South Africa: threats and attacks against civil society actors continue

Statement at the 52nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council 

UPR Outcomes Adoption – South Africa

Delivered by Nicola Paccamiccio

Thank you, Mr President.

Mr. President, Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA), the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) and CIVICUS welcome the government of South Africa's engagement with the UPR process.

We also welcome the decisions by the High Court and Constitutional Court in 2019 and 2021 respectively, declaring as unconstitutional the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication Related Information Act (RICA), which was subjected to misuse by the authorities who sometimes used it to spy on journalists. Furthermore, we welcome the 2018 Constitutional Court’ judgement reinstating the High Court constitutional invalidity of section 12(1)(a) of the Regulation of Gatherings Act 205 of 1993 for considering a criminal offence the failure to give notice or inadequate notice. We further appreciate the President Ramaphosa’s decision to return ‘The Protection of State Information Bill’, also known as the ‘Secrecy Bill’, which disproportionately infringes on the rights to the freedom of expression and access to information, to the National Assembly for consideration of his reservations about its constitutionality.

Since its last review, South Africa partially implemented one of the five recommendations relating to civic space. We welcome that South Africa accepted all 19 of the 19 recommendations it received during this cycle.

Despite these improvements, threats, intimidation and attacks against HRDs, in particular women HRDs (WHRDs) and those defending land and environmental rights, housing rights and whistleblowers, and the impunity thereof, remain a grave concern. The killing of Mama Fikile Ntshangase, the repeated attacks and killings of Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM), of trade unionist Malibongwe Mdazo, of whistleblower Babita Deokaran and the fleeing into exile of whistleblower Athol Williams highlight the dangerous context in which all activists and human rights defenders operate.

Journalists who expose deep-rooted corruption in the security and law enforcement agencies are increasingly targeted by State and private sector spies, as seen in the bugging of journalist Jeff Wicks by officials from Crime Intelligence after his reporting about the police force and Crime Intelligence unit.

South Africa has continued to undermine the freedoms of expression and opinion through restrictive legal framework. The amended Film and Publications Act commenced in 2022 leaves the Film and Publications Board with wide discretion to decide what content is acceptable online, raising concerns that it could be used as a means of censorship for online content. Separately, the Non-profit Organisation Amendment Bill 2021, poses a big risk that the law may be used to control international funding of organisations or media that could be seen as critical of the government. We call on the government to withdraw this Bill as its compulsory registration of foreign CSOs that intend to operate in South Africa represent a threat to the full enjoyment of the right to freedom of association.

The continued use of excessive force and arbitrary arrests by security forces in response to protests is another cause for concern. Peaceful protests have been met with excessive force by police officers, including through the use of rubber bullets and teargas, which at times have led to the killing and injury of protesters and bystanders.

HURISA, CSVR and CIVICUS call on the Government of South Africa to take concrete steps to address these concerns by developing a legislative framework to protect human rights defenders in the exercise of their work, including taking urgent measures to establish a commission of inquiry into the killings, and by bringing the Non-profit Organisation Amendment Bill in line with standards on freedom of association.

We thank you.


Poland: complete failure in implementing civic space recommendations

Statement at the 52nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council 

UPR outcome adoption - Poland

Delivered by Kinga Lozinska            

Thank you, Mr President.

The Committee for the Defence of Democracy (KOD) and CIVICUS welcome the government of Poland's engagement with the UPR process.

Since its last review, however, Poland has not implemented any of the recommendations relating to civic space and we are deeply troubled to see that Poland rejected 7 recommendations and only accepted 1 of the 11 recommendations it received during this cycle.

We are concerned by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party’s dismantling of judicial independence and the rule of law, which has been used as a tool to violate civic freedoms in Poland. Women HRDs advocating for reproductive justice are facing judicial harassment and intimidation. Recently, abortion rights activist, Justyna Wydrzyńska was found guilty of aiding an abortion and sentenced to 8 months community service. We are further alarmed by the repeated attempts to diminish media independence through restrictive legislation, government allies acquiring ownership of major media outlets and the filing of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) against independent media.

As a result of these developments, civic space in Poland is currently classified as ‘obstructed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor, indicating the existence of significant civic space restrictions.

Mr President, the Committee for the Defence of Democracy (KOD) and CIVICUS call on the Government of Poland to take concrete steps to address these concerns, including by:

  • Immediately and unconditionally drop charges against all HRDs and ensure that government officials and non-state actors perpetrating intimidation and harassment against WHRDs and LGBTQI+ defenders are effectively investigated.
  • Refrain from further persecuting independent judges who uphold the rule of law and drop all criminal charges against them.
  • Drop all SLAPPs against journalists and media outlets and refrain from further legal harassment against independent media

We thank you.


Brazil: it is time to rebuild a stronger democracy and a more open civic space  

Statement at the 52nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council

UPR Outcome Adoption – Brazil

Delivered by Maria Eduarda Pessoa de Assis

Instituto Igarapé and CIVICUS welcome the government of Brazil’s engagement with the Universal Periodic Review process.

During the 3rd UPR cycle, the outgoing Brazilian government received 17 recommendations related to civic space. Brazil accepted all of them. However, 14 of these recommendations were not implemented and only one of them was fully implemented. Last year, our research showed that the last Brazilian government not only failed to confront restrictions on civic space, but also sponsored measures that constrained the work of Brazilian civil society.

Among the setbacks, we highlight the restriction of spaces for civil society participation in the formulation of public policies, and official attempts to tighten controls and increase surveillance of civil society.

Throughout its four-year mandate, the former Brazilian administration neglected to address reported human rights violations in cases of alleged excessive force by public agents, a critical oversight in a country known for high levels of police lethality and victimisation. The wide facilitation of access to guns and ammunition represented major setbacks for reducing Brazil’s excessive rates of violence and lethality.

We reiterate our reproval of the official use of legal and extralegal instruments to intimidate, criminalize, and silence community leaders, journalists, and human rights defenders. Such measures only amplify the threat of violence these leaders routinely confront.

In 2021 and 2022 alone, the Igarapé Institute identified 3,088 attacks on civic space in Brazil, classified by the CIVICUS Monitor as "obstructed."

Now we are living in another moment. The change of government that took place in January 2023 brings hope for new times. The new Brazilian government has committed to restoring democratic order, rebuilding the Brazilian civic space, and safeguarding, in both law and in practice, a safe environment for the action of Brazilian civil society.

In this light, we highlight the need for the new Brazilian government to establish, as recommendations, the guarantee of conditions for the execution and access to the national protection programme, and strengthening of training programs for the progressive use of force, and state capacities for investigation and accountability for violations of rights committed by state agents.

Thank you very much.



Philippines: the persecution and criminalisation of defenders, journalists and dissenters continue

Statement at the 52nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council 

Adoption of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) report of the Philippines

Delivered by Cristina Palabay, Karapatan

Thank you, Mr. President.

CIVICUS and Karapatan note the Philippine government’s engagement with the UPR process and the UN Joint Programme. While it has accepted recommendations during the review, we regret that there has been no substantial improvement on the state of civic and democratic space in country.

Government policies on the counterinsurgency and drug war have not been rescinded, resulting in continuing extrajudicial killings, including those of human rights defenders. Task forces or panels created to look into these have failed to investigate and successfully prosecute the perpetrators and senior officials who ordered the killings have not been held to account. The Joint Programme lacks the necessary accountability tools that can deliver justice.

Meanwhile, the persecution and criminalisation of defenders, journalists and dissenters continue, including the incitement of violence against them through red-tagging, villification and the use of the laws on terrorism and libel. A community doctor was recently designated arbitrarily as a “terrorist individual”, without evidence, and jeep drivers who went on strike have been red-tagged. The number of political prisoners have risen with many facing trumped up charges. Members of community organizations face intimidation and threats of arrests and abduction.

We call on the Philippine government to stop the persecution of defenders, journalists and dissenters, and to enact the Human Rights Defenders Protection Bill. We also reiterate our view that the laws on terrorism and libel violate the right to due process, free expression, press freedom and freedom of association, among other constitutional rights. We renew our call to the Council for an independent investigation into the cases of extrajudicial killings and other grave rights violations in the Philippines.

Thank you.


India: no commitment to review draconian restrictive laws

Statement at the 52nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council 

UPR Outcome Adoption – India

Delivered by Meha Khanduri

Thank you, Mr President.

Human Rights Defenders Alert-India and CIVICUS welcome the government of India’s engagement with the UPR process.

It is positive that the Indian government accepted recommendations to ensure a safe and enabling environment for civil society. However, we are disappointed that the government has only noted recommendations to review restrictive laws including the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Amendment Act used to detain scores of human rights defenders as well as the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act used to block foreign funding and investigate NGOs. The government also failed to accept most of the specific recommendations aimed at improving the situation of HRDs and civil society as well as to decriminalise defamation.

Further, despite restrictions on protests it is also concerning that the government only noted recommendations to review laws regulating freedom of peaceful assembly.

We are also deeply concerned that the government has rejected recommendations to release Kashmiri journalists and human rights defenders. Finally, while the government accepted a recommendation on the issuance of a standing invitation for country visits to all UN special procedure mandate holders, it rejected the specific recommendation allowing a country visit by the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of assembly and of association.

We urge the government to

  • Review all restrictive laws especially the UAPA and FCRA to bring it into compliance with ICCPR.
  • Immediately and unconditionally release all HRDs, including those detained related to the Bhima Koregaon case, Khurram Parvez and drop all charges against them.
  • Review and amend existing laws in order to guarantee fully the right to the freedom of peaceful assembly and investigate all violations in the context of protests.

We thank you.


Algeria: activists continue to be arrested for exercising their fundamental rights


Statement at the 52nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Adoption of Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Outcomes – Algeria

Delivered by Rachid Aouine

Thank you, Mr President.

Mr. President, SHOAA for Human Rights and CIVICUS welcome the government of Algeria's engagement with the UPR process. We also welcome the fact that the government has accepted several recommendations related to the penal code and the protection of the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly, and We hope that the recommendations will be accepted seriously and will not be the same as in the previous sessions when they accepted the recommendations but did not implement them.

However, we are still concerned about the ongoing restrictions on civic space, as nearly 300 activists are still in prison for exercising their right to expression and assembly, and the arrests of activists continue to this day, the latest of which is the detention of activist Nabila Baza, known as Amal Nayli, in temporary detention in the state of M'sila.

Laws governing associations in Algeria continue to limit civil society's ability to operate freely. For example, the 2021 Law on Associations provides for mandatory registration of associations and imposes penalties of between three and six months and fines of between 100,000 and 300,000 Algerian dinars for individuals who belong to registered associations.

The Penal Code contains provisions that restrict freedom of expression and Ordinance No. 21-08 in Article 87 bis which broadens the definition of terrorism has been used to target human rights defenders. For example, human rights defender Zaki Hanash was charged with terrorism and undermining national unity after he documented cases of arbitrary arrests and trials in February 2022. Lawyers continue to be intimidated and prosecuted for defending human rights defenders, activists and peaceful protesters.

Mr. President, SHOAA for Human Rights and CIVICUS call on the Algerian government to take concrete steps that reflect its seriousness in implementing the recommendations of the UPR, especially amending laws related to association, stopping the violation of the freedoms of expression, association and assembly that are considered fundamental, and releasing human rights defenders and activists peaceful protesters and drop all charges against them.

We thank you.


Indonesia: restrictive laws used to target activists, journalists and government critics

Statement at the 52nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council 

UPR Outcome Adoption – Indonesia

Delivered by Cornelius Hanung

Thank you, Mr. President.

CIVICUS, YAPPIKA-ActionAid, and the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy note the Indonesian government’s engagement with the UPR process. 

While we acknowledge that Indonesia supported 26 out of 31 recommendations related to civic space, our concerns remain on the state of civic and democratic space in the country. 

It is extremely worrying that in recent years restrictive laws, such as the criminal defamation provisions in the Electronic Information and Transaction Law – a vague and overbroad law - have been systematically used to arrest, prosecute and punish activists, journalists, and government critics. Human rights defenders working on various issues, including on human rights in the Papua region, environmental rights, and business and human rights have been subjected to judicial harassment under this law. 

Further, we are alarmed that the recently passed criminal code contains provisions that fall below international human rights laws and standards including criminalising online and offline defamation as well as banning insults against the State’s leaders and institutions. The same law also criminalises the holding of spontaneous and unauthorized protests.

Harassment, ill-treatment, torture, and violence conducted by security forces against protesters – many of them youth and students – have persisted throughout the last UPR review cycle. Victims of police violence, such as those during the protest against the Omnibus Job Creation Law and around numerous protests in Papua have yet to receive a remedy while the perpetrators enjoy impunity. 

We call on the Indonesian government to seriously protect civic space and the safety and security of CSOs, human rights defenders, and journalists. These should include:

  • Dropping all charges against activists for doing their human rights work;
  • Reviewing and repealing existing restrictive laws, which include the EIT Law Societal Organizations Law and the new criminal code;
  • Conducting thorough investigations of all incidents involving violence by the security forces against protesters, and
  • Refraining from introducing further restrictions that will significantly harm civic space in the country.

We thank you. 


Ecuador: despite commitments, criminalisation and violence continue with impunity

Statement at the 52nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Adoption of UPR Outcomes on Ecuador

Delivered by Nicola Paccamiccio

Thank you, Mr President.

Fundación Ciudadanía y Desarrollo and CIVICUS welcome the government of Ecuador's engagement with the UPR process and its efforts to improve the legal framework for civil society organisations and to reform restrictive legislation used to stifle journalism.

Since its last review, Ecuador has fully implemented 2 of the 25 recommendations relating to civic space and taken steps to implement 13 recommendations. We welcome that Ecuador accepted 18 of the 20 recommendations it received on civic space during this cycle.

However, the CIVICUS Monitor rates space for civil society as ‘obstructed,’ indicating that it is constantly undermined by authorities and non-state actors.

We remain concerned by the lack of institutional mechanisms to promote an enabling environment for human rights defenders, journalists and activists. While Ecuador committed to establishing protection mechanisms to ensure their safety, efforts in this regard have stalled while judicial harassment, criminalisation and violence continue to take place with impunity.

Over the past five years, protest rights have been repeatedly violated. In 2022, Indigenous-led protests were once again met with repression, leaving over 300 people injured and 9 dead in less than a month. We are concerned about the recurrence of excessive use of force by Ecuador’s security forces. Rather than recognising human rights abuses in the context of protests, authorities have often stigmatised those taking to the streets.

Mr President, we call on the Government of Ecuador to take concrete steps to address these concerns, including by:

  • Immediately and impartially investigating all instances of excessive force in the context of protests;
  • Reviewing and updating existing human rights training for police and security forces and;
  • Implementing comprehensive policies and mechanisms to protect civil society organisations, human rights defenders and journalists.

We thank you.


Tunisia: Adoption of UPR Outcome in the context of increased civic space restrictions

Statement at the 52nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Adoption of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) report of Tunisia

Delivered by Nicola Paccamiccio

Thank you, Mr President.

CIVICUS and Arab NGO Network for Development welcome the government of Tunisia’s engagement with the UPR process.

Since its last review, Tunisia failed to implement any of the recommendations relating to civic space. We regret that Tunisia accepted just 13 of the 22 civic space recommendations it received during this cycle.

In the context of a deep political and economic crisis, President Saïed has issued a number of decrees to consolidate power and weaken the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law. Amidst this, space for civil society is increasingly being restricted in Tunisia, leading to a rating downgraded by the CIVICUS Monitor from obstructed to repressed, the second-worst category, in its annual report. Tunisia’s downgrade comes after its addition to the CIVICUS Monitor Watchlist in March 2022 following a rapid decline in civic space.

Since July 2021, authorities have investigated or prosecuted over 30 people for their criticism of the government, including activists, journalists, lawyers and members of Tunisia’s dissolved parliament. In addition, the government has issued or initiated decrees that restrict fundamental freedoms. In particular, Decree-law 2022-54, issued in 2022, that criminalises ‘fake news’ and rumours, poses a threat to independent journalism. We regret the government lack of commitment to accept recommendations to repeal the Decree.

Security forces have also raided the offices and confiscated the equipment of many private media outlets, shut down news outlets, evicted their staff and closed down the offices of Al Jazeera, under allegations of not having the proper broadcasting license, despite accepting several recommendations to guarantee the full respect for the right to freedom of expression,

Mr President, we call on the Government of Tunisia to take concrete steps to address these concerns, including by withdrawing restrictive legislation that restricts freedom of expression and association.

We thank you.


Prevention should be at the core of the Council’s approach to human rights crisis

Statament at the 52nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council 

General Debate Item 4

Delivered by Sigrid Lipott

Thank you Mr President,

CIVICUS is convinced that the Council should play a more assertive role in preventing rather than reacting to human rights crisis, and the rapid deterioration of civic space is the first early warning sign on which the Council should act.

The rapid turn of events after President Castillo’s arrest has deepened Peru’s long-term institutional crisis and sparked protests in the country met with excessive and deadly force by the police. This is far from isolated as it represents a recurrent issue in regard to the policing of demonstrations. Human rights defenders (HRDs) in Peru continue to face violence, in particular Indigenous and environmental defenders.

In Zimbabwe, ahead of the July 2023 elections, civic space is under severe attack with increasing restrictions targeting civil society and opposition groups. Raids and suspension of civil society organisations (CSOs) registration have become commonplace. The Private Voluntary Organisation (PVO) Amendment Bill represents a great threat to freedom of association and is an attempt by the authorities to target civil society groups that have often raised concerns about violence related to elections.

In India, the authorities continue to use the draconian Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) to target CSOs, block foreign funding and investigate organisations that are critical of the government. Human rights defenders and activists are harassed and detained under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and other restrictive laws; journalists continue to be targeted and in Jammu and Kashmir, prominent human rights defender Khurram Parvez remains in detention.

We call on the Council to address these worsening situations and prevent further deterioration. 

We thank you. 


Ethiopia: international scrutiny must continue to ensure peace and stability in the country

Statement at the 52nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Interactive Dialogue with the Commission on Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia

Delivered by Sibahle Zuma

Thank you, Mr President,

CIVICUS and its partners in Ethiopia welcome the renewal of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia’s mandate at the 51st Human Rights Council Session. We also welcome the signing of the agreement on the cessation of hostilities between the Ethiopian government and Tigrayan authorities on the 2nd of November 2022. This is a critical moment to end all atrocities and the suffering of millions of civilians.

For the past two years, Ethiopia’s human rights situation has been marred by extrajudicial killings, rape and sexual violence, unlawful shelling, airstrikes and pillage. Freedom of expression has particularly been restricted in the past two years. Journalists and media actors have faced detentions, arrests, and censorship from both Ethiopian and Tigrayan authorities. On the 7th of September 2022, the founder and editor of the Voice of Amhara was arrested by authorities at his home. He was accused of having ties with the TLPF and attempting to terrorise the public by disseminating information that supports the rebel group. No formal charges were laid against him.

In the same month, Abay Zewdu, the chief editor of a privately owned satellite and YouTube-based broadcaster, Amara Media Centre, was arrested by Ethiopian authorities. He was accused of disseminating false information and organising students from the Amhara ethnic group to commit violence. He remained in detention even after he had posted bail.

We call on the Ethiopian government to respect the right to freedom of expression and to cease all forms of intimidation and harassment of journalists and other media actors. We urge the UN Human Rights Council and the Commission of Experts to continue scrutinising the situation in Ethiopia to ensure peace and stability in the country.

We thank you.

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


Venezuela: the lack of guarantees for fundamental freedoms requires the Council's continuous scrutiny

Statement at the 52nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Interactive Dialogue on the High Commissioner oral update on Venezuela

Delivered by Marysabel Rodríguez, 

Thank you Mr President,

In Venezuela there are no guarantees for freedom of expression, peaceful protest and the right to association. Violations of civil liberties affect demands for economic and social rights.

In 2022, at least 80 radio stations were closed down by government orders. Arbitrary and non-transparent management by the National Telecommunications Commission has left most radio stations in legal uncertainty for years.

The "anti-hate law" continues to be used against people for expressing themselves. At least 11 arbitrary arrests were recorded last year.

Social protest is repressed. In recent days public workers and teachers have been harassed, dismissed and threatened. Strikes are criminalised; in January, 18 workers of the Venezuelan Guyana Corporation were arrested and prosecuted for demanding better working conditions.

Two legal initiatives to regulate the right of association are advancing. if passed, they will consolidate the criminalisation of individuals, collectives and organisations engaged in social, humanitarian and human rights work. None of the draft laws are publicly accessible nor have they been officially released.

We urge this Council to maintain its attention on Venezuela and we ask the High Commissioner what the Council can do to consolidate OHCHR presence in the country, to support the work of the Fact Finding Mission and any initiative that avoids further restrictions to civic space in the country.

Thank you very much.

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


Myanmar: civic space is under assault - meaningful and robust resolution needed

Statement at the 52nd Session of the Human Rights Council

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

Delivered by Kyaw Win

Thank you, Mr. President.

CIVICUS and the Burma Human Rights Network thanks the Special Rapporteur for his update.

We remain deeply concerned about the state of civic space in Myanmar, two years on from the unconstitutional coup. Human rights defenders and activists have continued to be prosecuted by the junta on fabricated charges and convicted in sham trials by secret military tribunals and given harsh sentences including the death penalty. As noted by the Special Rapporteur more than 16,000 political prisoners are now behind bars and some have been tortured or ill-treated in detention. The Special Rapporteur has also highlighted the ongoing attacks on civilians and the draconian new Organization Registration law that will further shackle what is remaining of civil society. The CIVICUS Monitor, this month downgraded Myanmar’s civic space rating from ‘repressed’ to ‘closed’.

We welcome the landmark UN Security Council resolution adopted in December 2022, denouncing the violations by the junta but was disappointed it did not impose an arms embargo or refer the case to the International Criminal Court. At the same time, ASEAN’s five-point consensus has remained ineffective in addressing the human rights violations in Myanmar and its time the regional body moves beyond it. Further, as noted by the Special Rapporteur there are serious concerns about that international community’s treatment of Rohingyas and others fleeing Myanmar and many face the risk of detention, deportation and pushbacks at land and sea.

We call on the Council to support a meaningful and robust resolution which reflects these serious concerns and renews the critical mandate of the Special Rapporteur. Special Rapporteur, what the international community should do to halt the assault on civic space and serious human rights violations committed by the junta and to support those fleeing to neighbouring countries.

Thank you.

 Civi space in Myanmar is rated as "Closed" by the CIVICUS Monitor 


Guatemala: the international community must play an assertive role in protecting Guatemalans’ civic freedoms

Statement at the 52nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council 

Item 2 General Debate

Delivered by Nicola Paccamiccio

Thank you Mr. President,

CIVICUS welcomes the report of the High Commissioner on Guatemala and shares the concerns over the widespread impunity and the relentless deterioration of civic space.

Anti-corruption prosecutors, judges and journalists, who have investigated and exposed corruption, human rights violations, and the abuse of power, are criminalised by the authorities and face spurious criminal charges. Many of them have been forced to flee the country and are now living in exile.

Civil society groups are subjected to a climate of increasing hostility, harassment, and persecution. Over the last three years, attacks on human rights defenders (HRDs) rose sharply, with more than 2000 cases of defamation, harassment, intimidation, and criminalisation. Women human rights defenders, land and environmental defenders, along with HRDs working on peace and justice are the most targeted.

Freedom of association has been consistently undermined. Human rights organisations, especially those in defence of anti-corruption activists, have faced digital attacks and threats. The 2021 NGO Law provides the State with wide discretionary powers to dissolve NGOs in complete violation of international human rights standards.

These acts are part of a concerted effort to erode civic space and the rule of law, create a climate of fear, as well as to co-opt the judicial system to guarantee impunity for human rights violations.

Ahead of the June 2023 elections and due to the lack of independence of key institutions charged with overseeing the electoral process, we ask the international community to play an assertive role in protecting Guatemalans’ civic freedoms by monitoring the pre-electoral period and electoral process.

Thank you.

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


South Sudan: the Commission’s mandate remains crucial as the civil & political space continues to deteriorate.

Statement at the 52nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on the report of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan

Delivered by Nicola Paccamiccio

Thank you, Mr President,

CIVICUS and its South Sudanese partners welcome the report of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan. The Commission’s mandate remains crucial as the human rights situation worsens and the civil and political space continues to deteriorate.

Freedoms of assembly, association and expression are under severe threat. In the past year, South Sudanese authorities have continued, with impunity, to repress and harass peaceful protesters and civil society actors. Many are subjected to arbitrary arrests, detentions and extrajudicial killings.

Freedom of association remains severely restricted as civil society organisations are subjected to raids by the National Security Service and activists calling for good governance and the rule of law are harassed, intimidated and arrested. Journalists continue to face threats, intimidation, and arbitrary arrests resulting in self-censorship.

The high levels of localised violence and the increase of conflict-related sexual violence, including the use of rape and gang rape as a weapon of war, are of great concern. Nationally instigated intercommunal conflicts in Tonj, Warrap State, Magwi, Nimule and Kapoeta in Eastern Equatoria State, as well as in Greater Upper Nile State, and parts of greater Jonglei and Unity State are alarming. This situation is worsened by the numerous obstacles to humanitarian aid, reported intimidation and harassment of and attacks against humanitarian workers, including killings, and extrajudicial executions of prisoners.

In light of the ongoing restrictions on civic space in the country, we call on the Council to extend the mandate of the Commission for a further period of two years to ensure continued scrutiny on the human rights situation in the country and to enable it to comprehensively report on the election and transition process.

We thank you.

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



Nicaragua: the Council must renew the mandate of the Group of Human Rights Experts

Statement at the 52nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Interactive Dialogue with the Group of Human Rights Experts on Nicaragua

Delivered by Amaru Ruiz

Thank you, Mr. President.

CIVICUS and Fundación del Rio welcome the report of the Group of Human Rights Experts.

We very much welcome the release of 222 political prisoners, but we are alarmed by the decision to banish and strip them and 95 other government critics, journalists, and human rights defenders of Nicaraguan citizenship, and the confiscation of their assets. I am one of these 317 citizens who are now stateless. Let’s not forget the 38 political prisoners still arbitrarily detained by the government, including Monsignor Rolando Álvarez.

The status of civic space in the country is dire and further deteriorating due to the Government’s concerted effort to stifle every form of dissenting opinion. Since early 2022, the Ministry of Interior has cancelled the legal status of over 3,200 non-governmental organizations, representing 45% of existing legal entities prior to April 2018.

The situation is further worsened by the government’s complete refusal to cooperate and engage with international human rights bodies. The many recommendations received by the Government to end impunity for grave abuses and to desist from using arbitrary detentions as a mean to suppress dissent, have been shamefully and deliberately disregarded by the Government. The government has also ignored calls repeal legal frameworks that violate civil and political rights.

In light of the appalling human rights violations and impunity, and of lack of cooperation, the Group of Experts and the OHCHR’s mandates are more important than ever as they remain the only mechanisms able to gather evidence of and report on human rights violations and provide recommendations for necessary action. We urge the Council to renew the mandate of the Group of Expert for two years and extend OHCHR mandate.

We thank you.

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


Myanmar: the junta’s efforts to erase religious minorities must be stopped

Statement at the 52nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council 

Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner on Myanmar

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

Thank you, Mr. President.

While religious oppression has been a longstanding issue in Burma, the coup emboldened the junta to further persecute, marginalise and incite violence against religious minorities. The junta perpetuates its efforts to erase the identity of all six Muslim minority groups through the denial of their citizenship. Rohingya Muslims are coerced to accept National Verification Cards, which do not provide a predictable or accessible pathway to citizenship, nor does it increase access to rights, including freedom of movement. Nonetheless, some UN agencies and embassies continue to endorse  National Verification Cards (NVCs) as a pragmatic solution to end statelessness. Due to their lack of citizenship, Muslims who have been forced to flee Myanmar are faced with statelessness.

Divisive and hateful rhetoric targeting non-Buddhist religious groups is used to divide the resistance and divert attention from the coup, Since the coup, BHRN has documented cases of looting, burning, and destruction of properties, shops, and places of worship of Muslim communities. Since the coup, over 20 Islamic religious buildings were attacked by the military and more than 770 houses in Muslim villages have been burned down in Sagaing region. There has also been an increasing number of cases of arbitrary arrest, detention, torture, and killing of Muslims.

The UN and the international community have not done enough. The longer the international community waits to act, the more emboldened the junta becomes as it continues to commit atrocities. We ask the High Commissioner what the international community should do to ensure accountability for serious human rights violations committed by the junta, to cut revenue streams to the junta, to support Rohingya and other minorities in Myanmar and those fleeing to neighbouring countries.

We thank you.

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



Afghanistan: the Council must expedite discussions towards a more robust international accountability mechanism

Statement at the 52nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council 

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan

Delivered by Horia Mosadiq, Afghan human rights activist

Thank you, Mr. President,

We express our grave concern over the ongoing discriminatory and regressive treatment against women and girls as well as the targeting of human rights defenders and civil society in the country. The recent ban on higher education and employment in NGOs is only the latest clear example of the Taliban’s concerted plan to crush women’s rights and role in Afghan society.

The ban on access to employment in NGOs for women has significantly impacted the work of local NGOs to provide service and support for women, children and marginalised groups. It has also prevented the delivery of humanitarian support and other life-saving aid to those in need.

Those denouncing these restrictions have been harassed and attacked. Peaceful protesters, especially women rights activists, have been subjected to increased restrictions and violence and press freedom has further deteriorated. The widespread impunity for these violations has contributed to an increasing climate of fear since the Taliban takeover.

The international community has not done enough to hold the Taliban accountable for their abuses and discriminatory policies and it needs to act now to avert a further escalation of the crisis. Particular attention should be directed to the threats and harassment against women human rights defenders as described in the Special Rapporteur’s report.  

We call on the Council to publicly call out the Taliban for the ongoing human rights violations and expedite discussions toward a more robust international accountability mechanism.

We ask the Special Rapporteur, what should the Council do to adequately and promptly support civil society, especially women rights activists operating within the country?

We thank you.

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


Eritrea: a real challenge to the UN system and the international community

Statement at the 52nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council 

Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on human rights situation in Eritrea

Delivered by Sibahle Zuma

Thank you, Mr President,

Despite being elected to the UN Human Rights Council for the period 2022-2024, Eritrea poses a real challenge to the UN system and the international community. Its continued failure to fully cooperate with the Special Rapporteur’s mandate and implement the recommendations of human rights bodies calls the credibility and integrity of the entire UN human rights system into question.

We remain deeply concerned by reports of unlawful and arbitrary killings, forced disappearances, torture and arbitrary detentions perpetrated by the Eritrean government, indefinite military service, lack of freedom of expression, opinion, association, religious belief, and movement. 

Over 20 journalists and politicians remain in detention since their arrests more than 20 years ago, they are the longest detained persons in the world. Eritrea’s involvement in the Tigrayan conflict significantly resulted in abhorrent human rights abuses which included the recruitment of child soldiers and the kidnapping and forced conscription of Eritreans to fight in the conflict.

We call on the Eritrean government to release all detained journalists, civil society activists and illegally detained Eritreans from prison.

Special Rapporteur, what should the Council do to ensure steps are taken towards meeting the five benchmarks for progress recently enshrined in the Human Rights Council’s resolution 50/2? 

We thank you.

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


Sudan: The increasing violence requires the Council’s attention

Statement at the 52nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council 

Interactive Dialogue on High Commissioner's oral update on Sudan

Delivered by Nicola Paccamiccio

Thank you, Mr President,

CIVICUS and its partners in Sudan welcome the oral update by the High Commissioner.

Membership to the Human Rights Council should only be attained by States who respect human rights and fundamental freedoms. Once again, we witness the election of a State in which fundamental rights are utterly violated.

Despite the signing of a tripartite framework agreement to pave the way for a power transition to civilian rule, the human rights situation continues to deteriorate. Over the past year, Civic space has severely declined. Authorities have resorted to excessive force against protesters, including firing live ammunition, stun grenades and tear gas. The State has imposed excessively restrictive measures which have hampered access to humanitarian and life-saving assistance for people in conflict-affected areas.

There are increasing reports of sexual and gender-based violence with rape and enforced disappearances being used as weapons to intimidate pro-democracy activists. About 10 cases of kidnap and rape by security and military personnel have been reported between December 2022 and January 2023.

High Commissioner, what can the Council do to make sure that the Sudanese people are free to exercise their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, expression, and association without fear of reprisals? Furthermore, we call on the Sudanese government to immediately put an end to the violence against women human rights defenders, women’s rights groups and women protesters.

We thank you.

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



Open letter: The UN Human Rights Council must take concrete steps to actualise justice and bolster support for the people of Myanmar’s will for federal democracy and human rights

In this joint letter, CIVICUS and several civil society organisations call for the adoption of a robust resolution which reflects Myanmar people’s democratic will, seeks to advance accountability, and supports effective locally-led humanitarian assistance. 

To Member and Observer States of the UN Human Rights Council
Cc: The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Your Excellencies,

We, the undersigned 160 Myanmar, regional and international civil society organisations (CSOs), call for the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to take concrete actions to advance accountability through all possible avenues, protect human rights of the Myanmar people, and strongly support their will for federal democracy.

We welcome the UNHRC resolution of 1 April 2022 which acknowledged the human rights situation in Myanmar as one of the Council's important agenda. We however recognise that the resolution failed to adequately reflect or address the severity of the human rights and humanitarian crisis in Myanmar. The resolution also fell short in advancing justice and ending rampant impunity enjoyed by the Myanmar military for decades. During the 52nd Regular Session of the UNHRC, we call for the adoption of a meaningful and robust resolution which reflects the Myanmar people’s desire for federal democracy, pursues all available mechanisms and avenues for justice and accountability, and bolsters effective locally-led frontline humanitarian

While monitoring and reporting mandates on Myanmar by the UNHRC remain strong and robust, there is an urgent need for the Council to strengthen its efforts for justice and accountability. The creation of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM) to collect evidence of the most serious international crimes in Myanmar and prepare files for criminal prosecution — following the findings of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar — was a substantial step in the right direction. However, the IIMM is not mandated to initiate prosecution, rendering justice elusive for victims of the most serious international crimes committed in Myanmar prior to its establishment in 2018, including the
Rohingya genocide. Currently, there is no international court that has an investigation into all crimes committed in Myanmar.

Read the full letter 


Threats to terminate the mandate of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia

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


We, the undersigned civil society and human rights organisations, are alarmed by the 15 February announcement by the Deputy Prime Minister of Ethiopia to the Executive Council of the African Union that the Ethiopian government is planning to present a resolution at the upcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council to terminate the mandate of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE).

We write to urge your delegations to reject any resolution to prematurely terminate the mandate of ICHREE, and to express your support for the mandate and work of the Commission. The independent mandate and work of ICHREE is crucial to preserve the opportunity for victims of grave international crimes to have access to justice, particularly because of the eroding environment for independent media and human rights monitoring of conflict-affected areas of Ethiopia. We are deeply concerned about the government’s ongoing harassment of human rights defenders, including at the judicial level.

Ethiopia’s attempts to terminate ICHREE’s mandate during its term are unprecedented. Not only does it suggest that states can politically maneuver to overturn the decisions of the Human Rights Council to avoid independent scrutiny and accountability, but it could also set a dangerous precedent regarding international scrutiny and impunity for rights abuses elsewhere.

In November 2022, the Ethiopian federal government and Tigrayan authorities signed a cessation of hostilities agreement. While the agreement restored some long overdue aspects of civilian life, including easing some restrictions on basic services and humanitarian assistance, independent, effective investigations with a view to prosecution of grave international crimes will be key. The work and mandate of ICHREE would complement the cessation of hostilities agreement which recognizes the need for accountability and justice.

Victims of violations and their families in northern Ethiopia, as well as in other parts of the country, have expressed a lack of trust in state institutions and continue to seek greater international attention to their suffering and for action to end impunity. Ethiopia’s efforts to terminate ICHREE’s work would silence the hope and trust that victims have placed in it, including those who have already engaged with the ICHREE in the hope that their stories would be told.

With ongoing human rights abuses, and credible investigations and accountability at the domestic level still elusive, the Human Rights Council and its members should support those seeking justice and enable ICHREE to continue to fulfill the mandate it was given in 2021: to collect and preserve evidence of serious crimes committed, and to identify those responsible, with a view—where possible—to make such information accessible and usable in support of ongoing and future accountability efforts.

We reiterate our call to members and observers of the UN Human Rights Council to block Ethiopia’s efforts to terminate the mandate of the ICHREE, and to confirm your support for the ICHREE and the protection of the integrity of the Human Rights Council and its mandated bodies.

1.     Africa Legal Aid (AFLA)

2.     African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) - Sudan

3.     Amnesty International

4.     Association pour la Défense des Droits de la Personne et des Libertés Publiques (ADL) - Rwanda

5.     Association Mauritanienne des Droits de l'Homme (AMDH) – Mauritania

6.     Association nigérienne pour la défense des droits de l'Homme (ANDDH) – Niger

7.     Association Tchadienne pour la Promotion et Défense des Droits de l'Homme (ATPDH) – Chad

8.     Association of Victims, Relatives and Friends of September 28, 2009 (AVIPA)

9.     Atrocities Watch Africa (AWA)

10.  Australia Tigray Alliance (ATA)

11.  The Botswana Centre for Human Rights (DITSHWANELO) - Botswana

12.  Center for Advancement of Rights and Democracy (CARD)

13.  Center for Democracy and Development (CDD)- Mozambique 

14.  The Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law - Sierra Leone 

15.  CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

16.  The Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform of Liberia

17.  Coalition for Justice and Accountability

18.  Cooperation platform for Tigrayan-Norwegians

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

20.  Dekna Foundation

21.  Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRCO) – Ethiopia

22.  Ethiopian Canadians for Peace

23. FKA-Senegal

24.  Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

25.  The Global Society of Tigray Scholars and Professionals (GSTS)

26.  Groupe LOTUS - Democratic Republic of Congo 

27.  Health Professionals Network for Tigray

28.  Human Rights Concern Eritrea

29.  Human Rights Watch

30.  International Commission of Jurists (Global)

31.  International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

32.  The International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI)

33.  Irob Anina Civil Society (IACS)

34.  Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRI) - Kenya

35.  Kenya Section of the International Commission of Jurists (Kenya)

36.  Legal Action Worldwide (LAW)

37.  Legacy Tigray

38.  Les Mêmes Droits pour Tous (MDT) - Guinea

39.  Ligue Burundaise des droits de l’Homme (Iteka) – Burundi

40.  Ligue Centrafricaine des Droits de l'Homme (LCDH) - Central African Republic 

41.  Ligue Djiboutienne des Droits Humains (LDDH) – Djibouti

42.  Ligue Ivoirienne des Droits de l'Homme (LIDHO) - Cote d’Ivoire

43.  Ligue Sénégalaise des Droits humains (LSDH) - Sénégal

44.  Observatoire congolais des droits de l'Homme (OCDH) – Congo

45.  Observatoire des droits de l’Homme au Rwanda (ODHR) - Rwanda

46.  Omna Tigray

47.  Organisation Guinéenne de Défense des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen (OGDH) - Guinea 

48.  Organisation Nationale des Droits de l'Homme (ONDH) - Sénégal

49.  Oromo Legacy Leadership & Advocacy Association (OLLAA)

50.  Pan African Lawyers Association (PALU)

51.  Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA)

52.  Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l'Homme (RADDHO)

53.  Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

54.  Security & Justice for Tigrayans

55.  Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC)

56.  Sudanese Human Rights Monitor (SHRM) - Sudan

57.  Tigray Action Committee

58.  Tigray Advocacy and Development Association UK

59.  Tigray Youth Network

60.  Union of Tigrayans in Europe

61.  United Tegaru Canada

62.  Women’s Association for Victims’ Empowerment (WAVE)-Gambia

63.  Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) – Zimbabwe


CSOs urge Human Rights Council to establish an independent investigative mechanism on Belarus

Ahead of the 52nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council, CIVICUS joins international and Belarusian civil society organisations (CSOs) in urging Human Rights Council member and observer states to establish an independent investigative mechanism to complement and follow-up on the work of the existing Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) examination.


Advocacy priorities at the 52nd Session of UN Human Rights Council

As a global civil society alliance with a mandate to strengthen citizen action and civil society throughout the world, CIVICUS’ key priorities and recommendations ahead of the 52nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council (27 February to 4 April) relate to protecting fundamental freedoms and supporting civil society where they face grave risk.


South Sudan: Extend the UN Commission’s mandate for two years

In a letter, signatory orga­nisa­tions stress that the CHRSS is the only mechanism tasked with collecting and preserving evidence of vio­la­tions of in­ter­­­na­tional law with a view to ensuring accountability in South Sudan. The CHRSS’s work, they add, remains vital as the conditions that prompted the Human Rights Coun­cil to establish the CHRSS, in 2016, have not significantly changed to warrant less scrutiny. 

“All trends and patterns outlined in a civil society letter released one year ago have worsened,” signatories write. As parties to the 2018 revitalised peace agreement (R-ARCSS) agreed to extend South Sudan’s transitional period by 24 months, but violence and impunity remain per­va­sive and South Sudanese civil society faces intensifying repression, the signatories urge states to extend the CHRSS’s mandate in full for two years. 

They write: “This is not the time to relax the Council’s scrutiny. The mandate of the CHRSS remains critical and should continue until the reasons that led the Council to establish this mechanism have been addressed in a meaningful manner. The CHRSS should remain in place at least for the national elections (scheduled for Decem­ber 2024) to be held and the end of the tran­sitional period, in Feb­ruary 2025.”


CIVICUS' UN Universal Periodic Review submissions on civil society space in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) & Burundi

The United Nations Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review 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 two countries in advance of the 43rd UPR session in April-May 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. 

United Arab Emirates (UAE) – The submission by CIVICUS, Emirates Detainees Advocacy Centre (EDAC), Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) highlights concerns over the increasing barriers against civil society organisations (CSOs) operating independently in the UAE and the persistent targeting of  civil society organisations (CSOs). The UAE authorities have created a hostile environment for CSOs and denied labour unions the right to operate and advocate for the rights of workers. The report also documents the use of security-related legislation to persecute human rights defenders (HRDs), academics, journalists and bloggers, who have been subjected to harsh prison conditions and kept in detention beyond their sentences.

BurundiIn this submission, CIVICUS, Defend Defenders, Ligue Iteka and Association Burundaise pour la Protection des Droits Humains et des Personnes Détenues (APRODH) report the persistent human rights violations and abuses in Burundi, including extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture and arbitrary arrests, as well as severe restrictions on civil and political rights and widespread impunity. The submission further highlights the targeting of CSOs and HRDs through restrictive laws and practices, and judicial harassment in the form of fabricated cases and unfair trials.


Human rights crisis in Nicaragua: the UN Human Rights Council must strengthen and renew for two years its resolution on Nicaragua

Joint Statement during the Interactive Dialogue with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Nicaragua
Speaker: Juan Carlos Arce


I deliver this statement on behalf of 34 Nicaraguan and international organisations, of which 12 are part of the Colectivo 46/2, a coalition that monitors Nicaragua’s cooperation with the UN human rights system.

We lack appropriate terms to describe the suffering that the Nicaraguan people have endured since the repression of the April 2018 protests, and the severity and breadth of the human rights crisis at the hands of the government in Nicaragua. With over 150,000 Nicaraguans in exile, Nicaraguans are the third largest population applying for asylum in the first half of 2022, after Venezuelans and Ukrainians according to UNHCR.

The November 6 municipal elections resulted in the absolute control by the ruling party over the country's 153 municipalities, in a process ‘characterised by repression of dissenting voices and undue restriction of political rights and civil liberties,’ according to the OHCHR.

Indigenous peoples of the Northern Caribbean Coast continue to be exposed to widespread attacks by armed settlers on their territories, with 90 documented attacks since 2018, including 32 killings, according to local rights groups.

With the cancellation of the legal status of more than 2500 civil society organisations, the UN and the IACHR (Inter-American Commission of Human Rights) have denounced a ‘clear pattern of repressing civic space’ against dissident voices, including journalists, human rights defenders, civil society actors, academics, students and members of the Catholic Church. Today, the government detains some 235 political prisoners in inhumane conditions.

In this context, the government's exceptional refusal to cooperate with the UN’s human rights bodies is condemnable. In a rare move, the two UN’s anti-torture treaty body committees denounced the government's refusal to cooperate, while the authorities also refused reviews by four other UN human rights committees over the past year. UN experts from five ‘Special Procedures’ mandates have also issued repeated requests to visit the country, without response. Civil society analysis based on information from the UN and the Inter-American systems also points to the government's absolute failure to implement the 14 recommendations of Human Rights Council resolution 49/3.

For these reasons, we launch today our global call for a resolution on Nicaragua to renew for a period of two years the mandate of the Group of Human Rights Experts on Nicaragua, and the monitoring mandate of the OHCHR (Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights).

We call on all governments to support such a resolution at the next session of the Human Rights Council, and reinforce its intersectional approach, by bringing particular attention to the situation of indigenous peoples and afro-descendants, migrants and forcibly displaced persons, those detained for political reasons and the families of victims.

Freedom for all political prisoners in Nicaragua!

 Signatory organisations:

  • Colectivo 46/2: Centre for Civil and Political Rights (CCPR Centre)
  • Centro Nicaragüense de Derechos Humanos (CENIDH)
  • Colectivo de Derechos Humanos Nicaragua Nunca Más
  • IFEX-ALC International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  • International Network of Human Rights Europe (RIDHE)
  • International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  • Mesoamerican Women Rights Defenders Initiative (IM-Defensoras)
  • The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights
  • Unidad de Defensa Jurídica (UDJ)
  • Urnas Abiertas
  • World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

Other organisations:

  • CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  • Diakonia Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF)
  • FIAN International
  • Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
  • International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI)
  • International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
  • Plataforma Internacional Contra la Impunidad (PICI)
  • Protection International Mesoamérica
  • The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights
  • The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
  • Unidad de Protección a Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos - Guatemala (UDEFEGUA)
  • Women's Link Worldwide

Nicaragua Lucha Coalition, including member organisations:

  • Acción Penal
  • Articulación de Movimientos Sociales
  • Grupo de Reflexión de Excarcelados Políticos (GREX)
  • Organización Víctimas de Abril (OVA)
  • Periodistas y Comunicadores Independientes de Nicaragua (PCIN)
  • Popol Na
  • Unidad de Registro (UDR)
  • Unión de Presas y Presos Políticos Nicaragüenses


Nicaragua: Growing human rights violations require UN scrutiny to continue

UN Human Rights Council – Intersessional Activity

Interactive Dialogue on the interim oral update by the High Commissioner on the human rights situation in Nicaragua

Delivered by Amaru Ruiz Aleman, Asociación Red Local

I make this statement on behalf of the Asociación Red Local, a member of the Nicaraguan Platform of NGO Networks.

We express our concern about the situation of the more than 240 political prisoners who are being held in degrading conditions and receive cruel treatment in various prisons in the country.

In the recent municipal elections, the Ortega government secured control of the 153 municipalities of the country in an arbitrary and non-transparent manner, thus restricting the civil and political rights of Nicaraguan citizens.

Due to the various human rights violations, more than 150,000 Nicaraguans are living in exile without being able to return to Nicaragua and more than 3206 civil society organisations and 55 media outlets have been shut down in a concerted effort by the Nicaraguan government to eliminate all dissenting voices.

We call on the members of the Council to support and strengthen the resolution on Nicaragua at the March 2023 Human Rights Council session to give continuity to the efforts of the Group of Experts and to the monitoring mandate of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, paying special attention to the restrictions of civic space, the conditions of political prisoners and the situation of forcibly displaced families.

Freedom for all political prisoners in Nicaragua!

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


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.



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.


  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.


ACAT Belgium

ACAT Germany


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




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