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

UN Human Rights Council – 35th Special Session on Iran 

Delivered by Nicola Paccamiccio

Thank you, Mr. President.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We thank you.


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

 

Human rights groups call for Special UN Session on Iran amid protests

We are writing to raise our deep concerns about the Iranian authorities' mobilization of their well­ honed machinery of repression to ruthlessly crackdown on current nationwide protests.

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Kyrgyzstan: rights organisations raise alarm over rapid decline in civic freedoms to the UN Human Rights Committee

Oral statement by International Partnership for Human Rights, Legal Prosperity Foundation and CIVICUS

Delivered by Nicola Paccamiccio

Examination of Kyrgyzstan ICCPR Report under the Covenant

Dear Committee Members, colleagues, I’m speaking on behalf of CIVICUS, the Brussels-based International Partnership for Human Rights, and the Bishkek-based Legal Prosperity Foundation. I would like to draw your attention to a few key concerns documented in our joint written submission on Kyrgyzstan.

We are concerned that the Kyrgyzstani authorities have increasingly sought to suppress discussion on issues of public interest and stifle free speech, including by exploiting the fight against disinformation for this purpose.

A new law adopted last year grants the government discretionary powers to order the blocking of online resources found to have posted ‘’false’’ information, with some news sites already having been blocked. Law enforcement authorities have also summoned, warned and opened investigations against a growing number of social media users accused of posting ‘’false’’ information.

Moreover, we have witnessed increasing intimidation and harassment of journalists, bloggers, civil society activists and lawyers who have criticised the authorities and spoken out on corruption and other sensitive issues. They have, among others, been subjected to online trolling, surveillance, searches of their homes, detention, interrogation and criminal prosecution in apparent retaliation for exercising freedom of expression and other fundamental freedoms. In several cases, charges have been brought under broadly worded criminal code provisions which can be used to restrict legitimate expression, such as a provision that penalises ‘’incitement’’ to inter-ethnic and other discord without clearly defining this offense.

We are further concerned about the introduction of a new unjustified and discriminatory financial reporting scheme for NGOs, and the attempts of some decision-makers and their supports to reinitiate a repressive ‘’foreign agents’’ draft NGO law, which parliament previously rejected. Those advocating for tighter NGO control have used hostile language, for example accusing NGOs of threatening national security and so-called traditional values, thereby fuelling mistrust against them. There have also been several attacks on NGOs by unidentified perpetrators acting with impunity.

Finally, we are concerned about a series of court-sanctioned blanket bans on peaceful protests in the centre of the capital, Bishkek, which have been issued in violation of national and international standards. Most recently, assemblies have been banned outside the Russian embassy and in other central locations to prevent protests against Russia’s war in Ukraine. Police have also detained peaceful protesters based on these bans. You can find more information (including case examples) in our joint written submission.

Thank you for your attention.


 Civic space in the Kyrgyzstan is rated as 'Repressed' by the CIVICUS Monitor

 

Philippines: civic space record continues to deteriorate

CIVICUS's Oral Statement to UN Human Rights Committee on the Philippines

Examination of Philippines International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Report under the Covenant
 
Chairperson, Honourable Committee members, CIVICUS welcomes this opportunity to share with you some of the organisation’s main concerns about the Philippines’ civic space record.

 

Outcomes from the 51st Session of the UN Human Rights Council: Progress & Shortcomings

Joint statement from the end of the United Nations' 51st Session of the UN Human Rights Council


12 organisations share reflections on the key outcomes of the 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council, as well as the missed opportunities to address key issues including human rights situations in Afghanistan, China, Philippines, and Yemen.

Thematic issues and resolutions

We welcome that for the first time, the Council heard from two representatives of directly impacted communities from the podium in the enhanced interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner and the International Independent Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in Law Enforcement: Collette Flanagan of Mothers against Police Brutality (MAPB) whose son was killed by U.S. police in 2013; and Jurema Werneck, director of Amnesty International in Brazil. As highlighted in the HC’s report, States are continuing to deny the existence and impact of systemic racism, especially institutional racism. Our view is that States actively protect the interests of police institutions in order to maintain the status quo which is designed to oppress Africans and people of African descent. We call on States to fully implement the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA), to fully cooperate with the International Independent Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in the context of Law Enforcement including accepting country visits, implement the recommendations from their report and the High Commissioner’s Agenda towards Transformative Change for Racial justice and Equality.

We welcome the ‘from rhetoric to reality: a global call for concrete action against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance’ resolution. The resolution, interalia, strongly condemns the discriminatory treatment, unlawful deportations, excessive use of force and deaths of African migrants and migrants of African descent, including refugees and asylum-seekers, at the hands of law enforcement officials engaged in migration and border governance. It calls on States to ensure accountability and reparations for human rights violations at borders and to adopt a racial justice approach, including by adopting policies to address structural racism in the management of international migration. It reiterates that the Transatlantic Trade in Enslaved Africans and colonialism were grave violations of international law that require States to make reparations proportionate to the harms committed and to ensure that structures in the society that are perpetuating the injustices of the past are transformed, including law enforcement and administration of justice and to dispense reparatory justice to remedy historical racial injustices.

We welcome the HRC’s first discussion on the legacies of colonialism as a step towards challenging entrenched structures of racism and colonialism, including in its contemporary manifestations as exemplified by apartheid in the Palestinian context. Some of the most entrenched forms of systemic racism are the result of continuing legacies of slavery, the Transatlantic Trade in Enslaved Africans and colonialism. The DDPA recognizes that colonialism has led to racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and emphasises the structural forms of racism and racial discrimination that to this day require urgent attention, especially for Africans and people of African descent, Asians and people of Asian descent and Indigenous Peoples who were victims of colonialism and continue to be victims of its consequences. We concur with the Special Rapporteur on racism that “there can be no real way out of our most pressing global crises without meaningfully addressing the legacies of colonialism…[and] failure to address colonial legacies, especially by former and contemporary colonial powers is an important part of our global crises.” We call on the Council to keep colonialism on the agenda of the HRC until all of its manifestations are eradicated. A true decolonial approach must not only focus on the perceived “extreme” manifestations of racism and individual prejudice, but also on the systems of oppression that create an enabling environment for continued human rights violations.

We welcome the resolution on the “human rights implications of new and emerging technologies in the military domain” and its request for a study examining these implications. The adoption of the resolution adds to the growing attention that UN human rights mechanisms are paying to the negative human rights impacts of arms, including new technologies that can be weaponised. It is undoubtable that concerns relating to the military domain should not be seen as only relevant to disarmament fora. In response to comments from some States on whether international humanitarian law (IHL) falls within the remit of HRC, we recall that international human rights law and IHL are complementary and mutually reinforcing, as the HRC itself has reiterated on several occasions in past resolutions. We welcome the inclusion of paragraph on the responsibility to respect human rights of business enterprises, and in this regard, we recall the Information Note by the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights on the Arms Industry (“Responsible business conduct in the arms sector: Ensuring business practice in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights”) published in August 2022. While we welcome the reference in the resolution to the role of human rights defenders and civil society organisations in raising awareness about the human rights impacts of the use of new and emerging technologies in the military domain, we regret that it does not include a specific mention of the risks that the use of these technologies can pose for human rights defenders and civil society organisations.

We welcome the resolution on arbitrary detention and especially the inclusion of a new paragraph on the necessity to fully implement the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. The resolution recognises the role of HRDs, peaceful protesters, journalists and media workers in safeguarding the prohibition of arbitrary deprivation of liberty and calls upon States to make sure that they are not arbitrarily detained as a result of their activities. We further commend the main sponsor, France, for having rejected any language that could have weakened the resolution, especially on the right to legal assistance.

We welcome the adoption of the safety of journalists resolution. It has now been a decade since the first resolution on this topic, and the HRC has since created an elaborate and robust set of international standards to protect journalists. This iteration of the resolution adds new strong commitments on multiple new and emerging issues affecting journalists, from strategic lawsuits against public participation to extraterritorial attacks. It also strengthens language on investigations into attacks against journalists, calling on authorities to exhaust lines of enquiry that determine whether such attacks are linked to their journalistic work. We now urge States to implement these commitments to their full extent.

We welcome the approval by consensus by the Council of the resolution on terrorism and human rights, that has been updated with important paragraphs related to the centrality of the rule of law and human rights to counter terrorism, international human rights obligations in transfers of terrorist suspects, profiling of individuals, detention, the right to a fair trial and other due process guarantees, the right to privacy and freedom of expression, and in relation to children rights and civil society. We regret that paragraphs stemming from security based concerns have increased even though they are unrelated to the competence of the Council to promote human rights.

Human rights situations on the Council’s agenda

We warmly welcome the adoption of the resolution on the human rights situation in the Russian Federation, mandating a Special Rapporteur on Russia for the first time. Over the last several years, and particularly since Russia's renewed illegal invasion of Ukraine began on 24 February, the Russian authorities have engaged in a systematic campaign of repression of human rights and restriction of civic space including by shutting down independent media, intimidating and harassing human rights defenders and activists, banning peaceful protest, and imposing impermissible restrictions on the operations of independent civil society organisations in the country, including those that seek justice and effective remedies for human rights violations. The Russian Federation’s growing repressive policies, combined with the country’s exclusion from the Council of Europe – victims of new human rights violations committed by the Russian Federation from 17 September lost protection under the European Convention on Human Rights– and its diplomatic isolation from those States which have been supportive of human rights and civil society in Russia, have made it increasingly difficult for Russian human rights defenders, activists, and civil society organisations to engage with the international community. Russian civil society had been vocal in calling for a Special Rapporteur's mandate, strongly believing it will help to create a bridge between the United Nations and Russian civil society and the wider general public in Russia at an acute moment of widespread domestic human rights violations, both ensuring their voice is heard at an international level, and that the United Nations can further develop its understanding and analysis of the deterioration in Russia's domestic human rights situation and the implications that has had - and continues to have - for Russia's foreign policy decisions.

We welcome the extension and strengthening of the OHCHR capacity to collect, consolidate, analyse and preserve evidence and information and to develop strategies for future accountability, as well as to extend the mandate for enhanced monitoring and reporting by the OHCHR on Sri Lanka. Given the complete lack of any credible avenues for accountability at the national level, the OHCHR’s Sri Lanka Accountability Project remains the only hope of justice, more than thirteen years after the war, for thousands of victims of war time atrocities and their families.

We welcome the UN Secretary General’s report on missing people in Syria; and urge States to support and implement the report’s findings, in line with resolution A/HRC/51/L.18 which underscored "the report’s finding that any measure towards addressing the continuing tragedy of missing persons in the Syrian Arab Republic requires a coherent and holistic approach going beyond current efforts, which must be inclusive and centered on victims". Addressing the issue of missing persons in Syria requires a "new international institution" mandated to clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing persons, to “work in cooperation and complementarity with existing mechanisms”, the body having “a structural element that ensures that victims, survivors and their families [...] may participate in a full and meaningful manner in its operationalization and work” as recommended in the study of the Secretary General.

The Council has taken a vitally important step in renewing the mandate of the Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela and of the reporting mandate of OHCHR for a further two years. In its most recent report, A/HRC/51/43, the Fact-Finding Mission deepened its investigation of alleged crimes against humanity, making clear that alleged perpetrators remain in power. The ongoing accountability drive through the work of the Mission allied with the work of OHCHR, is key to providing victims of violations with hope for justice. It is also key to the prevention of ongoing violations, particularly in the context of upcoming elections, and of encouraging political processes that respect human rights.

Human rights situations which should be on the Council’s agenda

We regret that the Council failed to respond adequately to several human rights situations including Afghanistan, China, Philippines, and Yemen.

We welcome the extension and strengthening of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan. However, this in no way makes up for the Council’s repeated failure to respond to the calls from Afghan human rights defenders, especially women human rights defenders, and civil society for an independent accountability mechanism with a mandate and resources to investigate the full scope of violations abuses that continue to be committed in Afghanistan by all parties and to preserve evidence of these violations for future accountability. It is particularly concerning that despite the overwhelming evidence of gross violations and abuses in Afghanistan that the Council failed to muster consensus on even the bare minimum.

We deplore that this Council was unable to endorse the proposal for a debate on Xinjiang, after the UN identified possible crimes against humanity committed by the Chinese government against Uyghurs and Turkic peoples. Dialogue is a pillar of multilateralism, and is fundamental, even on the hardest issues. Despite the leadership of the core group and all 18 States who voted in favour, this Council looked the other way. We strongly condemn the 19 countries who blocked this proposal, and regret all the abstentions that enabled it. We particularly regret that leading OIC States Indonesia and Qatar, as well as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, the UAE, Côte d’Ivoire, Mauritania, Sudan, Gabon, Cameroon and Eritrea, decided to abandon Uyghurs and Muslim minorities in China. We command Somalia for being the only Muslim Council member to stand up for Muslim minorities. Uyghur and international human rights groups won’t give up efforts to hold China accountable. We urgently call on current and future Council members to support efforts to prevent the continuation of atrocity crimes in Xinjiang, and uphold this Council’s credibility and moral authority.

We are deeply disappointed that despite the High Commissioner’s clear recommendation and demands by victims and their families as well as civil society from the Philippines, the Council has failed to put forward a resolution mandating the High Commissioner to continue monitoring and reporting on the situation, allowing the Philippines to use the rhetoric of cooperation and the UN Joint Programme for Human Rights to window-dress its appalling human rights record without any tangible progress or scrutiny.

We are dismayed by an Item 10 resolution that will not allow for reporting to the HRC on the human rights situation in Yemen.   Despite a truce that now looks in danger of collapsing, the humanitarian and human rights crisis in Yemen has not ended. The lives and well-being of millions of Yemen citizens continue to be threatened from attacks against civilians, one of the world's largest humanitarian crisis and widespread violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. Yet many governments at this Council have chosen silence and appeasement of the warring parties over the protection of victims and upholding the rule of law. To abandon the people of Yemen out of political convenience not only betrays the fundamental purposes of this Council but also encourages parties to the conflict to continue to use violence and war crimes as a means of accomplishing their goals.   Lasting peace in Yemen requires a sustained commitment by the international community to ensure accountability and redress for the millions of victims in Yemen. We call on UN member states to give meaning to the pledges they have made and begin to work toward the establishment of an international independent investigative mechanism on Yemen.

Signatories:

  1. Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man
  2. American Civil Liberties Union
  3. ARTICLE 19
  4. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  5. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  6. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  7. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)
  8. Franciscans International
  9. International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI)
  10. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  11. Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network
  12. The Global Interfaith Network (GIN-SSOGIE)

 

Philippines: The Council’s inadequate response to a human rights crisis is shameful

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

Enhanced Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner’s report on the Philippines

Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

Thank you, Mr. President.

The report of the High Commissioner supports the conclusion and call of independent local civil society, including those whose voices we heard today, human rights defenders, lawyers, and journalists in the Philippines: scrutiny of the country by the Human Rights Council should continue.

In the last month alone, human rights defenders have been forced to flee the country. Human rights defenders, activists and community leaders, including those who have engaged with the Council, have been threatened and tagged as supporting terrorists merely for criticising State policies. Some have been detained on fabricated charges and civil society organisations (CSOs) have had their funds frozen. While the incoming national security adviser to the Philippines’ President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has said she intends to stop ‘red-tagging,’ this has so far remained empty rhetoric. Just two days ago, Radio broadcaster Percival Mabasa, better known as Percy Lapid, was shot dead. He is the second journalist to be killed during the tenure of the current President.

The recently resumed ICC investigation will not cover any violations perpetrated since the Philippines’ withdrawal from the Rome Statute in 2019.

Proposed cuts to the budget of The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) will heavily impact its ability to investigate cases of human rights violations, as well as to provide financial assistance and free legal advice and counselling to victims of human rights violations. Recent appointments in the CHR were opaque and lacked any consultation.

It is shameful that the Council’s response to a strong report by the High Commissioner detailing ongoing violations has been to abandon victims of violations still further.

CIVICUS calls on the Council to heed the recommendation of the High Commissioner by ensuring, at the very least, that OHCHR can continue to monitor the situation of human rights in the Philippines and regularly report to the Human Rights Council. The Council should also stand ready at the earliest opportunity to strengthen its monitoring of the progress and outcome of domestic and international accountability initiatives to take any further approaches that may be required.

Thank you.


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

 

Cambodia: the international community must step up efforts to address human right violations

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

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia

Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

Thank you, Mr President, and thank you Special Rapporteur for your report.

In the face of ongoing reporting by the Special Rapporteur, the Cambodian government has shown no political will to undertake democratic or civic space reforms.

Cambodian human rights defenders and activists continue to face repression and persecution. Highly politicised courts mean that those arbitrarily detained and charged are often held for prolonged periods in pretrial detention and have no chance of getting a fair trial. The ongoing harassment of the Nagaworld workers union and attacks on press freedom is extremely worrying.

The criminalisation of the opposition in the last five years and recent efforts to harass and undermine new political parties during the commune elections are precursors of what the Cambodian people can expect from their national elections next year.

If the international community wants to see a free and fair elections in Cambodia it must step up efforts to address these violations.

We call on the Council to take note of the benchmarks set out in the Special Rapporteur’s report, particularly those relating to the opening up of civic and political space and ceasing the persecution of human rights defenders, specifically:

  • Release detained human rights defenders and political dissidents and drop the charges against them
  • Desist from applying and reform draconian laws including the Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations (LANGO)
  • Restore and re-enfranchise a variety of political parties, and ensure free and fair elections.

If these benchmarks are not met, the Council must be prepared to take stronger action by way of a stronger monitoring mandate. Failure to do so will see the one-party state entrenched still further in years to come.


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

 

Open Letter urging UN Human Rights Council members to discuss the report on human rights situation in Xinjiang

Re: Proposed Human Rights Council Decision on Xinjiang

Dear Minister,

We, the undersigned human rights organizations, are writing to urge you to support a decision at the current session of the United Nations Human Rights Council enabling the Council to discuss the recent report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China.

Meticulous and detailed, the High Commissioner’s report lays bare a systematic campaign by the Chinese government to target Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of religion and expression and to enjoy their own culture. Strikingly, in addition to other sources, the report relies extensively upon the Chinese government’s own policy documents to demonstrate that the authorities’ sweeping crackdown on Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities is discriminatory in both purpose and effect.

Notably, the High Commissioner’s report concludes that the extent of these violations may constitute international crimes, “in particular crimes against humanity,” requiring “urgent attention by the United Nations intergovernmental bodies and human rights system.” Dozens of UN Special Procedure mandates issued a joint statement reinforcing these concerns and calling on the Human Rights Council to urgently address the human rights situation in China.

High Commissioner’s Findings

The report details Chinese authorities’ religious profiling of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang as “extremists,” based on indicia such as “wearing hijabs and ‘abnormal’ beards,” “closing restaurants during Ramadan,” “giving one’s child a Muslim name,” and other conduct that the High Commissioner described as “nothing more or less than personal choice in the practice of Islamic religious beliefs and/or legitimate expression of opinion.”

The report sets out how those deemed “at risk of extremism” are subject to serious violations by the authorities, including arbitrary detention, torture, involuntary medical treatment, forced labor, family separation, interference with reproductive rights, as well as intimidation, threats and reprisals.

The authorities have transferred large numbers of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities to detention centers for indefinite periods without charge and without any effective means to challenge their detention. The authorities euphemistically refer to these as “vocational education and training centres,” but refused to provide the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights with any curriculum for this so-called “education.” Detainees were prohibited from practicing their religion, praying, or speaking their language. Instead, there was a strong emphasis on “political teachings” and rehabilitation through self-criticism. As one former detainee said, “we were forced to sing patriotic song after patriotic song every day, as loud as possible and until it hurts, until our faces became red and our veins appeared on our face.”

Detainees also reported being subject to torture and other ill-treatment, including “being beaten with batons, including electric batons while strapped in a so-called ‘tiger chair’; being subjected to interrogation with water being poured in their faces; prolonged solitary confinement; and being forced to sit motionless on stools for prolonged periods of time.” Many reported being shackled, constant hunger and weight loss, and being forced to take white pills, which made them drowsy.

Ahead of visits by foreign delegations, former detainees indicated they were “explicitly told by guards to be positive about their experience,” fearing that their detention would be further prolonged or that family members would face reprisals if they failed to comply.

The report also details a broader program to suppress Uyghur language, culture, religion and identity outside of detention centers, noting that “alongside the increasing restrictions on expressions of Muslim religious practice are recurring reports of the destruction of Islamic religious sites, such as mosques, shrines and cemeteries.” “Homestay” programs, involuntary in nature, placed government officials in many Uyghur homes, where families reported being under constant surveillance and “not allowed to pray or speak their own language.” Even children are not safe: Chinese authorities have reportedly placed the children of those detained in state-run child welfare institutions and boarding schools without parental consent, and with similar restrictions on their ability to practice their religion or speak their language.

Proposed UN Human Rights Council Resolution

The proposed resolution is very modest in scope, merely calling for the High Commissioner’s report to be discussed at the Human Rights Council. It takes no position on the issues addressed, takes no position with respect to China, and does not prejudge the outcome of such a discussion. As a human rights organization, we would have preferred that a resolution go much further, heeding the call by some 50 UN Special Procedures and hundreds of nongovernmental organizations from more than 60 countries for an international mechanism to monitor and report on the situation on an ongoing basis. A resolution to discuss the report is the bare minimum response that can be credibly expected from the Human Rights Council when faced with a report of this magnitude.

Despite China’s stated commitment to “dialogue,” it has made every effort to suppress the report and prevent discussion of its contents. Such an approach, if it prevailed, would undermine the institutional integrity of the Human Rights Council by placing the human rights situation in one country alone uniquely beyond international scrutiny. This would only empower China to pursue its campaign of repression against Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities with impunity.

We trust we can count on your government’s support for the proposed resolution.

Sincerely,

ACAT Belgium

ACAT Germany

ACAT UK

Access Now

Alliance des Avocats pour les Droits de l'Homme

Amnesty International

Article 19

Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos "Segundo Montes Mozo SJ" (SMM)

Citizens' Alliance for North Korean Human Rights

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

Coalition for Genocide Response

Comité pour la Liberté à Hong-Kong

Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience

DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)

Defense Forum Foundation

East Turkistan Australian Association

European Union of Jewish Students

EXCUBITUS Derechos Humanos

Families of the Disappeared

Federal Association of Vietnamese Refugees in the Federal Republic of Germany

Frankfurt Stands with Hong Kong

Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

Human Asia

Human Rights Defenders Network-SL

Human Rights Watch

Humanists International

Humanitarian China

Institute for Asian Democracy

International Christian Concern

International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China (ETAC)

International Commission of Jurists

International Service for Human Rights

Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights

Judicial Reform Foundation

Justice For North Korea

Lesbian and Gay Association of Liberia (LEGAL)

LGBT+ initiative group "Revers"

Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies

Network of the independent Commission for Human rights in North Africa CIDH AFRICA

NK Watch

Northern California Hong Kong Club

People for Successful Corean Reunification- PSCORE

Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor

Planet Ally

René Cassin, the Jewish voice for human rights

Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

Réseau Ouest Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains/West African Human Rights Defenders' Network

Safeguard Defenders

Scholars at Risk

The Rights Practice

Transitional Justice Working Group (TJWG)

Uyghur Association of Victoria, Australia

Viet Tan

Vietnam Human Rights Network

Women's Action Network

World Uyghur Congress

YUHU Indonesia


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

 

UN Member States must hold South Africa accountable for the escalating crackdown on human rights defenders

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

Item 6 General Debate

Delivered by Mqapheli Bonono, Abahlali baseMjondolo

Mr. President,

This Council recognises that civil society is a critical component of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process.

As we look forward to South Africa’s UPR in November, we cannot be silent on the killing of human rights defenders, particularly those working to defend land, housing and environmental rights, as well as corruption activists.

I address you today with all the pain I carry from South Africa as the Deputy President of Abahlali baseMjondolo, a social movement of shack dwellers fighting for the right to housing, land, and dignity of the poor.

It is my colleague, Lindokuhle Mnguni, the chairperson of the eKhenana Commune, who should be addressing you. Last month, Lindokuhle was gunned down for fighting for land and equality in South Africa. He was 28 years old. In the last six months, our movement has had to bury four of our members murdered by the police and suspected members of the ruling party.[1]

Since 2009, 24 members of Abahlali baseMjondolo were killed with only two convictions secured. I was arbitrarily detained for 20 days on fabricated charges. Land and housing defenders are increasingly at risk in South Africa.

The South Africa UPR is an opportunity for the country to address these violations, including the root causes leading to the killings of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) with impunity.

We call on States to submit strong recommendations for South Africa to address historically unresolved issues of land, security of tenure and adequate housing; to adopt legislation that ensures the protection and promotion of HRDs and to allow Special Rapporteurs on housing and HRDs to visit the country.

South Africa is contesting membership to the Human Rights Council. It must fulfill to the highest standards its obligations as enshrined in the Constitution and under International conventions.

Thank you.


[1] For more information, see letter endorsed by more than 100 civil society organisations

Civic space in South Africa is rated as Obstructed by the CIVICUS Monitor 

 

States must ensure civil society engagement with the UN and its mechanisms without fear

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

Item 5 General Debate

Delivered by Junwoo Yang, CIVICUS

Thank you, Mr President.

We thank the Secretary-General for the important report on reprisals, which concludes that such acts seriously affects civil society actors’ cooperation with and submission of information to the United Nations.

In India, Khurram Parvez, has reportedly been subjected to travel bans, ill-treatment, arbitrary arrest and has been detained since November 2021 on trumped up counter-terrorism charges in relation to his cooperation with the UN over the years. We call for his immediate release and charged dropped.

In the Philippines, CIVICUS member Karapatan, and its Secretary-General Cristina Palabay, are longstanding inclusions on the reprisals report owing to red-tagging, harassment, arbitrary arrests and charges in connection with their engagement with the UN. While the government of the Philippines responded with allegations of false characterisation of government action, we note that the report documents that ‘Ms. Palabay continues to suffer online threats, harassment, and legal action.’

In Indonesia, Papua activist Victor Yeimo has been in detention since May 2021 in connection to his calls for self-determination of the Papuan people, including at the United Nations Human Rights Council.

We call for all States to cease acts of reprisals, including laws regulating NGOs and their access to funding, including foreign funds and donations, and imposing onerous reporting and tax requirements, which placed additional obstacles on the engagement of civil society with the UN, as we have seen in India, Russia, Zimbabwe, and numerous other countries.

We further call for States to ensure a political cost on acts of reprisal, which make the UN less responsive and less effective. It is incumbent on all States – members of this Council in particular – to ensure that civil society can engage with the UN and its mechanisms without fear.

We thank you.

 

India: Civil society orgs call for the Council's attention on the deteriorating human rights situation

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

Delivered by Ahmed Adam

On behalf of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), World Organisation against Torture (OMCT), CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation

Mr. President,

We call for the attention of the Council on the deteriorating human rights situation in India.

Since 2014, India has witnessed a sharp rise of authoritarianism accompanied by systematic erosion of the rule of law and independent institutions such as the National Human Rights Commission, Elections Commission and the judiciary, that are mandated to safeguard human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Indian authorities have escalated crackdowns on and persecution of human rights defenders, journalists, and critics through restrictive laws and counter-terrorism legislation that do not comply with India’s international obligations. The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) continues to be applied as part of a broader systematic repression of civil society and opposition voices. It fails to comply with international standards and must be repealed or reviewed.

The government continues its assault on fundamental freedoms, in particular the rights to freedom of expression, media, peaceful assembly, association and movement, in Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir. Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez, and journalists Fahad Shah remain in detention under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in a deliberate attempt to obfuscate and stifle independent reporting on the extent and gravity of human rights implications of its policies in Kashmir.

At the same time, majoritarian and ultranationalist narratives actively promoted or endorsed by public and religious officials as well as discriminatory legislation such as the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and policies, and police inaction, continue to fuel hatred, discrimination, and violence against minorities, especially Muslims.

We call on Indian authorities to end repression of civil society and media, end harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders, journalists and critics, and release all those who are arbitrarily detained for their legitimate work including human rights defender Khurram Parvez and journalist Fahad Shah.

The Council must act urgently and appropriately to prevent further escalation of violence, discrimination, and hatred against minorities which, if left unchecked, could lead to gross and systematic violations.

Thank you


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

 

The Council must address deteriorating human rights situations before they become crises

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

Item 4 General Debate

Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

Thank you, Mr President.

The Council’s prevention mandate is a responsibility to address situations which face becoming human rights crises. One of the warning signs of this is of a serious and rapid decline in the respect for civic space. The CIVICUS Watchlist, published last week, identified a number of countries to take note of in this regard.

Sri Lanka continues to see arbitrary arrests and the use of excessive force by the security forces as part of a crackdown on anti-government protests, as well as attacks on journalists, following its worst economic crisis in decades. We urge the Council to adopt a strong resolution addressing the situation, as well as progressing long-overdue accountability and reconciliation initiatives.

Serious civic space violations have been ongoing in Guatemala as the government moves to undermine the rule of law and reverse anti-corruption efforts of recent years. As Zimbabwe gears up for general elections next year, civic space is under severe attack as the incumbent President, seeks to defend his presidency. In Serbia, the government has attempted to ban LGBTQI+ events and there remain ongoing threats to environmental rights defenders and journalists. In Guinea, the government is becoming increasingly intolerant of dissenting voices, particularly those criticising management of the ongoing political transition.

We call on the Council to use its prevention mandate to address these situations before they deteriorate still further.

In situations where crises are already all too apparent, the Council must respond accordingly. Human rights violations in Russia and those documented by the High Commissioner in China demand the strongest response, and we call on the Council to urgently establish monitoring and reporting mechanisms for these respective human rights situations.

We thank you.

 

Venezuela: Lack of substantive progress requires renewal of the Fact-Finding Mission’s mandate

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

Interactive Dialogue with Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela

Delivered by Marysabel Rodríguez

CIVICUS and Espacio Público reiterate to this Council the importance of maintaining the monitoring of the human rights situation in Venezuela. We welcome States’ willingness to ensure scrutiny of the crisis to prevent it from normalising and worsening even further.

This report reiterates the active participation at all levels of the chain of command in ordering and carrying out torture and ill-treatment of members of political opposition, journalists, demonstrators and human rights defenders.

As the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) 's reports point out, the capacity of the justice system to protect people and prevent State crimes is weak. To date, there has been no substantive progress to address serious violations and crimes, nor have restrictive practices ceased, increasing the number of victims, with a particular impact on vulnerable sectors.

Obtaining real justice depends on the validity of complementary mechanisms; the importance of the Mission lies in the fact that its registry allows the establishment of individual responsibilities in the perpetration of human rights violations and crimes against humanity.

We urge this Council to renew both the mandate of the FFM and that of the Office of the High Commissioner, in order to continue monitoring the ongoing situation and to build paths to effective justice for the individuals and families whose fundamental rights have been violated.

Thank you.


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

 

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

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

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Burundi 

Delivered by Lisa Majumdar 

Thank you, Mr President. 

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

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

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

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

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

We thank you. 


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

 

Myanmar remains at crisis point and impunity still persists

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

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar 

Delivered by Kyaw Win 

Thank you, Mr President, and thank you Special Rapporteur for the update. 

Myanmar remains at crisis point in terms of human rights, especially the assault on civic freedoms. Both the UN and human rights groups have documented allegations of crime against humanity and war crimes perpetrated by the junta, with more than two thousand individuals unlawfully killed since the attempted coup in 2021.  

Peaceful expression of dissent have been met with arbitrary arrest and detention by the junta. Criminalisation of activists, journalists and lawyers on fabricated charges ranging from ‘incitement’, sedition and terrorism has persisted. Political detainees have reported the frequent use of torture and extra-judicial executions in military bases, police stations and other places of detention. Burmese Muslims on the Thai-Burma border have been rendered stateless. The junta are consistently breaching ICJ provision measures. 

Despite these documented crimes, impunity still persists and we call on the Council to ensure advancement of accountability. 

Despite the appalling executions of four pro-democracy activists by the junta in August this year and the global outrage, more political prisoners are at risk of facing the death penalty and human rights violations have continued unabated.  In this environment, civil society requires even more support and protection from the international community. 

We ask the Special Rapporteur of strategies he has identified to enhance civic space protection inside the country, and particularly the role of UN agencies and UN member states in supporting both your mandate and supporting local civil society and human rights defenders. 


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

 

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

 

Ethiopia: Amidst a humanitarian crisis, violations are compounded by civic space restrictions

State,emt at the 51st Session of the UN Human Rights Council – 51st Session 

Interactive Dialogue on Ethiopia 

Delivered by Lisa Majumdar 

Thank you, Mr President, and thank you to the Commission for their first report. 

It paints a grim picture of resumed hostilities compounding violations which could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

We are seriously concerned by the civic space restrictions that are adding to the crisis – from restrictions to humanitarian access, to imposition of internet blackouts, to widespread arbitrary detention. 

The situation in Ethiopia, including the humanitarian disaster that has unfolded, will have consequences well beyond its borders. It is critical that full, unfettered, and sustained humanitarian access to Tigray is immediately restored. 

The report references the arbitrary detention of thousands of Tigrayans across the country, including in administrative detention centres, as well as on a massive scale in western Tigray.

We note that mass arbitrary detention can amount to a crime against humanity. 

We call on the Ethiopian government to cease all forms of intimidation of human rights defenders, journalists and other media actors. 

We note with serious concern the constraints on the work of the Commission owing to shortfalls in resources and lack of access. We therefore urge this Council to not only renew the mandate of the commission, but to ensure its adequate resourcing, and we call for the Commission’s unhindered access. 

We thank you. 


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

 

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

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

General Debate on Item 3

Delivered by Nicola Paccimiccio

Thank you, Madame Vice-President.

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

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

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

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

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

We thank you.

 

States must increase cooperation with the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention & halt the practice of arbitrary & secret detention

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

Interactive Dialogue with the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

Delivered by Nicola Paccamiccio

Thank you Mr. President,

CIVICUS welcomes with appreciation the report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which highlights the widespread use of such unlawful practice.

Arbitrary and secret detention remains a tactic used by many governments to silence dissent and curtail civil society action. The detention of peaceful protesters, human rights defenders and journalists persistently remains one of the most common violations of civic space. It has a chilling effect on a wide range of other fundamental rights and places individuals outside the protection of the law.

Hundreds of people are arbitrarily arrested and held in incommunicado detention. The crime? Standing up for their rights, for a free press, to protect the environment and equality, campaigning for a government that listens, and more.

This is the case, among many others, of Narsin Sotoudeh from Iran, Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube from Eswatini, Buzurghmehr Yorov from Tajikistan, María Esperanza Sanchez García, Medardo Mairena and Pedro Mena from Nicaragua, Ahmed Mansoor from the United Arab Emirates, Abdul-Hadi al Khawaja from Bahrain, the Viasna Human Rights Defenders from Belarus, Kenia Hernandez from Mexico, Hoda Abdel Moneim from Egypt, Khurram Parvez from India, Kamira Nait Sid from Algeria, Chow Hang-Tung from Hong Kong and Orbert Masaraure from Zimbabwe.

We call upon States to immediately release those already in arbitrary and secret detention and put an end to practices that silence human rights defenders for their work.

We further call upon States to support and adopt the resolution on arbitrary detention this session, and in doing so further protect and support human rights defenders who all too often face this practice.

We thank you.

 

Philippines: Lack of action by the UN Human Rights Council risks abandoning victims of human rights abuses

Without a resolution at the upcoming 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ (OHCHR) mandate to report on the Philippines will expire.

In this joint letter, CIVICUS and other non-governmental organisations call for members and observer states at the HRC to adopt a resolution on the Philippines that continues and strengthens its reporting mandate. In the absence of secure and effective spaces for deliberations at the domestic level, OHCHR’s reporting and the debate that follows it at the HRC are key for victims who continue to seek justice and accountability for human rights violations, including those committed in the context of the so-called “war on drugs.”

 

Reaction to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights global update

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

General Debate on the High Commissioner’s update

Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

Thank you, Mr President, and High Commissioner.

We congratulate Volker Turk on his appointment to High Commissioner. The sheer breadth of countries and issues on the agenda of this session is a reflection of global human rights challenges and emerging crises today.

The invasion of Ukraine and the conflict in Ethiopia which have resulted in grave human rights violations have underscored a key role for the UN in preventing violence and ensuring justice for victims. Recognising and addressing deteriorating situations has never been so important: both through preventive diplomacy, and by taking stronger action towards accountability. Civil society can be an essential partner in these endeavours, and in welcoming the new High Commissioner we look forward to his meaningful engagement with independent civil society and human rights defenders across the world.

A strong and robust civil society is vital for the advancement of human rights, and there are significant opportunities for the advancement of civic space and the protection of civil society at this session. Thematically, the Council can reaffirm the importance of respecting human rights while countering terrorism, and advance norms and standards on the safety of journalists.

On country situations, the Council must take stronger action to address the worsening human rights situation in Afghanistan, particularly for women and girls. The Council must renew its mechanisms on Burundi, Ethiopia and Venezuela, while ensuring continued OHCHR monitoring of the human rights situation in the Philippines and accountability in Sri Lanka. Its credibility depends on its ability to address a robust report on China, and to create a long overdue mechanism on Russia, which has clearly shown that ongoing and unchecked internal repression can have significant global implications.

Now is the time for the new High Commissioner, and this Council, to stand up and resolutely address these challenges.

We thank you.

 

Nicaragua: lack of engagement with UN mechanisms outlines contempt for human rights obligations

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

Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner on Nicaragua

Delivered by Nicola Paccamiccio

Thank you Mr President, and thank you Deputy High Commissioner for this report, which outlines Nicaragua’s contempt for its human rights obligations.

Civic space restrictions remain of fundamental concern. Since the elections last year, Nicaragua has experienced a redoubling of repression, with the aim of eliminating any form of autonomous organisation and monopolising power.

The repression has encompassed the widest possible range of violations of the freedoms of association and expression: harassment, threats and physical attacks, kidnapping and detention of human rights defenders, journalists and members of the opposition, their torture under custody, their criminalisation under fabricated charges, their prosecution and conviction without due process guarantees, and their confinement in inhumane conditions.

The process accelerated in May, with a new General Law on the Regulation and Control of Non-profit Organisations which makes it more difficult for CSOs to register and maintain legal status. Anti-money laundering laws have been instrumentalised to obstruct the operation of independent civil society groups.

These new requirements have been applied to justify mass CSO closures which have wiped out hundreds of organisations, including organisations dedicated to urban and municipal development, business and professional associations, children’s rights and youth groups, and environmental and feminist organisations.

We call on the government of Nicaragua to immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners and to restore full respect for the fundamental civic freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression. We ask the High Commissioner: in light of Nicaragua’s complete lack of engagement with Human Rights Council mechanisms, how can States protect civil society inside the country and support them in their efforts to further human rights?


 Civic space in Nicaragua is rated "Closed" by the CIVICUS Monitor.

Photo: Jorge Mejía peralta

 

Afghanistan: Grave violations to civic freedoms and ongoing impunity show need for robust international mechanism

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


Interactive Dialogue on the Special Rapporteur’s report on Afghanistan

Delivered by Horia Mosadiq

CIVICUS and the Safety and Risk Mitigation Organization thank the Special Rapporteur for his first report. The gravity of the situation cannot be overstated.

Since the Taliban takeover, escalating restrictions on fundamental freedoms in the country have exacerbated the danger facing human rights defenders. They live in a climate of fear, facing harassment, threats and violence. Those who have criticised the regime have been arbitrarily arrested and detained. Women human rights defenders have been abducted by the Taliban with impunity.

Crackdowns against protesters continue without accountability. Thousands of people, especially women, who took to the streets across the country to protest against the Taliban were subjected to excessive force, gunfire and beatings by the Taliban authorities, leading to deaths and injuries of peaceful protesters.

There have been countless raids of civil society offices, often to intimidate, and some groups have had their bank accounts frozen. The dissolution of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission this year symbolises the complete disintegration of accountability mechanisms in the country.

While grave violations continue and impunity remains rampant, we call on States to urgently take steps to create a more robust international accountability mechanism to complement the work of the Special Rapporteur.

We further call on States to provide Afghan human rights defenders with financial, diplomatic and political support, including by issuing humanitarian visas and funding resettlement programmes, and to apply pressure on the Taliban to create a safer space for human rights defenders in Afghanistan.

We thank you.


Civic space in Afghanistan is rated "Repressed" by the CIVICUS Monitor.

 

Advocacy priorities at the 51st Session of UN Human Rights Council

The 51st regular session of the Human Rights Council will run from 12 September to 7 October, and will provide an opportunity to advance civic space and the protection of civil society, as well as address serious country situations.

There are a number of opportunities for the advancement of civic space and the protection of civil society at the upcoming 51st Human Rights Council session session. On country situations, the Council must take stronger action to address the worsening human rights situation in Afghanistan, particularly for women and girls. The Council must renew its mechanisms on Burundi, Ethiopia and Venezuela, while ensuring continued Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)'s monitoring of the human rights situation in the Philippines and Sri Lanka. Thematically, the Council can reaffirm the importance of respecting human rights while countering terrorism.


Country Priorities

Afghanistan

Following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, a human rights and humanitarian crisis has ensued. The establishment of a Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan was a first important step to address the situation, and now States must strengthen its focus on accountability for violations, including by establishing a Commission of Inquiry to complement the Special Rapporteur’s work.

Civic space in Afghanistan is rated "Repressed" by the CIVICUS Monitor.

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The Philippines

Since 2016, when Duterte came to power, CIVICUS has documented systematic intimidation, attacks and vilification of civil society and activists, an increased crackdown on press freedoms, and the emerging prevalence of a pervasive culture of impunity. With domestic accountability processes unfit for purpose, the Council must extend monitoring by the High Commissioner on the situation to ensure that scrutiny remains on the country and that impunity does not prevail.

Civic space in The Philippines is rated "Repressed" by the CIVICUS Monitor.

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Burundi

The human rights situation in Burundi has not improved since the mandate of the Special Rapporteur was established at the Council’s 48th session, and impunity remains widespread. It is vital that the Council maintains scrutiny on Burundi, relying on benchmarks identified by the earlier Commission of Inquiry to assess its progress, so the Council must extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. See a joint NGO letter here.

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

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Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has long been on the Council’s agenda to promote transitional justice towards accountability and reconciliation in the country. In June 2022, Sri Lanka was placed on CIVICUS’ watchlist due to its severe and rapid decline in civic freedoms, including violent force against peaceful protesters and attacks against civil society organisations. The Council must extend Office of OHCHR's mandate on reporting and accountability in Sri Lanka in a resolution which also addresses the current crisis.

Civic space in Sri Lanka is rated "Obstructed" by the CIVICUS Monitor.

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Venezuela

The wave of human rights violations in the country continues unabated.  Human rights defenders continue to be persecuted, detained, and killed. Such violations – especially against freedom of assembly, association and expression – further undermine the already fragile economic and social situation. The Council must renew the mandate of the Fact-Finding mission on Venezuela, and engage constructively with its recommendations.

Civic space in Venezuela is rated "Repressed" by the CIVICUS Monitor.

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Ethiopia

Since the outbreak of the armed conflict in the Tigray region, the human rights situation in the country remains grave and alarming. The state of emergency endorsed by Parliament has led to a new wave of targeted and arbitrary arrests against the ethnic Tigrayans. The Council must renew the mandate of the Commission of Experts and engage constructively with its recommendations.

Civic space in Ethiopia is rated "Repressed" by the CIVICUS Monitor.


Thematic Priorities

Arbitrary detention

Arbitrary detention remains a tactic used by governments worldwide to silence dissent and curtail civil society action.  The detention of peaceful protesters, human rights defenders and journalists persistently remains one of the most common violations of civic space. We call on States to engage in the Interactive Dialogue with the Working Group, in particular by raising cases of specific human rights defenders being held in arbitrary detention.

Terrorism and human rights

Measures to guarantee national security and stability should always fully comply with international human rights standards and they should never jeopardise core human rights. Civil society is witnessing an increasing misuse of counter-terrorism and national security laws and tactics which severely affects civil society and especially minority groups. A resolution on terrorism and human rights will be presented at this session, and we call on States to ensure that it addresses threats fundamental freedoms and and legal, regulatory and policy restrictions on civil society’s ability to operate.

 The human rights violations committed by Russian forces during the ongoing unlawful aggression against Ukraine have been enabled in part by escalating serious repression within the country, and the situation and its impact merit the urgent establishment of a Special Rapporteur on Russia. Sustained attacks against civic space in India have rendered the Council overdue on taking action, and we urge States to do so at this session. 


Side- Events

CIVICUS and our partner, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights will hold a side event on the escalating civil and political rights violations in Zimbabwe on 26 September at 17:00 GMT +2. 

 

 

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. 


 

Joint Civil Society Letter to UN Member States: Appointment of the next UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Your Excellency,

The post of High Commissioner for Human Rights is critical to the promotion and protection of human rights globally, particularly at a time when human rights standards and mechanisms face enormous pressure from powerful governments, and human rights communities in countries throughout the world face imminent threats to their survival. In this context, we write to you to urge your government to actively engage with the Office of the UN Secretary-General in order to: (1) Voice your support for the appointment of a High Commissioner who will be a credible, impartial and courageous champion of human rights around the world, and (2) Advocate for an open, transparent and merit-based process for their selection, which would allow for the meaningful involvement of civil society.

The post of High Commissioner should be filled by someone of high moral standing and personal integrity, and who is independent and impartial with competency and expertise in the field of human rights. It requires a human rights champion who is courageous and principled. The nominee should have a proven record of effective public advocacy, as well as demonstrated experience working with human rights defenders and victims of violations. The post requires a strong commitment to addressing discrimination, inequality, oppression and injustice in all its forms, as well as combating impunity and pursuing redress and accountability for all human rights violations and abuses, including those committed by the most powerful governments.

The High Commissioner’s role is to be the world’s leading human rights advocate, as distinct from the role of a diplomat or political envoy. Demonstrating solidarity with victims, publicly calling out abuses and mobilizing protection efforts for human rights defenders and communities under threat should take precedence over a “friendly dialogue” or “political negotiations” with governments. The creation of the position of High Commissioner was, in part, an initiative first led by global civil society in response to the need within the international system for a strong, principled, outspoken and visible advocate for human rights, and unwavering defender of victims of human rights violations and abuses.

The process of nominating the next High Commissioner is critical to identifying the most qualified candidate and ensuring the credibility of their appointment. This process should be open, transparent and merit-based. It should involve wide and meaningful consultation with independent human rights organisations and human rights defenders from around the world. Given that High Commissioner Bachelet’s mandate will end on 31 August 2022, it is imperative that this process move quickly.

Human rights are primary values, legal obligations, and indispensable for peace, security and sustainable development. It is vital that the next High Commissioner be a compelling leader for human rights within the UN system and throughout the world. In addition to advocating for an outstanding candidate through a consultative process, we urge you to vigorously defend the independence of the Office of the High Commissioner, including through adequate resourcing. For our part, we pledge to support the High Commissioner and the Office of the High Commissioner in their principled and good faith efforts to promote and protect human rights worldwide.

We look forward to your response.

Yours faithfully,

African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ACDHRS)

Amnesty International

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)

CIVICUS

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative

Conectas Human Rights

Franciscans International

Front Line Defenders

Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)

Hawai'i Institute for Human Rights 

Human Rights House Foundation

Human Rights Law Centre

Human Rights Watch (HRW)

International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) 

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada

West African Human Rights Defenders Network (ROADDH/WAHRDN)

World Organization Against Torture (OMCT)

World Uyghur Congress (WUC)

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights

 

CIVICUS UN Universal Periodic Review submissions on civil society space in Benin, Guatemala, Pakistan, Peru, Sri Lanka and Zambia

The United Nations Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States once every 4.5 years.


CIVICUS and its partners have submitted UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on six countries in advance of the 42nd UPR session in January-February 2023. 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 3rd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations. 

Benin EN | FR – The submission by the Coalition des Défenseurs des Droits Humains-Benin (CDDH-Bénin), West African Human Rights Defenders Network (WAHRDN/ROADDH), the Réseau des Femmes Leaders pour le Développement (RFLD) and CIVICUS, highlights the adoption of restrictive legislation, particularly the Criminal Code and the Digital Code, with its provisions being used against human rights defenders (HRDs) and journalists. Additionally, the submission also draws attention to the increasing restrictions and violations of the freedom of peaceful assembly, which includes blanket bans on protests, the militarisation of law enforcement and the use of excessive force, including live ammunition, against protesters, along with increasing legal restrictions to the right to protest.

Guatemala EN | ES – CIVICUS and Accíon Ciudadania detail the use of extreme violence against HRDs and journalists, aggravated by the continued criminalisation and stigmatisation they face from authorities and non-state actors. In this submission, we also express our concern on the adoption of a restrictive legislative framework which could significantly impact on the work of civil society in Guatemala, in a context where the work of CSOs is already vulnerable to obstruction through abusive judicial and administrative proceedings.

PakistanIn this submission, CIVICUS and Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) report, among other issues, the legal and extra-legal barriers imposed on civil society organisations (CSOs) registration and operations in Pakistan, the criminalisation, threats and harassment of human rights defenders and the failure to hold perpetrators to account. It also highlights the alarming efforts to intimidate and censor journalists and media outlets, the criminalisation of online expression and restrictions and attacks on peaceful protests, especially by ethnic Pashtun minorities and women’s rights activists.

PeruCIVICUS and Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos (APRODEH) underline the pervasive violence against HRDs, civil society groups and protesters, who continue to face attacks harassment stigmatisation and killings. State and non-state actors, despite the newly adopted protection mechanisms, have been able to escalate attacks with impunity. The submission further reports cases of judicial harassment against journalists and the gradual reduction of the space for a free and independent press.

Sri LankaIn this joint submission, CIVICUS and the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) denounce the ongoing use of excessive force against HRDs and protesters and restrictive laws to limit civic space and fundamental freedoms. Between 2017 and 2022, we observed alarming trends of a government crackdown on protests, arbitrary detention against activists and violations of the freedoms of opinion and expression. The submission further reports the alarming and continuous judicial persecution, harassment and intimidation of HRDs, journalists, student protesters and others expressing dissenting opinions against the government.

ZambiaCIVICUS and Governance, Elections, Advocacy, Research Services Initiative Zambia (GEARS Initiative) report acts of intimidation and attacks on citizens, HRDs, CSOs and journalists in the period leading up to and during the presidential and parliamentary elections in August 2021. The submission also documents the continued use of excessive force by security forces in response to protests. We are moreover particularly worried by the restrictive legal framework, which undermines the freedoms of association, assembly and expression.


Civic space in Guatemala, Peru, Sri Lanka and Zambia is rated Obstructed, whereas Benin and Pakistan’s is rated as Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor.

 

Joint NGO statement: key takeaways from the 50th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Joint  NGO[1] statement from the end of the 50th Session of the United Nations' Human Rights Council  


We welcome the resolution on discrimination against women and girls which focused on girls’ activism. This strong text regrettably faced a series of amendments which challenged the very notion of children, especially of girls and adolescents as rights holders, and sought to deny women and girls their agency. The amendments are a continuation of a trend of hostile arguments and rhetoric on issues of gender, autonomy of women and girls and participation, which is coalescing and increasing in an alarming fashion. We are deeply concerned by the coordinated and targeted attacks against the rights of women, girls, LGBTIQ+ people and marginalized communities which aim at undermining sexual and reproductive rights and the right to bodily autonomy. We are also concerned by recurrent attacks against children’s rights, which specifically question their right to participate and express their views freely and their rights as human rights defenders. We urge this Council to abide by its mandate to uphold the strongest human rights standards for all and to resist any retrogression that would have deep and harmful impact on those affected.

We welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Independent Expert on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity for the second time, and the successful opposition of 12 out of 13 hostile amendments presented. 1,256 non-governmental organisations from 149 States and territories in all regions supported a campaign to renew the mandate. This was the first time this Council explicitly condemned legislation that criminalises consensual same-sex conducts and diverse gender identities, and called on States to amend discriminatory legislation and combat violence on the grounds on SOGI. This renewal once again reaffirms this Council’s commitment to combating discrimination and violence on the grounds of SOGI.

We welcome the resolution on freedom of peaceful assembly and association, renewing the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. At a time when civic space urgently needs to be protected and defended, we welcome that the resolution addressed substantive concerns, including access to funding, which is increasingly an existential threat to civil society worldwide.

We welcome that the resolution on peaceful protest reiterates that protests are a fundamental aspect of participation in public affairs, and highlights that people from marginalized communities can be particularly vulnerable to unlawful use of force. We regret that language urging a landmark moratorium on surveillance technology that could be used to violate human rights during protests was lost during negotiations. Hostile amendments calling for obligations to be imposed on protest organisers were overwhelmingly rejected. We now call on states to ensure accountability for excessive use of force which has been all too prevalent in protests worldwide, and urge future resolutions to strengthen this core issue.

We welcome the new resolution on freedom of opinion of expression, which reiterates that this vital right is one of the essential foundations of democratic societies and an important indicator of the level of protection of other human rights and freedoms. We particularly welcome new guidance related to the theme of digital, media and information literacy, which enables the full enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression. However, we strongly encourage the core group to ensure that future iterations of the resolution address core challenges to the right to freedom of expression which have been overlooked, including criminal defamation laws and strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs).

We welcome the approval of the resolution on the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, jurors and assessors, and the independence of lawyers, its focus on participation of women in the administration of justice, and the enhanced gender approach. This is a timely and crucial focus for this Council.

We welcome the Council’s approval of the resolution on the importance of casualty recording for the promotion and protection of human rights that reaffirms the importance of the right to truth and takes note of key international standards for accountability, such as the updated set of principles for the protection and promotion of human rights through action to combat impunity[1] and the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law, and the Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death.

We welcome the resolution on human rights and the regulation of civilian acquisition, possession and use of firearms’ focus on business and human rights - which we hope will contribute to ensuring that States and manufacturers and dealers of firearms undertake participatory, gender-responsive human rights impacts assessments, and ensuring mandatory human rights due diligence (HRDD) requirements for the arms sector based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. We regret that important notions of patterns of structural discrimination have been reduced to discrimination rooted in negative stereotypes.

We welcome the urgent debate on women and girls in Afghanistan and urge the Council to ensure that it remains accessible and responds adequately to the demands and needs of women human rights defenders from the country. It is imperative that this Council continues to ensure access and engagement of women human rights defenders, women political leaders and survivors and takes all necessary measures to address and ensure accountability for gender apartheid in Afghanistan. While welcoming the resolution, we regret the lack of inclusion of NGO suggestions for more specific investigation and reporting operational language that would have mandated the High Commissioner to look into the specific situation of women and girls in Afghanistan. We strongly encourage that future resolutions regarding the situation address the core issue of accountability, which has been overlooked in resolutions passed by the Council to date.

We welcome the latest resolution on Belarus, which extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. Since the previous version of this resolution was passed at HRC47, the human rights situation in Belarus has significantly deteriorated, with all independent human rights organisations in Belarus forcibly liquidated, and many human rights defenders indefinitely detained or imprisoned.

We welcome the extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, who plays an essential role in documenting violations Eritrean authorities commit at home and abroad. We stress the need for the HRC to adopt resolutions that fully reflect the situation in the country and fully describe and condemn violations.

The United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on Libya (FFM) presented their latest report to the UN Human Rights Council only days after protestors in Libya stormed the countries parliament and other government buildings.   Their report details gross human rights violations committed by armed groups and government forces throughout the country, including allegations of crimes against humanity and war crimes.   Despite these findings the UN Human Rights Council has adopted a resolution drafted by Libya that only allows the investigation to continue for a “final, non-extendable period of nine months.” NGOs have called on states to ensure that UN monitoring is maintained as long as gross human rights violations and abuses continue to be carried out in Libya with impunity. By creating an abbreviated operational time frame and pre-emptively dismissing the possibility of renewing the FFMs mandate - the resolution adopted by this Council sends a dangerous message to armed groups in the country that the international community lacks the will to ensure a sustained and serious accountability process. For these reasons, and in light of recent events in Libya, we urge member states of the Human Rights Council to work to ensure the FFM is preserved or an alternative mechanism is created that will sufficiently respond to the long-standing and urgent need to protect victims and end impunity in Libya beyond March 2023. Failure to do so will only encourage more violence and hamper efforts to ensure a sustainable peace.

We note the approval of the resolution on the situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar. Rohingyas and other minorities in Myanmar continue to be victims of gross human rights violations, including crimes under international law, and it is important their plight remains at the centre of this Council’s attention. We regret however that the resolution fails to recognise the gravity of the situation on the ground and calls for the immediate “voluntary” return of Rohingya to Myanmar despite the complete absence of the conditions for safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return in the country, as confirmed by the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar.

We welcome the report of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) which emphasized Israel’s systematic discrimination, and stressed its strategic geographic, social and political fragmentation of the Palestinian people. The report addressed the lack of accountability and compliance with recommendations made by previous UN bodies, including commissions of inquiry and fact-finding missions, addressing the failure of third States to uphold their obligations under international law. In the interactive dialogue, the CoI responded to the joint statement by the United States of America questioning the validity of the CoI mandate, by exposing the double standards when it comes to holding Israel accountable. Commissioners also reiterated the overwhelming support for the mandate, including during the interactive dialogue. We call on States to continue to support this important accountability mechanism and ensure the CoI has sufficient resources to discharge its mandate.

The outcome on Sudan that was achieved at this session is the best possible outcome that could be achieved by consensus. As the de facto authorities and security forces continue to kill protesters peacefully demanding civilian rule, however, consensus cannot be the Council’s only guide. We stress the need for long-term scrutiny of Sudan, beyond what resolution 50/L.14/Rev.1 has requested. The Council should keep all options on the table to expose and respond to the situation.

We regret that the Council failed to respond to several human rights situations.

In Cameroon, as the crisis in the North-West and South-West regions continues, with violations committed by all sides, including recently unspeakable atrocities committed by armed separatists, and grave violations continue to be reported in the Far North and in the rest of the country, particularly against independent and opposition voices, it is essential for the Council to follow up on its joint statement of March 2019. This is all the more important since both the African Union and the UN Security Council have been silent on what remains one of the most serious human rights crises on the African continent.

We welcome the joint statement by 47 States expressing serious concern at the human rights situation in China, including in the Uyghur region (Xinjiang), Hong Kong and Tibet, and echo the call for the prompt release of the High Commissioner’s long-overdue report on the serious violations in Xinjiang. The High Commissioner, or her successor, should present her report upon release in an intersessional briefing to the Human Rights Council. 42 Special Procedures experts have also reiterated their call for the creation of a UN-mandated mechanism to ‘monitor, analyse and report annually on the human rights situation in China’, underlining the importance for the credibility of the UN system to ‘ensure a consistent UN approach to all States.’ In its September session, the Council should take action on the basis of objective information from the UN system - namely the OHCHR Xinjiang report, Special Procedures concerns, and the upcoming Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee’s ongoing review of Hong Kong - with a view to establish a space for formal discussion of the human rights situation in China.

The continued silence of this Council on the critical human rights situation in Egypt is of great concern. As Egypt prepares to host COP 27 it continues to carry out widespread and systematic violations of human rights, including freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association. Almost all independent media has been forced to shut down or threatened into silence. 100s of websites continue to be banned. Thousands of civil society and media representatives have been and continue to be disappeared, tortured and/or arbitrarily detained under the pretence of counter-terrorism and national security. This includes well known blogger and democracy activist Alaa Abdel Fattah – recently sentenced to an additional 5 years in prison by an exceptional court. His crime? Advocating for democracy and rights. He is currently approaching day 100 of a hunger strike. We urge this Council and its Special Procedures to take action to protect and ensure the release of Mr. Fattah and the thousands of others like him in Egypt.

There have been strong calls from international and Russian civil society for Russia to be on the formal agenda of the Human Rights Council since the beginning of 2021. A recent further intensification of human rights violations in Russia has led to calls for the HRC to mandate a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Russian Federation. While the joint statement signed by nearly 50 delegations at HRC50 was important, the situation now demands stronger action and we will be looking for the HRC to take action at the next session.


[1] Signatories:  International Service for Human Rights; Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA); ARTICLE 19; DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project); CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation; Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI); International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI); The Global Interfaith Network (GIN SSOGIE NPC); World Uyghur Congress; Gulf Centre for Human Rights; Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies; Child Rights Connect; Access Now; Association for Progressive Communications (APC); IFEX.

 

Resolution on peaceful protests reaffirms the need to protect the right to protest and strengthen accountability

Resolution on peaceful protests adopted by the 50th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

 

HRC50: resolution on freedom of peaceful assembly & association renews the crucial Special Rapporteur mandate & addresses key issues

Resolution on on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association adopted at the 50th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

CIVICUS welcomes this new resolution on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, which addresses substantive concerns facing civil society today.

 

Timor-Leste: Civil society has played a critical role in strengthening democracy, but civic space shortfalls remain

Statement at the 50th Session of the UN Human Rights Council 


Adoption of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) report of Timor-Leste

Delivered by Marta da Silva, La'o Hamutuk

Thank you, Mr President.

La'o Hamutuk, JSMP, HAK, Forum Asia and CIVICUS welcome the government of Timor-Leste’s engagement with the UPR process.

Civil society played a critical role in achieving Timor-Leste’s sovereignty and strengthening democracy, and human rights defenders, journalists and other civil society members are largely able to work without fear of reprisals.

However, there is still more to be done to strengthen the right to freedom of expression. Some journalists have faced threats, and some practise self-censorship to deal with such intimidation. We welcome that Timor-Leste accepted a recommendation to revise the Media Law, which contains provisions that can undermine freedom of expression and media freedom. During the review, states also made recommendations in relation to attempts by the government to introduce draft laws that could further stifle freedom of expression, including the proposed Criminal Defamation Law and Cyber Crime Law. We are further alarmed by restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly and the arbitrary arrests of protesters.

We call on Timor-Leste to address these concerns and ensure a safe, secure and enabling environment for human rights defenders and journalists to carry out their work. Specifically, the government should implement recommendations relating to civic space and:

  • Revise the Media Law to ensure it is in line with international standards and refrain from introducing new laws or provisions limiting either offline or online expression.
  • Ensure that journalists and civil society organisations can work freely and without fear of retribution for expressing critical opinions or covering topics that the government may deem sensitive.
  • Ensure that human rights defenders are able to carry out their legitimate activities without fear or undue hindrance, obstruction or harassment and adopt a specific law to ensure the protection of human rights defenders.
  • Amend the Law on Freedom of Assembly and Demonstration to guarantee fully the right to the freedom of peaceful assembly in line with international law and standards.
  • Improve avenues for transparency and public participation in policy-development to ensure that all citizens’ needs and wishes are heard.

We thank you.


Civic space in Timor Leste is rated as "Obstructed" by the CIVICUS Monitor 

 

Afghanistan: Systematic violations of women's and girls’ rights demand an urgent and proportionate response

Statement at the 50th Session of UN Human Rights Council


Urgent Debate on Afghanistan

Delivered by Horia Mosadiq, Safety and Risk Mitigation Organization

CIVICUS and Safety and Risk Mitigation Organization welcome the holding of this Urgent Debate.

The situation for women and girls in Afghanistan is absolutely critical. Since the Taliban took power, the rollback of the rights of women and girls has been swift, unprecedented, and in some cases deadly.

Women and girls are increasingly restricted in their rights to freedom of expression, assembly, association and even movement, and the situation is worsening.

Women human rights defenders fought for participation and human rights in the fragile peace process ongoing before the Taliban takeover, at significant risk and with insufficient support. With systematic oppression now in place and risk magnified to an unimaginable extent, such international support is more critical than ever.

The grave and systematic violations of women's and girls’ rights demand an urgent and proportionate response, to protect those on the ground and to hold the Taliban accountable for abuses. There needs to be a clear sign that the international community takes seriously this situation. We urge the Human Rights Council to take action that will materially support women human rights defenders and those they protect.

We further call on States to provide Afghan human rights defenders with financial, diplomatic and political support, including by issuing humanitarian visas and funding resettlement programmes, and to apply pressure on the Taliban to create a safer space for human rights defenders and journalists in Afghanistan.

We thank you.


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

 

Venezuela: Restrictions to civic space continue unabated as government defies commitments

Statement at the 50th Session of the Human Rights Council 


Adoption of the UPR report of Venezuela

Delivered by Carlos Correa, Espacio Público

Thank you, Mr President. 

Over the past five years, Venezuela promoted unjustified restrictions on civic space, including the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. Of the 40 recommendations received in 2016, it partially implemented 7.  

Space for civil society has been repressed. Despite accepting recommendations to guarantee freedom of expression online, restrictions continue. Venezuela committed to ensure the work of journalists, human rights defenders and humanitarian workers, but judicial persecution remains common. Authorities adopt a disqualifying discourse that seeks to justify attacks on the exercise of freedom of association and expression. 

Today at least 45 news portals are blocked in Venezuela. Between January and April of this year 2022, 43 journalists were victims of illegitimate restrictions to do their work. While this UPR process was ongoing, a bill was announced to control international cooperation funds. In the last year, at least 8 human rights defenders have been detained and criminal proceedings are ongoing against them. 

We regret that Venezuela accepted 27 of the 53 recommendations it received on civic space during this third cycle.  

Mr President, Espacio Público and CIVICUS call on the Government of Venezuela to take concrete steps to address these concerns, including by repealing undue legal restrictions on civil society and the press, reinstating media outlets unwarrantedly closed, ceasing censorship practices, and by releasing all those detained for defending human rights and expressing themselves. 

Thank you very much.  


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

 

Togo needs concrete actions to address the deterioration of civic space

Statement at the 50th Session of the UN Human Rights Council


Delivered by Nicola Paccamiccio

Thank you, Mr President.

Mr President, CIVICUS, Coalition Togolaise des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CTDDH) and Réseau Ouest Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (ROADDH/WAHRDN) welcome the government of Togo’s engagement with the UPR process. We welcome that Togo supported 20 of the 24 recommendations it received relating to civic space.

However, Togo failed to implement any of the civic space recommendations it received in the previous cycle. Our joint submission found that Togo has persistently failed to address unwarranted restrictions on civic space and particularly acute implementation gaps were found with regards to fundamental freedoms and the protection of human rights defenders.

Space for civil society has been deteriorating in Togo since mass anti-government protests in 2017-2018, including through the killing of protesters, the arrest and prosecution of human rights defenders, journalists and pro-democracy activists, the banning of civil society and opposition protests, the suspension of media outlets, disruption of access to the internet and social media and the adoption of restrictive legislation.

Authorities in Togo continue to adopt laws and regulations that restrict civic space and hamper the work of human rights defenders.

A law adopted by authorities in March 2020 in response to Togo’s first case of COVID-19, allowing the government to take measures by decrees, including on fundamental rights and freedoms and civic rights, remains in place.

In January 2022, the government issued a decree setting conditions for cooperation between non-governmental organisations and the government, which contains restrictive provisions allowing mayors and prefects to prohibit peaceful protests in their districts.

We call on the government of Togo to take concrete steps to repeal all laws and regulations restricting fundamental freedoms in Togo, including the new law on freedom of assembly, Cybersecurity law, and certain restrictive provisions in the Penal Code, and to adopt the draft law on the protection of human rights defenders, submitted by civil society in 2019 in line with the United Nations Declaration of 1998.

We thank you.


Civic sace in Togo is rated as "Repressed" by the CIVICUS Monitor 

 

The human rights situation continues to worsen amid increasing hostility against civil society

Statement at the 50th Session of the UN Human Rights Council 


Interactive Dialogue with International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia

Delivered by Sibahle Zuma

Thank you Mr. President, and thank you to the Commission of Experts for this initial briefing.

Your mandate is critical: as the conflict continues in Tigray and Amhara regions, the human rights situation continues to worsen. Restrictions to civic space have increased; the Ethiopian government has become more hostile to civil society including humanitarian organisations, and human rights defenders have been the targets of torture and intimidation. The arrest of journalists Sabontu Ahmed, Bekalu Alamirew and Meaza Muhamed in May 2022 brought the total of journalists and media personnel detained since the beginning of the conflict to 19, and their whereabouts is unknown.

We are seriously alarmed by reports of crimes against humanity amidst a wide range of human rights violations, including mass killings, sexual violence, and military targeting of civilians. On 18 June more than 200 people, mostly from the Amhara ethnic community, were reportedly killed in an attack in the country's Oromia region. About 12 journalists were arrested and detained incommunicado. Two have been reported murdered.

Freedom of religion and belief is at further risk throughout the country: police used teargas to disperse Muslims during prayers marking the end of Ramadan in Addis Ababa.

It is imperative that the Ethiopian government protects civic space, and we call on the Ethiopian government to cease all forms of intimidation of human rights defenders, journalists and other media actors. We ask the Commission of Inquiry what States can do to protect civil society on the ground and to ensure their ability to operate safely.

We thank you.


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

 

Ongoing violations of fundamental rights require Council’s continued scrutiny

Statement at the 50th Session of the Human Ricghts Council 


Interactive Dialogue on High Commssioners report on Venezuela

Delivered by Carlos Correa, Espacio Público 

Espacio Público and CIVICUS reiterate the need to continue documentation of the human rights situation in Venezuela. The crisis continues with severe consequences for the most vulnerable people.

Civil liberties violations impact economic and social rights guarantees. Restrictions on freedom and circulation of information seek to prevent legitimate criticism of public administration. Illegal blockades of digital media remain in place in an ecosystem dominated by state-controlled radio and television stations.

A private telephone and internet service provider reported that in 2021 more than 1.5 million lines were tapped. And since 2016, over 1300 websites were blocked. There is a pattern of mass surveillance that violates the right to privacy.

Civil society is at risk and nominal ‘new spaces for dialogue’ have done little to assuage this. The draft International Cooperation bill would restrict CSOs operation and access to funding. Human rights defenders continue to be intimidated, criminalised and arbitrarily detained.

We urge you to maintain scrutiny on Venezuela; extend resolution 45/20 that enables this report, consolidate the presence of the High Commissioner's office in the country, support the renewal of the mandate of the Fact-Finding Mission and any initiative to accompany victims in their quest for justice.

Thank you very much.


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

 

Myanmar: As the atrocities mount, so must the momentum towards ensuring accountability

Statement at the 50th Session of the UN Human Rights Council


Interactive Dialogue with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar

June 2022

Delivered by Kyaw Win, Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN)

Thank you, Mr. President and Special Rapporteur.

Since the attempted coup on 1 February 2021 by the Myanmar military junta, the criminalisation of activists and journalists on trumped up charges of incitement, sedition and terrorism by secret military tribunals has persisted. Human rights groups have documented the increasing use of torture or cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment of political prisoners in detention.

Rohingya and Muslim minorities have also been subjected to tightened restrictions on their fundamental freedoms and are increasingly at risk of being subjected to further atrocity crimes. The junta and its supporters continue to use divisive and hateful rhetoric aimed at marginalising and inciting violence against the Rohingya and Muslim minorities.

The junta continues to deny the Rohingya the ability to live free and dignified lives by further restricting their freedom of movement. Every year, the junta has arrested and detained nearly a thousand Rohingya people, including women and children, for fleeing oppression in Arakan state. A safe and dignified return for Rohingya refugees will not be possible while these conditions are in place.

Despite previous findings by the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar showing widespread and systematic human rights violations, some amounting to crimes against humanity and genocide, impunity remains nearly absolute. As long as this remains so, unyielding repression of activists and oppression of minority communities will continue unabated.

We call on the UN and its member states to take all possible measures to hold General Min Aung Hlaing, other senior military leaders and members of SAC accountable for their crimes and to cut off the junta from all revenue and weapons streams which allow it to continue its genocidal operations.

We ask the Special Rapporteur what immediate actions he suggests for States to protect those on the ground and further accountability.

We thank you.


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

 

No safety of journalists in the digital age if impunity persists

Statement at the 50th Session of the UN Human Rights Council


 Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression

Delivered by Nicola Paccamiccio

Thank you Mr President,

We welcome the report of the Special Rapporteur and share the concerns over the increasing vilification, targeting and criminalisation of journalists and media workers.

Journalists play a critical role in reporting on violations of fundamental rights, and the ability of journalists to work safely and without fear is a critical component of civic space.

In Sri Lanka and Kazakhstan, journalists have been attacked and arrested while reporting on protests. In Kenya and Mexico, attacks against journalists have continued unabated, with impunity. In Hungary, political interference by the government has significantly undermined media freedom. All five countries, along with Chad, are currently on CIVICUS’s Watchlist for their serious, and rapid decline in respect for civic space.

The digital age has reinforced these existing threats and created new ones to the safety of journalists.

“Fake news’’ laws are used to target journalists and media workers not in line with governments’ official positions. In Russia, journalists can face criminal penalties of up to 15 years in prison for disseminating allegedly ‘false information’ about Russian armed forces in Ukraine.

Digital surveillance is increasingly used to monitor journalists. In India, the Pegasus Spyware has been employed to target at least 300 journalists, diplomats, and activists. Biometric technologies are utilised to identify and target protesters and journalists covering protests.

Given that the digital age has brought further menaces to the safety of journalists and a chilling effect on freedom of expression, we ask the Special Rapporteur what States should do to end impunity for human rights violations against journalists and media workers?

 We thank you.

 

CSOs call for an open, transparent & merit-based process to appoint the next UN High-Commissioner

In an open letter to the UN Secretary-General, Mr António Guterres, various civil society organisations urge the Secretary General to find a compelling leader for human rights within the UN system and throughout the world through a consultative process.


 Dear Secretary-General,

Re: Appointment of next UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

The post of High Commissioner for Human Rights is critical to the promotion and protection of human rights globally, particularly at a time when human rights standards and mechanisms face enormous pressure from powerful governments. This role is key for the implementation of the Call to Action for Human Rights and Our Common Agenda.

The undersigned organisations represent and work closely with human rights defenders, victims of violations and affected communities, as well as with the UN. In this capacity, we write to you regarding the process for appointing the next High Commissioner, as well as the key qualifications and qualities required for the position.

The post of High Commissioner should be filled by someone of high moral standing and personal integrity, and who is independent and impartial and possesses competency and expertise in the field of human rights. It requires a human rights champion who is courageous and principled. Your nominee should have a proven record of effective public advocacy, as well as demonstrated experience working with defenders and victims of violations. The post requires a strong commitment to addressing discrimination, inequality, oppression and injustice in all its forms, as well as combating impunity and pursuing redress and accountability for all human rights violations and abuses, including those committed by the most powerful governments. The High Commissioner’s role is to be the world’s leading human rights advocate, as distinct from the role of a diplomat or political envoy. Demonstrating solidarity with victims and publicly calling out abuses should take precedence over friendly dialogue with governments.

The process of nominating the next High Commissioner is critical to identifying the most qualified candidate and ensuring the credibility of their appointment. This process should be open, transparent and merit-based. It should involve wide and meaningful consultation with independent human rights organisations and human rights defenders. Given that High Commissioner Bachelet’s mandate will end on 31 August 2022, it is imperative that this process move quickly.

Human rights are primary values, legal obligations, and indispensable for peace, security and sustainable development. It is vital that the next High Commissioner be a compelling leader for human rights within the UN system and throughout the world. In addition to identifying an outstanding candidate through a consultative process, we urge you to vigorously defend the independence of the Office of the High Commissioner, including through adequate resourcing. For our part, we pledge to support the High Commissioner and the Office of the High Commissioner in their principled and good faith efforts to promote and protect human rights worldwide.

We look forward to your response and to meaningful civil society engagement with this process.

Yours faithfully,

1. Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran

2. Adalah  The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel


3. Advocates for International Development


4. Al Mezan Center for Human Rights


5. All Human Rights for All in Iran


6. Amnesty International


7.
 Arab NGO Network for Development

8.
 ARTICLE 19

9. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUMASIA)


10. Association for the Human Rights of the Azerbaijani People in Iran (AHRAZ)


11. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies


12. Center for Economic and Social Rights


13. Center for International Environmental Law


14.
 Center for Reproductive Rights

15. Centre for Civil and Political Rights


16. Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)


17. Child Rights Connect


18. Citizen, Democracy and Accountability


19. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation


20. Colombian Commission of Jurists


21. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative


22. Conectas Direitos Humanos


23. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)


24. Dominican Leadership Conference


25. Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort (ECPM)


26. Environmental Defender Law Center


27. Franciscans International


28. Front Line Defenders


29. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect


30. Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights


31. Gulf Centre for Human Rights


32. Haiti Rehabilitation Foundation


33. Hawai’i Institute for Human Rights


34. HIV Legal Network


35. Human Rights Activists in Iran


36. Human Rights House Foundation


37. Human Rights Law Centre


38. Human Rights Watch


39. ILGA World (The International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association)


40. Impact Iran


41. Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH)


42. International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI)


43. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)


44. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)


45. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)


46. Iran Human Rights
47. JASS/Just Associates

48. Just Fair


49.
 Kenya Human Rights Commission

50. Kurdistan Human Rights AssociationGeneva (KMMKG)


51. Law & Society Trust Sri Lanka


52. Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada


53. Make Mothers Matter (MMM)


54. MINBYUN  Lawyers for a Democratic Society


55. Minority Rights Group International (MRG)


56. Open Society Foundations


57. Plan International


58. Programa Venezolano de Educación Acción en Derechos Humanos, PROVEA


59. Siamak Pourzand Foundation


60. United Nations Association  UK


61. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)


62.
 World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

63. World Uyghur Congress

 

Alarming trends in restrictions to access to resources facing civil society in Asia

Statement at the 50th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Item 3: Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association

Delivered by Ahmed Adam On behalf of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation and World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

Mr. President, We welcome the Special Rapporteur’s important report on civil society’s access to resources.

Systematic restrictions on civil society’s access to resources often represent one of the first indicators of overall deterioration of the human rights situation and a trend towards authoritarian rule as seen in many Asian countries, in particular, in India and Bangladesh. In India, over 6000 NGOs have been banned from accessing foreign funding under the draconian Foreign Contributions (Regulations) Act, 2010 (FCRA) effectively forcing them to cease their operations.

The law has been used particularly to silence human rights NGOs critical of the government. The amendments made to FCRA makes sub-granting of funds to grassroot organisations impossible, affecting many beneficiaries. Early this month, Bangladesh authorities arbitrarily cancelled the registration of prominent human rights NGO, Odhikar, after years of crippling restrictions on its operations under the Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Law 2016 for its legitimate human rights work in the country. This has had a serious chilling effect on the country’s civic and democratic space, forcing many others to resort to self-censorship.

Many other countries the region are in the process of adopting similar measures that would effectively decimate civil society. We are particularly concerned about the impending adoption of a new law on NGOs in Thailand. In this context, can the Special Rapporteur elaborate on your engagement with countries such as India and Bangladesh, and their responses, where such measures have had serious implications for fundamental freedoms and civic space.

Finally, we welcome the Special Rapporteur’s timely follow up report on his visit to Sri Lanka amid nationwide peaceful protests in response to the country’s economic crisis precipitated by failure of governance and the rule of law, and rollback of fundamental freedoms.

Can the Special Rapporteur further elaborate on obligations of authorities to uphold the right to peaceful protests and ensure accountability, especially in situations such as those seen in Sri Lanka on 9 May where supporters of the embattled ruling party attacked peaceful protestors while the security services looked on?

Thank you.

 

CSOs urge the UN to renew its Expert mandate on sexual orientation & gender identity

1117 Civil Society Organisations(CSOs) urge the Human Rights Council to renew the mandate of the Independent Expert on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity(SOGI) during its 50th session. 


 

In every region of the world, widespread, grave and systematic violence and discrimination based on one’s real or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity persists.

Killings and extrajudicial executions; torture, rape and sexual violence; enforced disappearance; forced displacement; criminalisation; arbitrary detentions; blackmail and extortion; police violence and harassment; bullying; stigmatization; hate speech; disinformation campaigns; denial of one’s self defined gender identity; forced medical treatment, and/or forced sterilization; repression of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, religion or belief; attacks and restrictions on human rights defenders and journalists; denial of services and hampered access to justice; discrimination in all spheres of life including in employment, healthcare, housing, education and cultural traditions; and other multiple and intersecting forms of violence and discrimination. These are some of the human rights violations and abuses faced by persons of diverse sexual orientations and/or gender identities.

This dire human rights situation has motivated significant action at the United Nations, which we celebrate, to recognize and protect the human rights of these persons and communities. In 2016, the Human Rights Council took definitive action to systematically address these abuses, advance positive reforms and share best practices – through regular reporting, constructive dialogue and engagement – and created an Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI).

In 2019, the renewal of this mandate was supported by more than 50 States from all the regions of the globe and by 1,314 organisations from 174 States and territories. This growing support is evidence of the critical importance of this mandate and its work to support persons of diverse sexual orientations and/or gender identities, and those who defend their rights, both at international human rights fora and at the grassroots level.

Over the past 6 years the two mandate holders have conducted in-depth documentation of discrimination and violence based on SOGI through reports and statements; have sent over 100 communications documenting allegations of such violations in all regions; have carried out 5 country visits; have identified root causes; and addressed violence and discrimination faced by specific groups, including lesbian, bisexual, trans and gender diverse persons.

The mandate has also welcomed progress and identified best practices from all regions of the world, including in decriminalisation, legal gender recognition, anti-discrimination laws and hate crime laws. All while engaging in constructive dialogue and assisting States to implement and further comply with international human rights law and standards, as well as collaborating with UN mechanisms, agencies, funds and programs and other bodies in international and regional systems.

Despite these positive advances, today over 68 countries still criminalize consensual same-sex conduct and relations of which 11 jurisdictions still carry the death penalty and more than 10 countries still criminalise diverse gender expressions and identities, and the abovementioned human rights violations persist. Furthermore, at least 4042 trans and gender-diverse people were reported murdered between 1 January 2008 and 30 September 2021. With many more cases going unreported, 2021 has been the deadliest year for trans and gender-diverse people since data collection began. It is clear that this mandate remains essential.

A decision by Council Members to renew this mandate would send a clear message that violence and discrimination against people of diverse sexual orientations and/or gender identities cannot be tolerated. It would reaffirm that specific, sustained and systematic attention continues to be crucial to address these human rights violations and ensure that LGBT people are in fact free and equal in dignity and rights.
 
We, the 1,117 NGOs from 134 States and territories around the world, urge this Council to ensure we continue building a world where everyone can live free from violence and discrimination. To allow this important and unfinished work to continue, we urge you to renew the mandate of the Independent Expert on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

 

The dismantling of Nicaragua’s civil society continues unabated

Statement at the 50th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Interactive Dialogue on High Commisioner's oral update on Nicaragua

Delivered by Nicola Paccamiccio

Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you to the High Commissioner for her update.

The dismantling of Nicaragua’s civil society continues unabated. In the past weeks alone, the Ortega government has used money laundering legislation and the ‘foreign agents’ legislation to cancel the registration of nearly 200 organisations working on issues from culture, to aid and development, to the environment.

A new “General Law on the Regulation and Control of Non-profit Organisations,” enacted last month, could prove a nail in the coffin for independent civil society, now effectively unable to continue their work. It makes it more difficult for Non Governmental Organisations to register, requires them to seek government approval for their activities, and imposes new reporting constraints.

Human rights defenders and opposition leaders continue to be persecuted. Yubrank Suazo, opposition leader and member of the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, was detained on 18 May. Dozens of political prisoners were convicted in express trials between February and May – since then, requests for appeal have been rejected.

This is particularly concerning given ongoing ill-treatment and torture of political prisoners, including human rights defenders María Esperanza Sanchez. Women political prisoners who live with chronic or pre-existing health conditions have not received appropriate medical attention.

Nicaragua's authorities have not hesitated to use legislation, policy, judicial harassment and even acts of violence to attack Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and civil society. The establishment of the Group of Experts on Nicaragua is a significant and welcome step towards truth and accountability, and we ask the High Commissioner for concrete suggestions to how States can best support civil society on the ground who are operating in an atmosphere of fear and violence.


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

 

Afghanistan: Keep the pressure on the Taliban to create a safer space for women, HRDs, and journalists

Statement at the 50th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Interactive Debate on the High Commissioner’s update on Afghanistan 

Delivered by Horia Mosadiq 

CIVICUS and Safety and Risk Mitigation Organization thank the High Commissioner for her update. 

We remain deeply concerned with the escalating restrictions to fundamental freedoms, threats against human rights defenders, and curtailment of the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan.

Since the Taliban assumed power, women, and girls in Afghanistan are increasingly restricted in their rights to freedom of expression, assembly, association, and even movement. It has become the only country in the world to prohibit girls’ education. The Taliban issued a directive on 7 May mandating women and girls to fully cover themselves in public and leave home only in cases of necessity. Women human rights defenders have been subjected to numerous human rights violations, including abductions, enforced disappearances, and assaults with impunity.

Last month, the Taliban dissolved the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. This act symbolizes the complete disintegration of accountability mechanisms in the country.

We welcome the scrutiny of the Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan, especially in the context of his recent visit to the country, which is an important step towards any future accountability. The crisis facing women and girls merits further investigation. We call on the Council to ensure both adequate support to the Special Rapporteur and to stand ready to take further action, on both prevention and accountability initiatives, as the situation deteriorates. 

We further call on States to provide Afghan human rights defenders with financial, diplomatic and political support, including by issuing humanitarian visas and funding resettlement programmes, and to apply pressure on the Taliban to create a safer space for human rights defenders and journalists in Afghanistan.

We thank you.

 

Now is the time for greater transparency and broader participation

Statement at the 50th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Interactive Dialogue on the High Commissioner’s Annual Report

Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

We thank the High Commissioner for her report, and for her work during her term.

We fully agree that these are times for greater – not less - transparency and broader space for civic engagement and participation. Too many States are falling short in these respects.

We see this in China, where civic space is closed and space for dissent is all but non-existent. Activists have been detained and indicted for speaking up, and thousands have been detained in legalised form of enforced disappearance.

In Russia, a systematic dismantling of dissent has created an internal environment in which aggression can thrive. It has become all too clear that repression does not engender security, but rather its opposite.

In these situations, it is even more important that the international human rights institutions, including this Council and your office, steps up in support. No country can be above effective scrutiny, regardless of the geopolitical power they wield.

We stress again that civil society restrictions can and should be seen as early warnings for further deterioration in human rights protections. We look particularly at India, where increasing restrictions threaten the ability of civil society to carry out its work and where authorities continue to suppress peaceful protests.

With a focus this session on the rights that protect civic space, we call on States to speak out on country situations where patterns of restrictions are evident, and to use this session to take action on the most egregious of these.

We ask the High Commissioner, as your term draws to a close – what action should be taken by the Council and its members in these cases of systematic repression of civil society?


Civic space ratings from the CIVICUS Monitor

OPEN NARROWED OBSTRUCTED  REPRESSED CLOSED

 

Call for a resolution to establish an Expert on Human Rights & extension of HC mandate on Sudan

Statement at the 50th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Enhanced Interactive Debate on High Commisioners report on Sudan

Delivered by Sibahle Zuma

We welcomed the Council’s Special Session on Sudan last November and its adoption of a resolution mandating a designated Expert on Human Rights in the Sudan. It is imperative that this scrutiny continues.

As the de facto military authorities continue to consolidate their power, human rights violations and abuses have continued unabated. Excessive force against protesters, including sexual and gender-based violence and enforced disappearance, firing live ammunition, stun grenades and tear gas, resulted in at least 13 civilian deaths and thousands of injuries between February and May 2022. There have been 13 cases of gang rape of women and girls and numerous allegations of sexual harassment brought against security forces during the protests in March alone.

The transitional government had relaxed the restrictions and impediments placed on civil society by the previous regime, but civic space has deteriorated significantly since the October 2021 coup. Rights of association and assembly have been hard hit with continued enforcement of the state of emergency and the violent response of authorities to peaceful protests. Freedom of expression and access to information has deteriorated significantly at the hands of security forces who continue to assault and arrest journalists, many of whom had had licenses revoked under spurious allegations of ‘inciting violence’ or committing ‘crimes against the state’.

As the country struggles for sustainable peace, a need for political settlement must be grounded in respect of human rights and accountability for human rights violations, which requires a continued oversight from the Human Rights Council with clear mandate for the Expert on Human Rights in the Sudan.

We urge the UN Human Rights Council to take action that will enable continued scrutiny, including the vital monitoring and reporting on the human rights situation in the country by the High Commissioner and the designated Expert.

We thank you.


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

 

Myanmar: The root causes of violations against the Rohingya & other minorities cannot be addressed without accountability

Statements at the 50th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

CIVICUS and our partner, Burma Human Rights Network delivered two statements on the situation of Rohingya and other minorities in and outside Myanmar, please read them below:


Interactive Dialogue on High Commisioner Oral update on Myanmar

Delivered by Kyaw Win, Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN)

Thank you, Mr. President.

CIVICUS and the Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN) thanks the High Commissioner for her update.

We remain deeply concerned about the situation and lack of accountability for violations against the Rohingya and other minorities inside and outside Myanmar.

Monitoring by BHRN has found that arbitrary arrests and restriction of movement continue to occur. On 31 March, ten Rohingyas were arrested on a bus at a checkpoint in Ann Township in Rakhine State by a joint team of military, police, and immigration officials. On 29 April, four Rohingya Muslim women were arrested at a checkpoint in the same township.

BHRN has documented a steady increase in anti-Muslim hate speech and disinformation in the country. On 2 April, a post on the social media site Facebook included fabricated information, suggesting that jihadists support the pro-democratic activities in Myanmar. The post was liked by hundreds of Facebook users. On 21 April another post on Facebook accused the pro-democracy group People Defence Force (PDF) of killing Buddhist monks with the support of Muslims.

It is abundantly clear that the conditions are not in place for the safe voluntary return of displaced Rohingya communities, and will not be so as long as the military junta holds power, and we call on the Council to support a resolution which reflects these serious concerns.

We further call on States to take proactive steps in providing humanitarian assistance through local networks, particularly in ethnic and ceasefire areas, protect new Rohingya asylum seekers and provide material and diplomatic support to civil society, journalists and activists at risk.

Thank you.


The root causes of violations against the Rohingya and other minorities cannot be addressed without accountability

Panel discussion on the situation of Rohingya and other minorities in Myanmar

Delivered by Kyaw Win

Thank you, Mr President, and thank you to the panellists.

CIVICUS and the Burma Human Rights Network are deeply concerned about the situation of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar.

The Burmese military has increased its attacks on marginalised minorities throughout the country since the coup in February 2021. It frequently uses arson attacks on minority areas. Civilians have regularly been shot arbitrarily by the military in areas where no conflict or armed groups are present. Hatred and hate speech against Rohingya Muslims and other minorities has persisted.

If mass atrocities, including genocide, can be perpetrated by the military against the Rohingya, other minorities are at risk. Tensions in Chin State, too, have escalated since the coup, with the junta building up their troop presence in the state. Chin State is majority Christian and ethnic minority.

The efforts by the international community so far have not altered the junta’s course or stopped them from attacking civilians and the restrictions, arrests and attacks on civil society and journalists has made it increasingly difficult to monitor and document these crimes.

We call on the international community to stem the flow of arms and finances towards the military junta by imposing sanctions on all enterprises that the military directly profits from, particularly the energy sector, and to support a global arms embargo to prevent the military from resupplying weapons that they will use to harm and kill innocent civilians and target minority groups.

We stress again that the conditions for safe, dignified voluntary return are not in place, and have no prospect of being so while the junta remains in a position of power. The root causes of violations against the Rohingya and other minorities cannot be addressed without accountability.

We ask panellists what immediate steps can be taken to protect minority groups in Myanmar and to support civil society groups working on this?


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

 

 

Report of Special Rapporteur on Eritrea shows a deepening human rights crisis

Statement at the 50th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Interactive Dialogue with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea

Delivered by Helen Kidan, Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights

CIVICUS and the Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights welcome the work of the Special Rapporteur and his latest report.

Despite its re-election for a second term as a Member of the Human Rights Council, the situation of human rights in Eritrea remains of the utmost concern.

The civic space is closed, with no free and independent press, and at least 16 journalists have remained in detention without trial for about two decades. There is a culture of impunity for the perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses, including arbitrary and incommunicado detention; inhumane and degrading treatment of Eritreans through torture, forced labour and sexual violence; religious and ethnic minority oppression; denials of the rights of free expression and peaceful assembly, and escalating conscription of youth in the national army compounded by increasing militarisation of the country. The Special Rapporteur identified benchmarks for human rights progress in 2019 to address these concerns, but the government has so far refused to engage on their basis.

Eritrea’s continued lack of cooperation with Council mechanisms as well as other UN agencies undermine the implementation of their activities and programmes. We urge the UN Human Rights Council to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur through a resolution which reflects the gravity of the situation and enshrines the benchmarks for progress.

We further call on the government of Eritrea to fully cooperate and allow access to UN Human Rights Council mechanisms.

We thank you.


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

 

No response to crisis can be effective without the support of a strong, diverse & capable civil society

Statement at the 50th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Interactive Debate on High Commissioner's report on State response to pandemics

Delivered by Nicola Paccamiccio

Thank you, Mister President, and thank you High Commissioner for your report.

With the worst of the pandemic over, States and citizens look to the future while analysing the actions taken in the past. With a clearer view, we see that many States acted with a heavy hand that adversely restricted civic space in the name of national health. We see that many States chose to use the pandemic as a veil with which to cover many ongoing and some new restrictions on civil society. And, while supporting our societies in coping with the impact of prolonged lockdowns, many States ignored the needs of the sector by not including civil society in recovery plans and stimulus packages.

Conversely, we see that civil society was resilient in the face of crackdowns. Civil society continued to organise, mobilise and offer necessary services at a community level. We see that civil society played a crucial watchdog role and in many cases paid a heavy price.

As we look to the future, to prevent devastating health and economic effects of another pandemic, we see that no response is good enough without the support of a strong, diverse, and capable civil society. It is for this reason that civil society should be meaningfully included in all post pandemic processes, having been closest to the ground, including the pandemic treaty negotiations. States should increase their funding and access to resources for civil society and protect and promote the enabling environment for civil society. By doing so, States would be ultimately securing mechanisms, enablers and spaces that they themselves need to work with and for the societies they serve. When civil society is relevant and resilient, societies can count on the arenas for participation, confrontation and solidarity needed to face the post-pandemic challenges ahead of us.

We thank you.

 

Advocacy priorities at the 50th Session of UN Human Rights Council

The 50th Session of the Human Rights Council will run from 13 June to 8 July, and will provide an opportunity to advance civic space and the protection of civil society, as well as address serious country situations. This session will address particularly civic space rights: CIVICUS will engage on a resolution and debate on freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, as the Council renews the critical mandate of the Special Rapporteur, and on a resolution on peaceful protests, aiming to advance accountability for violations. It will also look to strengthen international norms on freedom of expression. On country situations, CIVICUS will engage on Eritrea, join calls to ensure continued scrutiny on Sudan, and urge the Council to take steps to protect Rohingya and other ethnic minorities in and outside Myanmar while addressing its ongoing serious violations and join events on both topics.

The Human Rights Council also has the opportunity to address situations of serious concern on countries that are not on the agenda. CIVICUS urges to Council to do so on India, to create a long-needed mechanism on Russia and to address the women’s rights crisis in Afghanistan.

The full participation of civil society remains a critical part of the Human Rights Council, and CIVICUS encourages States to ensure consultation with national, regional and international civil society, and to ensure that they are fully able to participate in Council debates and negotiations.


Resolutions

Freedom of association and peaceful assembly

The resolution on freedom of peaceful assembly and association will be presented at this session, renewing the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of association and peaceful assembly. The Special Rapporteur will present a report on restrictions to access to funding, which has emerged as an existential threat to civil society. Countries such as India, El Salvador and Tunisia have had economic development and human rights activities curtailed owing to restrictions in foreign funding.

CIVICUS calls on States to support the renewal of the mandate in a strong resolution which reflect contemporary challenges, and to deliver statements during the debate with the Special Rapporteur highlighting countries and situations in which restrictions to access to funding have emerged as an existential threat to civil society.

Peaceful protests

Peaceful assembly is a fundamental right, and protests offer a powerful and successful means of advocating for and defending other vital rights. The resolution that will be presented this session on peaceful protests will provide an opportunity to strengthen protection of protests and accountability frameworks for violations during protests, building upon existing norms and standards, including the Human Rights Committee published its General Comment 37 on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

CIVICUS encourages States to support the resolution and its emphasis on crisis, and to encourage stronger language on accountability and the protection of journalists and protest monitors.

Freedom of expression

Freedom of expression is essential for any democratic society. The right to seek, receive and impart information is an inherent aspect of this. As internet shutdowns continue to be imposed throughout the world – from Myanmar to India to Chad to Kazakhstan – this right has been curtailed, exacerbated by existing challenges in to accessing digital space.

CIVICUS calls on States to support a resolution on freedom of expression which strengthens norms and standards around this vital issue and protects the right of people to fully participate.


Country Priorities

Eritrea

The situation of human rights in Eritrea – a Human Rights Council member – and its lack of cooperation with international mechanisms is a source of serious concern. In 2019, the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea identified ‘benchmarks for progress in improving the situation of human rights.’ To date, none have been met and there continues to be widespread impunity for past and ongoing human rights violations.

CIVICUS joins other organisations in calling for the Council to adopt a resolution that extends the mandate of the Special Rappor­teur, clearly describes and condemns violations Eritrean authorities com­mit at home and abroad, and incorporate the Special Rapporteur’s benchmarks towards tangible improvement.

Civic space in Eritrea is rated 'closed' by the CIVICUS Monitor.

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Sudan

The situation in Sudan risks further escalation, and a successful political settlement requires accountability. Following the military coup of 25 October last year, the UN Human Rights Council took urgent action by holding a special session and adopting a resolution re­ques­ting the High Commis­sioner to designate an Expert on Human Rights in the Sudan. The Council now must follow up on its initial action, and ensure ongoing scrutiny.

CIVICUS joins others in calling for states to support a resolution which ensures that the High Commissioner regularly reports on the human rights situation and that dedicated public debates are held.

Civic space in Sudan is rated 'repressed' by the CIVICUS Monitor.

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India

India was placed on CIVICUS’s Watchlist in February this year, illustrating its severe and rapid decline in respect for civic space. The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) has been weaponized against non-profit organisations, including rejecting registrations and preventing them from accessing foreign funding. The broader human rights situation continues to deteriorate; scores of human rights defenders and activists remain in detention under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and other laws.

CIVICUS calls on states to raise India specifically in the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association with particular reference to the FCRA and UAPA.

Civic space in India is rated 'repressed' by the CIVICUS Monitor.

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Myanmar

15 months after the military coup, grave human rights violations by the military junta continued to be documented in Myanmar. There will be a number of opportunities to raise concerns during this Council session, including updates from the High Commissioner and the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar. It is imperative that pressure remains on the military junta, and that further targeted action is taken by the international community to address the junta’s crimes. The coup has made the safe, voluntary, dignified, and sustainable return of Rohingya refugees untenable.

CIVICUS calls on states to ensure that the resolution on the situation of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar reflects these concerns, and to deliver strong statements to condemn the military coup and call for the restoration of an elected civilian government.

Civic space in Myanmar is rated 'repressed' by the CIVICUS Monitor.

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Russia

Since the start of Russia's aggression in Ukraine, the authorities' targeting of Russian civil society has intensified significantly. Russian authorities embarked on a severe crackdown on civic freedoms after authorities brutally responded to nationwide anti-war protests, threatened and shut independent media outlets for reporting about the war in Ukraine, and blocked access to social media and media websites. Russia’s crushing of internal dissent has removed virtually all domestic checks and balances, enabling it to become a destabilizing actor not only in the region, but also globally.

CIVICUS supports Russian and international civil society groups in calling for the Council to appoint a dedicated Special Rapporteur to address the human rights situation in Russia.

Civic space in Russia is rated 'repressed' by the CIVICUS Monitor.

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Afghanistan

There is a woman’s right crisis in Afghanistan: since August 2021, when the Taliban took control of the country, there has been an enormous deterioration in the recognition and protection of the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan, including with respect to the rights to non-discrimination, education, work, public participation, health, and sexual and reproductive health. The Taliban has also imposed sweeping restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly and movement for women and girls. Afghanistan is now the only country in the world to expressly prohibit girls’ education.

CIVICUS joins partners in calling for an urgent debate on Afghanistan for the Council consider and take action on the women’s rights crisis in Afghanistan in a manner reflecting the gravity and urgency of the situation.

Civic space in Afghanistan is rated 'repressed' by the CIVICUS Monitor.

 

#HRC50: Call for Urgent Debate on the women’s rights crisis in Afghanistan

Open letter to Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States to the UN Human Rights Council

Excellencies,

We, the undersigned civil society organisations, urge you to call for and support an urgent debate at the 50th session of the UN Human Rights Council regarding the women’s rights crisis in Afghanistan. We further urge you to support a resolution responding to this crisis.

Since August 2021, when the Taliban took control of the country, there has been an enormous deterioration in the recognition and protection of the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan, including with respect to the rights to non-discrimination, education, work, public participation, health, and sexual and reproductive health. The Taliban has also imposed sweeping restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly and movement for women and girls. Afghanistan is now the only country in the world to expressly prohibit girls’ education.

In the last few weeks, the situation has worsened dramatically, with a Taliban directive that women and girls must fully cover themselves in public, including their faces, and leave home only in cases of necessity. International investigations, witness testimony and video evidence indicate that women human rights defenders and others protesting against the restrictions and violations have been subject to home invasions, threats, abductions, enforced disappearances, and assaults with electric devices and chemical sprays.

On 17 May 2022, the Taliban dissolved the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, cutting off a crucial source of support for Afghans facing violations of their human rights, including women and girls experiencing gender-based violence.

On 26 May 2022, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Afghanistan concluded his country mission by describing recent measures as ‘fitting a pattern of absolute gender segregation…aimed at making women invisible in society’.

This is the most serious women’s rights crisis in the world today, and the most serious women’s rights crisis since the Taliban took over Afghanistan the last time in 1996.

Consistent with the mandate conferred under General Assembly resolution 60/251 that the Human Rights Council address situations of gross and systematic human rights violations, it is imperative that the Council consider and take action on the women’s rights crisis in Afghanistan in a manner reflecting the gravity and urgency of the situation. At the Council’s forthcoming 50th session the High Commissioner will provide an oral update on the human rights situation in Afghanistan, followed by an interactive dialogue. In our view, this interactive dialogue, which will consider the situation in the country in general, should be complemented by an urgent debate providing a dedicated focus on women’s and girls’ rights, gender equality, and the situation for women human rights defenders in the country.

The purposes of an urgent debate could include:

  1. To unequivocally condemn the huge regression in the recognition, protection and realisation of the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan;
  2. To express solidarity and support for women and girls in and from Afghanistan, including women human rights defenders who continue to advocate for equality and non-discrimination despite the threats and risks;
  3. To provide a platform and opportunity for women human rights defenders from Afghanistan, together with other independent civil society actors, to share their experiences, expertise, recommendations and demands;
  4. To provide a platform and opportunity for the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan to brief the Council on the preliminary findings and recommendations from his country visit of 15 to 26 May; and
  5. To request that the Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan and the Working Group on Discrimination against Women and Girls prepare a report on the situation to be presented and discussed at the Council and ensure that they are adequately resourced to do this.

Recognition and protection of gender equality is both a human rights obligation and essential to achieve peace, justice and sustainable development in Afghanistan. These grave and systematic violations of women’s rights demand an urgent and proportionate response. It would be unacceptable for the June session of the Council, traditionally the session focused on gender-related issues, to pass without dedicated attention and action on the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan. We consider that an urgent debate and substantive resolution are part of an appropriate response and urge you to take and support action in this regard.

Yours faithfully,

  1. Afghan Women's Educational Center
  2. Aid Afghanistan for Education
  3. Amnesty International
  4. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  5. Center for Reproductive Rights
  6. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Civic Participation
  7. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
  8. Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights
  9. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  10. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
  11. Freedom Now
  12. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
  13. Global Justice Center
  14. Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP)
  15. Human Rights Watch
  16. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
  17. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  18. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  19. Malala Fund
  20. OutRight Action International
  21. Social Association for Development of Afghanistan
  22. Women & Children Legal Research Foundation
  23. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)
  24. Women's Refugee Commission
  25. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

 

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Tel: +41.79.910.34.28