status. The Sub-Committee on Accreditations expressed reservations regarding the institution’s independence and its effective application of its mandate.
    • The UN Committee Against Torture’s May 2017  concluding observations on Bahrain’s latest periodic report stated concerns regarding the NIHR  and six other bodies. The Committee said the following: “that they are not independent, that their mandates are unclear and overlap, and that they are not effective given that complaints ultimately pass through the Ministry of the Interior. It is also concerned that their activities have had little or no effect, and that the authorities provided negligible information regarding the outcome of their activities.

    Whether the State concerned has been willing to recognize that it faces particular human rights challenges and has laid down a set of credible actions, including a timetable and benchmarks to measure progress, to respond to the situation:

    • In 2011, the Bahraini Government accepted 26 recommendations issued by the BICI, a panel of jurists and international human rights experts. The Government claimed it had fully implemented all 26 recommendations in May 2016, citing the chairman of the BICI, Cherif Bassiouni, as  evidence of its progress. However, on 10 May 2016, Bassiouni stated he was  wrongfully quoted and asserted that the Government had only implemented ten of the 26 recommendations and had failed to address “priority” reforms such as those pertaining to accountability and prisoners of conscience. All independent assessments – including those conducted by Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, the Project on Middle East Democracy, and the United States Government – have similarly found that Bahrain’s authorities have failed to make substantive progress on the majority of reforms.
    • In 2017, the Bahraini government actively contravened BICI recommendations that had previously seen partial or full levels of implementation, including recommendations to restrict the NSA’s arrest authority and to prevent military courts from trying civilians. During Bahrain’s Second Cycle Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2012, member and observer states presented 176 recommendations to the Bahraini Government to recognize and address ongoing, widespread human rights violations in the Kingdom. Bahraini authorities partially or fully accepted 158 of those recommendations, promising to bring the national situation in line with international human rights obligations. However, by Bahrain’s Third Cycle UPR in May 2017, the Government had failed to fulfill these recommendations and had regressed in many key sectors identified for reform, as noted by OHCHR, States, and NGO stakeholders.
    • Rather  than  acknowledge  the  scope  of  the  Kingdom’s  human  rights  challenges,  as highlighted  by  the  recommendations  issued  during  both  UPR  cycles,  the  Assistant Foreign Minister, Abdulla bin Faisal bin Jabur Al Doseri,  described the result as “praise” for “Bahrain’s human rights achievements.” In a meeting with Bahrain’s National Institution for Human Rights in July 2017, the King dismissed the country’s human rights challenges outright, stating that the Kingdom “takes pride in its outstanding human rights record” and that “human rights represent a core part of Bahrain’s culture.”

    Whether the State concerned is engaging in a meaningful, constructive way with the Human Rights Council on the situation:

    • The Bahraini Government has consistently declined to substantively engage the Council and, as indicated in the following statements, has actively targeted Bahraini civil society actors  for  their  participation  in  Human  Rights  Council  sessions  or  for  otherwise interacting with the UN. As noted, although it nominally participates in the UPR process, the Government has consistently failed to implement accepted recommendations and has submitted  misleading national reports on its progress. Moreover, in June 2016, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister, Khalid Al Khalifa,  explicitly maligned the High Commissioner for urging the Kingdom to undertake human rights reform: “We will not allow the undermining of our security and stability and will not waste our time listening to the words of the High Commissioner who is powerless."
    • The Bahraini Government has used wide-ranging travel bans against civil society and political figures to obstruct their access to UN bodies and mechanisms. These travel bans have been in effect since throughout the 32nd, 33rd, 34th  and 35th  Sessions of the Human Rights Council, and during Bahrain’s 3rd Cycle Universal Periodic Review.
    • Government ordered travel bans and reports of targeted reprisals against civil society for their engagement at the Human Rights Council have prompted statements of concern from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. As noted in a statement by the OHCHR spokesperson on  14 July 2017:The continuing restrictions on civil society and political activists and the targeting of human rights defenders and organisations in Bahrain are deeply worrying. We urge the Government to take the necessary steps to ensure compliance with Bahrain’s obligations under international human rights law, in particular to guarantee the freedoms of expression, opinion and association and the right not to be arbitrarily deprived of liberty.”
    • On  18 July 2017, following reports that Bahraini human rights defender Ebtisam al- Saegh was arrested and tortured by members of the National Security Administration as a reprisal for her human rights work at the Human Rights Council, a group of United Nations experts “expressed deep concern at the alleged arbitrary detention of Bahraini human rights defender Ebtisam Alsaegh amid reports she has been tortured and sexually abused and is now on hunger strike.”

    6.   Whether the State concerned is effectively cooperating with Human Rights Council Special Procedures, including by enabling country visits:

    • Bahrain has failed to follow through on repeated calls from the Council to welcome Special Procedures to visit the country and, as noted above, has dismissed the OHCHR as “powerless.”  In  2015,  Bahrain’s  Chief  of  Public  Security,  Major  General  Tariq  al- Hassan, suggested that the Government has denied the Special Procedures access to Bahrain because they are biased against the Kingdom: Hassan specifically  accused then Special  Rapporteur  on torture  Juan  Mendez  of  “prejudice”  and  spreading “uninvestigated” claims of Bahraini Government abuse.
    • Bahrain  has  not allowed  any of  the  Special  Procedures to  visit  since  2006, despite repeated requests by various mandate holders. In recent years, Bahrain has ignored or rejected country visit requests from the following: the Special Rapporteur on torture, the Working Group on arbitrary detention, the Working Group on enforced disappearances, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and association, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, and the Working Group on discrimination against women.

    Whether the State concerned is engaging with OHCHR, including in the field of technical assistance and effective engagement with the UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies:

    • Bahrain has failed to successfully conclude multiple rounds of negotiations with the OHCHR to carry out a technical mission to Bahrain, or to establish an OHCHR office in the country.
    • Most recently, in June 2017, renewed efforts to carry out an OHCHR technical mission to Bahrain again stalled and remain indefinitely “postponed,” similar to the indefinite postponement  and   effective  cancellation  of  the  2013  country  visit  by  the  Special Rapporteur on torture.

    Whether a relevant regional mechanism or institution has identified a situation as requiring the attention of the international community; or whether the State concerned is cooperating with relevant regional organizations:

    • No competent, independent regional mechanism or institution exists in the region from which Bahrain can seek relevant assistance to positively affect the human rights situation in the country.

    Whether  the  State  is  facilitating  or  obstructing  access  and  work  on  the  part  of humanitarian actors, human rights defenders, and the media:

    • Bahraini  authorities  have  consistently  and  increasingly  obstructed  the  work  of  civil society actors in the kingdom, including human rights defenders and the media.
    • As noted above in point 5, the Government of Bahrain has imposed wide-spread travel bans on civil society and political activists to obstruct their access to the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms.
    • On  10 July 2017, Nabeel Rajab, president and co-founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and FIDH Deputy Secretary General, was sentenced to two years in prison solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression by conducting interviews with television media outlets. He faces up to fifteen more years in prison if convicted on additional charges related to tweets.
    • Human rights defender Ebtisam al-Saegh has been repeatedly arrested and subjected to torture and sexual assault in relation to her work, as  noted by Special Procedure mandates on 18 July 2017. She currently faces politically motivated “terrorism” charges related to her human rights work.
    • During the 34th  Session of the Human Rights Council in March 2017, three family members of Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy were arrested in Bahrain as a reprisal against his human rights activities. Authorities subjected them to torture and ill-treatment to coerce false confessions on charges of “fake bomb making.” They remain in detention and face trial on these fabricated charges.
    • On 4 June 2017, Bahrain  indefinitely suspended the only independent newspaper in the country, Al-Wasat, ultimately forcing their office to close and all staff to be laid off.

    It is clear that the Government of Bahrain has failed to uphold its international obligations to safeguard human rights and has repeatedly acted to violate and curtail the fundamental rights of people in the country. Bahrain’s current human rights situation manifestly fulfills the criteria set out in the June 2016 joint statement committing state signatories to engage – strong action is imperative to prevent further instability.

    We therefore call on your Government to individually and collectively with others respond to the human rights crisis in Bahrain. Such efforts should include, but are not limited to, national statements and joint statements under Items 4 or 2 of the Council’s agenda, and ultimately a resolution by the Human Rights Council.


    Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain
    ARTICLE 19
    Bahrain Center for Human Rights
    Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy
    Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
    CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    European Center for Democracy and Human Rights
    Human Rights Watch
    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    International Service for Human Rights
    Reporters Without Borders (RSF)