In advance of the start of the 3rd cycle of the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in April 2017, CIVICUS has made joint and stand-alone submissions examining the environment for civil society in 11 countries. The submissions specifically highlight a broad range of unwarranted legal and extra-legal restrictions on the rights to freedom of assembly, association, expression and the work of human rights defenders. To compliment these narrative reports, CIVICUS and its partners provide an analysis of the State under Review’s level of domestic implementation of recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle in May 2012 and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.
Countries examined: Algeria, Bahrain, Brazil, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Morocco, the Philippines, Poland, South Africa, and Tunisia (see from list below)
Algeria: CIVICUS and the Ibn Khaldoun Center for Research and Maghrebi Studies (IKCRMS) highlight the use of restrictive legislation to unwarrantedly limit the work of independent civil society organisations and impede peaceful protests. CIVICUS and IKCRMS further discuss continued attempts to silence independent media through the undue closure of independent outlets and the persecution of individuals and groups for exercising their right to freedom of expression.
Bahrain: CIVICUS, the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) underscore the severe and continued restrictions on freedom of expression including the routine judicial persecution and harassment of individuals and groups for taking part in legitimate forms of dissent both online and offline. CIVICUS, BCHR and GCHR further examine the targeting of human rights defenders, journalists, religious leaders, peaceful protesters and civil society representatives through reprisals, travel bans, prison sentences, torture and other unjustified limitations.
Brazil: CIVICUS and Conectas highlight the endemic levels of violence against journalists and human rights defenders, and particularly against land rights, indigenous and environmental activists. The submission further examines the use of legal and extra-legal restrictions on the right to free assembly in Brazil, leading to increasingly violent policing and repression of protests. It provides recommendations to the Government of Brazil to ensure an enabling environment for civil society, in accordance with the rights enshrined in Brazil’s Constitution as well as international best practice.
Ecuador: CIVICUS, FCD (Citizen and Development Foundation), Fundamedios (Andean Foundation for the Observation and Study of the Media) and AEDEP (Ecuadorean Association of Newspapers’ Editors) address concerns regarding the expansion of state controls over Ecuadorean civil society. The submission also discusses the situation of human rights defenders, particularly those working on the rights of indigenous peoples and sexual and reproductive rights. It concludes with recommendations to the Government of Ecuador on how to improve the conditions for civil society to operate free from unwarranted state interference, communicate and cooperate, seek and secure funding, and publically present their demands without fear of retaliation.
India: CIVICUS and Human Rights Defenders Alert, supported by 19 Indian civil society organisations, examine India’s fulfilment of the rights to freedom of association, assembly, and expression and unwarranted restrictions on human rights defenders since its previous UPR examination. We look at unwarranted restrictions on civil society groups, the use of restrictive legislation to de-register organisations and the suspension of the bank accounts of others to prevent them from carrying out their activities. We further examine attacks, intimidation and judicial persecution of human rights defenders, the brutal assassination of journalists and often violent dispersal of peaceful demonstrations
Indonesia: CIVICUS, LBH PERS, ICJR, ELSAM, YAPPIKA focus on the failure of the government of Indonesia to fully implement all the recommendations it accepted and noted during its previous UPR review. We assess attacks and persecution of human rights defenders, the assassination of an environmental rights activist, harassment and physical attacks on journalists and the use of restrictive legislation, circulars and policies to target freedom of expression and online freedoms. The submission looks at the use of excessive force to disperse peaceful demonstrations and the use of pre-emptive measures to ban protests especially those held on issues affecting West Papuans.
Morocco: CIVICUS highlights the criminalisation, intimidation and harassment of civil society groups through the imposition of travel bans, banning of meetings and conferences of CSOs and unjustifiable denial of formal registration of vocal groups. CIVICUS underscores the lack of implementation of recommendations in relation to freedom of expression, including a number of legitimate forms of free speech that continue to be criminalised.
The Philippines: CIVICUS and KARAPATAN examine the continued extrajudicial killing, intimidation and harassment of human right defenders, journalists and media workers as well as legal restrictions on the right to freedom of expression, in particular the criminalisation of libel and overbroad provisions of the 2012 Cybercrime Prevention Act. CIVICUS and KARAPATAN asses The Philippines level of implementation of a range of UPR recommendations pertaining to civic space.
Poland: CIVICUS and the Committee for the Defence of Democracy (KOD) highlight grave concerns on the sharp decline in respect for civic space that has occurred since late 2015 when the newly-elected government began to implement policies and introduce laws clearly aimed at curbing media freedom, free expression and dissent. As Poland appears for the third time before the UPR, CIVICUS and KOD make a series of recommendations on how Poland can reverse course and strengthen respect for the fundamental freedoms in line with its international commitments.
South Africa: CIVICUS and HURISA discuss the harassment of peaceful protestors and demonstrators by state security agents which impedes the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, the extra-judicial killing of human rights defenders, and the failure to sufficiently amend or repeal restrictive legislation limiting freedom of information. CIVICUS and HURISA further provide an analysis of South Africa’s operationalisation of UPR recommendations on freedom of assembly, association, expression and HRDs.
Tunisia: CIVICUS and The Movement for Amazigh of Tunisa discuss the legal and extra-legal restrictions undermining freedom of expression in the country, including legal provisions that criminalise defamation, overbroad definitions in the anti-terrorism legislation and a number of recent attacks against journalists and media workers. CIVICUS and Amazigh of Tunisia further examine restrictive pre-revolution legislation that impedes the freedom of assembly.