Burundi at UN Human Rights Council: Adoption of Universal Periodic Review Report
38th Session of UN Human Rights Council
Adoption of the UPR report of Burundi
Mr. President, DefendDefenders and CIVICUS take note of the government’s engagement with the UPR process and welcome its decision to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or punishment. However, we regret the fact that the provisions of the Optional Protocol have not been implemented. In fact torture and the inhumane treatment of citizens have become commonplace in Burundi since its last review.
Burundi has not fully implemented any of the recommendations it accepted relating to civic space. Instead the authorities have selectively used restrictive legislation like the Law on Assemblies and Public Demonstrations (2013) to pre-empt and prevent peaceful demonstrations by citizens.
Since April 2015, the Burundian authorities have used violence against peaceful protesters and are responsible for the numerous killings, abductions, acts of torture, disappearances and arbitrary arrests of real or perceived opponents of the regime. These acts have largely been carried out by security forces, intelligence services and the youth wing of the ruling party – the Imbonerakure. Some of these crimes amount to crimes against humanity and they have been carried out with utmost impunity.
Legal restrictions adopted by the national assembly that increase government control of the activities and funding of national and international NGOs and the ban imposed on some civil society organisations have stifled freedom of association. The violence against representatives of civil society has forced many human rights organisations to close down and most of them now operate from abroad.
Mr. President, DefendDefenders and CIVICUS call on the Government of Burundi to take proactive measures to address these concerns and implement recommendations to create and maintain, in law and in practice, an enabling environment for civil society.
CIVICUS UN Universal Periodic Review submissions on civil society space
CIVICUS and its partners have submitted joint and stand-alone UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on eight countries to the UN Human Rights Council in advance of the 31st UPR session (November 2018). 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 second UPR cycle over 4-years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.
Chad EN or FR -CIVICUS and Réseau Des Défenseurs Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale (REDHAC) examine ongoing attacks on and intimidation, harassment and judicial persecution of HRDs, leaders of citizen movements and CSO representatives. We further discuss restrictions on the freedoms of assembly and association in Chad including through lengthy bans and violent repression of protests and the targeting of unions which protest against austerity measures or the reduction of salaries for workers.
China - CIVICUS and the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) outline serious concerns related to the escalation of repression against human rights defenders, particularly since 2015, which Chinese activists described as one of the worst years in the ongoing crackdown on peaceful activism. The submission also describes unlawful restrictions on the freedom of association, including through the Charity Law and the Law on the Administration of Activities of Overseas Nongovernmental Organizations. CIVICUS and AHRC call on the government of China to immediately release all HRDs arrested as part of the “709 crackdown” and repeal all laws restricting civic space in China.
Jordan -CIVICUS, the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) and Phenix Center highlight the lack of implementation of recommendations on the right to freedom of association. Current legislation governing the formation and operation of civil society organisations (CSOs), including trade unions, imposes severe restrictions on the establishment and operation of CSOs. We are also concerned by the restrictive legal framework that regulates the right to freedom of expression and the authorities’ routine use of these laws to silent critical voices.
Malaysia - CIVICUS and Pusat KOMAS highlight a range of restrictive laws used to constrain freedom of association and to investigate and prosecute government critics and peaceful protesters, in their exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. We also raise concerns about the harassment of and threats against HRDs as well as the increasing use of arbitrary travel bans by the government to deter their freedom of movement.
Mexico (ES) - CIVICUS and the Front for the Freedom of Expression and Social Protest (Frente por la Libertad de Expresión y la Protesta Social - FLEPS) address concerns regarding the threats, attacks and extrajudicial killings of HRDs and journalists for undertaking their legitimate work. The submission further examines the multiple ways in which dissent is stifled through stigmatisation, criminalisation and violent suppression of social protests and restrictions on freedom of expression and independent media.
Nigeria - CIVICUS and the Nigeria Network of NGOs (NNGO) examine the difficult operating environment for journalists who are routinely harassed, beaten and sometime killed for carrying out their journalistic work. CIVICUS and the NNGO are concerned by the actions of some officers of the Department of State Services who are at the forefront of persecuting human rights defenders.
Saudi Arabia - CIVICUS, the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR) and Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) address Saudi Arabia’s continued targeting and criminalization of civil society and human rights activists, particularly under the auspices of its counter-terror laws, which severely undermine the freedoms of association, expression and assembly.
Senegal - CIVICUS and the Coalition Sénégalaise des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (COSEDDH) document a number of violations of the freedom of expression and restrictions on media outlets. In particular we discuss the continued criminalisation of press offences in the new Press Code, including criminal defamation, among other restrictive provisions. Since its last UPR examination, implementation gaps were found with regard to the rights to the freedom of expression and issues relating to the freedom of peaceful assembly.
CIVICUS UN Universal Periodic Review submissions on civil society space in Benin, Guatemala, Pakistan, Peru, Sri Lanka and Zambia
The United Nations Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review (UPR) 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 six countries in advance of the 42nd UPR session in January-February 2023. 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.
Benin - See consolidated report | See full versions in English and French – The submission by the Coalition des Défenseurs des Droits Humains-Benin (CDDH-Bénin), West African Human Rights Defenders Network (WAHRDN/ROADDH), the Réseau des Femmes Leaders pour le Développement (RFLD) and CIVICUS, highlights the adoption of restrictive legislation, particularly the Criminal Code and the Digital Code, with its provisions being used against human rights defenders (HRDs) and journalists. Additionally, the submission also draws attention to the increasing restrictions and violations of the freedom of peaceful assembly, which includes blanket bans on protests, the militarisation of law enforcement and the use of excessive force, including live ammunition, against protesters, along with increasing legal restrictions to the right to protest.
Guatemala - See consolidated report | See full versions in English | Spanish –CIVICUS, REDLAD and Accíon Ciudadania detail the use of extreme violence against HRDs and journalists, aggravated by the continued criminalisation and stigmatisation they face from authorities and non-state actors. In this submission, we also express our concern on the adoption of a restrictive legislative framework which could significantly impact on the work of civil society in Guatemala, in a context where the work of CSOs is already vulnerable to obstruction through abusive judicial and administrative proceedings.
Pakistan - See consolidated report | See full version in English –In this submission, CIVICUS and Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) report, among other issues, the legal and extra-legal barriers imposed on civil society organisations (CSOs) registration and operations in Pakistan, the criminalisation, threats and harassment of human rights defenders and the failure to hold perpetrators to account. It also highlights the alarming efforts to intimidate and censor journalists and media outlets, the criminalisation of online expression and restrictions and attacks on peaceful protests, especially by ethnic Pashtun minorities and women’s rights activists.
Peru- See consolidated report | See full versions in English and Spanish –CIVICUS and Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos (APRODEH) underline the pervasive violence against HRDs, civil society groups and protesters, who continue to face attacks harassment stigmatisation and killings. State and non-state actors, despite the newly adopted protection mechanisms, have been able to escalate attacks with impunity. The submission further reports cases of judicial harassment against journalists and the gradual reduction of the space for a free and independent press.
Sri Lanka - See consolidated report | See full version in English –In this joint submission, CIVICUS and the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) denounce the ongoing use of excessive force against HRDs and protesters and restrictive laws to limit civic space and fundamental freedoms. Between 2017 and 2022, we observed alarming trends of a government crackdown on protests, arbitrary detention against activists and violations of the freedoms of opinion and expression. The submission further reports the alarming and continuous judicial persecution, harassment and intimidation of HRDs, journalists, student protesters and others expressing dissenting opinions against the government.
Zambia - See consolidated report | See full version in English – CIVICUS and Governance, Elections, Advocacy, Research Services Initiative Zambia (GEARS Initiative) report acts of intimidation and attacks on citizens, HRDs, CSOs and journalists in the period leading up to and during the presidential and parliamentary elections in August 2021. The submission also documents the continued use of excessive force by security forces in response to protests. We are moreover particularly worried by the restrictive legal framework, which undermines the freedoms of association, assembly and expression.
Civic space in Guatemala, Peru, Sri Lanka and Zambia is rated Obstructed, whereas Benin and Pakistan’s is rated as Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor.
CIVICUS' United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Submissions on Civil Society Space
CIVICUS and its partners have submitted joint and stand-alone UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on 4 countries in advance of the 39th UPR session in October 2021. 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 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.
Civil Society calls on Fiji to address civic space concerns
On 6 November 2019, Fiji’s human rights record will be reviewed by UN member states as part of the 34th session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Civil society groups CIVICUS, the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Government Organisation (PIANGO), Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM) and Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF) urge the Fiji government to use this opportunity to make commitments to improve civic freedoms in the country. We also call on the international community to use this opportunity to make recommendations to expand the democratic space in the country.
Civic space in Fiji is currently rated as ‘obstructed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor, a global tool tracking civic space, owing to the serious constraints on fundamental rights in the country. This is due to an array of restrictive laws that have been used to silence freedoms of opinion and expression as well as ongoing restrictions to the right to peaceful assembly.
During a country visit in February 2018, then-UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said that civil society groups are facing a “narrow civic space and the suppression of dissenting voices." As documented in a joint submission to the Human Rights Council in March 2019, since Fiji’s last review in 2014, human rights defenders have continued to face harassment for undertaking their work.
Although Article 17 of the Constitution of Fiji guarantees the “right to freedom of speech, expression, thought, opinion and publication” in law, policy and practice, restrictions on the freedom of expression and media freedom persist. Sedition provisions in the Crimes Act have been used by the Fijian authorities to target the media and opposition politicians while the Public Order (Amendment) Act has also been used to harass journalists and civil society. The Media Industry Development Act (Media Act) has also created a chilling effect for media and press freedom.
The right to peaceful assembly has been arbitrarily restricted with the use of the Public Order (Amendment) Act 2014, particularly for trade unions. The Fiji Trade Union Congress were denied authorization to hold a march at least six times between 2018 and 2019, without any valid reason and often at the last minute.
Our joint submission presented a number of recommendations to the Fiji government to address these civic space concerns.
These include, among others:
- Take measures to foster a safe, respectful and enabling environment for civil society, including by removing legal and policy measures that unwarrantedly limit the right to association.
- Ensure freedom of expression and media freedom by bringing all national legislation into line with international standards.
- Halt the use of sedition, contempt for scandalising the courts and judiciary, and other laws against individuals simply for peacefully exercising their right to the freedom of expression.
- Amend the Public Order (Amendment) Act in order to guarantee fully the right to the freedom of assembly and to remove restrictions other than those provided for within the framework of international law.
Fiji’s UPR presents an opportunity for the country to make at the national level the commitments to civic space and human rights that it demonstrates at the multilateral level through its engagement with and leadership within the UN Human Rights Council and its mechanisms. We urge the government of Fiji to take this opportunity to create and maintain, in law and practice, an enabling environment for civil society, in accordance with the rights enshrined in international human rights law.
Ecuador: despite commitments, criminalisation and violence continue with impunity
Statement at the 52nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Adoption of UPR Outcomes on Ecuador
Delivered by Nicola Paccamiccio
Thank you, Mr President.
Fundación Ciudadanía y Desarrollo and CIVICUS welcome the government of Ecuador's engagement with the UPR process and its efforts to improve the legal framework for civil society organisations and to reform restrictive legislation used to stifle journalism.
Since its last review, Ecuador has fully implemented 2 of the 25 recommendations relating to civic space and taken steps to implement 13 recommendations. We welcome that Ecuador accepted 18 of the 20 recommendations it received on civic space during this cycle.
However, the CIVICUS Monitor rates space for civil society as ‘obstructed,’ indicating that it is constantly undermined by authorities and non-state actors.
We remain concerned by the lack of institutional mechanisms to promote an enabling environment for human rights defenders, journalists and activists. While Ecuador committed to establishing protection mechanisms to ensure their safety, efforts in this regard have stalled while judicial harassment, criminalisation and violence continue to take place with impunity.
Over the past five years, protest rights have been repeatedly violated. In 2022, Indigenous-led protests were once again met with repression, leaving over 300 people injured and 9 dead in less than a month. We are concerned about the recurrence of excessive use of force by Ecuador’s security forces. Rather than recognising human rights abuses in the context of protests, authorities have often stigmatised those taking to the streets.
Mr President, we call on the Government of Ecuador to take concrete steps to address these concerns, including by:
- Immediately and impartially investigating all instances of excessive force in the context of protests;
- Reviewing and updating existing human rights training for police and security forces and;
- Implementing comprehensive policies and mechanisms to protect civil society organisations, human rights defenders and journalists.
We thank you.
Civic space in Ecuador is rated as "Obstructed" by the CIVICUS Monitor.
France at UN Human Rights Council: Adoption of Universal Periodic Review Report
In our Universal Periodic Review submission, we documented that since its last review, France only partially implemented one of the two recommendations it received relating to civic space. We regret that the recommendations pertaining to the ban on full face veils in public places were not accepted by the government, despite being criticised as a violation of the rights to freedom of expression and religious freedom.
Mr. President, we are deeply concerned by the recent introduction of a new national security and counter terrorism law which effectively makes permanent extraordinary powers given to French security forces since the November 2015 state of emergency was implemented. Through this now-permanent legal regime, French police have expanded powers of arrest, detention and surveillance without adequate judicial oversight or due regard for the proportionality of measures taken to restrict fundamental freedoms.
CIVICUS also notes with concern the police’s use of disproportionate force against protestors including during labour protests in 2016; anti-racism demonstrations in 2013; and, most seriously, in October 2014 when ecologist Rémi Fraisse was killed after police threw a flash grenade into a crowd of demonstrators opposing the construction of a dam in Sivens. Mr. President, just two months ago, French police again used disproportionate force, firing thousands of tear gas canisters as part of an operation to forcibly remove a peaceful anti-capitalist community in Notre-Dame-des-Landes.
Finally, in its submission, CIVICUS set out a range of concerns that risk eroding the right to freedom of expression in France, including the use of legal proceedings to compel media to release their sources. In France, losing a libel case against a public official can result in a fine of up to four times the fine for losing a case against a private citizen; this has been criticised for creating a “chilling effect” on the media’s scrutiny of government.
Mr. President, CIVICUS calls on the Government of France to take proactive measures to address these concerns and implement recommendations to create and maintain, in law and in practice, an enabling environment for civil society in all circumstances.
Honduras: Adoption of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights
Statement at the 46th Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights -- Outcome Adoption for Honduras
Thank you, Mr President.
The Association of Non-Governmental Organisations, CIVICUS and RedLad welcome the government of Honduras’ engagement with the UPR process. However, our joint UPR submission documents that since its previous review Honduras has not implemented 19 of the 30 recommendations it received relating to space for civil society, and has only partially implemented eight.
As detailed in our submission, Honduran legislation restricts workers’ freedom of association. Additionally, the enjoyment of this freedom by activists working on politically sensitive issues is limited in practice, often as a result of the intervention of non-state actors. There was positive change in the legal framework for civil society, but the work of CSOs continued to be undermined by extra-legal factors. Action by indigenous people’s rights, environmental and land rights defenders, as well as students and LGBTQI+ HRDs, is also hampered through criminalisation, criminal prosecution, harassment and surveillance. Although Honduras established a protection mechanism for HRDs and journalists, it failed to ensure its effectiveness. Persistently high levels of violence make Honduras one of the most dangerous countries in the world for HRDs and journalists.
As also documented in our submission, the 2019 Criminal Code maintained the crimes of slander and insult, which continued to be used against journalists, and the right to access information enshrined by law continued to be restricted by the so-called Law of Official Secrets.
The exercise of freedom of peaceful assembly remained subjected to de facto and legal barriers. Peaceful demonstrations, particularly by student, indigenous, peasant and environmental movements, were often arbitrarily dissolved with excessive force, typically leading to people being arrested or injured, and occasionally resulting in fatalities. A legal vacuum persists regarding the accountability of the security forces for abuses committed against peaceful protesters.
We welcome recommendations made to Honduras in this cycle to address these concerns and we call on the Government of Honduras to take proactive measures to implement these recommendations to create and maintain, in law and in practice, an enabling environment for civil society. We further call on the States who made such recommendations to ensure follow-up on their implementation.
We thank you.
Civic space in Honduras is rated as Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor
Joint Universal Periodic Review (#UPR45) Submissions on Civil Society Space
CIVICUS makes UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on civil society space in Chad, China, Malaysia, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and Senegal.
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 six countries in advance of the 45th UPR session in January-February 2024, in the context 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, peaceful assembly and expression (including media freedom), and the environment for human rights defenders as well as related unwarranted restrictions. 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 in relation to core civil society space issues.
Chad –CIVICUS and the Réseau des Défenseurs des Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale (REDHAC) express concern about the use of lethal force to target protesters, the blanket ban on protests, and ongoing restrictions on freedom of assembly in the Republic of Chad. The submission shows that the targeting of human rights defenders, the killing of journalists for their human rights activities, and ongoing restrictions on freedom of association continue to take place with high levels of impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of human rights violations as the overall environment for civil society worsens.
China – CIVICUS and the Asia Democracy Network (AND) document in this submission the use of vague and broad security and public order laws that have served in the People’s Republic of China as a legal basis to shut down civil society organisations and criminalise human rights defenders, journalists and critics, including in Hong Kong. Specific forms of harassment imposed on human rights defenders including movement restrictions, travel bans, surveillance and social media restrictions are also addressed. The submission sheds light on the pervasive censorship of all form of dissent occurring both online and offline, the assault on the media and the crackdown on protests and addresses concerns about systematic repression of ethnic Uighur Muslims and other Muslim minorities, including arbitrary mass detention.
Nigeria – The submission by CIVICUS and the Nigeria Network of NGOs (NNNGOs) examine the deterioration civic space in the country, highlighting the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s onslaught on freedom of expression and media freedom through its stifling laws that silence critical opinions. We also discuss the attacks and intimidation of civil society activists and journalists by security operatives and government officials, as well as persistent implementation gaps in relation to the rights to freedom of expression and assembly despite significant progress that has been made in addressing data protection issues.
Malaysia – The submission by CIVICUS, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and Suaram Rakyat Malaysia highlights the lack of implementation of protection measures for human rights defenders. Numerous cases of harassment of human rights defenders and journalists, including judicial harassment and harassment by non-state actors, are documented. The submission addresses concerns over the systematic harassment of peaceful protesters using the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 and restrictive provisions in the law that are inconsistent with international law and standards. We also document the use of restrictive laws including the Sedition Act, the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) and other laws to silence dissent.
Saudi Arabia (Arabic version) –CIVICUS and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) examine the legal framework related to civic space in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which lacks basic rights protections and severely restricts freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression. The submission documents in particular the continued misuse of the overly broad and vague Counter-Terrorism Law of 2017 and the Cybercrime Law of 2007 to clamp down on human rights and peaceful activists. The submission also sheds light on the continued judicial persecution of human rights defenders, including women human rights defenders, who face additional systemic barriers and challenges such as sexual harassment as they advocate for gender equality and the rights of women.
Senegal –CIVICUS, Coalition Sénégalaise des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (COSEDDH) and the West African Human Rights Defenders Network (ROADDH/WAHRDN) highlight in this submission, among other issues, the increased number of human rights defenders and journalists that have been subjected to arrests and prolonged pretrial detention, including in relation to the organisation of and participation in protests. We further note that the counterterrorism laws approved in June 2021 contain restrictive provisions that could adversely affect civic freedoms, including freedom of association as well as freedom of expression and media freedom.
Civic space in Chinaand Saudi Arabia is rated asClosed by the CIVICUS Monitor. InChad and Nigeriait is rated as Repressed, whereas in Malaysiaand Senegalit is rated asObstructed.
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 - See consolidated report | See full version in English: 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 - See consolidated report | See full versions in English and Portuguese: 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 - See consolidated report | See full versions in English and Spanish: 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, human rights defenders (HRDs) and journalists. We discuss the recurrent judicial harassment, criminalisation and violence of these actors and the repeated repression of protests.
India - See consolidated report | See full version in English: 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 - See consolidated report | See full version in English: 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 - See consolidated report | See full version in English: 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 - See consolidated report | See full version in English: 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 assess 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 - See consolidated report | See full version in English: 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 over the continued use of force by security forces in response to protests and legal restrictions which undermine the freedom of expression and opinion.
Tunisia – See consolidated report | See full version in English: In 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 – See consolidated report | See full version in English: 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 Narrowedby the CIVICUS Monitor. In Brazil, Ecuador, Indonesia, Poland, South Africa, Tunisia it is rated as Obstructed,whereas in Algeria, India, The Philippines civic space is rated as Repressed.
Joint Universal Periodic Review Submissions on Human Rights
CIVICUS makes joint UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on civil society space in Timor-Leste, Togo, Uganda, and Venezuela
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 joint UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on four countries in advance of the 40th UPR session in February 2022. 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 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.
Timor-Leste - This submission by CIVICUS, The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Judicial System Monitoring Program (JSMP) and Timor-Leste Institute for Development Monitoring and Analysis (La'o Hamutuk) highlights our concerns around attempts by the government to introduce draft laws related to criminal defamation and the failure to bring the Media Law in line with international law and standards. It also documents reports of restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly and the arbitrary arrests of protesters.
Togo FR/EN- In its joint submission, CIVICUS, Coalition Togolaise des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CTDDH) and Réseau Ouest Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (WAHRDN/ROADDH) highlight civic space violations in Togo since its previous UPR examination, which include the killing of protesters, the arrest and prosecution of HRDs, journalists and pro-democracy activists, the banning of civil society and opposition protests, the suspension of media outlets, regular disruption of access to the internet and social media and the adoption of restrictive legislation.
Uganda-CIVICUS and the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), Justice Access Point (JAP) and African Institute for Investigative Journalism (AIIJ) highlight the promulgation of restrictive laws that severely constrain the freedom of expression and impede the work of independent media houses. We further examine the harassment, judicial persecution and intimidation of HRDs because of the work they do. We discuss acts of intimidation and attacks on citizens, HRDs, CSOs and journalists in the period leading up to, during and after the presidential and parliamentary elections on 14 January 2021.
Venezuela SP/EN - CIVICUS, Espacio Público and REDLAD examine Venezuela’s use of legal and extra-legal measures to restrict the exercise of fundamental freedoms which has led to worsening working conditions for civil society. Human rights defenders face judicial persecution, stigmatisation and threats to their lives and integrity. In this joint submission, we assess the systematic repression of the right to peaceful assembly, including through mass arbitrary detention of protesters and excessive use of force.
Civic space in Timor-Leste is rated as Obstructed and Togo, Uganda and Venezuela are rated Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor.
Lebanon's Adoption of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights
Statement at 47th Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Adoption of the Universaly Periodic Review report of the Lebanese Republic
CIVICUS welcomes Lebanon’s participation in the UPR process and for accepting 20 recommendations relating to civic space during this UPR cycle. However, in our joint UPR submission with partners we documented that since its last review, the Lebanese Republic has not implemented or taken any concrete steps to implement 5 of the 6 recommendations relating to civic space made in 2015.
The Lebanese authorities continue to use excessive force against peaceful protesters when ever they demonstrate and attack journalists and representatives of the media who cover the protests. For example, security forces used excessive force and violence against protesters in August 2020 when the demonstrators called for an end to corruption and for accountability and independent investigations into the 4 August 2020 blast in Beirut. We urge Lebanon to implement as a priority recommendations relating to excessive use of force and freedom of peaceful assembly.
Members of the LGBTI community are regularly subjected to harassment and persecution through vague and discriminatory laws. Events are shut down and activists are summoned for interrogation.
Freedom of expression and media freedoms continue to deteriorate in Lebanon. During the October 2019 protests, more than a hundred journalists and media workers were attacked as they covered the demonstrations and many of these attacks were perpetuated by government agents. Many of these attacks were captured on video yet those responsible have not been held accountable. This failure or unwillingness of the government to hold those responsible to account emboldens the perpetrators with a high sense of impunity.
We are also concerned about the killing of Lebanese human rights defender Lokman Slim who was found in his car by the Lebanese police after he was shot dead in February 2021 in the South of Lebanon. He advocated for the rights of Syrian refugees in Lebanon and documented war crimes in Lebanon and Syria.
CIVICUS and partners calls on the Government of Lebanon to take proactive measures to address these concerns and implement recommendations to create and maintain, in law and in practice, an enabling environment for civil society.
Malawi's adoption of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights
Statement at 46th Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights -- Outcome Adoption for Malawi
We welcome Malawi’s engagement in the UPR process.
In our report submitted to the review, CIVICUS, the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and the Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP) set out the challenges facing Malawi in realization of fundamental freedoms.
Authorities have routinely restricted freedoms of assembly, association and expression by violently dispersing peaceful protests, arresting human rights defenders and targeting independent media outlets. In the aftermath of the May 2019 elections, human rights defenders were subjected to smear campaigns, judicial persecution and detention by the authorities.
Restrictive provisions in the Penal Code and the Cyber Security Law adopted in 2016 were used to limit freedom of expression and target journalists, bloggers and media houses.
Malawi has so much more to do to protect journalists and human rights defenders. Indeed, During its last cycle Malawi agreed to fully investigate all cases of harassment and intimidation of journalists and human rights defenders with a view to bringing the perpetrators to justice and to ensure the protection of human rights defenders. These pledges have not been implemented. For example, in the run-up to the fresh election held in June 2020, there was an increase in acts of violence and intimidation of journalists by officials of the then ruling party, the Police and other government institutions. In August 2020, journalists from the independent Mibawa Television Station, Times Media Group and others, were subjected to threats, harassment and smear campaigns for comments made about the Covid-19 pandemic.
For Malawi to enact meaningful and sustainable human rights progress, it must not only put rule of law and fundamental freedoms at the center of government actions and policies. It must also ensure that there is space for human rights defenders, journalists and all members of civil society to criticize, to speak out, to peacefully assemble. Creating an enabling environment is key to the implementation of all the recommendations Malawi received this cycle. States who made such recommendations now have a responsibility to those on the ground to ensure Malawi’s promises are kept.
Civic space in Malawi is rated as obstructed by the CIVICUS Monitor
Mozambique's Adoption of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights
Statement at 48th Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Universal Periodic Review outcome adoption of Mozambique
Delivered by Lisa Majumdar
Thank you, Madame President.
We welcome Mozambique’s engagement with the UPR process, and its acceptance of 24 recommendations relating to civic space.
However, during its last UPR cycle, while Mozambique received 13 civic space recommendations, nine of these were not implemented. CIVICUS and JOINT – Liga das ONG em Moçambique are deeply concerned by the unwarranted restrictions on the freedom of expression and the deteriorating environment in which journalists and civil society activists operate. Physical attacks, intimidation and harassment are becoming increasingly common.
In August 2020, the headquarters of media outlet Canal de Moçambique was broken into and set on fire with petrol bombs. The media outlet had previously investigated and reported on corruption and the armed conflict in Cabo Delgado.
Physical attacks, intimidation and harassment of journalists and civil society activists have become increasingly common. Community radio journalist Ibraimo Abu Mbaruco’s whereabouts are still unknown since his disappearance in April 2020 in Palma, Cabo Delgado. In his last text message, he reportedly said he was “surrounded by the military”. In October 2019, Anastácio Matavel, civil society activist and founder and director of FONGA-Gaza NGO Forum, was shot and killed in Xai-Xai, Gaza Province, after attending a training session on election monitoring.
We regret that Mozambique did not accept recommendations related to access to conflict zones by civil society and the media and the registration of LGBTIQ associations. Authorities have denied CSOs and journalists access to work in and report from areas affected by the armed insurgency in Cabo Delgado and neighbouring provinces where there is a heightened presence of internally displaced people.
The Associação Moçambicana para a Defesa das Minorias Sexuais, LAMBDA, an organisation working on sexual minority rights, has been denied a certificate of registration by the Minister of Justice since 2008, despite a ruling by the Constitutional Court in October 2017 stipulating that the clause invoked to deny its registration is unconstitutional.
We call on Mozambique to further engage constructively with the UPR process by implementing the recommendations it has accepted, and we call on member states to hold Mozambique accountable for upholding its commitments.
We thank you.
Civic space in Mozambique is rated as obstructed by the CIVICUS Monitor
Myanmar: UN review critical moment to address repressed civic freedoms
Statement on Myanmar ahead of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights
CIVICUS, Free Expression Myanmar and Asia Democracy Network call on UN member states to urge the Government of Myanmar to protect civic freedoms as its human rights record is examined by the UN Human Rights Council on 25 January 2021 as part of the 37th session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
At the county’s second UPR five years ago, UN member states made 22 recommendations that directly related to civic space. Myanmar subsequently accepted seven recommendations, committing to taking concrete measures to, among others, “create and maintain a safe and enabling environment for civil society, human rights defenders and journalists” and to “work to ensure that freedom of opinion and expression are protected”.
In a joint submission to 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 2015, the authorities have perpetrated serious human rights violations and escalated attacks on democratic freedoms.
The government has continued to use an array of unwarrantedly restrictive laws to arrest and prosecute human rights defenders, activists, journalists and government critics for the peaceful exercise of their freedoms of association and expression. Artists have also been targeted: members of the Peacock Generation ‘Thangyat’ poetry troupe remain jailed following their arrest in 2019 for allegedly criticising the military in a satirical performance that was livestreamed on Facebook. Since June 2019, the government has imposed an effective internet blackout in parts of Rakhine and Chin States and silenced those critical of the shutdown.
‘States must take the opportunity of Myanmar’s UPR to hold the government to account for violations,’ said David Kode, Advocacy and Campaign Lead at CIVICUS. ‘Myanmar has not adequately delivered on the human rights commitments it made during its last cycle and those on the ground being persecuted for demanding reforms, for reporting on atrocities or simply for expressing dissent, need support from the international community.’
Myanmar further committed in its last UPR to “take concrete steps to promote and protect the right of peaceful assembly.” As our submission shows, however, restrictions on peaceful protests remain in law and practice. Arbitrary arrest and prosecution of protesters has been widespread, and the authorities have used excessive force and firearms to disperse protests against government policies and in land disputes with businesses.
More egregiously, gross human rights violations against the Rohingya in Rakhine State continue. Since 2016, the authorities – both military and civilian – have denied access or imposed restrictions on access for humanitarian CSOs providing aid to Rakhine State, including shelter, food and protection, predominantly to Rohingya people.
‘Myanmar’s elections last year – the second election since the end of military rule in 2011 – highlighted the downward spiral of rights with the censorship of political parties, ongoing internet restrictions in Rakhine and Chin States and the systematic and deliberate disenfranchisement of voters from ethnic minorities. This must be reflected in recommendations made during the country’s UPR,’ said Ichal Supriadi, Secretary-General of the Asia Democracy Network
As highlighted in our joint submission, CIVICUS, Free Expression Myanmar and Asia Democracy Network urge states to make recommendations to Myanmar 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:
- Provide HRDs, civil society members and journalists with a safe and secure environment in which they can carry out their work and unconditionally and immediately release all HRDs and activists detained for exercising their fundamental rights to the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression and drop all charges against them.
- Initiate a consolidated process of repeal or amendment of legalisation that unwarrantedly restricts the legitimate work of HRDs and civil society. Specifically, we call for the repeal or review of all criminal defamation laws including section 66(d) of the 2013 Telecommunication Law, Section 9(a,b,g), Section 25 and 30 of the News Media Law, Section 46 of the Anti-Corruption Law, Section 34(d) of the Electronic Transaction Law, section 499 to 502 of Penal Code and repeal the Unlawful Associations Act 2014.
- Lift the effective internet shutdown in Rakhine and Chin State and refrain from measures to prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online intentionally, in violation of international human rights law.
- Review and amend the News Media Law, the Printing and Publication Enterprise Law, and the Official Secrets Act to ensure that these laws are in line with international standards in the area of the freedom of expression.
- Ensure that journalists and human rights monitors are provided unfettered access to all areas, particularly conflict-affected regions, and can work freely and without fear of reprisals for expressing critical opinions or covering topics that the government may deem sensitive.
- Amend the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law in order to guarantee fully the right to the freedom of peaceful assembly.
- Guarantee to the Rohingya people and other minorities the full enjoyment of their civil and political rights and take material measures to address the serious crimes they have suffered
The examination of Myanmar will take place during the 37th 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.
Civic space in Myanmar is rated as Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor, see country page.
Nepal: UN review critical moment to address obstructed civic freedoms
Statement on Nepal ahead of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights
CIVICUS calls on UN member states to urge the Government of Nepal to double its efforts to protect civic freedoms as its human rights record is examined by the UN Human Rights Council on 21 January 2021 as part of the 37th session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
At the county’s second UPR five years ago, UN member states made three recommendations that directly related to civic space. Nepal subsequently committed to taking concrete measures to create a safe and enabling environment in which journalists, media workers, human rights defenders and civil society can operate freely. The government also agreed to ensure that freedom of assembly is guaranteed, and to ensure the right to freedom of expression including by decriminalizing defamation, and to investigate all cases of threats and attacks against journalists and human rights defenders. In a joint report to this UPR cycle, CIVICUS and Freedom Forum assessed the implementation of these recommendations and compliance with international human rights law and standards over the last five years.
Despite commitments made, repressive laws, including amendments made to Nepal’s criminal code, have been used to limit the work of independent CSOs and suppress freedom of expression. The government has continued to introduce legislation that could restrict the work of CSOs unwarrantedly and that risks undermining freedom of association.
‘We are seriously concerned by the lack of progress made with regards to the implementation of last cycle’s recommendations. This highlights the importance of using the UPR to reiterate to Nepal that its continued shortcomings in policy and practice relating to civic rights are unacceptable,’ said David Kode, Advocacy lead at CIVICUS.
Ongoing attacks against journalists continues to undermine civic space in the country. Since 2015, there have still been a number of physical attacks on human rights defenders and journalists, while others have been subjected to judicial harassment. In particular, the 2006 Electronic Transactions Act has often been misused to prosecute online journalists as well as government critics. There are also concerns about the Media Council and Public Broadcasting bill which could affect press freedom.
‘The UPR process is an opportunity to build on human rights achievements as well as to hold governments to account. A mechanism to protect journalists is welcome and necessary, but is only a first step – authorities must commit to fully investigate all attacks against media workers and to repeal or amend all restrictive laws which undermine freedom of expression,’ said David Kode.
Peaceful protests continue to be met with excessive force and arbitrary arrests. Authorities have limited public space to prevent assemblies from gathering to express dissent against government policies.
In the joint report, CIVICUS and Freedom Forum urged states to make recommendations which if implemented would guarantee the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression, the right to operate free from unwarranted state interference, the right to communicate and cooperate, the right to seek and secure funding and the state’s duty to protect.
Key recommendations that should be made include:
- To remove all undue restrictions on the ability of CSOs to receive international and domestic funding
- To undertake a full consultation with all concerned stakeholders on the proposed law regulating ‘social organisations’, and the proposed National Integrity Policy, and guarantee that when enacted, undue restrictions on the freedom of association are removed
- To ensure that HRDs are able to carry out their legitimate activities without fear or undue hindrance, obstruction or legal and administrative harassment.
- To amend the Electronic Transactions Act and the proposed Information Technology bill designed to replace it, to bring it into line with the ICCPR and other international standards
- To review the criminal code in order to ensure that legislation is in line with best practices and international standards in the area of the freedom of expression, looking particularly at sections 293, 294, 295, 298 and 306.
- To reform defamation legislation in conformity with article 19 of the ICCPR, in accordance with the recommendation of the taskforce.
- To immediately and impartially investigate all instances of extrajudicial killing and excessive force committed by security forces while monitoring protests.
The examination of Nepal will take place during the 37th 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.
Civic space in Nepal is rated as Obstructed by the CIVICUS Monitor, see country page.
Niger's Adoption of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights
Niger must take opportunity to consolidate its democracy and lift restrictions on civic space
Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights -- Outcome Adoption for Niger
Delivered by David Kode
Thank you, Mr President.
We welcome Niger’s participation in the UPR process and Niger’s acceptance of all recommendations related to civic space. We are however concerned about civic space restrictions and the fact that the Niger did not implement the majority of the recommendations it received during the previous cycle.
As detailed in our submission, we are concerned about the targeting of human rights defenders, journalists and bloggers who have raised concerns over corruption in certain government departments. We are also concerned about restrictions to peaceful assemblies and the fact that the authorities are limiting protests to certain days of the week. In 2020, three protesters were killed during protests in Niamey in 2020 and in March of the same year, 15 human rights defenders were arrested for protesting against corruption in the Department of Defence.
Since the adoption of the Press Law in 2010 which eliminates prison terms for media offences, journalists continue to be targeted while covering protests or for raising concerns online over the actions of governments.
The election of President Mohamed Bazoum in Niger’s first ever democratic transition presents an opportunity for Niger to consolidate its democracy, lift restrictions on civic space and implement all recommendations accepted during Niger’s UPR. We urge Niger to do so and for other member states to support it in upholding its human rights commitments.
We thank you.
Civic space in Niger is rated as Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor
Outcomes from the UN Human Rights Council
The 47th Session of the UN Human Rights Council sat from 21 June - 13 July, 2021 and there were a number of critical human rights resolutions up for debate and for the 47 Council members to address. An overview of outcomes and civil society participation in our joint end of session statement with 16 other organisations:
Civil society participation:
We deplore the systemic underfunding of the UN human rights system and the drive for so-called efficiency, including the cancellation of general debates in June, which are a vital part of the agenda by which NGOs can address the Council without restrictions. We call for the reinstatement of general debates at all sessions, with the option of civil society participation through video statements. We welcome the focus of the civil society space resolution on the critical role played by civil society in the COVID-19 response, and the existential threats to civil society engendered or exacerbated by the pandemic. For the resolution to fulfil its goal, States must now take action to address these threats; while we welcome the broad support indicated by a consensus text, this cannot come at the cost of initiatives that will protect and support civil society.
Human rights online:
We welcome a resolution on the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet and its thematic focus on bridging digital divides, an issue which has become ever-important during the COVID-19 pandemic. We urge all States to implement the resolution by taking concrete measures to enhance Internet accessibility and affordability and by ceasing Internet shutdowns and other disruptions, such as website blocking and filtering and network throttling. In future iterations of the text, we encourage the core group to go further in mentioning concrete examples that could be explored by States in adopting alternative models for expanding accessibility, such as the sharing of infrastructure and community networks. We welcome the resolution on new and emerging digital technologies and human rights, which aims to promote a greater role for human rights in technical standard-setting processes for new and emerging digital technologies, and in the policies of States and businesses. While aspects of the resolution risk perpetuating “technology solutionism”, we welcome that it places a stronger focus on the human rights impacts of new and emerging digital technologies since the previous version of the resolution, such as introducing new language reiterating the importance of respecting and promoting human rights in the conception, design, use, development, further deployment and impact assessments of such technologies.
Gender equality and non-discrimination:
We are concerned by the increasing number of amendments and attempts to weaken the texts. We are particularly concerned by the continued resistance of many States to previously adopted texts and States’ willful misinterpretation of key concepts related in resolutions on human rights in the context of HIV and AIDS, accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls: preventing and responding to all forms of violence against women and girls with disabilities and preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and human rights on maternal morbidities. We deplore the instrumentalising of women's rights and sexual and reproductive health and rights. We encourage States to center the rights of people most affected and adopt strong texts on these resolutions. We welcome the resolution on menstrual hygiene management, human rights and gender equality as the first step in addressing deep-rooted stigma and discrimination. We urge all States to address the root causes for the discrimination and stigma on menstruation and its impact
Racial Justice and Equality:
The High Commissioner’s reporthighlighted the long-overdue need to confront legacies of slavery, the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans and colonialism and to seek reparatory justice. We welcome the historic consensus decision, led by the Africa Group, to adopt a resolution mandating an independent international expert mechanism to address systemic racism and promote racial justice and equality for Africans and people of African descent. The adoption of this resolution is testament to the resilience, bravery and commitment of victims, their families, their representatives and anti-racism defenders globally. We deplore efforts by some Western States, particularly former colonial powers, to weaken the text and urge them to now cooperate fully with the mechanism to dismantle systemic racism, ensure accountability and reparations for past and present gross human rights violations against Black people, end impunity for racialized State violence and address the root causes, especially the legacies of enslavement, colonialism, and the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans.
Whilst we welcome the return of a resolution on human rights of migrants, we deplore the continued failure of the Council to respond meaningfully to the severity and global scale of human rights violations at international borders including connected to pushbacks. International borders are not and must not be treated as places outside of international human rights law. Migrants are not and must not be treated as people outside of international human rights law. Expressions of deep concern in interactive dialogues must be translated into action on independent monitoring and accountability.
Arms transfers and human rights:
We welcome the resolution on the impact of arms transfers on human rights and its focus on children and youth. However, we note with concern the resistance of the Council to meaningfully focus on legal arms transfers beyond those diverted, unregulated or illicitly transferred. The Council should be concerned with all negative human rights impacts of arms transfers, without focusing only on those stemming from diversion and unregulated or illicit trade.
We are disappointed that the resolution on human rights and climate change fails to establish a new Special Rapporteur. However, we welcome the increasing cross regional support for a new mandate. It is a matter of urgent priority for the Council to establish it this year.
Algeria:While special procedures, the OHCHR and multiple States have recognized the intensifying Algerian authorities’ crackdown on freedom of association and expression, the Council failed to act to protect Algerians striving to advance human rights and democracy.
Belarus:We welcome the renewal of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Belarus. Given the ongoing human rights crisis in Belarus, the mandate complements the OHCHR Examination in ensuring continuous monitoring of the situation, and the mandate remains an accessible and safe channel for Belarusian civil society to deliver diverse and up-to-date information from within the country.
China:The Council has once again failed to respond meaningfully to grave human rights violations committed by Chinese authorities. We reiterate our call on the High Commissioner and member States to take decisive action toward accountability.
Colombia:We are disappointed that few States made mention of the use of excessive force against protestors in a context of serious human rights violations, including systemic racism, and urge greater resolve in support of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in the country and globally.
Ethiopia:The resolution on Ethiopia’s Tigray region, albeit modest in its scope and language, ensures much-needed international scrutiny and public discussions on one of Africa’s worst human rights crises. We urge the Ethiopian government to engage ahead of HRC48.
Eritrea:We welcome the extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, as scrutiny for violations committed at home and in Tigray is vital.
Nicaragua:We warmly welcome the joint statement delivered by Canada on behalf of 59 States, on harassment and detention of journalists, human rights defenders, and presidential pre-candidates, urging Nicaragua to engage with the international community and take meaningful steps for free and fair elections. States should closely monitor the implementation of resolution 46/2, and send a strong collective message to Nicaragua at the 48th session of the Council, as the Council should ‘urgently consider all measures within its power’ to strengthen human rights protection in the country.
Palestine:We welcome the Special Rapporteur’s report that “Israeli settlements are the engine of this forever occupation, and amount to a war crime,” emphasizing that settler colonialism infringes on “the right of the indigenous population [...] to be free from racial and ethnic discrimination and apartheid." We also reiterate his recommendation to the High Commissioner “to regularly update the database of businesses involved in settlements, in accordance with Human Rights Council resolution 31/36."
The Philippines:While acknowledging the signing of the Joint Human Rights Programme with the UN OHCHR, the Government of the Philippines fails to address the long-standing issues on law enforcement and accountability institutions, including in the context of war on drugs. We continue to urge the Council to launch the long-overdue independent and transparent investigation on the on-going human rights violations.
Syria:We welcome mounting recognition for the need to establish a mechanism to reveal the fate and whereabouts of the missing in Syria, including by UN member states during the interactive dialogue on Syria, and the adoption of the resolution on Syria addressing the issue of the missing and emphasizing the centrality of victim participation, building on the momentum created by the Syrian Charter for Truth and Justice.
Venezuela: In the context of the recent arbitrary detention of 3 defenders from NGO Fundaredes, we welcome the denunciation by several States of persistent restrictions on civil society and again for visits of Special Rapporteurs to be accepted and accelerated.
The statement is endorsed by: American Civil Liberties Union, Association for Progressive Communications, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Center for Reproductive Rights, Child Rights Connect, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Conectas Direitos Humanos, Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, FIDH, Franciscans International, Human Rights House Foundation, International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute, International Commission of Jurists, International Lesbian and Gay Association, International Service for Human Rights, US Human Rights Network
Current council members:
Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, China, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Eritrea, Fiji, France, India, Gabon, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Libya, Malawi, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mexico, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Korea, Russia, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Togo, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela
Civic space ratings from the CIVICUS Monitor
OPEN NARROWED OBSTRUCTED REPRESSED CLOSED
Paraguay's Adoption of the Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights
Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights -- Outcome Adoption for Paraguay
Delivered by Inés M. Pousadela
Thank you, Madame President.
Semillas para la Democracia and CIVICUS welcome the government of Paraguay’s acceptance of UPR recommendations pertaining the space for civil society. However, our joint UPR submission documents that Paraguay did not implement 13 of the 19 such recommendations it received during its previous review, and only partially implemented six.
As detailed in our submission, both state and non-state actors frequently attack, intimidate and judicially harass human rights defenders and journalists, particularly when reporting on protests, organised crime, corruption and human rights abuses; the hostile environment for journalists is fuelled from the highest political levels. Defenders of Indigenous and peasant communities and land rights activists are targeted in attacks often linked to agribusiness corporations; women’s and LGBTQI+ rights defenders face attacks perpetrated mostly by fundamentalist anti-rights groups. Examples abound of land rights defenders who suffered attempts on their lives, and some have been killed. Most aggressions remain unpunished.
Workers face strong legal obstacles to exercise their freedom of association, as well as de facto obstacles and direct attacks from non-state actors, notably private companies that threaten to fire them if they try to organise. The law does not adequately protect this freedom.
Our submission also shows that the freedom of expression is threatened by the systematic use of criminal defamation statutes by public figures to intimidate and silence critical journalists, especially when they investigate allegations of corruption. The deficient implementation of the Access to Information Law has restricted access to information that should be public, and instances of censorship as well as self-censorship have been recorded.
The exercise of freedom of peaceful assembly remains obstructed. Peaceful demonstrations, particularly by the peasant and Indigenous movement and communities mobilising for land rights, are frequently broken up with excessive force, typically leading to people being arrested or injured, and occasionally resulting in fatalities.
We call on the Government of Paraguay to take proactive measures to address these concerns and implement recommendations to create and maintain, in law and in practice, an enabling environment for civil society.
We thank you.
Civic space in Paraguay is rated as obstructed by the CIVICUS Monitor.
Rwanda: UN rights review should shed light on civic space restrictions
Statement on Rwanda ahead of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights
A United Nations review of Rwanda’s human rights record is an opportunity to shed light on civic space restrictions in the country, DefendDefenders and CIVICUS said ahead of Rwanda’s third Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which will take place on Monday 25 January 2021 in Geneva. These restrictions include attacks on civil society actors and citizens seeking to peacefully exercise their rights to free expression, assembly, and association.
“We are concerned over the vast and growing disconnect between the law and the practice in Rwanda,” said Hassan Shire, Executive Director, DefendDefenders. “The government should use the recommendations offered by states, UN experts, and civil society to take corrective action and ensure that Rwandan citizens are able to exercise their rights.”
Rwanda’s authorities have seriously restricted civic space. Human rights defenders, civil society members, and journalists face threats, intimidation, targeted attacks, smear campaigns, surveillance, reprisals for cooperating with the UN, and the risk of arbitrary arrest, detention, and judicial harassment. Opposition political parties and associations face undue obstacles, including to register and peacefully demonstrate, as well as government infil-tration attempts.
Altogether, the restrictions documented in a report by DefendDefenders and CIVICUS have given rise to a “hostile environment” for freedom of expression, both online and offline, and for the media. Citizens and journalists face risks of arrest and prosecution on “defamation,” “cybercrimes,” and other charges.
“Civil society is a valuable partner in governance, and should not be treated as the enemy,” said Mandeep Tiwana, Chief Programmes Officer, CIVICUS. “Rwandan authorities should stop interfering with civil society activities, duly investigate attacks against civil society actors, and punish perpetrators if they are serious about good governance.”
Ahead of the session, DefendDefenders and CIVICUS submitted a report analysing Rwanda’s implementation of the recommendations it received during its second UPR, in 2015, and developments regarding civic space. The report formulates recommendations which UN member states can take up during Rwanda’s review in order to push the Rwandan government to end violations and improve the situation.
The UPR is a process set up by the Human Rights Council, the UN’s principal human rights body. Every four-and-a-half to five years, every UN member state goes through a review of its human rights record in a process in which it receives recommendations from other states, which it can accept or reject. Civil society can participate in the process by submitting “alternative reports” and engaging in advocacy at the national and UN levels.
For more information, please contact:
Executive Director, DefendDefenders or +256 772 753 753 (English and Somali)
Representative to the United Nations, DefendDefenders or +41 79 813 49 91 (English and French)
Advocacy and Campaigns Manager, CIVICUS or +27 73 775 8649 (English)
Head of Geneva Office, CIVICUS or +41 79 605 46 94 (English)
Civic space in Rwanda is rated as Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor, see country page.
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