United Nations

  • ARMENIA: ‘Lack of compelling international action allowed the attack on Nagorno-Karabakh to occur’

    LidaMinasyanCIVICUS speaks about the humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh– the disputed territory within Azerbaijan that until recently was governed by ethnic Armenians –withLida Minasyan, a feminist peace activist and Resource Mobilisation Consultant at theCentral Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central and North Asia (CEECCNA) Collaborative Fund.

    Founded in 2022, the CEECCNA Collaborative Fund is a feminist fund that mobilises sustainable resources for social justice movements across the CEECCNA region.

    What is the current security and human rights situation in Nagorno-Karabakh?

    The ethnic Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh was forcibly displaced within days of the Azerbaijani government launching a full-scale attack on 19 September. A week later, 100,632 people had arrived in Armenia, having left behind their homes, their belongings and the lives they had built.

    Several actions deliberately targeted against civilians occurred before the start of the ethnic cleansing of the Armenian population from Nagorno-Karabakh. In December 2022, Azerbaijan blocked the Lachin corridor, the only road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia, leaving the 120,000 Armenians who lived there completely isolated. People endured nine months of severe food insecurity, fuel shortages, electricity outages, communications breakdowns and medical supply shortages. This resulted in a humanitarian crisis that put people, particularly those with vulnerabilities, at risk. Many pregnant women had miscarriages and stillbirths, people with chronic illnesses couldn’t receive their medication and treatment, and risk of infection increased due to the lack of hygiene products. These were just a few of the severe challenges people faced during the blockade.

    The Lachin road was reopened several days after the Azerbaijani offensive, when people, already traumatised and starving, experienced a direct threat to their lives. They had no choice but to leave their homes in search of safety in Armenia.

    Why did Azerbaijan initiate the blockade and military offensive?

    The nine-month blockade and the offensive were meant to achieve the ethnic cleansing of the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh. The intentional deprivation of essential resources for survival followed by the direct attack to take over Nagorno-Karabakh, along with the creation of conditions for the Armenian population to leave, indicate that Azerbaijan is not contemplating any peaceful end to the conflict or human rights guarantees for Armenian people to feel safe in their homes and continue living in Nagorno-Karabakh.

    By leveraging additional threats against Armenians and Armenian sovereign territories, demonstrating its military power, and consistently introducing new conditions in the negotiation process with Armenia, Azerbaijan intends to assert its dominance. This approach reinforces a policy of hatred towards Armenians spanning decades and undermines the peacebuilding process between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

    How has Armenian civil society responded to the humanitarian crisis?

    Displaced people endured a journey of over 20 hours to reach Armenia, during which they had no access to food, water or sanitation facilities. As a result, most of them arrived thirsty, hungry and in need of medical attention. When they began arriving, local organisations, activists and volunteers were among the first to give them food, hygiene products and assistance to register for the state support system.

    Local civil society organisations engage in continuous needs assessments of displaced people, using dynamic data collection approaches, as the situation is changing rapidly. In addition to the immediate provision of goods, there are medium and long-term needs to address. Displaced people need psychological assistance to overcome trauma, sustainable medical support, permanent housing, access to education and employment and services to prevent and address gender-based violence.

    As part of the CEECCNA Collaborative Fund, we provide timely updates about the situation to our international partners and mobilise and direct resources to local organisations. Due to limited resources, Armenian civil society activists worked under a lot of pressure because they had to initiate fundraising efforts while simultaneously providing emergency response.

    The Armenian government has provided displaced people with one-time financial support, essential products and access to temporary accommodation. For all its good intentions, however, the government also lacks resources and capacity to provide adequate long-term assistance to displaced people.

    Has the international community’s response been adequate?

    The response has been slow and inadequate. A few months into the blockade, the international community refused to call the situation a humanitarian crisis and many turned a blind eye to the deteriorating conditions of Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenian population.

    After numerous appeals and demands from civil society, some international agencies began releasing statements urging the Azerbaijani government to open the Lachin corridor. They mainly referred to the International Court of Justice’s orders of 22 February and 6 July 2023, which unequivocally mandated Azerbaijan to ensure unrestricted movement of people, vehicles and cargo along the corridor in both directions.

    Despite these decisions, the road remained blocked. A group of four United Nations experts also expressed their concern about the continued closure of the Lachin corridor and called on the Azerbaijani authorities to promptly reinstate unimpeded and safe movement along the road, as stipulated by the November 2020 ceasefire agreement.

    The lack of more compelling action by the international community created an unhindered environment for the attack to occur. Many organisations are currently responding by issuing new alerts and appeals, along with providing much-needed humanitarian support. However, the people of Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia require sustainable peace and human security, which will only be achievable through a negotiation that is inclusive of the voices of those most profoundly affected by the conflict. We advocate specifically for the inclusion of women in formal negotiations, in order to pave the way to sustainable peace.

    The international community’s crisis-response support is highly appreciated, but it should be complemented by long-term funding for dialogue, peacebuilding and the reestablishment of human security. Armenian civil society working to alert about potential risks of conflict escalation on the borders of Armenia could also benefit from their support.

    Civic space in Armenia is rated ‘narrowed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Learn more aboutCEECCNA Collaborative Fund in thisblog.

  • As global tensions rise, the UN stands on the sidelines

    By  Mandeep Tiwana

    It’s tempting to lay the blame for unresolved conflicts at the UN’s door but the reality is that the UN can only deliver when it has the support of member states and the buy-in of citizens.
    Read on: Jerusalem Post

  • 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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  • ASEAN: ‘There is a lack of a consistent approach and political will to address the Myanmar crisis’

    MaryAileenDiez BacalsoCIVICUS speaks with Mary Aileen Diez-Bacalso, a globally recognised human rights advocate and the new Executive Director of the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), on the state of civic space in the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the regional body’s response to the human rights situation in Myanmar.

    In March 2023, Myanmar’s civic space was downgraded by theCIVICUS Monitor to the worst category, closed, in response to developments including the detention of thousands of activists and protesters, many of them convicted by secret military tribunals in unfair trials and given harsh sentences including thedeath penalty. Some have been tortured or killed. The ruling military junta has also systematically targeted journalists andforced civil society organisations (CSOs) to shut down and their leaders to go into hiding or flee the country. The junta has committed war crimes and possible crimes against humanity, including unlawful attacks, killing and injuring civilians through the use of extrajudicial executions, artillery shelling and banned landmines and cluster munitions.

    What is the state of civic freedoms in ASEAN member states?

    In recent years, there has been a discernible trend in ASEAN toward democratic regression and shrinking civic space.

    In Cambodia, as an election draws near, there is an ongoing assault on civic space and an increasingly violent campaign of repression and harassment against union activists, environmental campaigners, opposition politicians and media workers.

    In Myanmar, the path toward democracy, which began in 2011, was dismantled and civic space has closed. The junta’s nationwide crackdown has spread beyond cities into rural and ethnic minority areas, where resistance has grown. There is a climate of fear and insecurity, characterised by extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, torture, enforced disappearances, sexual violence and other atrocities amounting to crimes against humanity. But ASEAN leaders have been unable to respond uniformly, and the Five-Point Consensus (5PC) they reached in April 2021 has miserably failed to address Myanmar’s crisis.

    In Singapore, civil liberties are curbed through the prosecution of journalists, protesters and harassment of activists. Civil space has been further limited by repressive laws such as the 2019 Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act and the 2021 Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act, which include vague provisions that allow for executive discretion in interpretation and implementation.

    Overall, civic space in ASEAN countries has deteriorated. But in the midst of this darkness, the results of recent elections have cast a ray of hope that could have an impact at the regional level. Election results in Malaysia in November 2022 and Thailand in May 2023 have brought hope and a breath of fresh air after years of regression of fundamental freedoms. ASEAN’s youngest member state, Timor-Leste, is unique in that it has committed to consolidating democracy and held a free, fair and transparent election on 21 May 2023, allowing voters to cast their ballots peacefully, thus making their voices heard.

    As the current ASEAN chair, has Indonesia made any efforts to engage with civil society and protect human rights?

    Indonesia became ASEAN chair amid a lot of expectations regarding its potentials to address the Myanmar crisis, following the lack of progress under its two predecessors, Brunei Darussalam and Cambodia – and possibly on the assumption that no further progress will happen under its successor, Laos.

    Led by Indonesia, ASEAN managed to adopt several Leaders’ Declarations related to human rights, including one on combating trafficking in persons caused by the abuse of technology and one on the protection of migrant workers and family members in crisis situations, adopted at the 42nd ASEAN Summit in May 2023. These represented a crucial step toward protecting rights. However, questions of implementation and domestication have long plagued the ASEAN region.

    Progress made at the regional level is not necessarily reflected by domestic developments. For example, ahead of the 2023 ASEAN summit, held in Labuhan Bajo, the Indonesian police summoned two residents, Viktor Frumentius and Dominikus Safio, over a planned protest regarding compensation for houses and land clearing for a road project. The criminalisation attempt happened a few days after the police issued a warning letter for local people not to conduct actions that could ‘create incitement’ during the summit. This incident came on top of ongoing attacks on civil liberties in Indonesia.

    Regarding engagement with civil society, unfortunately the Indonesian government failed to respond to civil society’s request to conduct an interface meeting during the summit. Taken together, this and the attempted criminalisation of protesters reveal the government’s exclusionary approach to critical voices.

    Did the summit’s outcomes include any commitment on human rights?

    The summit’s outcome document highlighted the commitment to strengthen efforts to combat human trafficking and protect migrant workers. Human trafficking is indeed a serious and systemic violation of human rights in Southeast Asia, with the pandemic exacerbating the already precarious situation of marginalised people who might end up in hands of human traffickers.

    Regarding Myanmar, however, disappointment continues. On 11 May, despite expressing concerns over the continuing violence in Myanmar, specifically in light of the recent attack against a convoy carrying ASEAN diplomats in Myanmar on the eve of the summit, Indonesia released a statement that said that ‘the 5PC remains our main reference’. It basically ignored the calls from civil society groups and the wider international community to move beyond the 5PC.

    Unfortunately the issue of shrinking civic space was not discussed at the summit, which reveals continued neglect by ASEAN member states and a lack of consensus about the importance of the fact that civic space is deteriorating across the region.

    Has there been progress in strengthening the role of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR)?

    Since its inception, the AICHR has been criticised as nothing more than a front for ASEAN member states to comply with their duty to put human rights on the regional agenda. It is not surprising that ASEAN finds it difficult to promote human rights at the regional level, given that its membership includes several authoritarian regimes and illiberal democracies.

    Civil society groups have done what we could to strengthen the AICHR, leading to incremental progress in its institutional strength and its relations with civil society. In 2019, FORUM-ASIA and its partners called for a review of the AICHR’s Terms of Reference to make it more independent and give it a protection mandate, among other things. ASEAN foreign ministers agreed to this, but the process hasn’t kicked off. Still, other positive changes happened, such as the inclusion of civil society in various AICHR activities and growing opportunities for the AICHR to meet with civil society in a variety of settings.

    For example, recently and for the first time ever, FORUM-ASIA and other CSOs with AICHR consultative status were invited to meet with AICHR representatives at the 37th AICHR Meeting. The question remains whether this practice can be sustained and institutionalised. The AICHR has also recently demonstrated increased engagement with national human rights institutions, its natural national partners. This also needs to be maintained and strengthened.

    Additionally, the current AICHR mechanism for handling human rights complaints needs to be assessed for it to become more transparent and responsive to rapidly deteriorating civic space conditions. But because the issue of shrinking civic space has not been met with consensus among AICHR member states, progress has been minimal. However, FORUM-ASIA keeps engaging with the AICHR in the knowledge that it will take years of effort to build a mechanism that lives up to our aspiration of holding states accountable for human rights violations. We are willing to engage in discussions with the AICHR about how to strengthen its complaint mechanism to contribute to enforcing states’ human rights obligations at the national level.

    Why hasn’t there been any progress in implementing the 5PC to address the situation in Myanmar?

    The 5PC has failed due to the fact that ASEAN has engaged with the military junta – the perpetrator of grave human rights violations with no commitment whatsoever to human rights – rather than with the legitimate representatives of Myanmar’s people, the civilian National Unity Government (NUG).

    As of today, the junta has not only failed to implement any of the plan’s provisions but has also increased its brutality against the civilian population. The deadly airstrike conducted in April was a glaring manifestation of the junta’s refusal to engage in meaningful dialogue and cooperation.

    Another issue is ASEAN members’ lack of a consistent approach and political will to address the Myanmar crisis. Only a few ASEAN countries openly condemned the junta’s human rights violations, while others, such as Cambodia, the ASEAN chair in 2022, even met with the junta chief and allowed the international community to interpret this approach to the crisis as recognition of the military regime.

    Finally, ASEAN’s principle of non-interference has been a major obstacle to effectively addressing the Myanmar crisis. ASEAN has moved away from this principle by becoming more assertive in certain cases, such as on economic and humanitarian cooperation, but this has not been mainstreamed. 

    How has civil society responded to ASEAN’s failure to address the situation in Myanmar?

    Despite numerous challenges, civil society has remained active. It is working to ensure that Myanmar does not fall off the radar or is forgotten as a result of conflicts and emergencies erupting in other parts of the world.

    Along with reputable Myanmar CSOs and other regional and international organisations, FORUM-ASIA recently released a position paper calling for a review and reframing of the 5PC. This paper provides five counterpoints of action that ASEAN leaders must immediately take to prove the bloc’s commitment and capability to resolve the Myanmar crisis effectively.

    The first point calls for the immediate adoption of an action plan for civilian protection and cessation of violence. The second emphasises the need to convene inclusive and meaningful consultations with legitimate Myanmar stakeholders, including the NUG, its advisory body the National Unity Consultative Council, the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw – a group of ousted parliamentarians – and ethnic resistance organisations. The third stresses the need to amend the mandate of the ASEAN Special Envoy’s term to three years with authority, independence and resources to take effective action. The fourth calls for the provision of direct support to frontline humanitarian responders in Myanmar and along ethnic borderlands, including Myanmar’s western borders. And the fifth point calls on the Special Envoy to immediately open formal communications and engage with civil society and other key stakeholders from Myanmar’s Spring Revolution.

    What should the international community do to push ASEAN to protect human rights and address the situation in Myanmar?

    International civil society and the international community must push ASEAN to immediately move away from the 5PC and embrace more robust and tangible actions to stop the military junta’s violence and atrocity crimes. They must refrain from legitimising the junta and must recognise the NUG as the democratically elected government and enter into dialogue with all relevant stakeholders, cut bilateral ties, including economic ties, and impose a full arms embargo on the Myanmar armed forces, and call for suspension of the export and transport of aviation fuel to Myanmar.

    They should also work closely with the United Nations, particularly the Security Council and Secretary-General, to resolve the crisis in Myanmar. They should set up a clear mandate for the Special Envoy, grounded in human rights principles, justice and accountability. The role must be full-time, lasting more than a year, and the appointed Special Envoy must engage with all relevant stakeholders, not just the military junta.


     Civic space inMyanmaris rated ‘closed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with FORUM-ASIA through itswebpage or itsFacebook page, and follow@forum_asia on Twitter.

  • 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

     
  • BAHRAIN: ‘The government uses public relations to mask human rights violations’

    DreweryDykeCIVICUS speaks withDrewery Dyke of Salam for Democracy and Human Rights (Salam DHR) about closed civic and democratic space in Bahrain as the state prepares to host the Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). The IPU Assembly takes place in the capital, Manama,from 11 to 15 March 2023.

    Salam DHR is a human rights civil society organisation (CSO) founded in 2012 to undertake research and advocacy for the advancement of democracy and human rights, mainly in relation to Bahrain, and also in the wider Gulf and Middle East and North Africa regions.

    We last spoke on the eve of the parliamentary election held in November 2022. How has civic space in Bahrain evolved since?

    The government of Bahrain held the November 2022 parliamentary election under the same, highly restrictive, 2018 Political Rights Law used in the 2018 elections. It banned scores of people from being able to vote or stand for election on spurious grounds such as affiliation to a banned political party or having a criminal record.

    Bahrain’s international partners, United Nations (UN) human rights bodies and civil society all decried the banning of political parties, as it flew in the face of international standards and simply deprived many people of having a voice. The court cases, too, dating from the 2011 unrest, were grossly unfair. In November 2018, the UN Human Rights Committee denounced both the Political Isolation Law and the Law on Associations

    And yet there seems to be a small opening for civil society and greater freedoms. The regional mood music appears to be changing, with the governments of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates normalising relations with Qatar, and the Bahraini government having set out a 2022-2026 National Human Rights Plan.

    Bahrain’s government appears to have signalled that it is minded to undertake some reform but civil society remains highly sceptical. Many of us are concerned that the government is once again using public relations initiatives to project an image of the country that masks longstanding, unresolved human rights violations for which there has been no accountability.

    Is change possible? Yes, to some degree, it appears so. But civil society needs to remain vigilant and sceptical. Action will speak louder than words. An amendment of existing laws on political and civil society organisations is now a must.

    How does Salam DHR manage to work in such a restrictive environment?

    Current legislation makes it impossible for our organisation to register and openly carry out any research or advocacy in Bahrain. That has been the case since 2013. And yet at least one woman human rights defender who is linked to Salam DHR and other human rights CSOs has remained active inside Bahrain. She walks a tightrope on a daily basis, taking action to support individuals, notably prisoners of conscience. Lawyers, political and civil society activists and others from all walks of life continue to contact us but we cannot discuss their identities to protect their safety. It is a challenge.

    In November 2022, however, the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights obtained accreditation to the UN’s Economic and Social Council, which means it can now formally participate in UN meetings and events. This important step could help prise open the space for civil society just that little bit more. We will see.

    Why do you think the Bahraini government offered to host the IPU Assembly?

    The Bahraini government invited the IPU to hold its 146th Assembly in order to project an image of a democratic country and boost its international standing. The IPU’s catchphrase on its website is ‘For democracy. For everyone’. The government seeks to own this message in a situation where democracy does not exist.

    The theme of the 146th Assembly is ‘Promoting peaceful coexistence and inclusive societies: Fighting intolerance’. Yet by limiting freedoms of association and assembly and the right to peaceful religious expression, Bahrain’s government promotes exclusion and intolerance.

    Possibly to foster its mission, the IPU accepted the Bahraini government’s offer to hold its meeting in Manama. Is that problematic? In some ways, yes. But it is upon us to promote – peacefully – democratic change that advances adherence to international human rights standards. And parliamentarians from around the world attending the IPU Assembly could help chip away at deeply rooted discrimination and the fact that so many in civil society are deprived of having a voice or are afraid to use it.

    Links between Bahraini parliamentarians and civil society are uneven. Some have few if any links while others have better connections and communication with their electorate, including civil society. Some seek to hold government action to account, albeit timidly.

    The IPU Assembly may be an opportunity for Bahraini members of parliament to learn how their counterparts in other parts of the world engage with their electors and effectively represent their concerns. Parliamentarians are a building block of a free civil society. We need them to step up during the Assembly to make that a reality in Bahrain.

    How could this whitewashing attempt become an advocacy opportunity?

    The IPU Assembly will be a pivotal opportunity for advocacy. Visiting parliamentarians must make it so. They must reject baseless hype and propaganda depicting Bahrain as a land of freedom and democracy.

    In a recently published brief, Salam DHR is urging attending parliamentarians to join with other parliamentarians from across the globe to call on the government of Bahrain to rescind all provisions that restrict parliamentary life and freedom of expression and association of Bahraini members of parliament. We want them to call for the government to resolve two outstanding cases the IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarianshas lodged with the government of Bahrain, and examine the cases of 15 former parliamentarians targeted with arbitrary arrest and detention, unfair trial and imprisonment and arbitrary stripping of citizenship. We’re also asking parliamentarians to urge the government to implement all recommendations arising from human rights treaty obligations and as many as possible of those made by UN Special Procedures and arising from Bahrain’s 2022 UN Universal Periodic Review.

    We urge visiting parliamentarians to inform themselves of other widely shared human rights concerns in relation to Bahrain, including the denial of political rights and women’s rights, the use of the death penalty and the tactic of revoking citizenship as punishment, and to meet with human rights activists and others in civil society while in Bahrain.

    How can the international community better support Bahraini civil society and activism for democracy?

    Civil society in and engaged with Bahrain needs the international community to listen and speak with us, to hear our experiences and work with us. There is a narrative and experience that differs from the public relations whitewashing by the government.

    We are saying that there are longstanding problems that need to be addressed, in terms of law, practice and accountability. But we are also saying that we believe that Bahrain’s international partners – from varying states, including European Union member states, the UK and USA, and the UN and its human rights bodies – and now parliamentarians can all work together, in unison, to erode the climate of repression that denies respect for human dignity, in order to empower Bahraini civil society and gradually build a more open and rights-respecting country.

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

    Get in touch with Salam DHR through itswebsite and follow @SALAM_DHR and@drewerydyke on Twitter.

  • Benin: Freedom of expression restricted

    Statement at the 53rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Adoption of the UPR report of Benin

    Delivered by Cristina Figueira Shah


    Thank you, Mr President.

    Mr President, Coalition des Défenseurs des Droits Humains-Bénin (CDDH-Bénin), West African Human Rights Defenders Network (WAHRDN), Réseau des Femmes Leaders pour le Développement (RFLD) and CIVICUS welcome the government of Benin's engagement with the UPR process, and its commitment to implement the recommendations to guarantee freedom of expression and the protection of journalists and human rights defenders.

    We regret that Benin only accepted 9 of the 21 recommendations it received during this cycle and has noted all recommendations to reform the Digital Code, which unduly restricts freedom of expression. Since its last review, Benin implemented none of the two recommendations relating to civic space.

    We remain concerned by repressive provisions negatively affecting freedom of expression, notably in the 2018 Digital Code and the Criminal Code, which has been used against journalists, HRDs and bloggers.

    Despite the decriminalisation of press offences in 2015, journalists continue to be arrested and imprisoned. On 13 January 2023, journalist Maxime Lissanon was arrested after the publication of a Facebook post related to the legislative elections of 8 January 2023, and was subsequently charged with ‘incitement to rebellion’. On 20 December 2022, police arrested editor of online radio station Crystal News, Virgile Ahouansè, and charged him with ‘publishing false information aimed at disturbing the peace’ for an investigative story alleging extra-judicial killings at a school in Porto Novo. On 14 June 2023, the Court of Repression of Economic Offences and Terrorism (CRIET), a special court dedicated to prosecuting economic and terrorism-related crimes, sentenced the journalist to a suspended prison sentence of 12 months.

    Furthermore, in October 2022, the right to strike, which had already been undermined by the adoption of Law No. 2018-34 of 5 October 2018, was further undermined by the promulgation of a new law, expanding the sectors that are prohibited from strike action. Violating these strike bans can lead to prison sentences between three and 24 months, while solidarity strikes are prohibited.

    Mr President, CDDH-Bénin, RFLD, WAHRDN and CIVICUS call on the Government of Benin to take concrete steps to address these concerns, including by revising the Digital Code as to ensure the respect of the freedom of expression, to adopt a law on the protection of HRDs and to ensure that the application of counterterrorism legislation respects human rights.

    We thank you


    Civic space in Benin is rated as "Repressed" 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.

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