United Nations

 

  • As the climate crisis intensifies, so does the crackdown on environmental activism, finds new report

    New research brief from the CIVICUS Monitor examines the crackdown of environmental activism and profiles important victories civil society has scored in the fight for climate justice.

    • Environmental protests are being criminalised and met with repression on all continents
    • State authorities and private companies are common perpetrators of violations to civic freedoms
    • Despite the risks and restrictions, activist groups continue to score important victories to advance climate justice.

    As world leaders meet in Glasgow for the UN Climate Change Negotiations (COP26), peaceful environmental activists are being threatened, silenced and criminalised around the world. The host of this year's meeting is one of many countries where activists are regularly facing rights violations.

    New research from the CIVICUS Monitor looks at the common tactics and restrictions being used by governments and private companies to suppress environmental movements. The research brief “Defenders of our planet: Resilience in the face of restrictions” focuses on three worrying trends: Bans and restrictions on protests; Judicial harassment and legal persecution; and the use of violence, including targeted killings.

    As the climate crisis intensifies, activists and civil society groups continue to mobilise to hold policymakers and corporate leaders to account. From Brazil to South Africa, activists are putting their lives on the line to protect lands and to halt the activities of high-polluting industries. The most severe rights abuses are often experienced by civil society groups that are standing up to the logging, mining and energy giants who are exploiting natural resources and fueling global warming.

    As people take to the streets, governments have been instituting bans that criminalise environmental protests. Recently governments have used COVID-19 as a pretext to disrupt and break up demonstrations. Data from the CIVICUS Monitor indicates that the detention of protesters and the use of excessive force by authorities are becoming more prevalent.

    In Cambodia in May 2021, three environmental defenders were sentenced to 18 to 20 months in prison for planning a protest  against the filling of a lake in the capital. While in Finland this past June, over 100 activists were arrested for participating in a protest calling for the government to take urgent action on climate change. From authoritarian countries to  mature democracies, the research also profiles those who have been put behind bars for peacefully protesting.

    “Silencing activists and denying them of their fundamental civic rights is another tactic being used by leaders to evade and delay action on climate change” said Marianna Belalba Barreto, Research Lead for the CIVICUS Monitor. “Criminalising nonviolent protests has become a troubling indicator that governments are not committed to saving the planet .”

    The report shows that many of the measures being deployed by governments to restrict rights are not compatible with international law. Examples of courts and legislative bodies reversing attempts to criminalise nonviolent climate protests are few and far between.

    Despite the increased risks and restrictions facing environmental campaigners, the report also shows that a wide range of campaigns have scored important victories, including the closure of mines and numerous hazardous construction projects. Equally significant has been the rise of climate litigation by activist groups. Ironically, as authorities take activists to court for exercising their fundamental right to protest, activist groups have successfully filed lawsuits against governments and companies in over 25 countries for failing to act on climate change.


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  • At 75, is the UN still fit for purpose?

    By Mandeep Tiwana, Chief Programmes Officer at CIVICUS

    This 75th anniversary offers a unique opportunity to examine the UN’s failings and reflect on ideas to improve its functioning. Experts and practitioners agree that urgent change is needed to enhance the relevance of the UN to people and their organisations around the world.

    A major criticism of the UN is that its panoply of systems and structures seem both bewildering and self- serving to outsiders making it difficult to work through them. The UN’s bureaucracy is sprawling and often slow-moving. Its structure is rigidly hierarchical and powerful institutional inertia makes reform hard.

    Read on Inter Press Service News

     

  • Attacks against human rights defenders in Colombia, Guatemala and Honduras

     

    Statement at the 40th Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Response to country reports from the High Commissioner and Secretary General

    CIVICUS is extremely concerned about attacks against human rights defenders across Colombia, Honduras and Guatemala, of which governments of these counties show little sign of adequately addressing.

    In Colombia, increased violence against human rights defenders took the lives of 110 people in 2018. 20 were members of indigenous or afro-Colombia communities. Delays in implementing the peace agreement has fueled further risk, especially in rural areas which have been most affected by conflict.  We are concerned by the alarming increase in the number of threats and attacks against journalists, and we call on the government of Colombia to accelerate implementation of the peace agreement which would expand civic space.

    In Honduras human rights defenders are routinely attacked, criminalized, harassed and targeted by smear campaigns. We are also deeply concerned by the excessive use of force by law enforcement officials, particularly in contexts of protests. We call on the government of Honduras to adopt a comprehensive, rights-based and gender-responsive policy for the protection of human rights defenders and to reform laws which criminalise them, including the overly-broad law on terrorism.

    In Guatemala, too, the environment for human rights defenders continues to be hostile. Local organisation UDEFEGUA reported that at least 24 human rights defenders were killed in 2018. And since the beginning of 2019, there have been two further murders. Human rights defenders, especially indigenous leaders and land defenders, are subject to judicial harassment and intimidation. CIVICUS is concerned that in the approach to the June 2019 general elections, violence against defenders may increase.

    In all three cases, lack of investigations into crimes against human rights defenders has created a climate of impunity and increased risk. We call on all three governments to conduct investigations into attacks and ensure perpetrators are brought to justice, and to develop effective protection mechanisms and policies so that human rights can be defended without fear of reprisal.


    The CIVICUS Monitor rates the state of civicspace in Colombia as Repressed, Honduras as Repressed, Guatemala as Obstructed

     

  • Australia's adoption of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights

    Statement at 47th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights -- Outcome Adoption for Australia

    CIVICUS welcomes Australia's engagement in the UPR process.

    In our report submitted to the review, CIVICUS examined a number of unwarranted restrictions which undermine the consolidation of a more enabling environment for civil society in Australia. We further articulated several measures the relevant authorities should take to address these barriers to the realization of a more pluralistic civic space.

    In our submission, we raised a number of concerns about the climate for civic space in the country. In particular, we underscored that, climate and environmental movements and defenders are increasingly being vilified and criminalised for peaceful protests. We further raised alarm over unwarranted restrictions on media freedoms due, in large part, to police raids on independent media outlets and recent attempts to silence whistleblowers who reveal government wrongdoing under the Intelligence Services Act. 

    As a result of these issues, in December 2019, the CIVICUS Monitor, which rates and tracks respect for fundamental freedoms in 196 countries, downgraded Australia’s civic space rating from open to narrowed.

    While we welcome Australia's acceptance of recommendations to “Continue to protect civil and political rights for all persons in Australia as well as freedom of expression” we regret its unwillingness to accept a number of specific and targeted recommendations, including:

    • Amending national security laws that inhibit the speech of journalists, whistle-blowers and lawyers;
    • Repealing laws criminalizing public interest reporting; and
    • Ensuring meaningful participation in political and public life for all persons, especially for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

    We urge the government to drop all charges against whistleblowers, halt plans for legal changes to allow for the deregistration of charities for minor offences and consult with civil society in the implementation of the UPR recommendations.


    Civic space in Australia is rated as Narrowed  by the CIVICUS Monitor

     

     

  • Beyond 2015 Call for Inputs on Governance & Accountability in the Post-2015 Framework

    This call for inputs opens the opportunity for all participating organizations in the Beyond 2015 Campaign to collaborate in the framing and content of our joint position paper on Governance and Accountability. Send your input to b2015governance[at]gmail.com by 16 Nov 2012. Be sure to include your organization's full name, country and a contact person in your submission.

     

  • Bin the Travel Ban: Lift undue restrictions on Mozn Hassan and Egyptian civil society’s right to freedom of association

    Mozn Hassan is a courageous feminist and a human rights defender who protested with her fellow citizens to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak, calling for a new era of freedom and democracy in Egypt. Her struggle for equal rights for women during and after the Egyptian revolution, through her organisation Nazra for Feminist Studies, earned her the 2016 Right Livelihood Award. But she’s unlikely to receive this prestigious award because of a travel ban imposed on her by the Egyptian authorities.

    Mozn’s travel ban is the latest in a series of measures taken against her and other prominent leaders of Egyptian civil society under the ambit of the infamous Case 173 of 2011, commonly known as the “NGO Foreign Funding case”.

    In March 2016, Mozn Hassan was summoned to appear before a judge investigating the “NGO Foreign Funding” case soon after her participation at the UN Commission on the Status of Women. On June 27, 2016, she was prevented by the airport authorities in Cairo - acting on the instructions of the investigating judge and the Prosecutor General - from participating in the Women Human Rights Defenders Regional Coalition for the Middle East and North Africa meeting held in Lebanon.

     

  • Bolder measures must be taken to force the junta out of power

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

    Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar

    Delivered by Kyaw Win

    The Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN) and CIVICUS welcome the findings of the High Commissioner’s report on the progress made and remaining challenges regarding the recommendations of the independent international fact-finding mission on Myanmar. While cutting the junta’s access to revenue and arms supplies are urgent and essential measures that must be taken by all State Parties, we urge the international community to pursue bolder measures to force the military junta out of power.  

    The international response to the attempted coup has so far proceeded in a slow and fragmented manner with junta-perpetrated violence including against peaceful protestors and humanitarian needs in Burma continuing to escalate. During the first half of 2022, the junta was reported to commit more incidents of violence against civilians than any other ‘state’ armed force globally.1 The human rights situation of the Rohingya and Muslim minorities has continued to deteriorate, with these groups facing tightened restrictions on their fundamental freedoms and increasingly at risk of being subjected to further atrocity crimes.  

    The longer the international community waits to act, the more emboldened the junta will become as it escalates its crimes against humanity and war crimes. In addition to the High Commissioner’s recommendations, BHRN and CIVICUS call on governments worldwide to: 

    • Sharply increase engagement with the National Unity Government (NUG) and other key actors who are active against the junta, including ethnic resistance actors and leaders of the civil disobedience movement. 

    • Redouble efforts to pursue international legal action against the junta, including by joining the Gambia’s case at the International Court of Justice and by actively pursuing investigations and prosecutions under the principle of universal jurisdiction.  

    Additionally, BHRN calls on: 

    • ASEAN to coordinate with the UN to ensure strong action against the junta’s abuses. 

    • The UN General Assembly to adopt a resolution making clear that the NUG is the only government that member states and the UN should engage with. 

    • The UN Security Council to end its inaction and refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court or establish a separate criminal tribunal to investigate and prosecute the full spectrum of atrocity crimes in Myanmar.  


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

     

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

    Coalition Burkinabé des Défenseurs des Droits Humains, the West Africa Human Rights Defenders Network and CIVICUS welcome the government of Burkina Faso's engagement with the UPR process. We also welcome passing of a new law on the protection of human rights defenders in June 2017, making Burkina Faso only the second African country to do so.

    However, in our joint UPR Submission, we documented that since its last review, Burkina Faso only partially implemented the one civic space recommendation received during its 2nd Cycle review. Despite several positive developments since the popular uprising of 2014, such as the decriminalisation of defamation and the adoption of a law on the protection of human right defenders, restrictions on the freedom of expression including suspensions of media outlets by the national media regulator and attacks and threats against journalists continue.

    A new law on freedom of association, passed in 2015, allows authorities to delay the granting of legal personality in order to conduct a “morality” test on the applicant if deemed necessary. Civil society in Burkina Faso are further concerned about article 56 of the law which establishes a mediation commission, the members of which are not guaranteed to be independent of government.

    Despite the new HRD law, in recent years journalists and civil society activists, in particular those critical of the government, have continued to experience threats, intimidation and physical attacks. Freedom of expression has been undermined in recent years, including through the forced closure of some media outlets. 

    Serious violations of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, including the killing of at least 14 unarmed protestors, took place during a coup d’etat in September 2015.

    Mr President, we call on the Government of Burkina Faso to take proactive measures to address these concerns and implement recommendations to create and maintain, in law and in practice, an enabling environment for civil society.

     

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

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

    Mr. President, DefendDefenders and CIVICUS take note of the government’s engagement with the UPR process and welcome its decision to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or punishment.  However, we regret the fact that the provisions of the Optional Protocol have not been implemented.  In fact torture and the inhumane treatment of citizens have become commonplace in Burundi since its last review.  

    Burundi has not fully implemented any of the recommendations it accepted relating to civic space. Instead the authorities have selectively used restrictive legislation like the Law on Assemblies and Public Demonstrations (2013) to pre-empt and prevent peaceful demonstrations by citizens.  

    Since April 2015, the Burundian authorities have used violence against peaceful protesters and are responsible for the numerous killings, abductions, acts of torture, disappearances and arbitrary arrests of real or perceived opponents of the regime.  These acts have largely been carried out by security forces, intelligence services and the youth wing of the ruling party – the Imbonerakure.  Some of these crimes amount to crimes against humanity and they have been carried out with utmost impunity.  

    Legal restrictions adopted by the national assembly that increase government control of the activities and funding of national and international NGOs and the ban imposed on some civil society organisations have stifled freedom of association. The violence against representatives of civil society has forced many human rights organisations to close down and most of them now operate from abroad. 

    Mr. President, DefendDefenders and CIVICUS call on the Government of Burundi to take proactive measures to address these concerns and implement recommendations to create and maintain, in law and in practice, an enabling environment for civil society.


     

     

  • Burundi: Continued UN investigation of human rights violations needed

    Frances

    To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Geneva, Switzerland
    Burundi: Call to renew the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry

    Excellencies,

    Ahead of the 39th session of the UN Human Rights Council (“HRC” or “the Council”), we, the undersigned national, regional and international civil society organisations, write to urge your delegation to support a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on Burundi. [1] Such a resolution should also ensure continuity for the work of the CoI through continued adequate resourcing of its secretariat, including its crucial investigative and evidence-gathering work.

    The renewal of the CoI’s mandate is critically important to improve the human rights situation in Bu-rundi, and it offers the Council a number of practical and effective advantages. Among other things, it would allow the Council to:

    • Avoid a monitoring gap, which is all the more important given the Burundian Government’s ongoing refusal to cooperate with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and to sign a new Memorandum of Understanding regarding its presence in the coun-try; [2
    • Ensure the continued documentation of human rights violations and abuses ahead of the upcoming elections of 2020, through testimonies of victims, witnesses, human rights defenders, and other actors operating in and outside of the country;
    • Ensure ongoing public reporting and debates — while the African Union’s observers continue to monitor the human rights situation in Burundi despite a number of limitations imposed by the authorities, their findings are not publicly reported. Interactive dialogues at the Council provide the only regular space for public reporting and debates on human rights developments in the country; and
    • Enable the CoI to continue to highlight under-addressed aspects of the crisis — for instance, the Commission has stressed the importance of dedicating more attention to violations of economic, social and cultural rights.

    At the Council's 36th session (September 2017), the CoI informed the HRC that there were “reasonable grounds to believe that serious human rights violations and abuses have been committed in Burundi since 2015,” and that some of the violations may constitute “crimes against humanity.” At the 37th and 38th sessions of the Council (March and June-July 2018), the CoI described a political, security, econ-omic, social and human rights situation that has not improved since September 2016. In March 2018, the Commission’s Chairperson, Mr. Doudou Diène, stressed that the situation in the country continued to deserve the Council’s “utmost attention.” In October 2017, the International Criminal Court (ICC) authorised an investigation into crimes committed in Burundi since April 2015. A preliminary exam-ination of the situation had been opened in April 2016.

    The constitutional referendum that was held on 17 May 2018 was marred with violence and repression, with arbitrary arrests, beatings and intimidation of citizens campaigning for a “no” vote. [3] The BBC and VOA, two of the country’s main international radio stations, have been suspended for 6 months at the start of the official campaign, illustrating the climate of fear in which journalists and medias were pre-vented from a proper coverage of the event. [4]  In the Commission’s words, as of June 2018 “human rights violations, among which extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment […], facilitated by a continuing environment of threats and intimidation,” continue unabated. The CoI added: “The fact that several missing people have not been found and that unidentified bodies continue to be discovered in various parts of the country gives reason to fear the continuation of practices consisting of getting rid of the bodies of people arrested sometimes by individuals in police uniform or identified as agents of the National Intelligence Service (SNR) or the Imbonerakure.” [5

    Since it became a member of the Council, on 1st January 2016, Burundi has delivered multiple state-ments that have made clear its refusal to cooperate with human rights monitoring and investigation bodies and mechanisms. The Government has repeatedly launched attacks, which have sometimes des-cended to a personal level, against the High Commissioner, UN officials, and independent experts. With no basis or evidence, it has publicly questioned the independence, competence, professionalism, inte-grity and legitimacy of High Commissioner Zeid and his Office, and has threatened, stigmatised, and exercised reprisals against human rights defenders and civil society organisations. [6] Burundians who have sought protection outside of Burundi have been subjected to harassment and persecution, including by members of the National Intelligence Service (SNR) and Imbonerakure.

    Members of the CoI continue to be denied access to Burundi. Furthermore, at the time of writing, the Burundian authorities have withdrawn visas from the team of experts mandated by HRC resolution 36/2, despite the fact that the latter was adopted at Burundi’s own initiative, with its support and the support of members of Burundi’s own regional group. Burundi’s action in this regard clearly violates its Council membership obligations.

    Recalling the letter a group of civil society organisations wrote in September 2017,7 we urge the Council, consistent with its mandate to address situations of violations of human rights, including gross and systematic violations, to pave the way for accountability by renewing the mandate of the CoI to enable it to continue monitoring human rights developments in the country, documen-ting violations and abuses, and publicly reporting on the situation.

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

    Sincerely,

    Action des Chrétiens pour l’Abolition de la Torture – Burundi (ACAT-Burundi) African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS)
    Amnesty International
    Association Burundaise pour la Protection des Droits Humains et des Personnes Détenues (APRODH)
    Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE)
    Centre for Civil and Political Rights (CCPR)
    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    Coalition Burundaise pour la Cour Pénale Internationale (CB-CPI)
    Collectif des Avocats pour la Défense des Victimes de Crimes de Droit International Commis au Burundi (CAVIB)
    Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation South Sudan (CEPO)
    DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (EHAHRD-N)
    Eritrean Law Society (ELS)
    Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR)
    Forum pour la Conscience et le Développement (FOCODE)
    Forum pour le Renforcement de la Société Civile au Burundi (FORSC)
    Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P)
    Human Rights Concern – Eritrea
    Human Rights Watch
    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    International Federation of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (FIACAT)
    International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR)
    International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    Ligue Iteka
    Mouvement Citoyen pour l’Avenir du Burundi (MCA)
    Mouvement des Femmes et des Filles pour la Paix et la Sécurité (MFFPS)
    National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Burundi (CBDDH)
    Observatoire de la Lutte contre la Corruption et les Malversations Économiques (OLUCOME)
    Organisation pour la Transparence et la Gouvernance (OTRAG)
    Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network
    Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
    Réseau des Citoyens Probes (RCP)
    SOS-Torture/Burundi
    TRIAL International
    Union Burundaise des Journalistes (UBJ)
    World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)


    1. See its webpage: www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/CoIBurundi/Pages/CoIBurundi.aspx
    2. See the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights’ statement at the Council’s 37th session (OHCHR, “Introduction to country reports/briefings/updates of the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner under item 2,” 21-22 March 2018, www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22875&LangID=E, accessed 20 July 2018).
    3. FIDH and Ligue Iteka, “A forced march to a Constitutional Referendum,” May 2018, www.fidh.org/IMG/pdf/report_burundi_may2018_referendum_on_constitution.pdf (accessed 27 July 2018). 
    4. Reporters Without Borders, “Harassment of Burundi’s media intensifies for referendum,” 16 May 2018, www.rsf.org/en/news/harassment-burundis-media-intensifies-referendum# (accessed 7 August 2018). 
    5. OHCHR, “Oral briefing by the members of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi to the Human Rights Council,” 27 June 2018, www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23274&LangID=E (accessed 20 July 2018). 
    6. See DefendDefenders, “Headlong Rush: Burundi’s behaviour as a member of the UN Human Rights Council,” 25 July 2018, www.defenddefenders.org/publication/headlong-rush-burundis-behaviour-as-a-member-of-the-un-human-rights-council/ (accessed 25 July 2018). 
    7. “Renewing the Mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi and Ensuring Accountability for Serious Crimes,” 19 September 2017, www.defenddefenders.org/press_release/hrc36-renewing-the-mandate-of-the-commission-of-inquiry-on-burundi-and-ensuring-accountability-for-serious-crimes/ (accessed 30 July 2018).
     

     

  • Burundi: Disappearances and detentions continue ahead of May elections

    Statement at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council during Interactive Dialogue with the UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi
    Watch us deliver our statement below:

    CIVICUS and independent Burundian civil society organisations welcome the important work of the Commission of Inquiry, and thank the Commission for its update, despite the government of Burundi’s continued refusal to grant access to the country.

    Just months before general elections set for May, the human rights and security situation remains perilous. Forced disappearances and arbitrary detentions of opponents and other dissenting voices continue unabated. In January 2020, Jacques Nibigira, Gilbert Ndayishimiye, Eslon Nshinyabigoye and Juma were arrested by the Burundian Intelligence Service. Their whereabouts remain unknown.  In October 2019, journalists Christine Kamikazi, Agnès Ndirubusa, Égide Harerimana and Térence were arbitrarily arrested while investigating rebel activities. Human rights defender Germain Rukuki is still in jail serving a 32-year prison sentence on Trumped-up charges of “rebellion.”

    On 16 January 2020, journalist Blaise Pascal Kararumiye was arrested and detained incommunicado for five days by the Governor of Karuzi province and released without any charges. Freedom of speech, access to information, and association remain restricted in Burundi. There have been violent attacks by the ruling party youth wing on members of other political parties. We are concerned that such attacks will continue as the elections approach.

    We call on the government of Burundi to fully cooperate and allow access to UN Human Rights Council mechanisms, including the Commission of Inquiry, and for all UN mechanisms on peace, security and human rights to fully support the Commission’s work and recommendations. We further call on the Council to take serious heed of the Commission’s analysis of risk factors and take steps to prevent atrocities and ensure that the government of Burundi is held accountable for its human rights violations.

    We ask the Commission whether it plans for the deployment of an observation mission before, during and after the upcoming elections so that election-related human rights violations can be reported on in a timely manner to help prevent the escalation of electoral violence. 


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

     

  • Burundi: Extend the Special Rapporteur’s mandate

    Ahead of the 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council (12 September-7 October 2022), CIVICUS joins over 50 civil society organisations in calling the Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations Human Rights Council to renew the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Burundi. 


     

  • Burundi: Human rights continue to worsen ahead of 2020 elections

    42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi

    CIVICUS and independent Burundian civil society organisations welcome the important work of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, and specifically this report which provides critical oversight of the human rights situation in the country.

    As the report makes clear, the human rights situation in Burundi remains dire and continues to worsen. Sustained monitoring and reporting is vital. The civic space in Burundi is closed, with independent and critical voices, including civil society organisations and human rights defenders, particularly targeted. We remain deeply concerned that the sentencing of human rights defender Germain Rukuki was upheld by the Court of appeals in July 2019.

    Burundi is scheduled to hold elections in 2020. The fragile pre-electoral context and rising political tensions are likely to give rise to further human rights violations. We are particularly alarmed by the political intolerance of the ruling party’s youth wing “Imbonerakure” of political opposition members. Offices of political opposition parties have been burned or destroyed and members of those parties arbitrarily detained.

    In light of the banning of international media and unwarranted restrictions imposed on independent private media in Burundi, it is imperative that human rights violations are documented by the international community. We urge the Council to renew the Commission’s mandate to ensure continued monitoring and documentation of the human rights situation in Burundi, especially ahead of the 2020 election, as limited civic and democratic space in the country hinders independent and critical sources of information. The renewal of the Commission’s mandate would make clear that obstructionism, indifference, and threats made by the Burundi government against the UN are not rewarded.

    We call on the government of Burundi to fully cooperate and allow access to UN Human Rights Council mechanisms, and we ask the Commission of Inquiry what further support they need from the Human Rights Council to continue and strengthen their work?

     

  • Burundi: Human rights violations continue

     

    UN Human Rights Council – 40th regular session
    Interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi

    CIVICUS is extremely concerned that grave human rights violations in Burundi continue without any signs of abating.

    The Commission of Inquiry reported in September 2018 that serious violations, including crimes against humanity, remained routine. During the May 2018 referendum, local authorities, the youth wing of the ruling party, the police and intelligence services summarily executed, abducted, detained and intimidated those who voted against the constitutional changes or those perceived to have done so.  In total more than 20 people were killed in incidences related to the referendum. 

    The 32-year jail sentence handed to human rights defender Germain Rukuki under trumped up charges of “participating in an insurrectionist movement and breaching state security” despite repeated calls for his release from the international community is a vivid reflection of the state of human rights in Burundi. Other human rights defenders have been jailed under similar circumstances.  Three representatives of the CSO – PARCEM are serving ten-year sentences after being charged with “threatening national security,” and human rights defender Nestor Nibitanga is also in detention in an unrelated case.

    Mr. President, media restrictions continue as most private radio stations remain closed since 2015.  The National Communication Agency suspended the broadcasting licenses of the BBC and VOA after accusing them of violating Burundi’s media laws.  The activities of more than130 INGOs providing vital health and social services in Burundi were affected after they were banned in Burundi for three months in September 2018.

    We call for the immediate release of all human rights defenders and urge Burundi to fully cooperate with the COI and re-open the OHCHR office.

     

  • Burundi: la situation des droits humains continue de s'aggraver avant les élections de 2020

    Conseil des droits de l'homme de l'ONU - 42ème session
    Dialogue interactif avec la Commission d'enquête des Nations Unies sur le Burundi

    CIVICUS et les organisations indépendantes de la société civile burundaise se félicitent de l'important travail de la Commission d'enquête des Nations Unies sur le Burundi, et en particulier de ce rapport qui fournit un aperçu critique de la situation des droits humains dans le pays.

    Comme l'indique clairement le rapport, la situation des droits de l'homme au Burundi reste désastreuse et continue de se dégrader. Il est essentiel d'assurer une surveillance et une communication continues de l'information. L'espace civique au Burundi est fermé, et des voix indépendantes et critiques, notamment celles des organisations de la société civile et des défenseurs des droits humains, y sont particulièrement ciblées. Nous demeurons profondément préoccupés par le fait que la condamnation du défenseur des droits humains Germain Rukuki a été confirmée par la Cour d'appel en juillet 2019.

    Des élections sont prévues au Burundi en 2020. La fragilité du contexte pré-électoral et la montée des tensions politiques risquent de donner lieu à de nouvelles violations des droits humains. Nous sommes particulièrement alarmés par l'intolérance politique de la section jeunesse "Imbonerakure" du parti au pouvoir face aux membres de l'opposition. Les bureaux des partis politiques d'opposition ont été brûlés ou détruits et des membres de ces partis ont été détenus arbitrairement.

    Compte tenu de l'interdiction des médias internationaux et des restrictions injustifiées imposées aux médias privés indépendants au Burundi, il est impératif que les violations des droits humains soient documentées par la communauté internationale. Nous exhortons le Conseil à renouveler le mandat de la Commission afin d'assurer une surveillance et une documentation continues de la situation des droits humains au Burundi, en particulier avant les élections de 2020, car l'espace civique et démocratique limité du pays entrave les sources d'information indépendantes et critiques. Le renouvellement du mandat de la Commission montrerait clairement que l'obstructionnisme, l'indifférence et les menaces du gouvernement burundais contre l'ONU ne sont pas récompensés.

    Nous appelons le gouvernement du Burundi à coopérer pleinement et à permettre l'accès aux mécanismes du Conseil des droits de l'homme des Nations Unies, et nous demandons à la Commission d'Enquête de quel soutien supplémentaire elle a besoin de la part du Conseil des droits de l'homme afin de poursuivre et renforcer son travail.

     

  • Burundi: les disparitions et les arrestations continuent en amont des élections de mai

    Déclaration à la 43ème session de Conseil des droits de l'homme des Nations Unies durant le dialogue interactif avec la Comission d'enquête des Nations Unies sur le Burundi

    CIVICUS et les organisations indépendantes de la société civile burundaise saluent le travail important de la Commission d'enquête et remercient celle-ci pour son actualisation, malgré le refus persistant du gouvernement du Burundi d'accorder l'accès au pays.

    A quelques mois des élections générales prévues pour le mois de mai, la situation des droits humains et de la sécurité reste précaire. Les disparitions forcées et les détentions arbitraires d'opposants et d'autres voix dissidentes se poursuivent sans relâche. En janvier 2020, Jacques Nibigira, Gilbert Ndayishimiye, Eslon Nshinyabigoye et Juma ont été arrêtés par le service de renseignement burundais. On ignore toujours où ils se trouvent.  En octobre 2019, les journalistes Christine Kamikazi, Agnès Ndirubusa, Égide Harerimana et Térence ont été arbitrairement arrêtés alors qu'ils enquêtaient sur les activités des rebelles. Le défenseur des droits humains Germain Rukuki est toujours en prison et purge une peine de 32 ans de prison sous de fausses accusations de "rébellion".

    Le 16 janvier 2020, le journaliste Blaise Pascal Kararumiye a été arrêté et détenu au secret pendant cinq jours par le gouverneur de la province de Karuzi, puis libéré sans aucune charge. La liberté d'expression, l'accès à l'information et l'association restent limités au Burundi. Des membres d'autres partis politiques ont été violemment attaqués par la branche jeunesse du parti au pouvoir. Nous craignons que de telles attaques se poursuivent à l'approche des élections.

    Nous demandons au gouvernement du Burundi de coopérer pleinement et de permettre l'accès aux mécanismes du Conseil des droits de l'homme des Nations unies, y compris la Commission d'enquête ; et à tous les mécanismes des Nations unies sur la paix, la sécurité et les droits de l'homme de soutenir pleinement les travaux et les recommandations de la Commission. Nous appelons en outre le Conseil à tenir sérieusement compte de l'analyse des facteurs de risque effectuée par la Commission et à prendre des mesures pour prévenir les atrocités et faire en sorte que le gouvernement du Burundi soit tenu responsable de ses violations des droits de l'homme.

    Nous demandons à la Commission si elle prévoit le déploiement d'une mission d'observation avant, pendant et après les prochaines élections afin que les violations des droits de l'homme liées aux élections puissent être signalées en temps utile pour contribuer à prévenir l'escalade de la violence électorale.

     

     

  • Burundi: Les violations généralisées des droits de l'homme persistent

    Déclaration à la 44e session du Conseil des droits de l'homme des Nations unies

    Dialogue interactif avec la Commission d'enquête des Nations unies sur le Burundi


    Je vous remercie, Madame la Présidente ;

    CIVICUS et les organisations indépendantes de la société civile burundaise saluent le travail important de la Commission d'enquête, et remercient la Commission pour sa mise à jour, en notant le refus continu du gouvernement du Burundi d'accorder l'accès au pays.

    Nous félicitons le Burundi pour ses élections, et le nouveau président Évariste Ndayishimiye, et les nouvelles possibilités d'engagement qu'elles offrent. Toutefois, les processus électoraux ont été caractérisés par un rétrécissement de l'espace démocratique et des violations de la liberté d'expression, d'association et de réunion pacifique. Les fermetures d'Internet et les blocages des réseaux sociaux ont sapé l'accès à l'information. Nous sommes également profondément déçus par la nomination de personnes faisant l'objet de sanctions internationales pour des violations flagrantes des droits de l'homme à des postes clés du gouvernement, notamment le Premier ministre et le ministre de l'intérieur. 

    Nous sommes sérieusement préoccupés par le fait que les membres de la ligue des jeunes du parti au pouvoir, l'Imbonerakure, souvent avec des fonctionnaires locaux, le service national de renseignement et la police, continuent de commettre des violations généralisées des droits de l'homme, notamment des meurtres, des arrestations arbitraires, des extorsions, des passages à tabac et des intimidations, qui visent souvent les opposants politiques et leurs familles. La société civile et les médias indépendants ont été interdits, contraints de fermer ou empêchés de critiquer le gouvernement. Les journalistes qui enquêtent sur des questions de sécurité ou de droits de l'homme sont victimes d'intimidations, de surveillance et de poursuites, tandis que les médias font l'objet d'interdictions, de suspensions et de réglementations indûment restrictives qui étouffent les reportages indépendants.

    Le 5 juin, la cour a rejeté l'appel des journalistes Christine Kamikazi, Agnès Ndirubusa, Égide Harerimana et Térence Mpozenzi du groupe de médias Iwacu, qui avaient été arbitrairement arrêtés alors qu'ils enquêtaient sur les activités des rebelles en octobre 2019. Ils continuent leur peine de deux ans et demi de prison.

    Nous appelons le nouveau gouvernement du Burundi à coopérer pleinement avec la Commission d'enquête de l'ONU et à lui accorder l'accès nécessaire. Nous appelons également le gouvernement à libérer sans condition toutes les personnes détenues pour des raisons politiques, y compris les militants et les défenseurs des droits de l'homme.

    Nous demandons à la Commission de s'engager avec le nouveau président sur les crimes perpétrés pendant la dernière présidence afin de garantir la vérité et la justice pour les victimes ; et si la Commission identifie des opportunités à la lumière de la nouvelle présidence, pour un engagement renouvelé avec le gouvernement pour la mise en œuvre de ses recommandations passées et l'amélioration des droits de l'homme dans le pays. 


    L'espace civique au Burundi est actuellement classé comme fermé par le CIVICUS Monitor.

    Membres actuels du Conseil :

    Afghanistan, Allemagne, Angola, Argentine, Arménie, Australie, Autriche, Bahamas, Bahraïn, Bangladesh, Bulgarie, Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Chili, Danemark, ErithréeEspagne, Fidji, Inde, Indonésie, Italie, Libye, Iles Marshall, Mauritanie, Mexico, Namibie, NépalNigeriaPakistan, Pays-BasPérou, PhilippinesPologneQuatar, République de CoréeRépublique démocratique du CongoRépublique tchèque, Sénégal, Slovaquie, Somalie, Soudan,Togo, Ukraine, Uruguay, Venezuela

    Classement de l'espace civique par le CIVICUS Monitor

    OUVERT    RETRECI OBSTRUE  REPRIME FERME

     

     

  • Burundi: Special Rapporteur’s first report shows that patterns of human rights violations remain

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

    Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Burundi 

    Delivered by Lisa Majumdar 

    Thank you, Mr President. 

    CIVICUS and independent Burundian civil society organisations thank the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burundi for his first report. 

    The human rights situation in Burundi has continued on a downward spiral despite President Ndayishimiye’s promises to deliver justice and promote civil and political tolerance. Since President Ndayimishiye came to power, the same patterns of extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, torture and other forms of human rights violations that characterised his predecessor’s rule can be seen. 

    For instance, on 28 August 2022, Florine Irangabiye, a Burundian women’s rights defender, was arrested and detained in the Burundian Intelligence Bureau after her return from Rwanda, where she had been living.  She is accused of espionage against Burundi. We also note with concern a statement made by the ruling party’s Secretary General in which he called on the Imbonekure to continue night patrols and to “kill any troublemakers.” 

    Lack of cooperation with UN human rights mechanisms has continued under this government. We call on the Burundi government to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur and grant him access to the country. 

    In light of the human rights situation, and of the early stage of the mandate, we urge the Council to renew the Special Rapporteur’s mandate to ensure that the human rights situation in Burundi remains under the scrutiny of the Council. 

    We thank you. 


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

     

  • Burundi: Widespread human rights abuses persist

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

    Interactive Dialogue with the UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi

     


    Thank you, Madame President;

    CIVICUS and independent Burundian civil society organisations welcome the important work of the Commission of Inquiry, and thank the Commission for its update, noting the continued refusal of the government of Burundi to grant access to the country. 

    We congratulate Burundi on its elections, and the new President Évariste Ndayishimiye, and the new opportunities this presents for engagement. However, the electoral processes were characterised by shrinking democratic space and violations of freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. Internet shutdowns and social media blockages undermined access to information. We are also deeply disappointed with the appointment of individuals under international sanctions for gross human rights violations to key government positions, including the Prime Minister and Ministry of Home Affairs. 

    We are seriously concerned that members of the ruling party’s youth league, the Imbonerakure, often with local officials, the national intelligence service, and police, continue to carry out widespread human rights abuses including murders, arbitrary arrests, extortion, beatings, and intimidation, often targeting political opponents and their families. Independent civil society and media have been banned, forced to close down, or otherwise prevented from criticising the government. Journalists investigating security or human rights issues face intimidation, surveillance, and prosecution, while media outlets face bans, suspensions, and unduly restrictive regulations that stifle independent reporting.

    On 5 June, the court rejected an appeal by journalists Christine Kamikazi, Agnès Ndirubusa, Égide Harerimana and Térence Mpozenzi of the Iwacu media group, who were arbitrarily arrested while investigating rebel activities in October 2019. They continue their sentence of two and half years in prison. 

    We call on the new government of Burundi to fully cooperate with and grant access to the UN Commission of Inquiry. We also call on the government to unconditionally release all politically motivated detentions including of activists and human rights defenders. 

    We ask the Commission to engage with the new President on crimes perpetrated during the last presidency to ensure truth and justice for victims; and whether the Commission identifies opportunities in light of the new presidency, for renewed engagement with the government for the implementation of its past recommendations and the improvement of human rights in the country. 


    Civic space in Burundi is currently rated as Closed by the CIVICUS Monitor

    Current council members:

    Afghanistan, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Eritrea, Fiji, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Libya, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mexico, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Poland, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Senegal, Slovakia, SomaliaSudan, Spain, Togo, Ukraine, Uruguay, Venezuela

    Civic space ratings from the CIVICUS Monitor

    OPEN NARROWED OBSTRUCTED  REPRESSED CLOSED

     

     

  • BUSINESS AND HUMAN RIGHTS: ‘This treaty should not be negotiated behind closed doors’

    IvetteGonzalezCIVICUS speaks about the process to develop an international treaty on business and human rights and the role of civil society with Ivette Gonzalez, Director of Strategic Liaison, Advocacy and Public Relations at Project on Organising, Development, Education and Research (PODER).

    PODER is a regional civil society organisation (CSO) based in Mexico, dedicated to promoting corporate transparency and accountability in Latin America from a human rights perspective, and to strengthening civil society affected by business practices to act as guarantors of long-term accountability.

    Why is a treaty on business and human rights so important?

    We live in a world virtually ruled by capital. Since this hegemonic capitalist and patriarchal economic model has taken hold, it has become clear that whoever has the capital calls the shots.

    When companies directly influence the decisions of state powers, be it the executive, legislative or judicial branches of government, or others such as international organisations or banking institutions that should operate for the public benefit, and instead put them at the service of the private and exclusive benefit of a few people and prioritise the creation and accumulation of wealth over human rights, it results in a phenomenon we call ‘corporate capture’. Corporate capture is observed on all continents and results in the weakening of the state and its institutions. The strength of the state needs to be restored and the treaty on business and human rights could contribute to this.

    A legally binding international instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises seeks to curb violations committed by companies of multiple human rights such as the rights to health, freedom, privacy and access to information and the impunity with which they operate, which allows them to destroy the environment, territories, families and entire communities.

    All companies must operate with due diligence on human rights to identify, prevent, address and remedy abuses and violations, as a continuous cycle of management including project planning, investment, operations, mergers, value and supply chains, relationships with customers and suppliers, and any other activity that could cause negative impacts on rights and territories. The treaty serves as a means for states, as the primary duty bearers in charge of protecting human rights, to hold companies to their responsibilities and monitor compliance.

    An international treaty would also be a unique development in that it would cover the extraterritorial activities of companies, such as the activities of companies that may be headquartered in a country in the global north but have operations in the global south. At the moment, in many instances and jurisdictions, companies are only self-regulating and are not accountable for their human rights abuses and violations, and the destruction they cause to life and the planet. Some states are making progress on regulations and policies, but there are still gaps at the international level. We want this treaty to address the huge gap in international law that allows corporate crimes to go unpunished.

    What progress has been made in negotiating the treaty?

    Interesting developments took place at the eighth session of the Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Respect to Human Rights, held from 24 to 28 October 2022. While there is no strict timeline or deadline for producing the final version of the treaty, one of the experts convened by the Intergovernmental Working Group for the development of the instrument proposed 2025 for concluding the negotiations. This is the deadline that is expected to be met if states have the political will to build consensus. For the time being, some states that were reluctant to participate in the past are now showing a little more interest.

    For now, the draft has 24 articles, the first 13 of which were discussed in the last session. Discussions included central issues such as the definition of victims’ rights and their protection and the definition of the purpose and scope of the treaty: whether it should include only transnational corporations or other companies as well. The state of Mexico, for example, argues that this instrument should cover all activities that have a transnational character. There have also been discussions on the prevention of damages and access to reparations, as well as about legal liability, the jurisdiction that will deal with complaints, statutes of limitation and international judicial cooperation, among other issues.

    Some states have made contributions to improve the content under negotiation. In contrast, other states seek to minimise the scope of the treaty in certain regards, such as protections for Indigenous peoples and communities, environmental safeguards and women’s and children’s rights, among others.

    Some states support the most recent proposals of the chair rapporteur, the Ecuadorian ambassador, but a large part of civil society considers that, for the most part, they detract from what was achieved during the seven years up to 2021, and weaken the treaty. They promote power asymmetry between northern and southern states, as well as between companies and rights-holding individuals and communities. The third revised draft is the one we recognise as legitimate and the basis on which we believe negotiations should continue.

    How is civil society contributing to the treaty process?

    Dozens of CSOs are pushing for an effective treaty, including PODER, along with the International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net), which brings together more than 280 CSOs, social movements and activists from 75 countries, and several other alliances, movements and coalitions such as the Treaty Alliance, Feminists for a Binding Treaty and the Global Campaign to Reclaim Peoples Sovereignty, Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity.

    Of course there is diversity of opinion within civil society on a number of issues, but we all agree on the need to regulate business activity with a human rights perspective. We have identified the elements this treaty should contain and the conditions required for its implementation. And we are trying to inject urgency into the process, which is going too slowly, while human rights violations and attacks against human rights defenders do not stop, but instead increase every year.

    Civil society has advocated with decision-makers to open up spaces for discussion with civil society. PODER, along with ESCR-Net, has in particular insisted on the constructive and proactive participation of states from the global south in the process, and specifically from Latin America. We also work to integrate a gender and intersectional perspective into both the process and the text. One example for this has been the proposal to use Mexico’s feminist foreign policy.

    Civil society’s point of departure is the conviction that it is not possible to develop a legitimate treaty without placing the participation of rights holders – affected rural people and communities, Indigenous peoples, independent trade unions, LGBTQI+ people and people in vulnerable situations, among others – at the centre of the whole process.

    What are the chances that the final version of the treaty will meet civil society’s expectations and fulfil its purpose?

    We hope the treaty will contribute to ending corporate impunity and states will assume their obligation to protect human rights in the face of corporate activity. It will prevent abuses and violations, redress grievances and ensure these situations do not recur.

    Although there are established processes for the development of international treaties, this is an unusual treaty and should be treated as such, and changes should be made to both process and content as necessary for it to be truly effective.

    For it to fully meet the expectations of civil society would require a paradigm shift based on the principle that business has a social function and that its operations should not exceed certain limits for a dignified life and a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. We know that our full aspirations will not materialise with a treaty, with National Action Plans and regulations and standards, even if they are properly implemented. But these are all important steps in trying to balance the scales by limiting the power that the global economic system has given to business corporations.

    While the treaty is unlikely to meet all our expectations, CSOs that are demanding the highest standards for this treaty will continue to do so until the end. We will continue to bring proposals from experts and affected communities and groups fighting for justice and redress for the harms they experience first-hand, opening up spaces for their voices to be heard and remain at the heart of the negotiations at all times, and including human rights and environmental defenders in consultations on the text.

    This treaty should not be negotiated behind closed doors or with the private sector alone, as this would allow for the repetition of the same cycle of opacity and privilege that has brought us this far, and would only contribute to maintaining an unsustainable status quo.


    Get in touch with PODER through itswebsite orFacebook page, and follow@ProjectPODER on Twitter.