No safety of journalists in the digital age if impunity persists

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


 Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression

Delivered by Nicola Paccamiccio

Thank you Mr President,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 We thank you.

 

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

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


 Dear Secretary-General,

Re: Appointment of next UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours faithfully,

1. Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran

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


3. Advocates for International Development


4. Al Mezan Center for Human Rights


5. All Human Rights for All in Iran


6. Amnesty International


7.
 Arab NGO Network for Development

8.
 ARTICLE 19

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


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


11. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies


12. Center for Economic and Social Rights


13. Center for International Environmental Law


14.
 Center for Reproductive Rights

15. Centre for Civil and Political Rights


16. Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)


17. Child Rights Connect


18. Citizen, Democracy and Accountability


19. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation


20. Colombian Commission of Jurists


21. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative


22. Conectas Direitos Humanos


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


24. Dominican Leadership Conference


25. Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort (ECPM)


26. Environmental Defender Law Center


27. Franciscans International


28. Front Line Defenders


29. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect


30. Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights


31. Gulf Centre for Human Rights


32. Haiti Rehabilitation Foundation


33. Hawai’i Institute for Human Rights


34. HIV Legal Network


35. Human Rights Activists in Iran


36. Human Rights House Foundation


37. Human Rights Law Centre


38. Human Rights Watch


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


40. Impact Iran


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


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


43. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)


44. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)


45. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)


46. Iran Human Rights
47. JASS/Just Associates

48. Just Fair


49.
 Kenya Human Rights Commission

50. Kurdistan Human Rights AssociationGeneva (KMMKG)


51. Law & Society Trust Sri Lanka


52. Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada


53. Make Mothers Matter (MMM)


54. MINBYUN  Lawyers for a Democratic Society


55. Minority Rights Group International (MRG)


56. Open Society Foundations


57. Plan International


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


59. Siamak Pourzand Foundation


60. United Nations Association  UK


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


62.
 World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

63. World Uyghur Congress

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

 

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

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The dismantling of Nicaragua’s civil society continues unabated

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

Interactive Dialogue on High Commisioner's oral update on Nicaragua

Delivered by Nicola Paccamiccio

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

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

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

Interactive Debate on the High Commissioner’s update on Afghanistan 

Delivered by Horia Mosadiq 

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

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

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

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

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

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

We thank you.

 

Now is the time for greater transparency and broader participation

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

Interactive Dialogue on the High Commissioner’s Annual Report

Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Civic space ratings from the CIVICUS Monitor

OPEN NARROWED OBSTRUCTED  REPRESSED CLOSED

 

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

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

Enhanced Interactive Debate on High Commisioners report on Sudan

Delivered by Sibahle Zuma

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

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

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

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

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

We thank you.


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

 

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

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

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


Interactive Dialogue on High Commisioner Oral update on Myanmar

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

Thank you, Mr. President.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.


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

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

Delivered by Kyaw Win

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We thank you.


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

 

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

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

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

Delivered by Nicola Paccamiccio

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

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

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

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

We thank you.

 

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

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

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

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


Resolutions

Freedom of association and peaceful assembly

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

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

Peaceful protests

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

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

Freedom of expression

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

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


Country Priorities

Eritrea

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

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

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

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Sudan

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

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

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

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India

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

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

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

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Myanmar

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

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

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

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Russia

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

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

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

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Afghanistan

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

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

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

 

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

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

Excellencies,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The purposes of an urgent debate could include:

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

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

Yours faithfully,

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

 

Eritrea: Extend the UN Special Rapporteur mandate and enshrine his “benchmarks for progress”

To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations Human Rights Council (Geneva, Switzerland)

Excellencies,

Ahead of the UN Human Rights Council’s 50th session (13 June- 8 July 2022), we, the undersigned non-governmental organisations, are writing to urge your delegation to support the adoption of a resolution that extends the mandate of the Special Rap­por­teur on the situation of hu­man rights in Eritrea. Moreover, we highlight the need for the Council to move beyond merely pro­ce­dural reso­lutions and to enshrine the “bench­marks for progress in improving the situ­a­tion of hu­man rights” by incorporating them into Eritrea-focused resolutions.

In July 2021, the UN Human Rights Council maintained its scrutiny of Eritrea’s human rights situation. Consi­dering that moni­to­ring of and re­por­ting on the situation was still needed, the Council extended the Special Rapporteur’s mandate. This was vital to address both Eri­trea’s domestic human rights violations and atrocities Eritrean forces have committed in the neigh­bou­ring Tigray region of Ethiopia.

In October 2021, Eritrea was re-elected for a second term as a Member of the Council (2022-2024). Yet the Government shows no willingness to address the grave human rights violations and abuses UN bodies and mechanisms have documented or to engage in a serious dialogue with the inter­national commu­ni­ty, including on the basis of the benchmarks for progress the Special Rappor­teur identified in 2019. Despite its obli­ga­tions as a Council Member to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and pro­tection of human rights” and to “fully cooperate with the Council,” the Government refuses to co­ope­rate with the Special Rapporteur or other special procedure mandate holders. As of 2022, Eritrea remains among the very few countries that have never received any visit by a special procedure.[1]

Furthermore, Eri­trean forces have been credibly accused of grave violations of international law in Tig­ray, some of which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, since the conflict started in November 2020.

The concerns expressed in joint civil society letters released in 2020 and 2021 remain va­lid. Key human rights issues in Eritrea include[2]:

  • Widespread impunity for past and on­going human rights vio­la­tions;
  • Arbi­trary arrests and in­com­mu­ni­cado de­ten­­tion;
  • Vio­lations of the rights to a fair trial, access to jus­tice, and due process;
  • Enforced disappearances and lack of infor­ma­tion on dis­appeared per­sons;
  • Conscription into the country’s abusive na­tional ser­vi­ce system, including in­de­finite national ser­vi­ce, involving torture, sexual vio­len­ce against women and girls, and forced labour; and
  • Restrictions on the media and media workers, as well as severe res­tric­tions on civic space.

In 2019, when the former sponsors of Eritrea-focused resolutions, Djibouti and Somalia, discontinued their leadership, civil society welcomed the initiative a group of six States took to maintain multilateral scrutiny of Eritrea’s human rights situation. However, while welcoming the adoption of Human Rights Council resolutions 41/1 (2019), 44/1 (2020), and 47/2 (2021),[3] many civil society orga­ni­sations cau­tioned that any shifts in the Council’s ap­proach should reflect cor­responding changes in the human rights situation on the ground. Civil society also emphasised the need for the new core group, and for the Euro­pean Union (which sub­sequently took over sponsorship of these resolutions), to be ambitious.

We believe that it is time for the Council to move beyond merely procedural resolutions that extend the Special Rappor­teur’s mandate, and to clearly describe and condemn violations Eritrean authorities com­mit at home and abroad.

We also believe that the bench­marks for progress in improving the situ­a­tion of hu­man rights,[4] which form a comprehensive road map for human rights reforms, should be incorporated into this year’s resolution. These bench­marks[5] include:

  • Benchmark 1: Improvement in the promotion of the rule of law and strengthening of national jus­tice and law enforcement institutions;
  • Benchmark 2: Demonstrated commitment to introducing reforms to the national/military service;
  • Benchmark 3: Extended efforts to guarantee freedoms of religion, association, expression and the press, and extended efforts to end religious and ethnic discrimination;
  • Benchmark 4: Demonstrated commitment to addressing all forms of gender-based violence and to promoting the rights of women and gender equality; and
  • Benchmark 5: Strengthened cooperation with the United Nations country team.
  • Associated indicators outlined in paragraphs 78-82 of UN Doc. A/HRC/41/53, as well as all recom­­men­dations pertaining to the benchmarks formulated in successive reports of the Special Rapporteur, should also be referenced in the resolution.

The Human Rights Council should allow the Special Rapporteur to pursue his work and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to deepen its engagement with Eritrea.

At its upcoming 50th session, the Council should adopt a resolution:

  • Extending the mandate of the Spe­cial Rap­porteur on Eritrea;
  • Urging Eritrea to cooperate fully with the Spe­cial Rap­por­teur by granting him access to the country, in accordance with its obligations as a Council Member;
  • Welcoming the benchmarks for progress in improving the situ­a­tion of hu­man rights and associated indicators and recommendations, and em­phasising the need for Eritrea to in­corpo­rate these benchmarks in its institutional, legal, and policy framework. The resolution should enshrine the five benchmarks and associated indicators;
  • Calling on Eritrea to develop an implementation plan to meet the benchmarks for pro­gress, in consultation with the Special Rapporteur and OHCHR; and
  • Requesting the High Commissioner and the Special Rappor­teur to present updates on the human rights situation in Eritrea at the Council’s 52nd session in an enhanced interactive dia­lo­gue, and requesting the Special Rapporteur to present a comprehensive written report at the Council’s 53rd ses­sion and to the General Assembly at its 77th

 

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

Sincerely,

  1. African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
  2. AfricanDefenders (Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network)
  3. Amnesty International
  4. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  5. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  6. Cercle des Droits de l’Homme et de Développement – DRC
  7. CIVICUS
  8. Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform – Liberia
  9. Coalition Burundaise des Défenseurs des Droits de l’Homme (CBDDH)
  10. Coalition des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CDDH-Bénin)
  11. Coalition Ivoirienne des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CIDDH)
  12. Coalition Togolaise des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CTDDH)
  13. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
  14. CSW (Christian Solidarity Worldwide)
  15. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  16. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)
  17. Eritrea Focus
  18. Eritrean Law Society
  19. Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR)
  20. Eritrean National Council for Democratic Change (ENCDC)
  21. Eritrean Political Forces Coordination Committee (EPFCC)
  22. Forum pour le Renforcement de la Société Civile (FORSC) – Burundi
  23. Freedom United
  24. Geneva for Human Rights / Genève pour les Droits de l’Homme (GHR)
  25. Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)
  26. Human Rights Defenders Network – Sierra Leone (HRDN-SL)
  27. Human Rights Defenders Solidarity Network – HRDS-NET
  28. Human Rights Watch
  29. Independent Human Rights Investigators – Liberia
  30. Information Forum for Eritrea (IFE)
  31. Institut des Médias pour la Démocratie et les Droits de l’Homme (IM2DH)
  32. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
  33. Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada
  34. Network of Human Rights Journalists – The Gambia
  35. Network of the Independent Commission for Human Rights in North Africa (CIDH AFRICA)
  36. One Day Seyoum
  37. Protection International Africa
  38. Réseau des Citoyens Probes (RCP) – Burundi
  39. Réseau Nigérien des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (RNDDH)
  40. Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (Southern Defenders)
  41. West African Human Rights Defenders Network (ROADDH/WAHRDN)
  42. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

[1] See https://spinternet.ohchr.org/ViewCountryVisits.aspx?visitType=all&Lang=en. The Special Rapporteur on Eritrea has conducted official visits to neighbouring countries, namely Ethiopia and Djibouti, as well as to other countries, and met with members of the Eritrean diaspora, including refugees, in these countries. All visit requests to Eritrea have been denied. Other special procedure mandate holders have requested, but were systematically denied, visits to Eritrea. They include special procedures on extrajudicial executions, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to education, the right to health, arbitrary detention, torture, freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, freedom of religion or belief, and the right to food (data as of 7 April 2022).

[2] See DefendDefenders et al., “Eritrea: maintain Human Rights Council scrutiny and engagement,” 5 May 2020, https://defenddefenders.org/eritrea-maintain-human-rights-council-scrutiny-and-engagement/; DefendDefenders et al., “Eritrea: renew vital mandate of UN Special Rapporteur,” 10 May 2021, https://defenddefenders.org/eritrea-renew-vital-mandate-of-un-special-rapporteur/; CSW (Christian Solidarity Worldwide), “Eritrea: General Briefing,” 22 March 2022, https://www.csw.org.uk/2022/03/22/report/5629/article.htm (accessed on 7 April 2022).

[3] Resolutions available at: https://undocs.org/en/A/HRC/RES/41/1; https://undocs.org/en/A/HRC/RES/44/1 and https://undocs.org/en/A/HRC/RES/47/2

[4] See Human Rights Council resolution 38/15, available at: https://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/RES/38/15

[5] See reports of the Special Rapporteur to the Council, UN Docs. A/HRC/41/53, A/HRC/44/23, and A/HRC/47/21.

 

Sudan: Ensure continued public debates on the human rights situation

To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (Geneva, Switzerland)

Excellencies,

Following the military coup of 25 October 2021,[1] the UN Human Rights Council took urgent action by holding a special session, on 5 November 2021, and adopting a resolution re­ques­ting the High Commis­sioner to designate an Expert on Human Rights in the Sudan.[2]

As per resolution S-32/1, which was adopted by consensus with the support of the Group of African Sta­tes, the Expert’s mandate will be ongoing “until the restoration of [Sudan’s] civi­lian-led Govern­ment.” The Council made it clear that the term of office for the designated Expert will conclude “upon the restoration of [Sudan’s] civilian-led Government.”[3]

Ahead of the Council’s 50th session (13 June-8 July 2022), we, the undersigned non-governmental organisations, are writing to urge your delegation to support the adoption of a resolution that ensures continued attention to Sudan’s human rights situation through enhanced interactive dia­logues at the Council’s 52nd and 53rd regular sessions.

While the Expert’s mandate is ongoing, a resolution is required for the Council to hold public de­bates and continue to formally discuss the situation. A resolution at the Council’s 50th session would ope­ra­tio­nalise resolution S-32/1, which in its operative paragraph 19 called upon “the High Commis­sioner and the designated Expert to monitor human rights violations and abu­ses and to continue to bring information thereon to the attention of the Human Rights Council, and to advise on the further steps that may be needed if the situation continues to deteriorate.”

*   *   *

As the de facto military authorities are consolidating their power[4] and human rights violations continue, including against peaceful protesters[5] and in Darfur and other conflict areas,[6] once-yearly reporting by the High Com­mis­sioner as part of her reports and updates under the Council’s agenda item 2, followed by a ge­neral debate, would be insufficient to maintain an adequate level of atten­tion to the country.

The Council has a responsibility to follow up on its meaningful action on Sudan. It should ensure that the High Commissioner publicly and regularly reports on the human rights situation and that dedicated public debates continue to be held. The High Commissioner, with the assistance of the desi­gna­ted Expert on Human Rights in the Sudan, should be able to present updates and reports on the situ­ation of human rights in Sudan.

Programme budget implications (PBIs) are required for the formal presentation of reports to the Council and holding of interactive dialogues and enhanced interactive dialogues. A resolution with the necessary PBIs could be approached from a technical perspective; it could be a procedural text that achieves just this: mobilising budget for reports and public debates on Sudan.

We believe that interactive dialogues on Sudan’s hu­man rights situation should be held in an enhanced format, allowing for the participation of various stakeholders, including UN agency and civil society representatives. We also believe that the Council should discuss the human rights situation in Sudan at least twice a year. Furthermore, we believe that to avoid any risk of a public reporting gap, the Council should act at its 50th session – the last session during which presentation of a comprehensive written report is currently planned.

Ahead of the Council’s 50th session, we therefore urge your delegation to support the adoption of a resolution that:

  • Recalls resolution S-32/1, including its request that the High Commis­sioner and the desi­gna­ted Expert continue to report on human rights violations and abu­ses com­mitted in Sudan and to advise on the further steps that may be needed;
  • Requests the High Commissioner, with the assistance of the designated Expert on Human Rights in the Sudan, to update the Council at its 52nd session, in an en­han­ced interactive dialogue, on the situation of human rights in Sudan; and
  • Further requests the High Commissioner, with the assistance of the designated Expert on Human Rights in the Sudan, to present to the Council, at its 53rd session, a comprehensive written report focusing on the situation of human rights in Sudan, to be followed by an enhanced interactive dialogue, and to continue to report on the situation of human rights in Sudan to the Council twice a year.

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

Sincerely,

  1. Act for Sudan
  2. African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
  3. African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS)
  4. AfricanDefenders (Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network)
  5. Amnesty International
  6. Association of Sudanese-American Professors in America (ASAPA)
  7. Atrocities Watch
  8. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  9. CIVICUS
  10. CSW (Christian Solidarity Worldwide)
  11. Darfur Bar Association
  12. Darfur Network for Monitoring and Documentation
  13. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  14. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)
  15. Geneva for Human Rights / Genève pour les Droits de l’Homme (GHR)
  16. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P)
  17. Governance Programming Overseas
  18. HAKI Africa – Kenya
  19. HUDO Centre
  20. Human Rights and Advocacy Network for Democracy – Sudan
  21. Human Rights Watch
  22. International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI)
  23. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
  24. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  25. International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI)
  26. International Service for Human Rights
  27. Investors Against Genocide
  28. Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) – Sudan
  29. Justice Africa Sudan
  30. Justice Centre for Advocacy and Legal Consultations – Sudan
  31. Kamma Organisation for Development Initiatives (KODI)
  32. Lawyers for Justice Sudan
  33. Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada
  34. Massachusetts Coalition to Save Darfur
  35. Never Again Coalition
  36. Nubsud Human Rights Monitors Organization (NHRMO)
  37. Physicians for Human Rights
  38. REDRESS
  39. Regional Centre for Training and Development of Civil Society (RCDCS) – Sudan
  40. Regional Coalition for WHRDs in MENA (WHRDMENA Coalition)
  41. Rights for Peace
  42. Rights Realization Centre (RRC)
  43. Sudan and South Sudan Forum e.V.
  44. Sudan’s Doctors for Human Rights
  45. The Sudanese Archives
  46. Sudanese Human Rights Initiative (SHRI)
  47. Sudanese Lawyers and Legal Practitioners’ Association in the UK
  48. Sudanese Women Rights Action
  49. Sudan Human Rights Monitor (SHRM)
  50. Sudan Transparency and Policy Tracker
  51. Sudan Unlimited
  52. SUDO (UK)
  53. Waging Peace

 

[1] DefendDefenders et al., “Sudan: The UN Human Rights Council should act urgently and hold a special session,” 28 October 2021, https://defenddefenders.org/sudan-the-un-human-rights-council-should-act-urgently-and-hold-a-special-session/ (accessed 4 May 2022).

[2] DefendDefenders, “The UN Human Rights Council takes a step to address the crisis in Sudan,” 5 November 2021, https://defenddefenders.org/the-un-human-rights-council-takes-a-step-to-address-the-crisis-in-sudan/ (accessed 4 May 2022).

[3] HRC resolution S-32/1, UN Doc. A/HRC/RES/S-32/1, available at https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G21/319/08/PDF/G2131908.pdf (operative paragraphs 15 and 17).

[4] Sudan Information Service, “Sudan Uprising Report: Build up to the military coup of 25 October,” 6 November 2021, https://www.sudaninthenews.com/political-briefings (accessed 4 May 2022).

[5] Human Rights Watch, “Sudan: Ongoing Clampdown on Peaceful Protesters 3 Months After Coup; Concrete Action Needed to End Repression,” 3 February 2022, https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/02/03/sudan-ongoing-clampdown-peaceful-protesters (accessed 4 May 2022).

[6] African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS), “West Darfur: 35 people killed and a dozen injured in Jebel Moon attack as security continues to deteriorate in Sudan,” 24 March 2022, https://www.acjps.org/west-darfur-35-people-killed-and-a-dozen-injured-in-jebel-moon-attack-as-security-continues-to-deteriorate-across-sudan/ (accessed 9 May 2022).

 

Outcomes from the 49th session of the UN Human Rights Council

The 49th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC49) ended on 1 April with 35 resolutions adopted by its 47 member states on a range of country situations and thematic issues. It was held over five weeks of debates, negotiations and online events, making it the longest session in the Council’s history. The Council session took place in a hybrid model, with in-person civil society participation possible for the first time since 2020.

KEY OUTCOMES

An urgent debate on Ukraine held in the first week of the Council session was a swift response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, setting up a strong accountability mechanism to investigate violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law. The war in Ukraine represents the latest in a growing regional human rights crisis and the action taken by the Council to establish this accountability mechanism is an important step. Given the mounting evidence of atrocities, we welcome the UN General Assembly’s landmark decision on 7 April to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council. 

The Human Rights Council established a commission of inquiry on Nicaragua which significantly advances UN scrutiny on the country and will strengthen accountability processes. The resolution establishes a group of three human rights experts with the mandate to investigate human rights violations and abuses in Nicaragua and to collect evidence for use in ongoing and future accountability efforts. Under Ortega’s government, the human rights situation in Nicaragua has reached a point of critical repression. This resolution represents a significant step towards accountability, and justice for those affected. 

A new resolution on Myanmar was adopted by consensus by the Human Rights Council which extends the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for a further year and maintains monitoring and reporting from the High Commissioner, with a focus on accountability. This resolution is a step towards preventing further violations, but accountability for past and ongoing violations in Myanmar is still remote. We urge all member and observer states of the Council to support the referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court, as recommended by the High Commissioner. Read our statement on the resolution here.

The Council adopted a resolution on human rights defenders (HRDs), which highlights the myriad roles of defenders in conflict and post-conflict settings and reaffirms that human rights defenders working in these situations require specific holistic and security protections. It urges States to create a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders, particularly in light of their role in conflict prevention and resolution and post-conflict reconstruction, and highlights the value of relocation initiatives to protect human rights defenders from violence and attacks. The Russian Federation called a vote on the resolution, breaking the previous consensus. It was adopted overwhelmingly, with 39 ‘yes’ votes and eight abstentions. Read our statement on the resolution here.

A resolution on South Sudan was adopted, which renewed the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan and ensured the continuation of its critical work. Read analysis from CIVICUS research partner DefendDefenders here.

STATEMENTS AT THE HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL

CIVICUS featured a number of priority countries and issues through various statements:

Cambodia: the Council must be prepared to take action to guarantee human rights and free & fair elections
This is a critical moment for Cambodia. If upcoming elections this year and next take place in the current climate, they will further entrench a ruling party which has proven that it will use any legislative or extra-legal means at its disposal to remain in power. There are steps Cambodia can take to improve its human rights situation ahead of elections; the Council must be prepared to take further action on Cambodia should these not be met.

Tigray: Escalating violence & restrictions to civic space requires action to protect those on the ground
Civic space in Tigray has shrunk considerably with the repression of civil society both by State and non-state actors. Telecommunications restrictions continue with the aim of controlling communication channels.  The special session in December 2021 highlighted the urgent need for investigations and accountability for the serious violations of international law, possibly amounting to war crimes, that have rocked Tigray since November 2021 and which continue to escalate.

Council must heed warning signs and address rights violations in Russia, India and elsewhere
The Council’s prevention mandate translates to a responsibility to address situations which risk deterioration in human rights. One warning sign of this is of a serious and rapid decline in the respect for civic space. The CIVICUS Watchlist, identified in this regard a number of countries of which to take note, including Russia, India, El Salvador, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Kazakhstan. We call on the Council to address these worsening situations and prevent further deterioration.

The Human Rights Council should listen to the voices of those affected
The success and credibility of the Council rely on the engagement and participation of those on the frontline of human rights. The Council is stronger when it can hear the voices of those affected. It can protect and support those trying to effect positive change in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. It can create a route to justice for victims of violations and accountability for perpetrators. But it can only do so if its members uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.

Access all statements here. 

ADOPTION OF UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEWS

The Universal Periodic Reviews of HungaryPapua New GuineaTanzania and Thailand were adopted, with governments accepting a number of recommendations relating to civic space. We stand ready to monitor and support their implementation.

SIDE EVENTS

Respect, Protect and Fulfil: Guaranteeing Access to Resources as a State Responsibility
In the context of increasing civic space restrictions worldwide, the ability of civil society to operate, mobilise and take action is being undermined by cutting off this vital funding supply. This event brought together the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of association and peaceful assembly, civil society representatives from the human rights and humanitarian sectors, with a focus on India and Nicaragua, and a donor representative to discuss the extent and impact on civil society and its work of limiting access to resources. Watch the recording here.

Equity and Inclusion of Racial, Ethnic, and Religious Minority Groups in Healthy Democracies
Members of racial, ethnic, and religious minority groups play an indispensable role in their societies by organising their communities, providing services, and advocating to ensure that government policy reflects community needs. Building upon the themes discussed during the 2021 Summit for Democracy and in commemoration of the UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, this event brought together State representatives, activists and researchers to highlight the importance of inclusion in democracies. Watch the recording here.

Defenders in Asia: Holding the line amid mounting challenges
In Asia, in 2021 alone, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) documented 820 cases of violations against HRDs across 18 Asian countries. This event explored the situation of HRDs and highlight key trends of attacks against human rights defenders across Asia; and provided concrete recommendations to relevant stakeholders including civil society organisations, UN member states, UN agencies, and businesses on what can be done to support HRDs and protect them from violations and abuses. Recording available here.

Terrorising Human Rights Defenders: Counter-terrorism as a tool of repression in the MENA region
The use of vague and overly broad language in anti-terror legislation across the MENA region has facilitated the mischaracterisation of independent, legitimate human rights activities as forms of terrorism and to the arrest of countless individuals over the years, including human rights defenders, activists, journalists and lawyers on unfounded terrorism charges. This event provided UN member states with an update on the situation and to propose ways to deal with the destructive impact of these laws, practices and policies on civil society. Recording available here.

 

Joint Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Submissions on Civil Society Space

CIVICUS makes UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on civil society space in Algeria, Brazil, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Poland, South Africa, Tunisia, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

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 ten countries in advance of the 41st UPR session in October-November 2022, which marks the beginning of the 4th UPR cycle. 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. 

Algeria - The submission by CIVICUS, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, ARTICLE 19, Front Line Defenders, FIDH, MENA Rights Group, the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH), SHOAA, and Alter’Solidaire highlights our concerns around the use of violence and restrictive legislation limiting freedom of expression and targeting protesters.  It also documents the arrests of journalists, the targeting of civil society organisations and the attacks on human rights under the pretext of countering terrorism. 

Brazil - CIVICUS and Instituto Igarapé examine the deterioration of civic space in Brazil, highlighting legal and extra-legal measures that have restricted freedom of expression and the participation of civil society in policymaking. The submission shows that violence against human rights defenders and journalists is widespread and continues to take place with impunity as the environment for civil society worsens.

Ecuador - CIVICUS and Fundación Ciudadanía y Desarrollo (FCD) assess the important reforms removing legal restrictions on the freedoms of association and expression in Ecuador, while also highlighting the lack of institutional mechanisms to protect and promote an enabling environment for civil society, HRDs and journalists. We discuss the recurrent judicial harassment, criminalisation and violence of these actors and the repeated repression of protests. 

India - This submission by CIVICUS and Human Rights Defenders Alert – India (HRDA) highlights the continued use of the draconian Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) by the authorities to target CSOs, block foreign funding and investigate organisations that are critical of the government. It also documents the continued judicial harassment of human rights defenders and journalists and the use of repressive security laws to keep them detained as well as restrictions on and excessive use of force against protesters.

Indonesia - In this UPR submission, CIVICUS, The Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM), and YAPPIKA-ActionAid highlight, among other issues, the implementation of legal restrictions concerning civic space and fundamental freedoms, increased scrutiny and excessive use of force by authorities to control both offline and online civic space and the heightened repression against marginalised groups including people from and who work on the issue of Papua/West Papua.

The Philippines - In this joint submission, CIVICUS and Karapatan detail systematic intimidation, attacks and vilification of civil society and activists, an increased crackdown on media freedoms and the emerging prevalence of a pervasive culture of impunity in the Philippines over the last five years. Often, crackdowns have taken place under the guise of anti-terrorism or national security interests. We further note that a joint programme on human rights between the Philippines and the UN established in July 2021 has not, to date, resulted in any tangible human rights improvement.

Poland - CIVICUS and the Committee for the Defence of Democracy – Komitet Obrony Demokracji (KOD) highlight our concerns of the dismantling of judicial independence and the rule of law by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) Party, which has been used as a tool to violate civic freedoms. In this joint submission we examine cases of women HRDs (WHRDs) advocating for reproductive justice and LGBTQI+ defenders who are facing judicial harassment and intimidation. In addition, we access the state of freedom of expression, with 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.

South Africa - In this joint submission, CIVICUS, Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA) and the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) highlight threats, intimidation and attacks against human rights defenders (HRD), in particular women HRDs (WHRDs) and those defending land and environmental rights, housing rights and whistleblowers. Furthermore, the submission addresses concerns on the continued use of force by security forces in response to protests and legal restrictions which undermine the freedom of expression and opinion.

TunisiaIn this submission, CIVICUS and the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) highlight the increased deterioration of civic space in Tunisia, particularly since July 2021, when President Kais Saied suspended the parliament. Activists and journalists have faced increased attacks, prosecution and arrests, while access to information has been limited and media outlets have faced restrictions. In addition, the submission examines the government’s attempts to introduce restrictive legislation that could unduly limit the right to association.

The United Kingdom  CIVICUS highlights our concerns on the UK government’s repeated attempts to unduly restrict the right to the freedom of peaceful assembly. We examine how the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (PCSCB), introduced in March 2021, seeks to unduly limit this right. We discuss cases in which protesters advocating for climate justice and racial justice have faced undue restrictions, including detentions and excessive force. We also highlight how several laws have been used to unduly limit press and media freedoms.


Civic space in the United Kingdom is rated as Narrowed by the CIVICUS Monitor. In Brazil, Ecuador, Indonesia, Poland, South Africa, Tunisia it is rated as Obstructed, whereas in Algeria, India, Philippines civic space is rated as Repressed

 

Civil society presents key takeaways from the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Civil society organisations presented key takeaways of the 49th session of the UN Human Rights Council in a joint statement[1]delivered on 01 April 2022. The statement also draws attention on the missed opportunities to address key issues and situations.

 

Human Rights Council adopts resolution on Myanmar to maintain critical scrutiny on the country

CVICUS welcomes the resolution on Myanmar adopted by consensus at the Human Rights Council’s 49th Session. The resolution extends the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for a further year and maintains monitoring and reporting from the High Commissioner, with a focus on accountability.

The resolution further reiterated the Council’s ‘full support for the people of Myanmar and their aspirations for democracy and civilian government’. To this end, and as a first step, CIVICUS calls for the immediate recognition of the National Unity Government as the legitimate government of Myanmar.

‘As the military junta gets ever more brutal in its attempts to seize control, enhanced scrutiny on the country remains vital,’ said Cornelius Hanung, Advocacy and Campaigns Officer for Asia. ‘The resolution reiterates how dangerous Myanmar’s military is to its people, particularly those who dare to speak out.’

The resolution also raises serious concerns about violence against and arbitrary detention of journalists and media workers, human rights defenders, casualty recorders, lawyers, environmental and land rights activists, health and humanitarian workers and other civilians, and condemns the disproportionate use of force against peaceful protesters. 

Over 9,000 individuals are currently in arbitrary detention in Myanmar. Some were taken in terrifying night-time raids. Others were abducted off the streets, held in secret facilities, and denied access to lawyers. CIVICUS calls on the military junta to immediately release all those arbitrarily detained. Around 1,700 people have been killed by Myanmar’s military in the context of demonstrations against the coup since last year. 

ASEAN has, to date, failed to address any of these violations; implementation of its five-point consensus peace agreement reached last year to address the crisis has stalled. The resolution called on States to cease the ‘illicit’ transfer of arms to Myanmar but fell short of calling for the full suspension of arms to the military junta. 

‘For the last year, we have seen sustained and violent attacks against those fighting for democracy in Myanmar,’ said Cornelius Hanung. ‘We call on the international community to take immediate steps to protect those on the ground, including by imposing an arms embargo on the weapons used indiscriminately against the Myanmar people.’

This resolution is a step towards preventing further violations, but accountability for past and ongoing violations in Myanmar is still remote. We urge all member and observer states of the Council to support the referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court, as recommended by the High Commissioner.

Read our statement to the Council here.


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

 

New UN resolution stresses that States must ensure protection of human rights defenders in conflict situations

CIVICUS welcomes a new resolution on human rights defenders in conflict and post-conflict situations which was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council on 1 April at the end of the Council’s 49th session.

The resolution highlights the myriad roles of human rights defenders in conflict and post-conflict settings: from monitoring, documenting and raising awareness; to promoting accountability; fighting impunity; countering disinformation and misinformation; assisting victims of human rights violations and abuses in gaining access to justice; and raising the human rights impacts of conflict.

Human rights defenders working in these situations require specific holistic and security protections. We welcome that the resolution highlights the value of relocation initiatives to protect human rights defenders from violence and attacks. It also recalls the rights of everyone to freedom of movement, to seek and enjoy asylum, and to be protected against refoulement. We call on States to ensure such emergency support procedures are in place to facilitate relocation initiatives and to ensure protection of relocated defenders.

The resolution further urges States to create a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders, particularly in light of their role in conflict prevention and resolution and post-conflict reconstruction. The resolution raises concerns about legislative measures – including national security, counter-terrorism and cybercrime legislation, and laws regulating civil society organizations – that have been misused to target human rights defenders or endangered their safety. Such laws have contributed to the erosion of civic and democratic space in recent years all over the world, and we call on States to lift all undue restrictions on the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression.

We call on all States to support and implement the resolution, and we call on the Council to closely monitor compliance with the resolution and to hold States accountable for their treatment of human rights defenders.

 

Nicaragua: A new investigative mechanism established by the Council is a critical step towards accountability

Resolution on Nicaragua adopted at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

 

The UN-Philippines Programme on human rights falls short of addressing systematic violations & ensuring accountability

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Item 10: General debate on technical assistance and capacity-building - General Debate

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

 

The work of human rights defenders is crucial to the work of this Council

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

 Item 3 General Debate

Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

Thank you, Mr President.

The work of human rights defenders is crucial to the work of this council. It takes a lot of courage to stand up to power, at great personal risk. The report by the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders shows all too clearly what this risk entails.

In Belarus, seven members of the Human Rights Centre Viasna have been jailed for their human rights work – which is evidence of a larger repression. In Nicaragua, human rights defender María Esperanza Sánchez García has been arbitrarily detained for over two years under false charges. Nicaragua has systematically sought to silence the voices of human rights defenders.

The Special Rapporteur reiterated again that States must ensure an enabling environment to protect human rights defenders. Spurious legal proceedings brought against defenders not only act as a chilling effect but are also a serious drain of the human and financial resources of defenders and NGOs, compounding other serious challenges in access to resources which prevent defenders and NGOs from carrying out their work. We call on States to ensure access to resources for human rights defenders and other civil society.

The Council is currently negotiating a resolution which will highlight the work of human rights defenders in conflict and post-conflict situations which resonates all too well in the world today.

Human rights defenders play a crucial role in conflict prevention and in post-conflict reconstruction, and it is vital to ensure their safety and ability to operate. We call on all states to support and implement the resolution, and we call on the Council to hold states accountable for their treatment of human rights defenders.

 

Cambodia: the Council must be prepared to take action to guarantee human rights and free & fair elections

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Item 10: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia

Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

This is a critical moment for Cambodia ahead of local elections this year and national elections next year.

The resolution adopted last session has not resulted in any tangible human rights improvements on the ground. The Cambodian government continues to invoke laws to arbitrarily restrict human rights, undermine and weaken civil society, and criminalise individuals’ exercise of their right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

Human rights defenders, activists and journalists are regularly subjected to harassment and legal action. Labour strikes by the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees of NagaWorld (LRSU) have been disrupted and protesters met with state-sponsored violence, including sexual harassment, and arbitrary arrests. Cambodia’s highly politicised judicial system leaves defendants deemed a threat to the interests of the government with virtually no prospect of a fair trial.

The last round of elections, held in 2017 and 2018, were neither free nor fair. Since then, attacks on civil and political rights and the systematic dismantlement of any credible opposition have made Cambodia a de facto one-party State. Earlier this month, Cambodian courts convicted and sentenced 20 former members of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party to prison sentences of 5-10 years following a mass trial on bogus charges of incitement and plotting. Many other opposition activists are standing trial on politically motivated charges. Peaceful gatherings organised by families of jailed opposition activists to demand their release have frequently been met with excessive force by the authorities.

If the elections take place in the current climate, they will further entrench a ruling party which has proven that it will use any legislative or extra-legal means at its disposal to remain in power.

There are steps Cambodia can take to improve its human rights situation ahead of elections, which include removing restrictions on civil society; improving space for political participation; and ensuring that independent media can operate freely and without fear of reprisal.

This Council must be prepared to take further action on Cambodia should these not be met.

We thank you.


 Civic space in Cambodia is rated as repressed as by the CIVICUS Monitor 

 

Adoption of Thailand's Universal Periodic Review

Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on Human Rights -- Outcome Adoption for Thailand

Delivered by Ahmed Adam

On behalf of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation

Mr. President,

We note that Thailand has accepted 218 out of 278 recommendations it received during its 3rd cycle UPR. We regret that Thailand has rejected majority of the recommendations on civil and political rights, including those calling for the repeal of repressive laws that are being used to target defenders, raising questions about Thailand’s commitment to fully comply with its international human rights obligations.

Thailand has justified its rejection of these recommendations as a necessary measure to balance ‘the exercise of individual’s rights’ with the rights of others, ‘national security, public order and public health’. Thailand’s human rights record, however, suggests that this is yet another excuse to continue legitimising crack downs on fundamental freedoms, restrict the media and intimidate defenders and civil society, on the grounds of national security and public order using laws such as lese majeste, sedition and the Computer Crimes Act.

Pro-democracy protesters have faced restrictions, arrest and excessive force. Many activists, including children, continue to face intimidation and judicial harassment. From July 2020 to January 2022, at least 1,767 activists[1] were prosecuted for taking part in peaceful assemblies and dissent against public policies. Political activists and defenders have been held for extensive periods in pre-trial detention without access to lawyers and medical services as a form of reprisal to silence the pro-democracy movement.

While we recognize Thailand’s plans to accede to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, we regret its failure to support a recommendation to conduct prompt investigations into the disappearance of Wanchalearm Satsaksit and other political activists. Perpetrators must be held accountable.

Furthermore, the proposed amendment to the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA), and the draft Non-profit law would threaten the ability of civil society to operate. They contradict Thailand’s obligations under international human rights law, as well as its stated commitment during the UPR to guarantee fundamental freedoms.

Thailand’s National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights remains a disservice to defenders, as a vague and a purely aspirational document with no mechanisms for public disclosure, monitoring, and public participation.

We echo recommendations for Thailand to ratify international rights treaties and ensure that its domestic legislation comply with international human rights standards. Thailand must lift all undue restrictions on civic space, and end all forms of attacks against human rights defenders, civil society and the pro-democracy movement.

Thank you

[1] https://tlhr2014.com/archives/41025


Civic space in Thailand is rated as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor 

 

Adoption of Papua New Guinea's Universal Periodic Review

Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights -- Outcome Adoption for Papua New Guinea

Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

Thank you, Mr President.

Transparency International PNG, PIANGO and CIVICUS welcome the government of Papua New Guinea's engagement with the UPR process, although we regret its late response to recommendations.

Space for civil society remains significantly obstructed in Papua New Guinea. Human rights defenders (HRDs) face legal persecution such as arrest and detention as well as harassment, intimidation, threats and violence, including from companies that they criticise. The risk is greatest for HRDs who challenge vested political, social and economic interests, especially land and environmental HRDs.

Many journalists have reported intimidation aimed at influencing coverage of government figures and by agents of members of parliament. Just last month, long-standing and experienced news manager Sincha Dimara was suspended by her news outlet, allegedly following a request from the authorities.

There is no freedom of information legislation in Papua New Guinea and no domestic laws or policies to recognise and protect HRDs, who, along with journalists, continue to face harassment for undertaking their work.

Defamation laws, such as the Defamation Act 1962 and defamation sections in the Cybercrime Act, have had a chilling effect on freedom of expression and political discourse.

Our organisations call on the Government of Papua New Guinea to take concrete steps to address these concerns, including by:

  • Reviewing and amending criminal defamation provisions in the Cybercrime Act to ensure that it is in line with ICCPR article 19 and international law and standards;
  • Ensuring that journalists and writers can work freely and without fear of retribution for expressing critical opinions or exposing abuses or corruption by the authorities and companies;
  • Ensuring that HRDs are able to carry out their legitimate activities without fear or undue hindrance;
  • Establishing an independent national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles.

We thank you.


 Civic space in Papua New Guinea is rated as obstructed by the CIVICUS Monitor 

 

Adoption of Tanzania's Universal Periodic Review

Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on Human Rights -- Outcome Adoption for Tanzania

Delivered by Sibahle Zuma

CIVICUS and its partners welcome the Republic of Tanzania’s engagement with the UPR process and for accepting the majority of its recommendations.

We particularly welcome Tanzania’s commitment to amend the restrictive Media Services Act of 2016, which is a critical opportunity to address long-standing gaps in existing media legislation and has the potential to expand the space available to media actors to exercise their fundamental rights. We also welcome the lifting of the ban on the four newspapers – Mawio, Mwanahalisi, Tanzania Daima, and Mseto. We further welcome the Republic’s commitment to conducting investigations of all threats and attacks against and killings of journalists, civil society actors and human rights defenders and holding those responsible to account.

Notwithstanding these positive developments, we remain concerned about the civic space restrictions that remain. Tanzanian law guarantees a number of rights consistent with international standards; however, citizens' ability to exercise these rights is severely limited in practice. Individuals and organisations frequently refrain from exercising their right to free expression, both online and in print, out of fear of arrest, censorship, and persecution.

Recommendations to amend restrictive laws to guarantee freedom of expression have only been partially accepted.

While we welcome the recent release of opposition leader Freeman Mbowe after eight months in custody on charges believed to be politically motivated, we note that authorities continue to systematically use the justice system as a tool to target and harass members and leaders of the opposition. Authorities also ban public gatherings to thwart protests, and arrest peaceful protesters.

We regret that Tanzania did not accept a recommendation to amend the Non-Governmental Organisations Act (Amendments) Regulation 2018, in line with international human rights standards on freedoms of association and peaceful assembly.

CIVICUS and its partners call on the Government of the Republic of Tanzania to immediately and urgently take measures to implement all UPR recommendations, particularly those pertaining to efforts to addressing civic space and human rights.

We thank you.


Civic space in Tanzania is rated as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor 

 

 

Adoption of Hungary's Universal Periodic Review amidst increasing civic space restrictions

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

Delivered by Nicola Paccamiccio

Thank you, Mr President.

Mr President, CIVICUS welcomes the government of Hungary's engagement with the UPR process.

Since its last review, Hungary failed to implement any of its 33 recommendations relating to civic space. We regret that Hungary accepted just 13 of the 31 civic space recommendations it received during this cycle.

Space for civil society is increasingly being restricted in Hungary.

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have faced ongoing attempts to restrict their funding. Although the government repealed the Lex-NGO foreign funding law which was declared unlawful by the European Court of Justice in June 2020, it adopted a new law that threatens the work of NGOs by permitting the State Audit Office to selectively audit NGOs which have a budget that exceeds 20 million forints (55,000 Euros).

The Hungarian government also gave up 2,3 billion Norwegian kroner (€220 million) which it was set to receive from the European Economic Area (EEA) and Norway Grants for civil society. It set up the Urban Civic Fund (Városi Civil Alap) to replace the Norway Grants which has been financing ‘NGOs’ directly controlled by or linked to politicians of the Fidesz governing party.

The ongoing erosion of LGBTQI+ rights remains a concern, with the government passing several restrictive pieces of legislation which directly target LGBTQI+ people. The latest anti-LGBTQI propaganda law bans LGBTQI+ media, advertising and educational materials and has resulted in limiting freedom of expression and association for LGBTQI+ focused CSOs.

Media independence has been repeatedly threatened as a result of ongoing political influence over Hungary’s media regulatory bodies, with the government's control over the National Media and Communications Authority (NHHH) and its Media Council resulting in diminishing space for independent media. We particularly regret that Hungary did not accept recommendations to take specific measures to ensure media freedom.

Independent media have frequently been denied access to information; however, this practice has  further worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, journalists report being denied access to interview health experts and being barred from hospitals, with the government recently passing a decree stating that only the Operational Tribunal, the government centre in charge of managing the pandemic, would decide on press and media accreditation for journalists to access hospitals. 

A recent investigation revealed that the government used Pegasus spyware to surveil investigative journalists.

Mr President, CIVICUS calls on the Government of Hungary to take concrete steps to address these concerns, including by withdrawing restrictive legislation and amendments that restrict the activities of civil society organisations and their funding and refraining from obstructing the work of independent journalists.

We thank you.


 Civic space in Hungary is rated as obstructed by the CIVICUS Monitor

 

Council must heed warning signs and address rights violations in Russia, India and elsewhere

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Item 4 General Debate

Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

 

Joint statement: The Malaysian government continues to fall short on its human rights protections

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Summary: ARTICLE 19, the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, and Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) made this oral statement during the Item 4 General Debate at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council.

 

Joint statement on Human rights crisis in West Papua, Indonesia

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

 

Joint NGO Statement on the human rights situation in Russia

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Joint NGO Statement under item 4 on the human rights situation in Russia

Delivered by Dave Elseroad, Human Rights House Foundation 

I make this joint statement on behalf of Human Rights House Foundation, Amnesty International, CIVICUS, Human Rights Watch and the International Federation for Human Rights.

A year after last year’s joint statement on the situation in Russia, authorities there have further intensified the already unprecedented crackdown. A fully-fledged witch hunt against independent groups, media outlets and journalists, and political opposition, is decimating civil society and forcing many into exile.

In a shocking development, the authorities moved to shut down “Memorial,” one of the country’s most authoritative human rights organisations. At the end of December, courts ruled to “liquidate” the group’s key legal entities, International Memorial Society and Human Rights Center Memorial over alleged persistent noncompliance with the repressive legislation on “foreign agents.”  

The rulings came at the end of a particularly terrible year for human rights, during which authorities threw top opposition figure Alexei Navalny in prison, banned three organisations affiliated with him as “extremist,” launched criminal proceedings against several of his close associates, doubled down on Internet censorship, and designated more than 100 journalists and activists as "media-foreign agents."

Recent months also saw a dramatic escalation of repression in Chechnya, where Russian law and international human rights obligations have been emptied of meaning. With the Kremlin’s blessing, the local governor, Ramzan Kadyrov has been eviscerating all forms of dissent in Chechnya, often using collective punishment. In December 2021, Kadyrov opened a brutal offensive against his critics in the Chechen diaspora, by having the police  arbitrarily detain dozens of their Chechnya-based relatives. It continued in January with the abduction and arbitrary detention on fabricated charges of Zarema Musaeva, mother of human rights lawyer Abubakar Yangulbaev, and death threats issued against the Yangulbaevs family and some prominent human rights defenders and journalists.

It is crucial the High Commissioner and members of this Council press the Russian authorities to reverse the course of the unprecedented human rights crackdown, and appoint a dedicated Special Rapporteur to monitor and report on the human rights situation in Russia.


  Civic space in Russia is rated as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor 

 

As resistance grows against the Myanmar military, the Council must ensure accountability for violations

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Item 4: Interactive Debate on the High Commissioner’s report on Myanmar

Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

Thank you Mr President, and Madame High Commissioner.

In Myanmar, a human rights catastrophe is compounded by a humanitarian emergency.

For the past year, civil servants mobilised alongside students and the workers’ movement to resist the military’s attempt to seize control. In response, the Myanmar security forces intensified their crackdown on protests, escalating to battlefield weapons against protesters, killing nearly fifteen hundred people.

Resistance against the military continues to grow and unify within Myanmar, despite the great risk. At this critical point, we call for the immediate recognition of the National Unity Government as the legitimate government of Myanmar.

Over 9,000 are currently in arbitrary detention. They include human rights defenders, lawyers, trade unionists, activists and monks. Some were taken in terrifying night-time raids. Others were abducted off the streets, held in secret facilities and denied access to lawyers. We call on Myanmar to immediately release all those arbitrarily detained.

Internet shutdowns and willful restrictions to humanitarian aid prevent much-needed supplies from reaching those in dire need. ASEAN’s efforts to halt the grave violations have failed.

The ongoing impunity for serious crimes despite clear evidence is a travesty. We welcome particularly the High Commissioner’s recommendation to support the referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court, by the UN Security Council or by duly recognised national authorities, and we urge the Council to seriously consider further steps towards accountability.

As immediate steps towards protecting those on the ground, the junta must be deprived of resources and arms. To this end, we urge States to follow the recommendations of the High Commissioner to take immediate action to prevent arms flows to the Myanmar military, and apply other targeted sanctions on military economic interests as appropriate; and to encourage businesses that maintain connections with Myanmar military owned or affiliates to cease their operation.

To the High Commissioner, what are the further measures the Council must take to ensure that accountability and justice can be achieved?


  Civic space in Myanmar is rated as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor 

 

South Sudan: With no human rights improvement in sight, the Council must renew mandate of Commission for Human Rights

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Delivered by: Sibahle Zuma

Thank you Mr. President,

CIVICUS and its partners in South Sudan thank the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan for their crucial contributions to the protection and promotion of human rights in the country.

Its mandate remains crucial; there is no improvement in the human rights situation in the country as authorities continue, with impunity, repressions against peaceful protesters, harassment of civil society actors, and extrajudicial executions. Social and economic rights are dire and embezzlement of public funds fuels violations of these rights. Impunity and high levels of violence persist, including a five month-long attack by armed groups against civilians in Western Equatoria that killed dozens and displaced tens of thousands. Such violence continues to affect innocent civilians, threatens the country’s stability, and endangers prospects for lasting peace.

Civic space is closed; authorities continue to harass, detain, and clamp down on journalists, human rights defenders, activists, and persons perceived to oppose the government. This materialises as, among others, censoring media; suspension and closure of news outlets; seizure of newspapers; blocking access to information; revocation, or denial of accreditation of foreign correspondents; arbitrary arrests; and prolonged, detention of persons allegedly responsible for critical posts on social media.

The Government has committed to the implementation of the Revitalised Peace Agreement. However, key elements of the agreement, including relating transitional justice, remain unimplemented.

In this climate, it is vital that the Council renews the mandate of the Commission. We call on the Council to do so, while asking the Commission what member states must do to ensure its recommendations are implemented by South Sudan.

Thank you.


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

 UN Photo: Isaac Billy

 

 

Massive crackdown on civil society and human rights require Council’s resolute action

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Interactive Dialogue on the OHCHR report on the situation of human rights in Belarus in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election and in its aftermath

Delivered by Nicola Paccamiccio

Thank you Mr. President,

We welcome the report of the High Commissioner and share the concerns over the complete lack of accountability for perpetrators of human rights violations, including the detention of thousands of people which could amount to crimes against humanity.

In previous updates to the Council we expressed concerns over the targeting of protesters, detention and judicial persecution of human rights defenders and the prosecution of journalists.

The human rights situation continues to deteriorate. The Belarusian authorities continue to retaliate against human rights groups and the work they do.

Human rights defenders and their families are subjected to intrusive searches, arbitrary detentions and are held in inhumane conditions. Human rights defender Ales Bialiatski, Chair of the human rights group Viasna, several of his colleagues and hundreds of other human rights defenders are still detained.

More than 32 lawyers representing protesters, human rights defenders and members of the political opposition who are detained have had their licenses revoked by the authorities. In addition, lawyers are subjected to intrusive searches and other forms of harassment.

More than 300 civil society groups have been affected by liquidation procedures initiated by the government. In October 2021, the Supreme Court acceded to the demands of the Ministry of Justice to close down Belarus’ oldest human rights organisation – Belarusian Helsinki Committee.

Hundreds of journalists have been arbitrarily detained under trumped up charges and key media outlets, including the Belarusian Association of Journalists, which has been promoting the rights of journalists and media rights for 25 years, have been dissolved.  

Given the relentless deterioration of the human rights situation in the country and the lack of any efforts made by the authorities to hold perpetrators into account, we call on the members of the Human Rights Council to support and adopt a strong resolution on the human rights situation in Belarus which can further investigate violations with a view to holding perpetrators to account.

Thank you.


 Civic space in Belarus is rated as closed by the CIVICUS Monitor 

 

The Human Rights Council should listen to the voices of those affected

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Item 2 General Debate

Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

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

There is so much the Council can and should do during this session to address the grave situations you reported. The successes and failures of this Council have a tangible impact for those at the forefront of defending human rights.

Last week the Council acted strongly on the conflict in Ukraine to take a step towards accountability for Russian aggression. This session, we expect the Council to take its opportunity to strengthen human rights and protect civic space elsewhere. To build on accountability efforts in Myanmar. To take robust action on Nicaragua’s worsening human rights crisis, and to address the civic space backsliding in Cambodia. And to strengthen protection for those standing up for human rights in conflict zones.

The success and credibility of the Council relies on the engagement and participation of those on the frontline of human rights – the activists, journalists, environmentalists, colleagues – who risk their lives and freedom to stand up for human rights. The Council is stronger when it has the full participation of civil society, and can hear the voices of those affected. It can protect and support those trying to effect positive change in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. It can create a route to justice for victims of violations and accountability for perpetrators.

But it can only do so if its members, as set out in GA Resolution 60/251 ‘uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.’ Their failure to do so weakens the Council, and undermines its outcomes. We call on the Council to seek the reform needed to address this.

We thank you.

 

Russian Federation: UN General Assembly should suspend Russia’s membership of the UN Human Rights Council

We, the undersigned civil society organisations, call on Member States of the United Nations to take and support action at the UN General Assembly to suspend the Russian Federation as a member of the UN Human Rights Council.

 

Tigray: Escalating violence & restrictions to civic space requires action to protect those on the ground

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Interactive Dialogue on the oral update of the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights in the Tigray region of Ethiopia

Delivered by Sibahle Zuma

Thank you, Mister President.

CIVICUS and its partners in Ethiopia thank the High Commissioner for the timely update on the human rights situation in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. We are deeply concerned at the high levels of violence exemplified in the attack of the Bahrale refugee camp on 3 February which resulted in five refugees killed and several women kidnapped by armed men. We are getting reports of Tigrayan fighters killing civilians, gang-raping women and girls and looting, including from hospitals, with impunity.

We are particularly concerned about restrictions that have made it nearly impossible for civilians to receive critical supplies from humanitarian organisations. Humanitarian operations in Tigray are largely reduced or suspended due to the lack of fuel, cash and other supplies. The ongoing fighting in Afar contributes to the large-scale displacements in the region and hinders the delivery of humanitarian supplies into Tigray.

Civic space in Tigray has shrunk considerably with the repression of civil society both by State and non-state actors. Telecommunications restrictions continue with the aim of controlling communication channels. These restrictions risk silencing victims and hinder access to information.

The special session in December 2021 highlighted the urgent need for investigations and accountability for the serious violations of international law, possibly amounting to war crimes, that have rocked Tigray since November 2021 and which continue to escalate.

We ask the High Commissioner to provide more information on how States can best support civil society, including humanitarian groups, and to protect those on the ground amidst worsening conditions.

We thank you.


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

 

Amidst an ongoing human rights crisis, the Council must take stronger action

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

 

The situation in Sudan since the coup is critical, and risks further escalation

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

 

Eritrea’s membership of the Human Rights Council at odds with the dire human rights situation in the country

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Interactive Dialogue on the oral update of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea

Delivered by Helen Kidan

CIVICUS and the EMDHR welcome the Special Rapporteur’s update.

 

The UN must act to protect civilians & human rights defenders & hold Russia accountable

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Urgent Debate on Ukraine

Delivered by Susan Wilding

CIVICUS stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and calls for a swift, unified and targeted international response on Russia.

 

HRC49: Open letter to States on the draft resolution on human rights defenders

At its current session, the UN Human Rights Council will be discussing a draft resolution on human rights defenders operating in conflict and post-conflict situations.  This is a useful and timely focus providing a means to give effect to a range of recommendations including those contained in the report of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in 2020. 

 

Advocacy priorities at the 49th Session of UN Human Rights Council

The 49th Session of the Human Rights Council will run from 28 February to 1 April 2022. For the first time since 2020, the session will be held in hybrid mode: civil society will be able to engage in certain debates in person as well as via video, while still being limited to video statements during General Debates. CIVICUS encourages States to continue to highlight the importance of civil society participation, which makes the Human Rights Council stronger, more informed and more effective.

 

Belarus: Letter to Permanent Representatives of Member & Observer States of the Human Rights Council

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

Excellency,

The Human Rights Council will consider the possible renewal of the mandate of the OHCHR examination of the human rights situation in Belarus at its 49th session.

We, the undersigned national, international and Belarusian organisations, urge your delegation to support the renewal of this mandate, which is critical for maintaining scrutiny on Belarus’s human rights crisis.

The human rights situation in Belarus which necessitated Council action in 2021 is deteriorating. There are continuing cases of arbitrary detention and arrest, torture and cruel,  inhuman, or degrading treatment, and unfair and closed trials on trumped-up charges against persons perceived by the authorities as being critical of the government.

As of 1 February 2022, well over 1000 prisoners are recognized as “political prisoners” by the Belarusian human rights organisation Viasna. However, the number of those detained for political reasons is much higher and might reach as many as 5,000. Torture and ill-treatment of those detained continue, with the objective of eliciting forced “confessions”, and punishing and silencing those carrying out human rights and civic activities. 

In 2021, civil society came under prolonged systematic attack by the Belarusian authorities. The government liquidated at least 275 civil society organisations, including all independent human rights organisations. Authorities have initiated criminal cases against 13 human rights defenders, 12 of whom have been detained.

Legislative amendments to the Criminal Code adopted in December 2021 re-introduced criminal liability for "acting on behalf of unregistered or liquidated organisations.” The liquidation of all independent human rights organisations by the authorities has therefore led to a de facto criminalisation of human rights work. Independent media also face systematic persecution, with journalists frequently being labelled as “extremist”, targeted under defamation charges, and blocked from publishing. At least 31 journalists and media workers remain behind bars on criminal charges and at least 22 lawyers have been disbarred by Belarusian authorities on political grounds or because of their representation of defendants in politically sensitive cases . In addition, Belarus is considering introducing criminal proceedings in absentia, with implications for those who have fled the country.

Those who are subject to human rights violations in Belarus do not currently have any effective legal remedies or recourse to justice, and look to the United Nations Human Rights Council to ensure an accountability process for serious human rights violations.

At the 46th session, the Human Rights Council mandated the OHCHR to conduct an examination. This was a welcome development given the widespread and systematic, human rights violations that occurred in Belarus in the context of 2020’s presidential election, and the environment of impunity and lack of accountability within which they occurred.

Unfortunately, the OHCHR examination received only around 50 per cent of the budget for its work in 2021 against what was originally approved by the Council at HRC46. It became fully operational only in the final months of 2021. Despite these challenges, the OHCHR examination is still expected to provide a report to the Human Rights Council at the 49th session.

Given the current dire human rights situation in Belarus, and the ongoing importance and unique nature of the OHCHR examination, we call on this Council to renew the mandate at HRC49, and ensure its work is sufficiently resourced and funded.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of our highest consideration,

Signed

  • Amnesty International
  • ARTICLE 19
  • The Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House
  • CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  • Civil Rights Defenders
  • FIDH - International Federation for Human Rights
  • Human Rights House Foundation
  • Human Rights Watch
  • IFEX
  • Index on Censorship
  • International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI)
  • International Commission of Jurists 
  • World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

Civic space in Belarus is rated as "closed" by the CIVICUS Monitor . Belarus is also on the CIVICUS Monitor Watchlist 

 

Extend the mandate of the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan

To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council

 

Civil society’s expectations for the Human Rights Council in 2022

To the incoming President of the Human Rights Council, His Excellency Mr Federico Villegas, Permanent Representative of Argentina to the United Nations Office at Geneva

 

The Human Rights Council must establish a mechanism on Ethiopia

UN Human Rights Council – 33rd Special Session on Ethiopia
December 2021
Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

Thank you, Madame President.

We welcome the convening of this long overdue Special Session on Ethiopia. 

The High Commissioner’s update to the Council in November highlighted the need for transparent investigations and accountability for what has been unfolding in the country over the past year. The conflict and the human suffering have both escalated since then. 

Restrictions imposed have left humanitarian groups unable to carry out their work amidst increased humanitarian needs, food insecurity, and disruption of livelihoods. As a result of this loss in services, millions could be denied the aid they need to stay alive.

Fragile gains made by civil society over the past few years are at great risk. It has become dangerous for national civil society to engage in public advocacy, with pressure imposed and threats perpetrated by both State and non-State actors, compounded by a sweeping state of emergency. The online space for dissent is radically shrinking. Numerous journalists have been detained, with at least nine still in custody at the beginning of this month. 

The conflict itself has spread to neighbouring regions and threatens millions of civilians.

There is a clear absence of any transparent and credible national accountability process for violations and abuses committed. Following calls from the High Commissioner and civil society, the Council must act on its prevention mandate, which was established to avert atrocity and crimes against humanity. It can do so by adopting a resolution that establishes an independent investigative mechanism mandated to investigate, report on, and to collect and preserve evidence of alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law and violations of international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict.

We thank you. 

 

Nicaragua: The Council must establish an investigation and accountability mechanism at its next Session

High Commissioner’s intersessional update on Nicaragua

Delivered by Debora Leao, CIVICUS Monitor Research Officer for the Americas

 

Thailand: States must urge the government to address the deterioration of fundamental freedoms

As Thailand’s human rights record is examined at the Human Rights Council on 11 November 2021, CIVICUS and the Asia Democracy Network (ADN) call on UN member states to raise serious concerns about Thailand’s civic freedoms.

In the previous UPR cycle in 2016, Thailand committed to guarantee and respect the right to freedom of expression, assembly, and association; put an end to all forms of harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders; and ensure that all legislation comply with international human rights standards protecting fundamental freedoms. It received 35 recommendations related to civic space, accepting 10 and noting 25.

Thailand has not upheld these commitments. A joint submission by CIVICUS and ADN to the Human Rights Council in March 2021 highlighted Thailand’s ongoing use of repressive laws against human rights defenders, activists and journalists as well as harassment, physical attacks and allegations of enforced disappearances of activists. Our organizations also raised concerns about the crackdown on peaceful protests, the arrests and criminalization of protesters and the use of excessive force by the police.

Over the last four years, criminal defamation laws such as section 116 of the Penal Code on sedition have been used to quash dissent by the authorities. More recently, sedition charges have been brought against human rights defenders involved in protests calling for democratic reforms. Although rarely used since 2018, there has been an escalation of investigations and arrests for lèse majesté (section 112 of the Penal Code) since November 2020 against the leaders of the pro-democracy movement.

Other concerns related to freedom of expression include the Computer-Related Crime Act (CCA), which allows the authorities to conduct surveillance on online content and prosecute individuals under broadly defined offences and the cybersecurity law passed in 2019 that gives the government sweeping access to people's personal information. Outspoken media outlets and reporters have also often face intimidation and punishment for commentaries critical of the authorities.

“In the upcoming session at the Human Rights Council, states must use the opportunity to call out Thailand for its systematic repression of pro-democracy activists, human rights defenders and journalists. These actions are inconsistent with Thailand’s international obligations,” said Cornelius Hanung, Advocacy and Campaigns Officer for Asia from CIVICUS.

The Thai authorities have also imposed restrictions on peaceful protests in recent years and arbitrarily arrested peaceful protesters. In 2020, at least 90 people joining peaceful protests were arrested between 13 and 21 October 2020 by the police. The use of excessive force by the police to disperse protesters have been widely reported. On 17 November 2020, during a protest outside parliament, police used water cannon laced with purple dye and an apparent teargas chemical, as well as teargas and pepper spray grenades, to forcibly disperse thousands of protesters, including students, some of whom were children.

“No one should be detained merely for exercising the right to peaceful assemble. The authorities must immediately end its harassment of protest leaders and participants and release all those detained. There should also be prompt, effective and independent investigations into any violations during protests and perpetrators held accountable,” said Ichal Supriadi, Secretary General at Asia Democracy Network.

Civil society organizations, pro-democracy groups, student networks and labor groups in Thailand have been subjected to restrictions and multiple forms of intimidation for carrying out their work. More recently, the Thailand Government is considering a revised NGO law that contains arbitrary and vague-defined powers that could be used to muzzle civil society groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). It includes excessive punishments, places discriminatory restrictions on organizations that receive foreign funding and allows for intrusive surveillance and searches without judicial oversight.

Key recommendations that States should make include:

• Ensure that processes to draft any new laws to oversee the formation and operation of CSOs include meaningful consultation with CSOs and HRDs and are consistent with international law and standards related to the freedom of association.
• Provide HRDs, civil society members and journalists with a safe and secure environment in which they can carry out their work. Conduct impartial, thorough and effective investigations into all cases of attacks, harassment and intimidation against them and bring the perpetrators of such offences to justice.
• Specifically, repeal or review article 112 (lèse-majesté) and article 116 (sedition) of the Penal Code to bring it in line with the ICCPR, UN Human Rights Committee General Comment No. 34 and the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders
• Specifically, review and amend the Computer Crime Act and Cybersecurity law to ensure that these laws are in line with best practices and international standards in the area of the freedom of expression.
• Ensure that journalists can work freely and without fear of criminalization or reprisals for expressing critical opinions or covering topics that the government may deem sensitive.
• Unconditionally and immediately release all protesters detained for exercising their right to the freedom of peaceful assembly and drop all charges against them.
• Review and, if necessary, update existing human rights training for police and security forces, with the assistance of independent CSOs, to foster the more consistent application of international human rights standards, including the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms

The examination of Thailand will take place during the 39th Session of the UPR on 10 November 2021. The UPR is a process, in operation since 2008, which examines the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States every four and a half years. The review is an interactive dialogue between the State delegation and members of the Council and addresses a broad range of human rights topics. Following the review, a report and recommendations are prepared, which is discussed and adopted at the following session of the Human Rights Council.

Civic space in Thailand is rated as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor

 

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