CIVICUS urges Cambodia, Georgia, Somalia and Yemen to take tangible and consistent steps to protect civic space

 

Statement at the 54th Session of the UN Human Rights Council 

Item 10 General Debate

Delivered by Róisín Dunbar

CIVICUS regrets that despite the technical assistance provided, lack of commitment to civic space by States continues to hinder full enjoyment of human rights. 

In Cambodia, laws are routinely misused to criminalise activists, suppress civil society and restrict protests. The restrictive environment in which the July 2023 elections took place is emblematic of the rapidly shrinking civic space in Cambodia. We urge the government to release all detained activists and respect and protect fundamental freedoms. 

In Georgia, we have continued to record concerning developments regarding civic space. Recent accusations from the country’s security services and political leadership against Serbian NGO CANVAS of inciting a violent overthrow of the government, and the surveillance and questioning of CANVAS activists represent an unacceptable interference on the freedom of association. We are further concerned by the convictions of peaceful protesters for displaying critical slogans, or even blank banners. We call on Georgia to ensure a safe environment for human rights defenders free of intimidation and the full enjoyment of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly.

We are encouraged by the Somali government’s commitment to implement a one-person, one vote system from next year, a change which would positively impact civic participation. However, we remain concerned by the continued targeting of journalists and human rights defenders using the outdated Penal Code, and through physical attacks by state and non-state actors. We call on Somalia to immediately and unconditionally release journalists, media workers and human rights defenders currently detained, and ensure their protection as they undertake their peaceful work.

In Yemen, civil society organisations have reported being subjected to a host of restrictive measures including, arbitrary surveillance, limitations on freedom of expression, physical attacks and financial constraints. Human rights defenders, activists and journalists have been subjected to threats, kidnappings, physical assaults, defamation campaigns and arbitrary detention. We urge the conflicting parties to provide civil society, human rights defenders and journalists with a safe and secure environment in which to carry out their work.

We underscore the responsibility to protect human rights primarily lies with States and in this regard, we urge States to take tangible and consistent measures to protect and promote civic space.

We, thank you

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