universal periodic review
Adoption of Papua New Guinea's Universal Periodic Review
Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights -- Outcome Adoption for Papua New Guinea
Delivered by Lisa Majumdar
Thank you, Mr President.
Transparency International PNG, PIANGO and CIVICUS welcome the government of Papua New Guinea's engagement with the UPR process, although we regret its late response to recommendations.
Space for civil society remains significantly obstructed in Papua New Guinea. Human rights defenders (HRDs) face legal persecution such as arrest and detention as well as harassment, intimidation, threats and violence, including from companies that they criticise. The risk is greatest for HRDs who challenge vested political, social and economic interests, especially land and environmental HRDs.
Many journalists have reported intimidation aimed at influencing coverage of government figures and by agents of members of parliament. Just last month, long-standing and experienced news manager Sincha Dimara was suspended by her news outlet, allegedly following a request from the authorities.
There is no freedom of information legislation in Papua New Guinea and no domestic laws or policies to recognise and protect HRDs, who, along with journalists, continue to face harassment for undertaking their work.
Defamation laws, such as the Defamation Act 1962 and defamation sections in the Cybercrime Act, have had a chilling effect on freedom of expression and political discourse.
Our organisations call on the Government of Papua New Guinea to take concrete steps to address these concerns, including by:
- Reviewing and amending criminal defamation provisions in the Cybercrime Act to ensure that it is in line with ICCPR article 19 and international law and standards;
- Ensuring that journalists and writers can work freely and without fear of retribution for expressing critical opinions or exposing abuses or corruption by the authorities and companies;
- Ensuring that HRDs are able to carry out their legitimate activities without fear or undue hindrance;
- Establishing an independent national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles.
We thank you.
Civic space in Papua New Guinea is rated as obstructed by the CIVICUS Monitor
Adoption of Tanzania's Universal Periodic Review
Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on Human Rights -- Outcome Adoption for Tanzania
Delivered by Sibahle Zuma
CIVICUS and its partners welcome the Republic of Tanzania’s engagement with the UPR process and for accepting the majority of its recommendations.
We particularly welcome Tanzania’s commitment to amend the restrictive Media Services Act of 2016, which is a critical opportunity to address long-standing gaps in existing media legislation and has the potential to expand the space available to media actors to exercise their fundamental rights. We also welcome the lifting of the ban on the four newspapers – Mawio, Mwanahalisi, Tanzania Daima, and Mseto. We further welcome the Republic’s commitment to conducting investigations of all threats and attacks against and killings of journalists, civil society actors and human rights defenders and holding those responsible to account.
Notwithstanding these positive developments, we remain concerned about the civic space restrictions that remain. Tanzanian law guarantees a number of rights consistent with international standards; however, citizens' ability to exercise these rights is severely limited in practice. Individuals and organisations frequently refrain from exercising their right to free expression, both online and in print, out of fear of arrest, censorship, and persecution.
Recommendations to amend restrictive laws to guarantee freedom of expression have only been partially accepted.
While we welcome the recent release of opposition leader Freeman Mbowe after eight months in custody on charges believed to be politically motivated, we note that authorities continue to systematically use the justice system as a tool to target and harass members and leaders of the opposition. Authorities also ban public gatherings to thwart protests, and arrest peaceful protesters.
We regret that Tanzania did not accept a recommendation to amend the Non-Governmental Organisations Act (Amendments) Regulation 2018, in line with international human rights standards on freedoms of association and peaceful assembly.
CIVICUS and its partners call on the Government of the Republic of Tanzania to immediately and urgently take measures to implement all UPR recommendations, particularly those pertaining to efforts to addressing civic space and human rights.
We thank you.
Civic space in Tanzania is rated as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor
Adoption of Thailand's Universal Periodic Review
Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on Human Rights -- Outcome Adoption for Thailand
Delivered by Ahmed Adam
On behalf of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation
We note that Thailand has accepted 218 out of 278 recommendations it received during its 3rd cycle UPR. We regret that Thailand has rejected majority of the recommendations on civil and political rights, including those calling for the repeal of repressive laws that are being used to target defenders, raising questions about Thailand’s commitment to fully comply with its international human rights obligations.
Thailand has justified its rejection of these recommendations as a necessary measure to balance ‘the exercise of individual’s rights’ with the rights of others, ‘national security, public order and public health’. Thailand’s human rights record, however, suggests that this is yet another excuse to continue legitimising crack downs on fundamental freedoms, restrict the media and intimidate defenders and civil society, on the grounds of national security and public order using laws such as lese majeste, sedition and the Computer Crimes Act.
Pro-democracy protesters have faced restrictions, arrest and excessive force. Many activists, including children, continue to face intimidation and judicial harassment. From July 2020 to January 2022, at least 1,767 activists were prosecuted for taking part in peaceful assemblies and dissent against public policies. Political activists and defenders have been held for extensive periods in pre-trial detention without access to lawyers and medical services as a form of reprisal to silence the pro-democracy movement.
While we recognize Thailand’s plans to accede to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, we regret its failure to support a recommendation to conduct prompt investigations into the disappearance of Wanchalearm Satsaksit and other political activists. Perpetrators must be held accountable.
Furthermore, the proposed amendment to the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA), and the draft Non-profit law would threaten the ability of civil society to operate. They contradict Thailand’s obligations under international human rights law, as well as its stated commitment during the UPR to guarantee fundamental freedoms.
Thailand’s National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights remains a disservice to defenders, as a vague and a purely aspirational document with no mechanisms for public disclosure, monitoring, andpublic participation.
We echo recommendations for Thailand to ratify international rights treaties and ensure that its domestic legislation comply with international human rights standards. Thailand must lift all undue restrictions on civic space, and end all forms of attacks against human rights defenders, civil society and the pro-democracy movement.
Civic space in Thailand is rated as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor
Angola: Repressive restrictions include arrest of protesters
Statement at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Angola's adoption of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights
Watch us deliver our statement below
CIVICUS welcomes Angola’s acceptance of 14 recommendations focusing on civic space in this UPR cycle. However, in our UPR submission, we documented that since its last review, Angola has not implemented or taken any concrete steps to implement 19 of the 20 recommendations relating to civic space made in 2014.
Several pieces of restrictive legislation that in the past have been used against Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and journalists critical of the government, including provisions on criminal defamation in the Penal Code and restrictions under Law 23/10 on Crimes against the Security of the State, remain in place.
Additionally, we are concerned about restrictions on peaceful assembly, notably the arrest of protesters. More than ten people and two journalists were briefly arrested in front of Angola’s National Assembly in Luanda in January 2020 in a protest against the delay in the approval of the municipal legislative package.
In April 2018, the District Court of Malanje sentenced three student protesters to prison sentences of five to six months on charges of insult of public authorities and disturbance of the functioning of sovereign bodies, the latter a crime against state security. The three were released in July 2018, after a ruling of the Supreme Court.
Civic space in parts of Angola, such as Cabinda, is severely restricted: HRDs are subject to threats and intimidation while arbitrary arrests and judicial harassment are systematically used to prevent protests from taking place. Between 28 January 2019 and 1 February 2019, security forces arrested at least 62 people in relation to a planned protest, on 1 February 2019, to call for independence for the enclave of Cabinda.
CIVICUS calls on the Government of Angola 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.
Civic space in Angola is currently rated as Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor
See our recommendations that were submitted to the UN Human Rights Council about the conditions of human rights in Angola.
Armenia adoption of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights
Statement at the 45th Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights -- Outcome Adoption for Armenia
Thank you, Madame President.
CIVICUS welcomes the government of Armenia’s engagement in the UPR process. We also acknowledge the steps taken by the government in managing the political transition and addressing some of the human rights concerns that were pervasive under the previous administration. We are, however, concerned about ongoing restrictions on the activities of human rights defenders, the targeting of independent media and smear campaigns by some government officials. There are also instances of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation.
In our UPR submission, we highlighted ongoing concerns over the targeting of human rights defenders who engage in advocacy on gender rights, environmental rights and the actions of large corporations. Last year, for example, human rights defender Lilit Martirosyan and her family were subjected to acts of intimidation and death threats after she made a speech about issues affecting members of the LGBTI community at the National Assembly. Such attacks are further precipitated by hateful and derogatory statements by some senior government officials. There have also been instances in which social media users have been arrested.
We remain concerned about the restrictions targeting some peaceful assemblies and the arbitrary arrests and judicial persecution of those who take part in such protests.
It is imperative for the Armenian authorities to also carry out independent investigations into past violence and excessive use of force by law enforcement which currently remain limited.
We welcome that Armenia accepted recommendations relating to enjoyment of fundamental freedoms, and we call on Armenia to take steps to implement such recommendations to create and strengthen an enabling environment for civil society.
Civic space in Armenia is currently rated as Obstructed 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.
CIVICUS Joint UN Universal Periodic Review submissions on civil society space
Submissions on civil society space– Afghanistan, Chile, Eritrea, Macedonia, Vietnam & Yemen
The #UN is conducting human rights reviews for #Afghanistan, #Chile, #Eritrea, #Macedonia, #Vietnam & #Yemen. A comparative look at the state of #civicspace in these countries. See recommendations: https://t.co/aBpYi1tNlR pic.twitter.com/C8dl7djPw5— CIVICUS (@CIVICUSalliance) August 1, 2018
CIVICUS and its partners have submitted joint UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on six countries in advance of the 32nd UPR session in January 2019. The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.
Afghanistan: CIVICUS, Afghanistan Human Rights Organization (AHRO), Civil Society and Human Rights Network and People’s Action for Change Organization explore the continued insecurity in Afghanistan, which has resulted in the closure of space for civil society, including through targeted attacks on humanitarian workers, protesters and journalists. We further discuss violence against women and the desperate situation faced by women HRDs in Afghanistan who are subjected to a heightened level of persecution because of their gender and their human rights activism.
Chile: CIVICUS and Pro Acceso Foundation (Fundación Pro Acceso) highlight serious concerns regarding the persistent misuse of the Anti-Terrorism Law to silence members of the Mapuche indigenous community advocating for land rights. We are also concerned by the lack of government commitment to amend legislation regulating the right to peaceful assembly and by the violent suppression of social protests, especially those led by the student movement and indigenous communities.
Eritrea: CIVICUS, EMDHR and Eritrea Focus highlight the complete closure of the space for civil society in Eritrea to assemble, associate and express themselves. We note that there are no independent civil society organisations and private media in the country. We further discuss how the government selectively engages with international human rights mechanisms including UN Special Procedures.
Macedonia: CIVICUS, the Balkan Civil Society Development Network and the Macedonian Centre for International Cooperation outline serious concerns over the institutional harassment of NGOs in receipt of foreign funding since 2016. Despite a recent improvement in respect for civic freedoms, the submission discusses several restrictions on investigative journalists and media outlets. We also remain alarmed over smear campaigns against human rights defenders and critics of the government orchestrated by nationalist groups.
Vietnam: CIVICUS, Civil Society Forum, Human Rights Foundation (HRF), VOICE and VOICE Vietnam examine systematic attempts in Vietnam to silence HRDs and bloggers, including through vague national security laws, physical attacks, restrictions on their freedom of movement and torture and ill-treatment in detention. The submission also explores strict controls on the media in law and in practice, online censorship and the brutal suppression of peaceful protests by the authorities.
Yemen: CIVICUS, Gulf Centre for Human Rights and Front Line Defenders discuss the ongoing extreme violence against and HRDs and journalists including regular abductions, kidnappings and detention in undisclosed location. We further examine restrictions on freedom of association including raids on CSOs causing many to reduce their activities drastically and even closed entirely.
CIVICUS UN Universal Periodic Review submissions on civil society space
CIVICUS and its partners have submitted joint and stand-alone UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on eight countries to the UN Human Rights Council in advance of the 31st UPR session (November 2018). The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the second UPR cycle over 4-years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.
Chad EN or FR -CIVICUS and Réseau Des Défenseurs Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale (REDHAC) examine ongoing attacks on and intimidation, harassment and judicial persecution of HRDs, leaders of citizen movements and CSO representatives. We further discuss restrictions on the freedoms of assembly and association in Chad including through lengthy bans and violent repression of protests and the targeting of unions which protest against austerity measures or the reduction of salaries for workers.
China - CIVICUS and the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) outline serious concerns related to the escalation of repression against human rights defenders, particularly since 2015, which Chinese activists described as one of the worst years in the ongoing crackdown on peaceful activism. The submission also describes unlawful restrictions on the freedom of association, including through the Charity Law and the Law on the Administration of Activities of Overseas Nongovernmental Organizations. CIVICUS and AHRC call on the government of China to immediately release all HRDs arrested as part of the “709 crackdown” and repeal all laws restricting civic space in China.
Jordan -CIVICUS, the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) and Phenix Center highlight the lack of implementation of recommendations on the right to freedom of association. Current legislation governing the formation and operation of civil society organisations (CSOs), including trade unions, imposes severe restrictions on the establishment and operation of CSOs. We are also concerned by the restrictive legal framework that regulates the right to freedom of expression and the authorities’ routine use of these laws to silent critical voices.
Malaysia - CIVICUS and Pusat KOMAS highlight a range of restrictive laws used to constrain freedom of association and to investigate and prosecute government critics and peaceful protesters, in their exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. We also raise concerns about the harassment of and threats against HRDs as well as the increasing use of arbitrary travel bans by the government to deter their freedom of movement.
Mexico (ES) - CIVICUS and the Front for the Freedom of Expression and Social Protest (Frente por la Libertad de Expresión y la Protesta Social - FLEPS) address concerns regarding the threats, attacks and extrajudicial killings of HRDs and journalists for undertaking their legitimate work. The submission further examines the multiple ways in which dissent is stifled through stigmatisation, criminalisation and violent suppression of social protests and restrictions on freedom of expression and independent media.
Nigeria - CIVICUS and the Nigeria Network of NGOs (NNGO) examine the difficult operating environment for journalists who are routinely harassed, beaten and sometime killed for carrying out their journalistic work. CIVICUS and the NNGO are concerned by the actions of some officers of the Department of State Services who are at the forefront of persecuting human rights defenders.
Saudi Arabia - CIVICUS, the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR) and Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) address Saudi Arabia’s continued targeting and criminalization of civil society and human rights activists, particularly under the auspices of its counter-terror laws, which severely undermine the freedoms of association, expression and assembly.
Senegal - CIVICUS and the Coalition Sénégalaise des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (COSEDDH) document a number of violations of the freedom of expression and restrictions on media outlets. In particular we discuss the continued criminalisation of press offences in the new Press Code, including criminal defamation, among other restrictive provisions. Since its last UPR examination, implementation gaps were found with regard to the rights to the freedom of expression and issues relating to the freedom of peaceful assembly.
Country recommendations for UN Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights
All UN member states have their human rights records reviewed every 4.5 years. CIVICUS and partners make UN Universal Periodic Review submissions on civil society space in Australia, Lebanon, Mauritania, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman, and Rwanda
CIVICUS and its partners have made joint and stand-alone UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on 7 countries in advance of the 37th UPR session (January 2021). The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.
Australia –This submission raises alarm over the increasing criminalisation of climate and environmental movements and defenders, including Indigenous peoples, scientists, student strikers and environmental organisations, in the wake of Australia’s recent bushfires. It further discusses the unwarranted restrictions on media freedoms due, in large part, to an increase in police raids on independent media outlets. Moreover, its expresses concern over recent attempts to silence whistle-blowers who reveal government wrongdoing under the Intelligence Services Act.
Lebanon – In its submission CIVICUS, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, International Media Support (IMS), Social Media Exchange (SMEX) examine how the government has persistently failed to address the brutal and violent dispersal of peaceful protests, the arrest and prosecution of journalists and protesters and restrictions on the activities of CSOs advocating for women’s and LGBTQI+ rights. It also discusses legal and extra-legal restrictions on the freedom of association and, in particular, the systematic targeting of associations and activities by the LGBTQI+ community. Moreover, it assesses the continued deterioration of the freedom of expression, as highlighted by the increase in judicial proceedings against media outlets critical of the authorities, threats to digital rights, raids and attacks by security forces and sometimes by members of the public on media outlets.
Mauritania (FR) – CIVICUS and Réseau Ouest-Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains/ West African Human Rights Defenders Network (ROADDH / WAHRDN) demonstrates that since its last review, the Government of Mauritania has not implemented any of the recommendations relating to civic space. Instead, civic space in Mauritania remains repressed, and civil society actors, especially those working on anti-slavery campaigns and seeking to end racial and ethnic discrimination are frequently targeted and intimidated by the state. Civil society actors face legal and practical barriers to exercising their rights to association and peacefully assembly, which is hampered by the 1964 Law on Associations and Law No. 73-008 on Public Assemblies.
Myanmar– The submission by CIVICUS, Free Expression Myanmar and Asia Democracy Network highlights the use of an array of unwarrantedly restrictive laws to arrest and prosecute human rights defenders, activists, journalists and government critics for the peaceful exercise of their freedoms of association and expression. It also documents the restrictions on peaceful protests in law and practice, the arbitrary arrest and prosecution of protesters and the use of excessive force and firearms to disperse protests against government policies and land disputes with businesses.
Nepal –CIVICUS and Freedom Forum examine howrepressive laws, including amendments made to Nepal’s criminal code, have been used to limit the work of independent CSOs and suppress the freedom of expression. The submission further discusses how the ongoing attacks against journalists and the suppression of peaceful assembly continues to undermine civil space in the country. An evaluation of a range of legal sources and human rights documentation addressed in this submission demonstrate that the Government of Nepal has not implemented any of the recommendations relating to civic space during its previous UPR examination.
Oman –The Omani Association for Human Rights, Gulf Centre for Human Rights and CIVICUS highlight the closure of civic space in Oman and the use of restrictive legislation to target human rights defenders, journalists and writers and civil society organisations. We outline concerns over the forced closure of human rights organisations, the shutting down of independent newspapers and the banning of books and other publications. Human rights defenders and journalists are often subjected to arbitrary arrests and judicial persecution for their reporting and human rights activities. Due to these restrictions, several human rights defenders and their families have fled into exile. Freedom of peaceful assembly is also severely restricted as provisions in the Penal Code are used to pre-empt and prevent protests and stop those that actually take place.
Rwanda –The submission byCIVICUS and DefendDefenders (EHAHRDP) outlines serious concerns related to the unabated repression of the work of human rights defenders, civil society activists and journalists. The submission explores how restrictions on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, association, expression and access to information have been codified and willfully misapplied under Law No. 68/2018 (on assembly), Law N0 04/12 (on association and activities of CSOs), and the Law on Prevention and Punishment of Cybercrimes (expression and access to information). The Submission makes a number of action-oriented recommendations in accordance with the rights enshrined in the Rwandan Constitution, the ICCPR, the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and Human Rights Council resolutions 22/6, 27/5 and 27/31.
See all of our UPR submissions here.
Country civic space ratings from the CIVICUS Monitor:
Australia, Lebanon, Mauritania, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman, Rwanda
OPEN NARROWED OBSTRUCTED REPRESSED CLOSED
Country recommendations on civic space for UN´s Universal Periodic Review
CIVICUS makes seven joint UN Universal Periodic Review submissions on civil society space in Angola, Egypt, El Salvador, Iran, Iraq, Fiji and Madagascar
CIVICUS and its partners have made joint UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on 7 countries in advance of the 34rd UPR session (October-November 2019). The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.
Angola - CIVICUS is deeply concerned by the use of several pieces of restrictive legislation, including provisions on criminal defamation in the Penal Code and several restrictions under Law 23/10 of 3 December 2010 on Crimes against the Security of the State against journalists and HRDs. CIVICUS is further alarmed by the restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly, notably the frequent banning of protests, although no prior authorisation is legally required, and the arbitrary arrests of protesters. An evaluation of a range of legal sources and human rights documentation addressed in subsequent sections of this submission demonstrates that the Government of Angola has not fully implemented the 19 recommendations relating to civil society space.
Egypt - CIVICUS and the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) address increasing restrictions of freedom of assembly, association and expression in Egypt since its last review. The state has continued to undermine local civil society organisations through the ratification of the laws on Associations and other Foundations working in the Field of Civil; on Anti-Cyber and Information Technology Crimes; and the law ‘For organizing the right to peaceful public meetings, processions and protests. The submission also shows how this legislation has resulted in the detainment of scores of human rights defenders, including women, who have faced excessive amounts of surveillance, intimidation and slandering for their human rights work. Furthermore, in this period LGBTI activists have been assaulted, tens of NGOs closed in Case 173, and journalists have had their equipment confiscated. The UPR submission shows that Egypt has failed to implement any of the recommendations made in the last review, instead creating a more hostile environment for civic space actors.
El Salvador (ES) - CIVICUS and Fundación de Estudios para la aplicación del Derechos (FESPAD) examine the steps taken by the government of El Salvador to address restrictions on civic space. We highlight government willingness to engage civil society in a consultation process to develop a new Law for Social Non-Profit Organisations and call El Salvador to ensure that the law respects international standards on the right to freedom of association. We raise concerns about the ongoing violence and stigmatisation of LGBTQI rights defenders, women's rights defenders and sexual and reproductive rights defenders, and the lack of protection for and killings of journalists.
Iran - CIVICUS and Volunteer Activists assess the level of implementation of the UPR recommendations received by Iran during the 2nd UPR Cycle. Our assessment reveals that human rights violations continue in Iran as the authorities subject human rights defenders to judicial persecution, arbitrary arrests, harassment and intimidation. Freedom of association is severely restricted as civil society organisations that work on human rights issues and provide legal support to victims of human rights violations work in an extremely restricted environment. Peaceful assemblies are often violently repressed or banned and protesters have been arrested and detained. Journalists working for independent media platforms are targeted by the authorities while restrictive laws and policies are used to curtail freedom of expression and online freedoms.
Fiji - CIVICUS, the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Government Organisations (PIANGO), Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM) and the Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF) highlights how an array of restrictive laws in Fiji are being used to muzzle the press, silence critics and create a chilling effect in the country for activists and human rights defenders. The submission also examines barriers to hold peaceful protests, imposed by the authorities against civil society and trade unions as well challenges related to freedom of association.
Iraq - CIVICUS, the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND), the Iraqi Al Amal Association and the Al-Namaa Center for Human Rights highlight the continuous violations with impunity committed by state and government-affiliated not-state actors in Iraq against journalists, activists and human rights defenders including concerted targeted attacks, arbitrary and incommunicado detention, torture and intimidation. Several high-profile targeted killings of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) restricted the already culturally-constrained space for WHRDs. The civil society environment further deteriorated as the authorities proposed draft laws threatening freedom of expression, suspended critical media outlets and brought lawsuits against journalists and activists to curb dissent. The authorities also imposed undue limitations to freedom of assembly by using disproportionate and excessive lethal force to suppress mostly peaceful protests, resulting in dozens of protesters killed and hundreds injured, including children.
Madagascar - CIVICUS examines how human rights defenders, particularly those working on environmental and land rights, are subjected to judicial persecution, arbitrary arrests and detention. Most of these human rights defenders are targeted when they engage in advocacy and raise concerns over the environmental effects of the activities of mining companies in their communities. Restrictive legislation including a Communications Law and Cyber Crimes Law are used to restrict freedom of expression, target journalists and newspapers. The Malagasy authorities continue to restrict freedom of assembly particularly during politically sensitive periods like elections or when activists working with communities engage in peaceful protests.
See other country reports submitted by CIVICUS and partners to the UN's Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights
Country recommendations on civic space for Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights
All UN member states have their human rights records reviewed every 4.5 years. CIVICUS makes four joint and stand-alone UN Universal Periodic Review submissions on civil society space in Armenia, Laos, Kenya and Kuwait, which are up for review in January 2020.
The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.
Armenia – CIVICUS highlights unwarranted restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly and the use of violence, intimidation and harassment to disperse peaceful protests particularly in 2018 and 2016. We express concerns over the targeting of human rights defenders particularly those working on environmental and LGBTI rights. We highlight concerns over restrictions on freedom of expression and the targeting of journalists who covered protests.
Kenya - In this submission, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa, CIVICUS, the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) and the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders–Kenya (NCHRD-K), express deep concern over the government’s continued unjustified restriction of peaceful protests, as seen in the unlawful interpretation of existing laws by security agents to restrict the right to peaceful assembly and the increasingly worrying trend of security agents violently disrupting peaceful protests. We further examine undue limitations on the freedom of expression, as highlighted by the high number of incidences of harassment, attacks and extrajudicial killings of journalists as well as clauses that are inimical to the freedom of expression in new legislation such as the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act 2018.
Kuwait - Since its 2nd Universal Periodic Review, ISHR, Gulf Centre, MENA Rights Group and CIVICUS found that Kuwait did not implement any of the 13 recommendations related to civic space. Instead, restrictive legislation such as the 1979 Public Gatherings Act, the 1970 National Security Law, the 2015 Cybercrime Law and the 2006 Press and Publications Law, continue to place undue restrictions on fundamental freedoms. Furthermore, HRDs face unwarranted restrictions, with women HRDs and activists from the stateless Bedoon minority facing heightened threats. Legal and policy limitations placed on the rights to the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression put HRDs at a continuous risk of detention, defamation, citizenship revocation and other forms of reprisals as a direct result of their work.
Laos – The submission by CIVICUS, the Manushya Foundation and FORUM-ASIA highlights how the Lao PDR government - which is a one-party state - dominates all aspects of political life and maintains strict controls on civic space. We examine how the extensive restrictions and surveillance of civil society and the absolute controls of the media including TV, radio and printed publications. We also highlight the ongoing failure to investigate the fate and whereabouts of human rights defender Sombath Somphone which has created a chilling effect and the continued criminalisation of government critics. Read press release
See other country reports submitted by CIVICUS and partners to the UN's Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights
Declaración: Nicaragua no implementa recomendaciones de derechos humanos
42 Consejo de Derechos Humanos de la ONU
Declaración: Adopción del informe EPU de Nicaragua
Red Local y CIVICUS saludan el compromiso del gobierno de Nicaragua con el proceso EPU. Sin embargo, nuestra presentación conjunta documenta que, desde su evaluación anterior, Nicaragua no ha implementado ninguna de las 26 recomendaciones recibidas en relación con el espacio cívico, 17 de ellas referidas a la libertad de expresión y acceso a la información. También lamentamos que, durante el ciclo actual, las recomendaciones sobre el acceso de y la cooperación con mecanismos regionales e internacionales de derechos humanos, la investigación de los abusos de derechos humanos cometidos contra manifestantes, y la seguridad y libertad de periodistas y personas defensoras encarceladas, no fueron aceptados por el Gobierno.
Como lo detalla nuestra presentación, la legislación nicaragüense sigue tratando a la calumnia y la injuria como delitos penales, y la libertad de prensa continúa limitada por la manipulación de la distribución de publicidad oficial, la denegación de acceso para cubrir actividades gubernamentales, el control estricto del flujo informativo desde la cúspide del aparato estatal, y la concentración de medios en manos de la familia presidencial y sus aliados. También se han registrado actos de censura explícita.
Asimismo, nuestra presentación documenta que la legislación que regula la creación, el funcionamiento y la disolución de OSC es aplicada de manera arbitraria, con el objeto de obstaculizar e intimidar al personal de OSC independientes, las cuales también se han visto afectadas por restricciones legales o de facto para recibir financiamiento externo y mantener colaboraciones internacionales. Las personas defensoras del derecho al territorio, activistas por los derechos de las mujeres y las personas LGBTI, periodistas y blogueras también son rutinariamente estigmatizadas, acosadas, criminalizadas, arrestadas arbitrariamente y atacadas físicamente.
El ejercicio de la libertad de reunión pacífica enfrenta obstáculos en la ley y en la práctica, desde requisitos de autorización para realizar manifestaciones y una Ley de Seguridad Soberana que define ampliamente las amenazas de seguridad para criminalizar tácticas comunes de los movimientos de protesta, hasta el uso ilegal de fuerza excesiva y mortal contra manifestantes, que entre abril y agosto de 2018 causó la muerte de por lo menos 300 personas.
Hacemos un llamado al Gobierno de Nicaragua para que tome medidas proactivas para abordar estas preocupaciones e implemente recomendaciones para crear y mantener, en la ley y en la práctica, un entorno propicio para la sociedad civil.
Djibouti at UN Human Rights Council: Adoption of Universal Periodic Review Report
CIVICUS, DefendDefenders, and FIDH welcome the government of Djibouti's engagement with the UPR process. We also welcome the government’s commitment during its 3rd cycle review to ensure that no restrictions will be imposed on visits by Special Rapporteurs and to guarantee fundamental freedoms.
However, in our joint UPR Submission, we documented that since its last review, Djibouti has not implemented any of the recommendations it received relating to civic space.
We regret that anti-terrorism measures continue to be used as a smokescreen for severe restrictions on civic space. Indeed, a November 2015 decree effectively banned all public meetings and gatherings and heavily restricted the political opposition’s activities ahead of the 2016 presidential elections.
During its 3rd cycle review, the government claimed that ‘to date, no human rights defender has been detained or even prosecuted.’ Yet in our joint submission, we documented numerous arrests and detentions of human rights defenders, journalists and political opposition members Authorities rarely followed due process and at times subjected prisoners to ill-treatment and torture.
On 15 April 2018, just two days after returning home from Djibouti’s UPR Pre-session in Geneva, security agents briefly detained HRD Mr. Kadar Abdi Ibrahim, confiscated his passport and raided his home. Since then, he has been unable to leave the country.
Finally, we deplore the lack of transparent and credible investigations into security forces’ killing of at least 27 people and injuring of 150 others at a religious festival in Balbala on 21 December 2015. The government has accepted recommendations to ensure the respect for and protection of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, and we urge the government to rapidly and thoroughly investigate and bring to justice any violators.
Mr. President, CIVICUS, DefendDefenders and FIDH call on the Government of Djibouti 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.
El Salvador: No aceptó recomendaciones para proteger las activistas
Consejo de Derechos Humanos de la ONU - 43 ° período de sesiones
Declaración conjunta sobre la adopción del Examen Periódico Universal para El Salvador
CIVICUS y FESPAD agradecen el compromiso de El Salvador con el proceso del EPU.
Sin embargo, estamos profundamente preocupados por la continua violencia y la estigmatización de los defensores de los derechos humanos, en particular los defensores de los derechos LGBTQI, los derechos de las mujeres, los derechos sexuales y reproductivos y el medio ambiente. Lamentamos que El Salvador no aceptó las recomendaciones para adoptar legislación para reconocer y proteger a los defensores de los derechos humanos. Desde la última revisión del EPU de El Salvador, dos defensores de los derechos humanos han sido asesinados y varios más han denunciado campañas de estigmatización y criminalización, incluso a través de mensajes en las redes sociales que tienen la clara intención de disuadirlos de continuar su trabajo.
En el caso de la violencia y la estigmatización contra los defensores del medio ambiente, muchos de estos ataques ocurren con impunidad y con la participación de grupos empresariales que ven sus intereses afectados por la defensa del medio ambiente.
CIVICUS y FESPAD también están alarmados por los continuos ataques, la falta de protección y los asesinatos de periodistas, y los mecanismos de salvaguardia inadecuados. Según la Asociación de Periodistas de El Salvador (APES), entre enero de 2015 y diciembre de 2017, 10 periodistas fueron asesinados en El Salvador. La CIDH también ha informado sobre un número inquietante de amenazas, intimidaciones y ataques contra periodistas en el país, particularmente contra aquellos que han denunciado corrupción o ejecuciones extrajudiciales por parte de las fuerzas de seguridad, o que cubren temas relacionados con la crisis de seguridad y las pandillas. En los últimos años, FESPAD ha informado un aumento en las nuevas formas de amenazas y hostigamiento contra periodistas, como la inestabilidad laboral, que se utilizan para silenciarlos. Lamentamos que El Salvador rechazó una recomendación de adoptar legislación para proteger a los periodistas de tales ataques.
El espacio cívico en El Salvador está actualmente clasificado como 'Obstruido' por el Monitor CIVICUS, lo que indica la existencia de serias limitaciones a los derechos fundamentales de la sociedad civil. Hacemos un llamado al gobierno de El Salvador para que utilice este proceso del EPU para proporcionar a los miembros de la sociedad civil, periodistas y defensores de los derechos humanos un entorno seguro en el que puedan llevar a cabo su trabajo sin temor u obstáculos indebidos, obstrucciones o acoso legal y administrativo.
El Salvador: Violence and stigmatization continues against activists
Joint statement at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
El Salvador's adoption of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights
Watch us deliver our statement below
CIVICUS and FESPAD welcome El Salvador’s engagement with the UPR process.
However, we are deeply concerned about the continuing violence and stigmatization of human rights defenders, particularly defenders of LGBTQI rights, women's rights, sexual and reproductive rights and the environment. We regret that El Salvador did not accept recommendations to adopt legislation to recognize and protect human rights defenders. Since El Salvador’s last UPR review, two human rights defenders have been killed and several others have reported stigmatization and criminalization campaigns, including through messages on social networks that have the clear intention of discouraging them from continuing their work.
In the case of violence and stigmatization against environmental defenders, many of these attacks occur with impunity and with the participation of business groups that see their interests affected by the defense of the environment.
CIVICUS and FESPAD are also alarmed by continued attacks, lack of protection and murders of journalists, and inadequate safeguard mechanisms. According to the Association of Journalists of El Salvador (APES), between January 2015 and December 2017, 10 journalists were killed in El Salvador. The IACHR has also reported a disturbing number of threats, intimidations and attacks against journalists in the country, particularly against those who have reported corruption or extrajudicial executions by the security forces, or that cover issues related to the security crisis and gangs. In recent years, FESPAD has reported an increase in new forms of threats and harassment against journalists, such as job instability, used to silence them. We regret that El Salvador rejected a recommendation to adopt legislation to protect journalists from such attacks.
Civic space in El Salvador is currently classified as 'Obstructed' by the CIVICUS Monitor, indicating the existence of serious limitations on the fundamental rights of civil society. We call on the government of El Salvador to use this UPR process to provide civil society members, journalists and human rights defenders with a safe environment in which they can carry out their work without fear or undue obstacles, obstructions or legal and administrative harassment.
See our joint recommendations that were submitted to the UN Human Rights Council about the conditions of human rights in El Salvador.
Fiji: Government rejects review of restrictive laws used to target journalists, activists and its critics
Statement at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Fiji's adoption of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights
Watch us deliver our statement below:
PIANGO, CCF and CIVICUS welcome the government of Fiji’s engagement with the UPR process.
In our UPR Submission, we documented that since its second cycle review, where it received 22 recommendations relating to civic space, accepting 12, the Government of Fiji has to date partially implemented 10 of these recommendations and fully implemented one.
In its third cycle review, we welcome that recommendations pertaining to freedom of expression, assembly and association were accepted, including to ensure that criminal and speech-related legislation are not misused to supress criticism We also welcome the governments’ support to implement the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders at the national level.
However, sedition provisions in the Crimes Act and the Public Order (Amendment) Act have been used to target journalists, activists and government critics The Media Industry Development Act (Media Act) has also created a chilling effect for the media and press freedom We are disappointed that specific recommendations to amend or repeal these repressive laws were not accepted, many of which are based on draconian decrees enacted after the 2006 military coup and not fit for purpose.
The right to peaceful assembly has been arbitrarily restricted with the use of the Public Order (Amendment) Act 2014, particularly against trade unions. We welcome that Fiji accepted recommendations to ensure that criminal statutes will not be used to curtail workers’ rights, but we regret that Fiji did not accept broader recommendations to promote and protect freedom of assembly by revising such restrictive laws. We encourage Fiji to genuinely support the right to peaceful assembly and to bring local legislation in line with international law and standards.
Fiji’s UPR presents an opportunity for the country to make at the national level the commitments to civic space and human rights that it demonstrates through its engagement with and leadership within the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms. We urge the government of Fiji to take this opportunity to create and maintain an enabling environment for civil society, in line with the rights enshrined in international human rights law.
See our joint recommendations that were submitted to the UN Human Rights Council about the conditions of human rights in Fiji.
France at UN Human Rights Council: Adoption of Universal Periodic Review Report
In our Universal Periodic Review submission, we documented that since its last review, France only partially implemented one of the two recommendations it received relating to civic space. We regret that the recommendations pertaining to the ban on full face veils in public places were not accepted by the government, despite being criticised as a violation of the rights to freedom of expression and religious freedom.
Mr. President, we are deeply concerned by the recent introduction of a new national security and counter terrorism law which effectively makes permanent extraordinary powers given to French security forces since the November 2015 state of emergency was implemented. Through this now-permanent legal regime, French police have expanded powers of arrest, detention and surveillance without adequate judicial oversight or due regard for the proportionality of measures taken to restrict fundamental freedoms.
CIVICUS also notes with concern the police’s use of disproportionate force against protestors including during labour protests in 2016; anti-racism demonstrations in 2013; and, most seriously, in October 2014 when ecologist Rémi Fraisse was killed after police threw a flash grenade into a crowd of demonstrators opposing the construction of a dam in Sivens. Mr. President, just two months ago, French police again used disproportionate force, firing thousands of tear gas canisters as part of an operation to forcibly remove a peaceful anti-capitalist community in Notre-Dame-des-Landes.
Finally, in its submission, CIVICUS set out a range of concerns that risk eroding the right to freedom of expression in France, including the use of legal proceedings to compel media to release their sources. In France, losing a libel case against a public official can result in a fine of up to four times the fine for losing a case against a private citizen; this has been criticised for creating a “chilling effect” on the media’s scrutiny of government.
Mr. President, CIVICUS calls on the Government of France 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 in all circumstances.
Iraq: Over 700 people killed and 2800 arrested since protests started in October
Statement at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Iraq's adoption of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights
Watch us deliver our statement below
During the 2nd Universal Periodic Review cycle, the Government of Iraq received eight recommendations relating to civic space. Of these recommendations, seven were accepted and one was noted, but our analysis indicates that none of the recommendations have been implemented. During this cycle, Iraq accepted a number of recommendations relating to civic space, including recommendations to “guarantee freedom of expression and opinion by protecting the action of journalists, media professionals and human rights defenders from all use of violence and threats by security forces” and to “guarantee the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly in law and practice.”
Iraq has severely restricted the right to freedom of expression, by detaining, intimidating and failing to bring to account the extra-judicial killings of journalists. Journalist Nizar Dhanoun was assassinated on 11 February 2020. Alaa Al-Shammari, a reporter for Dijla Satellite TV in the city of Najaf, was severely beaten by riot police on 26 November 2019. The station’s office in Baghdad was later closed and its private broadcasting equipment confiscated. Countless other cases of intimidation have been reported.
Protests that started 1 October 2019 and focused on high levels of corruption, unemployment and poor service delivery, have been met with widescale arrests and a violent crackdown by authorities on protestors. Reports indicate that almost 700 people have been killed during the protests and over 2,800 arrested. Iraq has failed to hold to account those responsible for the deaths of protestors and journalists, nor has it amended the legal frameworks that further restricts civic space. The penal code curtails freedom of assembly, including through its 2003 Provisional Order 19 which includes a requirement to submit the names and addresses of protestors 24 hours in advance.
For this reason, Madame President, we urge the Government of Iraq to amend the legal framework currently restricting civic space, immediately and unconditionally release all protestors, and bring to justice those responsible for the extra-judicial killing of protesters and journalists in Iraq.
Civic space in Iraq is currently rated as Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor
See civil society recommendations that were submitted to the UN Human Rights Council about the conditions of human rights in Iraq.
Israel at UN Human Rights Council: Adoption of Universal Periodic Review Report
38th Session of UN Human Rights Council
Adoption of the UPR report of Israel
Mr. President, this is a joint statement by the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO), the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) and CIVICUS. Israeli authorities continue to commit systematic and gross human rights violations against Palestinians. They have failed to implement human rights obligations as a state party to ICCPR and ICESCR and continue to disregard recommendations from UN Special Rapporteurs that call for an immediate end to the occupation.
In our joint UPR report, we documented undue restrictions on the right to freedom of assembly and recommended that Israeli authorities stop using excessive and lethal force during protests. Recently in the Gaza Strip, Israeli occupation forces used snipers, plastic coated steel bullets, explosive bullets and gas grenades fired from drones in a calculated attempt to kill, maim and inflict serious bodily harm on Palestinians. Since March 20th, 2018, Israeli forces have killed 127 Palestinians and injured an estimated 14,000. Earlier this month, Razan al-Najar, a 21-year old nurse wearing a medical vest was killed by Israeli sniper fire while tending to injured protesters.
Systematic violations also include the detention of Palestinian human rights defenders. Legislation enacted in 2016 granted Israeli authorities the power to indefinitely detain individuals without trial. These provisions are routinely used to detain human rights defenders. In May 2017, there were over 6,000 political prisoners with 490 imprisoned without trial.
We also express concern over Israel’s muzzling of social media. New legislation enacted in 2017 grants Israeli authorities power to arbitrarily block web content and arrest individuals for social media posts.
Mr. President, PNGO, ANND and CIVICUS urge Council members to call on the Israeli government to respect its obligations under international law, by ending the occupation and recognising Palestinian self-determination.