• Call on UNHRC to adopt a resolution on human rights situation in Occupied Palestine

    HRC 30th Special Session: Call on the United Nations Human Rights Council to adopt a resolution on the grave human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and in IsraelOn 27 May 2021, the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) will hold aSpecial Session in relation to the escalating human rights violations against the Palestinian people on both sides of the Green Line.

    A draft resolution from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) calling for the establishment of a commission of inquiry on the issue was circulated to UN member states. There is still time to call on our respective governments to support the resolution ahead of the vote in the UN Human Rights Council on 27 May 2021. Let’s act now!

    Israel’s repression against Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line intensified in May 2021 in response to widespread Palestinian demonstrations against Israel’s imminent threat of eviction and displacement of eight Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem. This is only the latest in a series of measures, which form part of Israel’s decades-long institutionalized regime of racial domination and oppression over the Palestinian people as a whole. While the international community has ensured Israel’s impunity since 1948, enabling Israel to continue to commit widespread and systematic human rights violations. Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line, and refugees and exiles abroad, are denied their right of return and continue to steadfastly resist 73 years of Israeli settler colonialism and apartheid.

    What can you do?

    This resolution needs all the support it can garner. Encourage your friends and colleagues throughout the world to mobilize their networks. In particular, we seek support from human rights and anti-racism movements in in all parts of the world to place pressure on their governments to support a commission of inquiry.

    1. Sign the petition through this link
    2. Write to your foreign ministry calling on it to support the OIC resolution and the establishment of an ongoing commission of inquiry on violations committed on both sides of the Green Line and to reject any proposed amendment that would undermine or seek to restrict or undermine the commission of inquiry. A list of contact information for foreign ministries can be found here.
    3. Send a copy of the correspondence to your country’s ambassador in Geneva. Contact information can be found here.
    4. Follow the Special Session, which will be livestreamed and use social media to tweet at your representatives and @UN_HRC with #SupportPalestineCOI to raise awareness about the debate and the call for an independent commission of inquiry.

    What is the Special Session about?

    The special session was convened based on a request by Pakistan, on behalf of the state members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and other UN members and observers indicated below. 

    In addition to the debate, the OIC has presented a resolution requesting that the HRC appoint an ongoing independent commission of inquiry to investigate, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel, all violations and abuses of international humanitarian law and international human rights law since 1 April 2021, which will also be mandated to study all underlying root causes, including Israel’s systemic discrimination and repression, thereby encompassing the crimes of apartheid and persecution.

    This comes following years of work by civil society, including Palestinian, regional and international human rights organisations, urging states to address the root causes of Israel’s settler colonialism and apartheid imposed over the Palestinian people as a whole. 

    Palestinian civil society, supported by a broad coalition of 120 regional and international organisations, urgedmember states to ensure the creation of a commission of inquiry to monitor, document and report on all violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including the latest Israeli attacks against Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line and address the root causes of Israel’s institutionalized regime of racial domination and oppression. In addition, the organisations called for the mechanism to address the root causes of Israel’s institutionalized regime of racial domination and oppression.

    What is a commission of inquiry?

    UN commissions of inquiry are international independent investigative bodies designed to examine serious situations of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, as applicable. Based on their mandates, they collect information on violations, establish the facts, and identify perpetrators. As such, these investigatory bodies can play an important role in promoting accountability for violations and preventing future violations.

    Why is this important?

    This is an important resolution as it is the first time the Human Rights Council:

    • Addresses the root causes of Israel’s systemic discrimination, including Israel’s settler colonialism and apartheid, by establishing a commission of inquiry, which would address Israeli violations against the Palestinian people;
    • Includes a geographic scope encompassing, for the first time, Israeli violations targeting the Palestinian people on both sides of the Green Line, in recognition that Israel’s institutionalized regime of racial domination and oppression targets the Palestinian people as a whole.

    What is at stake?

    1. Some delegations may attempt to change the language and weaken the resolution given that the proposed commission of inquiry has a real potential to begin to address the root causes of human rights violations in Palestine, to seek meaningful accountability, and to preserve evidence that can be used in international criminal proceedings to hold perpetrators accountable.
    2. We need UN member states to take the opportunity to establish an ongoing commission of inquiry that addresses the current systematic violations but also future violations in the context of Israel’s institutionalized regime of racial domination and oppression over the Palestinian people, with the aim to bring an end to decades of impunity and international inaction in the face of mass atrocities against Palestinians.
  • Singapore yet to address civic freedom gaps ahead of UN review

    Human rights groups CIVICUS and FORUM-ASIA call on UN member states to urge the government of Singapore to protect civic freedoms as its human rights record is examined by the UN Human Rights Council on 12 May 2021 as part of the 38th session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). 

    At the country’s second UPR in April 2016, UN member states made 22 recommendations that directly related to civic space. Singapore subsequently accepted eight recommendations, committing to taking concrete measures to, among others, “ensure that freedom of opinion and expression including for individuals and organizations communicating via online public platforms”, “protect freedom of the press” and ensuring “the full enjoyment of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.”

    In a joint submission to the Human Rights Council this UPR cycle, our organisations assessed implementation of these recommendations and compliance with international human rights law and standards over the last five years. The submission found that since 2016, Singapore has persistently failed to address unwarranted restrictions on civic space, specifically related to the rights to the freedoms of peaceful assembly and expression.

    Singapore has yet to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which imposes obligations on states to respect and protect the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly, and expression. Further, numerous recommendations to establish a national human rights institution have been ignored.

    Despite commitments to freedom of expression which are guaranteed in the Constitution, the government has continued to use restrictive laws such as criminal defamation provisions under sections 499 to 502 of the Penal Code to criminalise criticism of the authorities. Civil defamation lawsuits have also been deployed to sue and seek hefty financial compensation in terms of damages from individuals who express dissent.

    The 2017 Administration of Justice (Protection) Act, a vaguely worded contempt of court law, has been used to prosecute human rights defenders for criticism of the courts, under the guise of protecting the judicial system. The authorities have also failed to reform laws restricting media freedom and introduced the 2019 Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) to harass the political opposition, activists, journalists and civil society.

    ‘States must take the opportunity of Singapore’s human rights review to hold the government to account for violations. The authorities have not only failed to deliver on the human rights commitments it made, but has continued to use the judicial system to silence dissent and introduced additional laws to restrict freedom of expression,’ said David Kode Advocacy & Campaign Lead at CIVICUS

    The 2009 Public Order Act (POA), which aims to regulate assemblies and processions in public places, has been systematically used to restrict peaceful assembly in Singapore. It has been used regularly to harass and investigate activists and critics for no other reason than expressing their views and organising peaceful gatherings, and even towards solo protests. The POA law was further amended in 2017 to stipulate that organisers must apply for a permit at least 28 days in advance of an event and also provided the police commissioner with specific authority to reject any permit application for an assembly “directed towards a political end” if any foreigner is found to be involved. Such restrictions are inconsistent with international law and standards. 

    ‘The right to peacefully protest is an essential part of a democracy, which Singapore claims to be. It is absurd that such acts are consistently disrupted under the guise of public order. This clearly shows the lengths the Singaporean authorities are willing to go to silence dissent and must be reflected in recommendations made during the country’s UPR,’ said Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu, Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA

    As highlighted in our joint submission, CIVICUS and FORUM-ASIA urge states to make recommendations to Singapore which if implemented would guarantee the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression, and the state’s duty to protect.

    Key recommendations that should be made include:

    • Ensure that human rights defenders are able to carry out their legitimate activities without fear or undue hindrance, obstruction, or legal and administrative harassment. 
    • Repeal or amend repressive laws including the POA and the 2017 Administration of Justice (Protection) Act, the Sedition Act, in accordance with the ICCPR and the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. 
    • Reform defamation provisions in the Penal Code, in conformity with Article 19 of the ICCPR, and refrain from abusing civil defamation provisions to curtail the freedoms protected under Article 19. 
    • Allow unfettered access to online information resources by repealing the POFMA, which criminalises and imposes arbitrary restrictions on the right to the freedom of expression and the right to access information, and adopting a law on accessing information, in line with international human rights standards.
    • Amend the Public Order Act 2009 in order to guarantee fully the right to the freedom of peaceful assembly, in line with the ICCPR and other international human rights standards. 
    • Drop charges or quash convictions against human rights defenders, government critics, journalists and bloggers for exercising their fundamental rights to the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression, and review their cases to prevent further harassment. 
    • Ratify international human rights treaties in particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and ensure its implementation in law and practice.

    The examination of Singapore will take place during the 38th Session of the UPR. 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. 

  • South Sudan: Widespread rights violations persist

    Statement at the 48th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Interactive Dialogue with the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan

    Delivered by Paul Mulindwa

    CIVICUS and its partners in South Sudan thank the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan for their update and this crucial continued scrutiny.

    We welcome steps taken to implement recommendations of the Revitalized Peace Agreement. However, its implementation continues to be slow.

    Despite renewed commitment towards the formation of the Government of National Unity, there is no improvement in the human rights situation. Dire humanitarian, food security, and economic conditions in the country continue to have an enormously detrimental effect on civilians. Localised violence continues unabated in many parts of the country. We are gravely concerned by reports of extrajudicial executions carried out by government forces in Warrap State in July of at least 42 people. Thirteen people were arbitrarily executed in June at the instruction of state officials in Cueibet and Rumbek East.

    Civic space is closed, with independent and critical voices, including human rights defenders particularly targeted. The Commission has highlighted the troubling practice of surveillance of journalists and activists to instil fear. We continue to see restrictions on freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association; arbitrary arrest and detention; and sexual violence. The current arrests of activists and crackdown on peaceful protests in South Sudan is particularly concerning.

    We call on the South Sudan government to take concrete steps to ensure human security and protection of human rights.

    We ask the Commission what are the next steps that the Council and members states do to further accountability, as well as to enhance protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms?

    We thank you. 

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

  • Venezuela: la falta de garantías para las libertades fundamentales exige el control permanente del Consejo

    Consejo de Derechos Humanos de la ONU - 52ª Sesión

    Diálogo interactivo sobre la actualización oral del Alto Comisionado sobre Venezuela

    Pronunciada por Marysabel Rodríguez

    En Venezuela no existen garantías para la libertad de expresión, la protesta pacífica y el derecho a la asociación. La violación a las libertades civiles afectan la exigencias de los derechos económicos y sociales.

    En 2022, al menos 80 emisoras radiales fueron cerradas por órdenes del gobierno. La gestión arbitraria y poco transparente de la Comisión Nacional de Telecomunicaciones dejó en incertidumbre jurídica a la mayoría de las emisoras desde hace años.

    La “ley contra el odio” se sigue usando hacia personas por expresarse. Al menos 11 detenciones arbitrarias se registraron el año pasado.

    La protesta social es reprimida. En jornadas recientes, trabajadores públicos y docentes fueron hostigados, despedidos y amenazados. Se penaliza la huelga laboral; en enero, 18 trabajadores de la Corporación Venezolana de Guayana fueron detenidos y procesados judicialmente por exigir mejores condiciones laborales.

    Dos iniciativas legales para regular el derecho a la asociación avanzan actualmente. De aprobarse, consolidarán la criminalización hacia personas, colectivos y organizaciones dedicadas a labores sociales, humanitarias y de derechos humanos. Ninguno de los proyectos de ley es de acceso público ni se han dado a conocer de manera oficial.

    Exhortamos a este Consejo a mantener la atención sobre Venezuela; consolidar la presencia de la oficina del Alto Comisionado en el país, apoyar el trabajo de la Misión de Determinación de los Hechos y toda iniciativa que evite mayores restricciones al espacio cívico en el país.

    Muchas gracias.



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