18th session of the Human Rights Council Item 4

Interactive Dialogue

20 September 2011

Delivered by Anna Dobrovolskaya


Thank you Mme President,

I speak on behalf of the Youth Human Rights Movement, a member/partner of CIVICUS.

Mme High Commissioner,

We welcome your oral update on the human rights situation in Belarus.
We would like to address the issue of freedom of peaceful assembly in Belarus, as this is a fundamental right, guaranteed by the constitution of the country and by international agreements where Belarus is a part. The situation of freedom of peaceful assemblies in Belarus remains below international standards and the situation show no signs of improvement, even compared to the violent crackdown of the demonstration after the election on 19 December 2010.


ANNDCIVICUS and the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) declared their full support for the peaceful protests and the legitimate demands of the Syrian people during the Special Session on Syria at the UN Human Rights Council today. In a statement delivered by Renate Bloem, CIVICUS' representative to the UN in Geneva, CIVICUS and ANND condemned the criminal practices of the Syrian regime and called for the immediate end of the cycle of violence.

Here is the full statement.

17th session of the Human Rights Council
Item 4 Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention15 June 2011

Delivered by Renate Bloem

Thank you Mr. President,

CIVICUS repeatedly raised its concern about the situation in Belarus. Our partners from the ground spoke even last week here about the still deteriorating conditions for peaceful protesters and civil society activists and human rights defenders. We therefore wish to support any strong monitoring action by the Council, including adopting the draft resolution which should help to end the ongoing crackdown, the systemic violations and commit the Government to an urgently needed human rights reform which in particular should lift all unjustified restrictions placed on NGOs and civil society and guarantee in practice freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.

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

RE: Bahrain: Call for individual delegations to demonstrate commitment to ensuring that the situation in Bahrain is brought before the Human Rights Council within Item 4 statements

Geneva, 10th June 2011

Your Excellency,

As civil society organizations from around the world, we urge your delegation to make a strong statement and condemn the grave and deteriorating human rights situation in Bahrain at the UN Human Rights Council (Council/HRC) under Agenda Item 4 (“Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention”) that will take place at the HRC next week, the 15th of June.

Interactive Dialogue

9 June 2011 

Delivered by Renate Bloem


Thank you Mr. President,

Mme High Commissioner, CIVICUS welcomes your detailed update as requested by the resolution of the Special Session on Libya of 25 February, as complimentary information to the report of the Commission on Inquiry (COI). We laud you own continued calls for impartial investigations, protection of journalists and restraint in military interventions during this time. It is surely worthwhile to also recall the legal framework and applicable law both for State and non-State actors.

In this regard CIVICUS wants nevertheless to put the spotlight on the peculiar governance structure of the jamahiriyan system instituted by the Qadhafi regime since its revolution in 1969.  A one man rule using fear, intimidation and incentives based on loyalty without any independent legislative or judiciary institution, nor any independent media. Instead a number of paramilitary and security apparatuses to consolidate a climate of fear, mistrust and submission.

To Permanent Representatives of all
member states of the UN Human Rights Council

RE: Addressing the situation of human rights in Belarus at the UN Human Rights Council

Geneva, May 30, 2011

Your Excellency,

The undersigned NGOs are writing to urge your Government to support the adoption of a resolution on the human rights situation in Belarus at the 17th session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). We believe that in light of the alarming situation a Human Rights Council resolution unequivocally condemning the widespread human rights violations perpetrated in the aftermath of the December 19, 2010 presidential election and setting forth a monitoring and reporting mechanism for Belarus is needed. The current level of repression in Belarus is unprecedented and the government's efforts to stop international monitoring and shut down debate on its human rights record need to be countered.

On 21 February 2011, 130 international and national NGOs and activists called on the HRC to condemn the violations and to maintain pressure on the Government of Belarus. On 11 April 2011, a group of international and regional NGOs called the European Union to take the leadership for the adoption of an HRC resolution on the situation of human rights in Belarus and to establish a mechanism to document and report on these violations at the Council. We call on your Government to support the initiative on Belarus to be taken at the on‐going session of the HRC.

An already poor human rights situation in Belarus deteriorated significantly in the wake of the December 19, 2010 presidential election. That night, tens of thousands of demonstrators protested the election outcome. Riot police violently broke up the largely peaceful gathering, beating dozens of people, including the elderly and those who were trying to leave the square, and arresting hundreds. At least 700 protesters were sentenced, in unfair summary proceedings, to 10‐15 days of detention.

30 May 2011. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is a global movement of civil society with members and partners in over 100 countries. CIVICUS works to strengthen civil society and citizen action throughout the world.

CIVICUS welcomes the opportunity to comment on the final report of the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on The Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises, Professor John Ruggie. We believe that the report is timely and provides a key occasion to the international community to devise ways in which business practices can be compatible with the International Bill of Rights.

We remain deeply anxious about the activities of trans-national corporations and other business enterprises resulting in human rights abuses, including the right to a clean and healthy environment; access to land and natural resources; and adequate and decent standards of work. We are also concerned about the role played by certain corporations in propping up or supporting undemocratic governments as well as non-state actors who fail to respect the international human rights framework.

Uganda: Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review at the 12th Session of the UPR Working Group -  click to download (PDF)

Human Rights Council

16th SPECIAL SESSION on the Situation of Human Rights in the Syrian Arab Republic


29 April 2011

Mr. President,

The recent developments in the Arab region and the peaceful people’s revolutions, including in Bahrain, Yemen and Syria, reflect the climax of people’s peaceful resistance and struggle against corruption, and the violation of their political as well as economic and social rights. What we are witnessing is the result of the escalation of violations of human rights which are guaranteed by the core international human rights treaties, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Citizens of the region are in need of protection and promotion of their rights, and they are seeking to regain their human dignity.

Moreover, the world is witnessing gross and systematic human rights violations committed by the governments as the security forces continue to use force against peaceful protests of unarmed citizens. The international community through the United Nations should immediately take action with its core responsibility to use all appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian, and other peaceful means to stop violence against civilians in the above mentioned Arab countries.

In this respect, CIVICUS welcomes this special session, urging all the UN member states to endorse their “Responsibility to Protect” commitment without any further delay. They should support the people of the region in their call for the creation of a new governance model that establishes a new social contract (pact) securing solid rights-based foundations for the citizen- state relation, active participation in democratic governance that overcomes corruption and nepotism and establishes freedom, transparency and accountability, as well as a re-visited social and economic model that services people’s rights.

Human Rights Council

15th SPECIAL SESSION ON the Situation of Human Rights in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya

25 February 2011

Mr. President,

I am honored to speak on behalf of CIVICUS, The Arab NGO Network for Development and GCAP, the Global Call to Action against Poverty. A more comprehensive statement has been delivered as a written document.

We welcome the holding of this Special Session as an immediate and effective response to the ongoing gross and systematic human rights violations committed in Lybia. We are outraged by Colonel Ghadafi most recent threats to peaceful demonstrators to “cleanse Libya house by house” until protesters would give up, not excluding shooting them from the air. Arbitrary detentions and killings are now reaching the number of thousands.

The international community must now turn expression of grave concern into action and the UN member states must endorse their “Responsibility to Protect” commitment without any further delay.

On 23 March 2011, Sihasak Phuangketkeow, President of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), gabled the appointment of Maina Kiai to become the new Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association (SR on FoAA). Almost at the end of the 16th   session of the HRC, this appointment crowned CIVICUS’ and our partners’ efforts, begun more than a year ago. They had intensified during the last 6 months and were finalized at a moment in history when we saw a new dawn promising freedom and dignity, but also so many attempts to brutally suppress these hopes.

‘Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association’. This Article 20 of the UDHR had so far no official mechanism to monitor this right. Earlier attempts to create a Special Procedure were always doomed because a large number of States utterly opposed it. When the United States under the Obama Administration embraced the Council and was elected in 2009, one of her priorities was to establish such a mechanism. They provided leadership in a new broad based cross-regional approach to create a mandate for a SR on FoAA.

The 2nd Meeting of the Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group on the
Review of the Work and Functioning of the Human Rights Council
23 February 2011

Mr. President,

At the outset CIVICUS wishes to align itself with all previous speakers who commended the Facilitators for their extensive work, their thorough engagement and for the transparent, inclusive, forward looking and result oriented manner in which they guided us through the informal consultations.

CIVICUS had made a number of recommendations during the Review process so far, both formal and informal, and is pleased to note that some of them found enough support to be included in this compilation before us.

To: Permanent Representatives of all member states of the UN Human Rights Council Geneva, 21 February 2011

RE: NGO call for a UN Human Rights Council resolution on the situation of human rights in Belarus

Your Excellency,
We are writing to urge you to support the adoption of a resolution on Belarus at the 16th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. We believe it is critically important for the Human Rights Council to condemn unequivocally the widespread human rights violations perpetrated in the aftermath of the December 19, 2010 presidential election and the ongoing government crackdown on the opposition and civil society, and to articulate a set of improvements it expects the Belarusian government to implement to address these concerns.

As you may know, there are credible allegations that Belarusian riot police and other law enforcement personnel used excessive force to break up a massive demonstration against the election outcome, beating hundreds of people and causing serious injury to several, including presidential candidates Vladimir Neklyaev and Andrey Sannikov. Video and witness testimony gathered by Belarusian human rights groups amply demonstrates that law enforcement beat everyone within their reach with batons, kicked those who had fallen to the ground, and randomly beat people as they tried to escape.

Human Rights Council
Follow up to the
15th SPECIAL SESSION ON the Situation of Human Rights in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya

14 March 2011

M.. President,
CIVICUS joins all speakers today in addressing deepest condolences to the Government of Japan and its people.

M… President
CIVICUS had welcomed the Special Session on Libya and the strong unanimous outcome document, but is now very concerned about the ongoing precarious situation of the people of Libya who had courageously stood up against the dictatorial ruthless regime or should I say government of Moammar Gadhafi.

16th session of the  Human Rights Council

Item 3: Interactive Dialogue on SR HR defenders
10 March 2011

Delivered by Slava Mamedov

Thank you Mr. President,

CIVICUS thanks the Special Rapporteur, Ms Sekaggya, for her report and for her focus on women human rights defenders. We also welcome the detailed information on communications contained in Addendum1 of the report. We wish to highlight the sections on Turkmenistan (pages 317-318) and on Uzbekistan (pages 325-332)

Speaking here as an exiled Turkmen Human rights defender, I want to underscore that Turkmenistan gave only one response to 34 requests and has yet to deliver an invitation to any Special Rapporteur. Neither has Uzbekistan responded to the repeated requests for visits for more than 10 years. Yet, torture in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan countries continues to be routine component of investigations and detention, and is a common practice in the penal systems.

World Press Freedom Day
United Nations Geneva
3 May 2011

"Twenty years on from the Windhoek Declaration:
Freedom of the press in a changed world"

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. (Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Under this title the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Information Service and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization had invited to a joint seminar to discuss the current state of art of this inalienable right. They also wanted to look where we are now 20 years after the Windhoek Declaration - UNESCO 1991, when African journalists had laid down free press principles, which were adopted by the UN General Assembly and two years later declared into the World Press Freedom Day.

16th session of the Human Rights Council

Item 2: Annual Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Interactive Dialogue, 3 March 2011
Delivered by Renate Bloem

Thank you Mr. President,

Mme High Commissioner, CIVICUS welcomes your report, your audacity to speak up wherever violations occur throughout the world and your ongoing support for those who are in the frontline of engagement. We thank you for highlighting the leading role of civil society in the current movement in the Arab world and beyond towards a new dawn for freedom and democracy for the people, for a new paradigm where human rights and dignity are spelled in capital letters. Your rapid response in sending a delegation to Tunisia and to dispatch soon a senior staff team to Egypt is heartening.

Geneva, 2 March 2011

Letter from Civil Society Organizations to State Representatives:

“Defamation of Religions” at the 16th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council


We are writing to you to strongly urge your government to actively engage in the negotiations in the resolution on “combating defamation of religions” at the 16th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (“the Council”) that is currently taking place.  Specifically, we urge your government to vote against any resolution which refers to “defamation of religions” or similar terms such as “vilification of religions” and support any resolution which omits such terms and properly reflects international human rights law on the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of religion and non-discrimination.

This approach would reflect the growing consensus that has emerged at the UN General Assembly and the Council over the past two years that the concept of “defamation of religions” is counterproductive to global efforts to combat discrimination against religious minorities and serves to entrench repression and violence against non-believers and political dissidents.  As highlighted by the UN Special Rapporteurs on freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of religion or belief and contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in their Joint Statement at the Durban Review Conference in 2009, laws prohibiting “defamation of religions” and/or blasphemy are regularly relied on to justify discrimination, repression and violence against the religious minorities that they purport to protect.  There is also a growing consensus that the concept of “defamation of religions” undermines and distorts existing international human rights guarantees on freedom of expression, freedom of religion and non-discrimination.  International human rights law does not and should not protect religions per se, but does and should protect individuals and groups from discrimination, violence and hostility on the basis of their religion, racial or ethnic origin.  Religious beliefs, ideas and systems should not be exempt from discussion, debate or even sharp criticism, whether from internal or external commentators.

Furthermore, debates surrounding UN resolutions on “combating defamation of religions” have been amongst the most polarizing at the UN and have had the effect of stalling international cooperation on other human rights issues.  It is therefore necessary that States make concerted efforts at this Council session to renegotiate the terms of the resolution on “combating defamation of religions” and forge a consensus around a resolution which reflects international human rights law- including existing language as contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) – and which presents a robust international response to tackling discrimination against individuals and groups on religious grounds.

Your delegation has a key role to play in the forthcoming negotiations to renegotiate the deeply-contested resolution on “combating defamation of religions” and to realise a consensus resolution that both addresses religious discrimination and reflects international human rights standards.

In keeping with the reports of the Secretary-General on “combating defamation of religions” submitted to the 65th session of the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee and of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance submitted to the 15th session of the Council, we urge your delegation to:

  • Reject any reference to “defamation of religions”, whether in the title or text of any proposed resolution on this issue;
  • Promote language which properly reflects international human rights law, in particular relevant Articles of the ICCPR;
  • Reject any wording which seeks to protect religions, religious beliefs, symbols or “venerated personalities” from criticism;
  • Promote language that protects individual religious believers, secularists and religious minorities who face discrimination, hostility or violence because of their religion or beliefs or lack thereof;
  • Promote the full implementation of existing international human rights law on the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of religion and non-discrimination and the development of strategies by the Human Rights Council to promote intercultural and inter-religious dialogue.


Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
Human Rights Watch

Click here to download

April 6, 2011

To: All Member States of the UN Human Rights Council

Call for United Nations Human Rights Council Special Session on the Human Rights Situation in the Syrian Arab Republic

As Human Rights non‐governmental organizations from all regions of the world, we express our serious concerns over the deteriorating human rights situation in Syria since the country’s security forces started using live ammunition against protesters on 18 March 2011. We call on the UN Human Rights Council to pursue its mandate by responding to the grave on‐going crisis by convening a special session as soon as possible.

Since 18 March 2011, Syrian security forces have used live ammunition to silence growing protests, almost entirely peaceful, calling for greater freedoms in the country. Scores of protesters – at least 100 ‐ have been killed, apparently by live ammunition fired by the security forces, in Dera’a, al‐Sanamayn, Latakia, Duma and elsewhere. Under international law and applicable standards, lethal force may only be used when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life. The violent crackdown over Syria should be stopped immediately.



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