Eritrea: Extend the UN Special Rapporteur mandate and enshrine his “benchmarks for progress”

To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations Human Rights Council (Geneva, Switzerland)

Excellencies,

Ahead of the UN Human Rights Council’s 50th session (13 June- 8 July 2022), we, the undersigned non-governmental organisations, are writing to urge your delegation to support the adoption of a resolution that extends the mandate of the Special Rap­por­teur on the situation of hu­man rights in Eritrea. Moreover, we highlight the need for the Council to move beyond merely pro­ce­dural reso­lutions and to enshrine the “bench­marks for progress in improving the situ­a­tion of hu­man rights” by incorporating them into Eritrea-focused resolutions.

In July 2021, the UN Human Rights Council maintained its scrutiny of Eritrea’s human rights situation. Consi­dering that moni­to­ring of and re­por­ting on the situation was still needed, the Council extended the Special Rapporteur’s mandate. This was vital to address both Eri­trea’s domestic human rights violations and atrocities Eritrean forces have committed in the neigh­bou­ring Tigray region of Ethiopia.

In October 2021, Eritrea was re-elected for a second term as a Member of the Council (2022-2024). Yet the Government shows no willingness to address the grave human rights violations and abuses UN bodies and mechanisms have documented or to engage in a serious dialogue with the inter­national commu­ni­ty, including on the basis of the benchmarks for progress the Special Rappor­teur identified in 2019. Despite its obli­ga­tions as a Council Member to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and pro­tection of human rights” and to “fully cooperate with the Council,” the Government refuses to co­ope­rate with the Special Rapporteur or other special procedure mandate holders. As of 2022, Eritrea remains among the very few countries that have never received any visit by a special procedure.[1]

Furthermore, Eri­trean forces have been credibly accused of grave violations of international law in Tig­ray, some of which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, since the conflict started in November 2020.

The concerns expressed in joint civil society letters released in 2020 and 2021 remain va­lid. Key human rights issues in Eritrea include[2]:

  • Widespread impunity for past and on­going human rights vio­la­tions;
  • Arbi­trary arrests and in­com­mu­ni­cado de­ten­­tion;
  • Vio­lations of the rights to a fair trial, access to jus­tice, and due process;
  • Enforced disappearances and lack of infor­ma­tion on dis­appeared per­sons;
  • Conscription into the country’s abusive na­tional ser­vi­ce system, including in­de­finite national ser­vi­ce, involving torture, sexual vio­len­ce against women and girls, and forced labour; and
  • Restrictions on the media and media workers, as well as severe res­tric­tions on civic space.

In 2019, when the former sponsors of Eritrea-focused resolutions, Djibouti and Somalia, discontinued their leadership, civil society welcomed the initiative a group of six States took to maintain multilateral scrutiny of Eritrea’s human rights situation. However, while welcoming the adoption of Human Rights Council resolutions 41/1 (2019), 44/1 (2020), and 47/2 (2021),[3] many civil society orga­ni­sations cau­tioned that any shifts in the Council’s ap­proach should reflect cor­responding changes in the human rights situation on the ground. Civil society also emphasised the need for the new core group, and for the Euro­pean Union (which sub­sequently took over sponsorship of these resolutions), to be ambitious.

We believe that it is time for the Council to move beyond merely procedural resolutions that extend the Special Rappor­teur’s mandate, and to clearly describe and condemn violations Eritrean authorities com­mit at home and abroad.

We also believe that the bench­marks for progress in improving the situ­a­tion of hu­man rights,[4] which form a comprehensive road map for human rights reforms, should be incorporated into this year’s resolution. These bench­marks[5] include:

  • Benchmark 1: Improvement in the promotion of the rule of law and strengthening of national jus­tice and law enforcement institutions;
  • Benchmark 2: Demonstrated commitment to introducing reforms to the national/military service;
  • Benchmark 3: Extended efforts to guarantee freedoms of religion, association, expression and the press, and extended efforts to end religious and ethnic discrimination;
  • Benchmark 4: Demonstrated commitment to addressing all forms of gender-based violence and to promoting the rights of women and gender equality; and
  • Benchmark 5: Strengthened cooperation with the United Nations country team.
  • Associated indicators outlined in paragraphs 78-82 of UN Doc. A/HRC/41/53, as well as all recom­­men­dations pertaining to the benchmarks formulated in successive reports of the Special Rapporteur, should also be referenced in the resolution.

The Human Rights Council should allow the Special Rapporteur to pursue his work and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to deepen its engagement with Eritrea.

At its upcoming 50th session, the Council should adopt a resolution:

  • Extending the mandate of the Spe­cial Rap­porteur on Eritrea;
  • Urging Eritrea to cooperate fully with the Spe­cial Rap­por­teur by granting him access to the country, in accordance with its obligations as a Council Member;
  • Welcoming the benchmarks for progress in improving the situ­a­tion of hu­man rights and associated indicators and recommendations, and em­phasising the need for Eritrea to in­corpo­rate these benchmarks in its institutional, legal, and policy framework. The resolution should enshrine the five benchmarks and associated indicators;
  • Calling on Eritrea to develop an implementation plan to meet the benchmarks for pro­gress, in consultation with the Special Rapporteur and OHCHR; and
  • Requesting the High Commissioner and the Special Rappor­teur to present updates on the human rights situation in Eritrea at the Council’s 52nd session in an enhanced interactive dia­lo­gue, and requesting the Special Rapporteur to present a comprehensive written report at the Council’s 53rd ses­sion and to the General Assembly at its 77th

 

We thank you for your attention to these pressing issues and stand ready to provide your delegation with further information as needed.

Sincerely,

  1. African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
  2. AfricanDefenders (Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network)
  3. Amnesty International
  4. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  5. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  6. Cercle des Droits de l’Homme et de Développement – DRC
  7. CIVICUS
  8. Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform – Liberia
  9. Coalition Burundaise des Défenseurs des Droits de l’Homme (CBDDH)
  10. Coalition des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CDDH-Bénin)
  11. Coalition Ivoirienne des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CIDDH)
  12. Coalition Togolaise des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CTDDH)
  13. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
  14. CSW (Christian Solidarity Worldwide)
  15. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  16. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)
  17. Eritrea Focus
  18. Eritrean Law Society
  19. Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR)
  20. Eritrean National Council for Democratic Change (ENCDC)
  21. Eritrean Political Forces Coordination Committee (EPFCC)
  22. Forum pour le Renforcement de la Société Civile (FORSC) – Burundi
  23. Freedom United
  24. Geneva for Human Rights / Genève pour les Droits de l’Homme (GHR)
  25. Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)
  26. Human Rights Defenders Network – Sierra Leone (HRDN-SL)
  27. Human Rights Defenders Solidarity Network – HRDS-NET
  28. Human Rights Watch
  29. Independent Human Rights Investigators – Liberia
  30. Information Forum for Eritrea (IFE)
  31. Institut des Médias pour la Démocratie et les Droits de l’Homme (IM2DH)
  32. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
  33. Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada
  34. Network of Human Rights Journalists – The Gambia
  35. Network of the Independent Commission for Human Rights in North Africa (CIDH AFRICA)
  36. One Day Seyoum
  37. Protection International Africa
  38. Réseau des Citoyens Probes (RCP) – Burundi
  39. Réseau Nigérien des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (RNDDH)
  40. Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (Southern Defenders)
  41. West African Human Rights Defenders Network (ROADDH/WAHRDN)
  42. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

[1] See https://spinternet.ohchr.org/ViewCountryVisits.aspx?visitType=all&Lang=en. The Special Rapporteur on Eritrea has conducted official visits to neighbouring countries, namely Ethiopia and Djibouti, as well as to other countries, and met with members of the Eritrean diaspora, including refugees, in these countries. All visit requests to Eritrea have been denied. Other special procedure mandate holders have requested, but were systematically denied, visits to Eritrea. They include special procedures on extrajudicial executions, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to education, the right to health, arbitrary detention, torture, freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, freedom of religion or belief, and the right to food (data as of 7 April 2022).

[2] See DefendDefenders et al., “Eritrea: maintain Human Rights Council scrutiny and engagement,” 5 May 2020, https://defenddefenders.org/eritrea-maintain-human-rights-council-scrutiny-and-engagement/; DefendDefenders et al., “Eritrea: renew vital mandate of UN Special Rapporteur,” 10 May 2021, https://defenddefenders.org/eritrea-renew-vital-mandate-of-un-special-rapporteur/; CSW (Christian Solidarity Worldwide), “Eritrea: General Briefing,” 22 March 2022, https://www.csw.org.uk/2022/03/22/report/5629/article.htm (accessed on 7 April 2022).

[3] Resolutions available at: https://undocs.org/en/A/HRC/RES/41/1; https://undocs.org/en/A/HRC/RES/44/1 and https://undocs.org/en/A/HRC/RES/47/2

[4] See Human Rights Council resolution 38/15, available at: https://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/RES/38/15

[5] See reports of the Special Rapporteur to the Council, UN Docs. A/HRC/41/53, A/HRC/44/23, and A/HRC/47/21.

 

Sudan: Ensure continued public debates on the human rights situation

To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (Geneva, Switzerland)

Excellencies,

Following the military coup of 25 October 2021,[1] the UN Human Rights Council took urgent action by holding a special session, on 5 November 2021, and adopting a resolution re­ques­ting the High Commis­sioner to designate an Expert on Human Rights in the Sudan.[2]

As per resolution S-32/1, which was adopted by consensus with the support of the Group of African Sta­tes, the Expert’s mandate will be ongoing “until the restoration of [Sudan’s] civi­lian-led Govern­ment.” The Council made it clear that the term of office for the designated Expert will conclude “upon the restoration of [Sudan’s] civilian-led Government.”[3]

Ahead of the Council’s 50th session (13 June-8 July 2022), we, the undersigned non-governmental organisations, are writing to urge your delegation to support the adoption of a resolution that ensures continued attention to Sudan’s human rights situation through enhanced interactive dia­logues at the Council’s 52nd and 53rd regular sessions.

While the Expert’s mandate is ongoing, a resolution is required for the Council to hold public de­bates and continue to formally discuss the situation. A resolution at the Council’s 50th session would ope­ra­tio­nalise resolution S-32/1, which in its operative paragraph 19 called upon “the High Commis­sioner and the designated Expert to monitor human rights violations and abu­ses and to continue to bring information thereon to the attention of the Human Rights Council, and to advise on the further steps that may be needed if the situation continues to deteriorate.”

*   *   *

As the de facto military authorities are consolidating their power[4] and human rights violations continue, including against peaceful protesters[5] and in Darfur and other conflict areas,[6] once-yearly reporting by the High Com­mis­sioner as part of her reports and updates under the Council’s agenda item 2, followed by a ge­neral debate, would be insufficient to maintain an adequate level of atten­tion to the country.

The Council has a responsibility to follow up on its meaningful action on Sudan. It should ensure that the High Commissioner publicly and regularly reports on the human rights situation and that dedicated public debates continue to be held. The High Commissioner, with the assistance of the desi­gna­ted Expert on Human Rights in the Sudan, should be able to present updates and reports on the situ­ation of human rights in Sudan.

Programme budget implications (PBIs) are required for the formal presentation of reports to the Council and holding of interactive dialogues and enhanced interactive dialogues. A resolution with the necessary PBIs could be approached from a technical perspective; it could be a procedural text that achieves just this: mobilising budget for reports and public debates on Sudan.

We believe that interactive dialogues on Sudan’s hu­man rights situation should be held in an enhanced format, allowing for the participation of various stakeholders, including UN agency and civil society representatives. We also believe that the Council should discuss the human rights situation in Sudan at least twice a year. Furthermore, we believe that to avoid any risk of a public reporting gap, the Council should act at its 50th session – the last session during which presentation of a comprehensive written report is currently planned.

Ahead of the Council’s 50th session, we therefore urge your delegation to support the adoption of a resolution that:

  • Recalls resolution S-32/1, including its request that the High Commis­sioner and the desi­gna­ted Expert continue to report on human rights violations and abu­ses com­mitted in Sudan and to advise on the further steps that may be needed;
  • Requests the High Commissioner, with the assistance of the designated Expert on Human Rights in the Sudan, to update the Council at its 52nd session, in an en­han­ced interactive dialogue, on the situation of human rights in Sudan; and
  • Further requests the High Commissioner, with the assistance of the designated Expert on Human Rights in the Sudan, to present to the Council, at its 53rd session, a comprehensive written report focusing on the situation of human rights in Sudan, to be followed by an enhanced interactive dialogue, and to continue to report on the situation of human rights in Sudan to the Council twice a year.

We thank you for your attention to these pressing issues and stand ready to provide your delegation with further information as required.

Sincerely,

  1. Act for Sudan
  2. African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
  3. African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS)
  4. AfricanDefenders (Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network)
  5. Amnesty International
  6. Association of Sudanese-American Professors in America (ASAPA)
  7. Atrocities Watch
  8. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  9. CIVICUS
  10. CSW (Christian Solidarity Worldwide)
  11. Darfur Bar Association
  12. Darfur Network for Monitoring and Documentation
  13. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  14. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)
  15. Geneva for Human Rights / Genève pour les Droits de l’Homme (GHR)
  16. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P)
  17. Governance Programming Overseas
  18. HAKI Africa – Kenya
  19. HUDO Centre
  20. Human Rights and Advocacy Network for Democracy – Sudan
  21. Human Rights Watch
  22. International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI)
  23. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
  24. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  25. International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI)
  26. International Service for Human Rights
  27. Investors Against Genocide
  28. Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) – Sudan
  29. Justice Africa Sudan
  30. Justice Centre for Advocacy and Legal Consultations – Sudan
  31. Kamma Organisation for Development Initiatives (KODI)
  32. Lawyers for Justice Sudan
  33. Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada
  34. Massachusetts Coalition to Save Darfur
  35. Never Again Coalition
  36. Nubsud Human Rights Monitors Organization (NHRMO)
  37. Physicians for Human Rights
  38. REDRESS
  39. Regional Centre for Training and Development of Civil Society (RCDCS) – Sudan
  40. Regional Coalition for WHRDs in MENA (WHRDMENA Coalition)
  41. Rights for Peace
  42. Rights Realization Centre (RRC)
  43. Sudan and South Sudan Forum e.V.
  44. Sudan’s Doctors for Human Rights
  45. The Sudanese Archives
  46. Sudanese Human Rights Initiative (SHRI)
  47. Sudanese Lawyers and Legal Practitioners’ Association in the UK
  48. Sudanese Women Rights Action
  49. Sudan Human Rights Monitor (SHRM)
  50. Sudan Transparency and Policy Tracker
  51. Sudan Unlimited
  52. SUDO (UK)
  53. Waging Peace

 

[1] DefendDefenders et al., “Sudan: The UN Human Rights Council should act urgently and hold a special session,” 28 October 2021, https://defenddefenders.org/sudan-the-un-human-rights-council-should-act-urgently-and-hold-a-special-session/ (accessed 4 May 2022).

[2] DefendDefenders, “The UN Human Rights Council takes a step to address the crisis in Sudan,” 5 November 2021, https://defenddefenders.org/the-un-human-rights-council-takes-a-step-to-address-the-crisis-in-sudan/ (accessed 4 May 2022).

[3] HRC resolution S-32/1, UN Doc. A/HRC/RES/S-32/1, available at https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G21/319/08/PDF/G2131908.pdf (operative paragraphs 15 and 17).

[4] Sudan Information Service, “Sudan Uprising Report: Build up to the military coup of 25 October,” 6 November 2021, https://www.sudaninthenews.com/political-briefings (accessed 4 May 2022).

[5] Human Rights Watch, “Sudan: Ongoing Clampdown on Peaceful Protesters 3 Months After Coup; Concrete Action Needed to End Repression,” 3 February 2022, https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/02/03/sudan-ongoing-clampdown-peaceful-protesters (accessed 4 May 2022).

[6] African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS), “West Darfur: 35 people killed and a dozen injured in Jebel Moon attack as security continues to deteriorate in Sudan,” 24 March 2022, https://www.acjps.org/west-darfur-35-people-killed-and-a-dozen-injured-in-jebel-moon-attack-as-security-continues-to-deteriorate-across-sudan/ (accessed 9 May 2022).

 

Outcomes from the 49th session of the UN Human Rights Council

The 49th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC49) ended on 1 April with 35 resolutions adopted by its 47 member states on a range of country situations and thematic issues. It was held over five weeks of debates, negotiations and online events, making it the longest session in the Council’s history. The Council session took place in a hybrid model, with in-person civil society participation possible for the first time since 2020.

KEY OUTCOMES

An urgent debate on Ukraine held in the first week of the Council session was a swift response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, setting up a strong accountability mechanism to investigate violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law. The war in Ukraine represents the latest in a growing regional human rights crisis and the action taken by the Council to establish this accountability mechanism is an important step. Given the mounting evidence of atrocities, we welcome the UN General Assembly’s landmark decision on 7 April to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council. 

The Human Rights Council established a commission of inquiry on Nicaragua which significantly advances UN scrutiny on the country and will strengthen accountability processes. The resolution establishes a group of three human rights experts with the mandate to investigate human rights violations and abuses in Nicaragua and to collect evidence for use in ongoing and future accountability efforts. Under Ortega’s government, the human rights situation in Nicaragua has reached a point of critical repression. This resolution represents a significant step towards accountability, and justice for those affected. 

A new resolution on Myanmar was adopted by consensus by the Human Rights Council which extends the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for a further year and maintains monitoring and reporting from the High Commissioner, with a focus on accountability. This resolution is a step towards preventing further violations, but accountability for past and ongoing violations in Myanmar is still remote. We urge all member and observer states of the Council to support the referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court, as recommended by the High Commissioner. Read our statement on the resolution here.

The Council adopted a resolution on human rights defenders (HRDs), which highlights the myriad roles of defenders in conflict and post-conflict settings and reaffirms that human rights defenders working in these situations require specific holistic and security protections. It urges States to create a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders, particularly in light of their role in conflict prevention and resolution and post-conflict reconstruction, and highlights the value of relocation initiatives to protect human rights defenders from violence and attacks. The Russian Federation called a vote on the resolution, breaking the previous consensus. It was adopted overwhelmingly, with 39 ‘yes’ votes and eight abstentions. Read our statement on the resolution here.

A resolution on South Sudan was adopted, which renewed the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan and ensured the continuation of its critical work. Read analysis from CIVICUS research partner DefendDefenders here.

STATEMENTS AT THE HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL

CIVICUS featured a number of priority countries and issues through various statements:

Cambodia: the Council must be prepared to take action to guarantee human rights and free & fair elections
This is a critical moment for Cambodia. If upcoming elections this year and next take place in the current climate, they will further entrench a ruling party which has proven that it will use any legislative or extra-legal means at its disposal to remain in power. There are steps Cambodia can take to improve its human rights situation ahead of elections; the Council must be prepared to take further action on Cambodia should these not be met.

Tigray: Escalating violence & restrictions to civic space requires action to protect those on the ground
Civic space in Tigray has shrunk considerably with the repression of civil society both by State and non-state actors. Telecommunications restrictions continue with the aim of controlling communication channels.  The special session in December 2021 highlighted the urgent need for investigations and accountability for the serious violations of international law, possibly amounting to war crimes, that have rocked Tigray since November 2021 and which continue to escalate.

Council must heed warning signs and address rights violations in Russia, India and elsewhere
The Council’s prevention mandate translates to a responsibility to address situations which risk deterioration in human rights. One warning sign of this is of a serious and rapid decline in the respect for civic space. The CIVICUS Watchlist, identified in this regard a number of countries of which to take note, including Russia, India, El Salvador, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Kazakhstan. We call on the Council to address these worsening situations and prevent further deterioration.

The Human Rights Council should listen to the voices of those affected
The success and credibility of the Council rely on the engagement and participation of those on the frontline of human rights. The Council is stronger when it can hear the voices of those affected. It can protect and support those trying to effect positive change in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. It can create a route to justice for victims of violations and accountability for perpetrators. But it can only do so if its members uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.

Access all statements here. 

ADOPTION OF UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEWS

The Universal Periodic Reviews of HungaryPapua New GuineaTanzania and Thailand were adopted, with governments accepting a number of recommendations relating to civic space. We stand ready to monitor and support their implementation.

SIDE EVENTS

Respect, Protect and Fulfil: Guaranteeing Access to Resources as a State Responsibility
In the context of increasing civic space restrictions worldwide, the ability of civil society to operate, mobilise and take action is being undermined by cutting off this vital funding supply. This event brought together the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of association and peaceful assembly, civil society representatives from the human rights and humanitarian sectors, with a focus on India and Nicaragua, and a donor representative to discuss the extent and impact on civil society and its work of limiting access to resources. Watch the recording here.

Equity and Inclusion of Racial, Ethnic, and Religious Minority Groups in Healthy Democracies
Members of racial, ethnic, and religious minority groups play an indispensable role in their societies by organising their communities, providing services, and advocating to ensure that government policy reflects community needs. Building upon the themes discussed during the 2021 Summit for Democracy and in commemoration of the UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, this event brought together State representatives, activists and researchers to highlight the importance of inclusion in democracies. Watch the recording here.

Defenders in Asia: Holding the line amid mounting challenges
In Asia, in 2021 alone, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) documented 820 cases of violations against HRDs across 18 Asian countries. This event explored the situation of HRDs and highlight key trends of attacks against human rights defenders across Asia; and provided concrete recommendations to relevant stakeholders including civil society organisations, UN member states, UN agencies, and businesses on what can be done to support HRDs and protect them from violations and abuses. Recording available here.

Terrorising Human Rights Defenders: Counter-terrorism as a tool of repression in the MENA region
The use of vague and overly broad language in anti-terror legislation across the MENA region has facilitated the mischaracterisation of independent, legitimate human rights activities as forms of terrorism and to the arrest of countless individuals over the years, including human rights defenders, activists, journalists and lawyers on unfounded terrorism charges. This event provided UN member states with an update on the situation and to propose ways to deal with the destructive impact of these laws, practices and policies on civil society. Recording available here.

 

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 - 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 - 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 - 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, HRDs and journalists. We discuss the recurrent judicial harassment, criminalisation and violence of these actors and the repeated repression of protests. 

India - 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 - 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 - 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 - 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 access 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 - 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 on the continued use of force by security forces in response to protests and legal restrictions which undermine the freedom of expression and opinion.

TunisiaIn 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  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 Narrowed by the CIVICUS Monitor. In Brazil, Ecuador, Indonesia, Poland, South Africa, Tunisia it is rated as Obstructed, whereas in Algeria, India, Philippines civic space is rated as Repressed

 

Civil society presents key takeaways from the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Civil society organisations presented key takeaways of the 49th session of the UN Human Rights Council in a joint statement[1]delivered on 01 April 2022. The statement also draws attention on the missed opportunities to address key issues and situations.

 

Human Rights Council adopts resolution on Myanmar to maintain critical scrutiny on the country

CVICUS welcomes the resolution on Myanmar adopted by consensus at the Human Rights Council’s 49th Session. The resolution extends the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for a further year and maintains monitoring and reporting from the High Commissioner, with a focus on accountability.

The resolution further reiterated the Council’s ‘full support for the people of Myanmar and their aspirations for democracy and civilian government’. To this end, and as a first step, CIVICUS calls for the immediate recognition of the National Unity Government as the legitimate government of Myanmar.

‘As the military junta gets ever more brutal in its attempts to seize control, enhanced scrutiny on the country remains vital,’ said Cornelius Hanung, Advocacy and Campaigns Officer for Asia. ‘The resolution reiterates how dangerous Myanmar’s military is to its people, particularly those who dare to speak out.’

The resolution also raises serious concerns about violence against and arbitrary detention of journalists and media workers, human rights defenders, casualty recorders, lawyers, environmental and land rights activists, health and humanitarian workers and other civilians, and condemns the disproportionate use of force against peaceful protesters. 

Over 9,000 individuals are currently in arbitrary detention in Myanmar. Some were taken in terrifying night-time raids. Others were abducted off the streets, held in secret facilities, and denied access to lawyers. CIVICUS calls on the military junta to immediately release all those arbitrarily detained. Around 1,700 people have been killed by Myanmar’s military in the context of demonstrations against the coup since last year. 

ASEAN has, to date, failed to address any of these violations; implementation of its five-point consensus peace agreement reached last year to address the crisis has stalled. The resolution called on States to cease the ‘illicit’ transfer of arms to Myanmar but fell short of calling for the full suspension of arms to the military junta. 

‘For the last year, we have seen sustained and violent attacks against those fighting for democracy in Myanmar,’ said Cornelius Hanung. ‘We call on the international community to take immediate steps to protect those on the ground, including by imposing an arms embargo on the weapons used indiscriminately against the Myanmar people.’

This resolution is a step towards preventing further violations, but accountability for past and ongoing violations in Myanmar is still remote. We urge all member and observer states of the Council to support the referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court, as recommended by the High Commissioner.

Read our statement to the Council here.


Civic space in Myanmar is rated as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor.

 

New UN resolution stresses that States must ensure protection of human rights defenders in conflict situations

CIVICUS welcomes a new resolution on human rights defenders in conflict and post-conflict situations which was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council on 1 April at the end of the Council’s 49th session.

The resolution highlights the myriad roles of human rights defenders in conflict and post-conflict settings: from monitoring, documenting and raising awareness; to promoting accountability; fighting impunity; countering disinformation and misinformation; assisting victims of human rights violations and abuses in gaining access to justice; and raising the human rights impacts of conflict.

Human rights defenders working in these situations require specific holistic and security protections. We welcome that the resolution highlights the value of relocation initiatives to protect human rights defenders from violence and attacks. It also recalls the rights of everyone to freedom of movement, to seek and enjoy asylum, and to be protected against refoulement. We call on States to ensure such emergency support procedures are in place to facilitate relocation initiatives and to ensure protection of relocated defenders.

The resolution further urges States to create a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders, particularly in light of their role in conflict prevention and resolution and post-conflict reconstruction. The resolution raises concerns about legislative measures – including national security, counter-terrorism and cybercrime legislation, and laws regulating civil society organizations – that have been misused to target human rights defenders or endangered their safety. Such laws have contributed to the erosion of civic and democratic space in recent years all over the world, and we call on States to lift all undue restrictions on the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression.

We call on all States to support and implement the resolution, and we call on the Council to closely monitor compliance with the resolution and to hold States accountable for their treatment of human rights defenders.

 

Nicaragua: A new investigative mechanism established by the Council is a critical step towards accountability

Resolution on Nicaragua adopted at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

 

The UN-Philippines Programme on human rights falls short of addressing systematic violations & ensuring accountability

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Item 10: General debate on technical assistance and capacity-building - General Debate

Delivered by Ahmed Adam, On behalf of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation

 

The work of human rights defenders is crucial to the work of this Council

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

 Item 3 General Debate

Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

Thank you, Mr President.

The work of human rights defenders is crucial to the work of this council. It takes a lot of courage to stand up to power, at great personal risk. The report by the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders shows all too clearly what this risk entails.

In Belarus, seven members of the Human Rights Centre Viasna have been jailed for their human rights work – which is evidence of a larger repression. In Nicaragua, human rights defender María Esperanza Sánchez García has been arbitrarily detained for over two years under false charges. Nicaragua has systematically sought to silence the voices of human rights defenders.

The Special Rapporteur reiterated again that States must ensure an enabling environment to protect human rights defenders. Spurious legal proceedings brought against defenders not only act as a chilling effect but are also a serious drain of the human and financial resources of defenders and NGOs, compounding other serious challenges in access to resources which prevent defenders and NGOs from carrying out their work. We call on States to ensure access to resources for human rights defenders and other civil society.

The Council is currently negotiating a resolution which will highlight the work of human rights defenders in conflict and post-conflict situations which resonates all too well in the world today.

Human rights defenders play a crucial role in conflict prevention and in post-conflict reconstruction, and it is vital to ensure their safety and ability to operate. We call on all states to support and implement the resolution, and we call on the Council to hold states accountable for their treatment of human rights defenders.

 

Cambodia: the Council must be prepared to take action to guarantee human rights and free & fair elections

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Item 10: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia

Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

This is a critical moment for Cambodia ahead of local elections this year and national elections next year.

The resolution adopted last session has not resulted in any tangible human rights improvements on the ground. The Cambodian government continues to invoke laws to arbitrarily restrict human rights, undermine and weaken civil society, and criminalise individuals’ exercise of their right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

Human rights defenders, activists and journalists are regularly subjected to harassment and legal action. Labour strikes by the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees of NagaWorld (LRSU) have been disrupted and protesters met with state-sponsored violence, including sexual harassment, and arbitrary arrests. Cambodia’s highly politicised judicial system leaves defendants deemed a threat to the interests of the government with virtually no prospect of a fair trial.

The last round of elections, held in 2017 and 2018, were neither free nor fair. Since then, attacks on civil and political rights and the systematic dismantlement of any credible opposition have made Cambodia a de facto one-party State. Earlier this month, Cambodian courts convicted and sentenced 20 former members of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party to prison sentences of 5-10 years following a mass trial on bogus charges of incitement and plotting. Many other opposition activists are standing trial on politically motivated charges. Peaceful gatherings organised by families of jailed opposition activists to demand their release have frequently been met with excessive force by the authorities.

If the elections take place in the current climate, they will further entrench a ruling party which has proven that it will use any legislative or extra-legal means at its disposal to remain in power.

There are steps Cambodia can take to improve its human rights situation ahead of elections, which include removing restrictions on civil society; improving space for political participation; and ensuring that independent media can operate freely and without fear of reprisal.

This Council must be prepared to take further action on Cambodia should these not be met.

We thank you.


 Civic space in Cambodia is rated as repressed as by the CIVICUS Monitor 

 

Adoption of Thailand's Universal Periodic Review

Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on Human Rights -- Outcome Adoption for Thailand

Delivered by Ahmed Adam

On behalf of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation

Mr. President,

We note that Thailand has accepted 218 out of 278 recommendations it received during its 3rd cycle UPR. We regret that Thailand has rejected majority of the recommendations on civil and political rights, including those calling for the repeal of repressive laws that are being used to target defenders, raising questions about Thailand’s commitment to fully comply with its international human rights obligations.

Thailand has justified its rejection of these recommendations as a necessary measure to balance ‘the exercise of individual’s rights’ with the rights of others, ‘national security, public order and public health’. Thailand’s human rights record, however, suggests that this is yet another excuse to continue legitimising crack downs on fundamental freedoms, restrict the media and intimidate defenders and civil society, on the grounds of national security and public order using laws such as lese majeste, sedition and the Computer Crimes Act.

Pro-democracy protesters have faced restrictions, arrest and excessive force. Many activists, including children, continue to face intimidation and judicial harassment. From July 2020 to January 2022, at least 1,767 activists[1] were prosecuted for taking part in peaceful assemblies and dissent against public policies. Political activists and defenders have been held for extensive periods in pre-trial detention without access to lawyers and medical services as a form of reprisal to silence the pro-democracy movement.

While we recognize Thailand’s plans to accede to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, we regret its failure to support a recommendation to conduct prompt investigations into the disappearance of Wanchalearm Satsaksit and other political activists. Perpetrators must be held accountable.

Furthermore, the proposed amendment to the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA), and the draft Non-profit law would threaten the ability of civil society to operate. They contradict Thailand’s obligations under international human rights law, as well as its stated commitment during the UPR to guarantee fundamental freedoms.

Thailand’s National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights remains a disservice to defenders, as a vague and a purely aspirational document with no mechanisms for public disclosure, monitoring, and public participation.

We echo recommendations for Thailand to ratify international rights treaties and ensure that its domestic legislation comply with international human rights standards. Thailand must lift all undue restrictions on civic space, and end all forms of attacks against human rights defenders, civil society and the pro-democracy movement.

Thank you

[1] https://tlhr2014.com/archives/41025


Civic space in Thailand is rated as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor 

 

Adoption of Papua New Guinea's Universal Periodic Review

Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights -- Outcome Adoption for Papua New Guinea

Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

Thank you, Mr President.

Transparency International PNG, PIANGO and CIVICUS welcome the government of Papua New Guinea's engagement with the UPR process, although we regret its late response to recommendations.

Space for civil society remains significantly obstructed in Papua New Guinea. Human rights defenders (HRDs) face legal persecution such as arrest and detention as well as harassment, intimidation, threats and violence, including from companies that they criticise. The risk is greatest for HRDs who challenge vested political, social and economic interests, especially land and environmental HRDs.

Many journalists have reported intimidation aimed at influencing coverage of government figures and by agents of members of parliament. Just last month, long-standing and experienced news manager Sincha Dimara was suspended by her news outlet, allegedly following a request from the authorities.

There is no freedom of information legislation in Papua New Guinea and no domestic laws or policies to recognise and protect HRDs, who, along with journalists, continue to face harassment for undertaking their work.

Defamation laws, such as the Defamation Act 1962 and defamation sections in the Cybercrime Act, have had a chilling effect on freedom of expression and political discourse.

Our organisations call on the Government of Papua New Guinea to take concrete steps to address these concerns, including by:

  • Reviewing and amending criminal defamation provisions in the Cybercrime Act to ensure that it is in line with ICCPR article 19 and international law and standards;
  • Ensuring that journalists and writers can work freely and without fear of retribution for expressing critical opinions or exposing abuses or corruption by the authorities and companies;
  • Ensuring that HRDs are able to carry out their legitimate activities without fear or undue hindrance;
  • Establishing an independent national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles.

We thank you.


 Civic space in Papua New Guinea is rated as obstructed by the CIVICUS Monitor 

 

Adoption of Tanzania's Universal Periodic Review

Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on Human Rights -- Outcome Adoption for Tanzania

Delivered by Sibahle Zuma

CIVICUS and its partners welcome the Republic of Tanzania’s engagement with the UPR process and for accepting the majority of its recommendations.

We particularly welcome Tanzania’s commitment to amend the restrictive Media Services Act of 2016, which is a critical opportunity to address long-standing gaps in existing media legislation and has the potential to expand the space available to media actors to exercise their fundamental rights. We also welcome the lifting of the ban on the four newspapers – Mawio, Mwanahalisi, Tanzania Daima, and Mseto. We further welcome the Republic’s commitment to conducting investigations of all threats and attacks against and killings of journalists, civil society actors and human rights defenders and holding those responsible to account.

Notwithstanding these positive developments, we remain concerned about the civic space restrictions that remain. Tanzanian law guarantees a number of rights consistent with international standards; however, citizens' ability to exercise these rights is severely limited in practice. Individuals and organisations frequently refrain from exercising their right to free expression, both online and in print, out of fear of arrest, censorship, and persecution.

Recommendations to amend restrictive laws to guarantee freedom of expression have only been partially accepted.

While we welcome the recent release of opposition leader Freeman Mbowe after eight months in custody on charges believed to be politically motivated, we note that authorities continue to systematically use the justice system as a tool to target and harass members and leaders of the opposition. Authorities also ban public gatherings to thwart protests, and arrest peaceful protesters.

We regret that Tanzania did not accept a recommendation to amend the Non-Governmental Organisations Act (Amendments) Regulation 2018, in line with international human rights standards on freedoms of association and peaceful assembly.

CIVICUS and its partners call on the Government of the Republic of Tanzania to immediately and urgently take measures to implement all UPR recommendations, particularly those pertaining to efforts to addressing civic space and human rights.

We thank you.


Civic space in Tanzania is rated as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor 

 

 

Adoption of Hungary's Universal Periodic Review amidst increasing civic space restrictions

Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights -- Outcome Adoption for Hungary

Delivered by Nicola Paccamiccio

Thank you, Mr President.

Mr President, CIVICUS welcomes the government of Hungary's engagement with the UPR process.

Since its last review, Hungary failed to implement any of its 33 recommendations relating to civic space. We regret that Hungary accepted just 13 of the 31 civic space recommendations it received during this cycle.

Space for civil society is increasingly being restricted in Hungary.

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have faced ongoing attempts to restrict their funding. Although the government repealed the Lex-NGO foreign funding law which was declared unlawful by the European Court of Justice in June 2020, it adopted a new law that threatens the work of NGOs by permitting the State Audit Office to selectively audit NGOs which have a budget that exceeds 20 million forints (55,000 Euros).

The Hungarian government also gave up 2,3 billion Norwegian kroner (€220 million) which it was set to receive from the European Economic Area (EEA) and Norway Grants for civil society. It set up the Urban Civic Fund (Városi Civil Alap) to replace the Norway Grants which has been financing ‘NGOs’ directly controlled by or linked to politicians of the Fidesz governing party.

The ongoing erosion of LGBTQI+ rights remains a concern, with the government passing several restrictive pieces of legislation which directly target LGBTQI+ people. The latest anti-LGBTQI propaganda law bans LGBTQI+ media, advertising and educational materials and has resulted in limiting freedom of expression and association for LGBTQI+ focused CSOs.

Media independence has been repeatedly threatened as a result of ongoing political influence over Hungary’s media regulatory bodies, with the government's control over the National Media and Communications Authority (NHHH) and its Media Council resulting in diminishing space for independent media. We particularly regret that Hungary did not accept recommendations to take specific measures to ensure media freedom.

Independent media have frequently been denied access to information; however, this practice has  further worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, journalists report being denied access to interview health experts and being barred from hospitals, with the government recently passing a decree stating that only the Operational Tribunal, the government centre in charge of managing the pandemic, would decide on press and media accreditation for journalists to access hospitals. 

A recent investigation revealed that the government used Pegasus spyware to surveil investigative journalists.

Mr President, CIVICUS calls on the Government of Hungary to take concrete steps to address these concerns, including by withdrawing restrictive legislation and amendments that restrict the activities of civil society organisations and their funding and refraining from obstructing the work of independent journalists.

We thank you.


 Civic space in Hungary is rated as obstructed by the CIVICUS Monitor

 

Council must heed warning signs and address rights violations in Russia, India and elsewhere

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Item 4 General Debate

Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

 

Joint statement: The Malaysian government continues to fall short on its human rights protections

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Summary: ARTICLE 19, the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, and Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) made this oral statement during the Item 4 General Debate at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council.

 

Joint statement on Human rights crisis in West Papua, Indonesia

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

 

Joint NGO Statement on the human rights situation in Russia

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Joint NGO Statement under item 4 on the human rights situation in Russia

Delivered by Dave Elseroad, Human Rights House Foundation 

I make this joint statement on behalf of Human Rights House Foundation, Amnesty International, CIVICUS, Human Rights Watch and the International Federation for Human Rights.

A year after last year’s joint statement on the situation in Russia, authorities there have further intensified the already unprecedented crackdown. A fully-fledged witch hunt against independent groups, media outlets and journalists, and political opposition, is decimating civil society and forcing many into exile.

In a shocking development, the authorities moved to shut down “Memorial,” one of the country’s most authoritative human rights organisations. At the end of December, courts ruled to “liquidate” the group’s key legal entities, International Memorial Society and Human Rights Center Memorial over alleged persistent noncompliance with the repressive legislation on “foreign agents.”  

The rulings came at the end of a particularly terrible year for human rights, during which authorities threw top opposition figure Alexei Navalny in prison, banned three organisations affiliated with him as “extremist,” launched criminal proceedings against several of his close associates, doubled down on Internet censorship, and designated more than 100 journalists and activists as "media-foreign agents."

Recent months also saw a dramatic escalation of repression in Chechnya, where Russian law and international human rights obligations have been emptied of meaning. With the Kremlin’s blessing, the local governor, Ramzan Kadyrov has been eviscerating all forms of dissent in Chechnya, often using collective punishment. In December 2021, Kadyrov opened a brutal offensive against his critics in the Chechen diaspora, by having the police  arbitrarily detain dozens of their Chechnya-based relatives. It continued in January with the abduction and arbitrary detention on fabricated charges of Zarema Musaeva, mother of human rights lawyer Abubakar Yangulbaev, and death threats issued against the Yangulbaevs family and some prominent human rights defenders and journalists.

It is crucial the High Commissioner and members of this Council press the Russian authorities to reverse the course of the unprecedented human rights crackdown, and appoint a dedicated Special Rapporteur to monitor and report on the human rights situation in Russia.


  Civic space in Russia is rated as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor 

 

As resistance grows against the Myanmar military, the Council must ensure accountability for violations

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Item 4: Interactive Debate on the High Commissioner’s report on Myanmar

Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

Thank you Mr President, and Madame High Commissioner.

In Myanmar, a human rights catastrophe is compounded by a humanitarian emergency.

For the past year, civil servants mobilised alongside students and the workers’ movement to resist the military’s attempt to seize control. In response, the Myanmar security forces intensified their crackdown on protests, escalating to battlefield weapons against protesters, killing nearly fifteen hundred people.

Resistance against the military continues to grow and unify within Myanmar, despite the great risk. At this critical point, we call for the immediate recognition of the National Unity Government as the legitimate government of Myanmar.

Over 9,000 are currently in arbitrary detention. They include human rights defenders, lawyers, trade unionists, activists and monks. Some were taken in terrifying night-time raids. Others were abducted off the streets, held in secret facilities and denied access to lawyers. We call on Myanmar to immediately release all those arbitrarily detained.

Internet shutdowns and willful restrictions to humanitarian aid prevent much-needed supplies from reaching those in dire need. ASEAN’s efforts to halt the grave violations have failed.

The ongoing impunity for serious crimes despite clear evidence is a travesty. We welcome particularly the High Commissioner’s recommendation to support the referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court, by the UN Security Council or by duly recognised national authorities, and we urge the Council to seriously consider further steps towards accountability.

As immediate steps towards protecting those on the ground, the junta must be deprived of resources and arms. To this end, we urge States to follow the recommendations of the High Commissioner to take immediate action to prevent arms flows to the Myanmar military, and apply other targeted sanctions on military economic interests as appropriate; and to encourage businesses that maintain connections with Myanmar military owned or affiliates to cease their operation.

To the High Commissioner, what are the further measures the Council must take to ensure that accountability and justice can be achieved?


  Civic space in Myanmar is rated as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor 

 

South Sudan: With no human rights improvement in sight, the Council must renew mandate of Commission for Human Rights

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Delivered by: Sibahle Zuma

Thank you Mr. President,

CIVICUS and its partners in South Sudan thank the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan for their crucial contributions to the protection and promotion of human rights in the country.

Its mandate remains crucial; there is no improvement in the human rights situation in the country as authorities continue, with impunity, repressions against peaceful protesters, harassment of civil society actors, and extrajudicial executions. Social and economic rights are dire and embezzlement of public funds fuels violations of these rights. Impunity and high levels of violence persist, including a five month-long attack by armed groups against civilians in Western Equatoria that killed dozens and displaced tens of thousands. Such violence continues to affect innocent civilians, threatens the country’s stability, and endangers prospects for lasting peace.

Civic space is closed; authorities continue to harass, detain, and clamp down on journalists, human rights defenders, activists, and persons perceived to oppose the government. This materialises as, among others, censoring media; suspension and closure of news outlets; seizure of newspapers; blocking access to information; revocation, or denial of accreditation of foreign correspondents; arbitrary arrests; and prolonged, detention of persons allegedly responsible for critical posts on social media.

The Government has committed to the implementation of the Revitalised Peace Agreement. However, key elements of the agreement, including relating transitional justice, remain unimplemented.

In this climate, it is vital that the Council renews the mandate of the Commission. We call on the Council to do so, while asking the Commission what member states must do to ensure its recommendations are implemented by South Sudan.

Thank you.


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

 UN Photo: Isaac Billy

 

 

Massive crackdown on civil society and human rights require Council’s resolute action

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Interactive Dialogue on the OHCHR report on the situation of human rights in Belarus in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election and in its aftermath

Delivered by Nicola Paccamiccio

Thank you Mr. President,

We welcome the report of the High Commissioner and share the concerns over the complete lack of accountability for perpetrators of human rights violations, including the detention of thousands of people which could amount to crimes against humanity.

In previous updates to the Council we expressed concerns over the targeting of protesters, detention and judicial persecution of human rights defenders and the prosecution of journalists.

The human rights situation continues to deteriorate. The Belarusian authorities continue to retaliate against human rights groups and the work they do.

Human rights defenders and their families are subjected to intrusive searches, arbitrary detentions and are held in inhumane conditions. Human rights defender Ales Bialiatski, Chair of the human rights group Viasna, several of his colleagues and hundreds of other human rights defenders are still detained.

More than 32 lawyers representing protesters, human rights defenders and members of the political opposition who are detained have had their licenses revoked by the authorities. In addition, lawyers are subjected to intrusive searches and other forms of harassment.

More than 300 civil society groups have been affected by liquidation procedures initiated by the government. In October 2021, the Supreme Court acceded to the demands of the Ministry of Justice to close down Belarus’ oldest human rights organisation – Belarusian Helsinki Committee.

Hundreds of journalists have been arbitrarily detained under trumped up charges and key media outlets, including the Belarusian Association of Journalists, which has been promoting the rights of journalists and media rights for 25 years, have been dissolved.  

Given the relentless deterioration of the human rights situation in the country and the lack of any efforts made by the authorities to hold perpetrators into account, we call on the members of the Human Rights Council to support and adopt a strong resolution on the human rights situation in Belarus which can further investigate violations with a view to holding perpetrators to account.

Thank you.


 Civic space in Belarus is rated as closed by the CIVICUS Monitor 

 

The Human Rights Council should listen to the voices of those affected

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Item 2 General Debate

Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you to the High Commissioner for her update.

There is so much the Council can and should do during this session to address the grave situations you reported. The successes and failures of this Council have a tangible impact for those at the forefront of defending human rights.

Last week the Council acted strongly on the conflict in Ukraine to take a step towards accountability for Russian aggression. This session, we expect the Council to take its opportunity to strengthen human rights and protect civic space elsewhere. To build on accountability efforts in Myanmar. To take robust action on Nicaragua’s worsening human rights crisis, and to address the civic space backsliding in Cambodia. And to strengthen protection for those standing up for human rights in conflict zones.

The success and credibility of the Council relies on the engagement and participation of those on the frontline of human rights – the activists, journalists, environmentalists, colleagues – who risk their lives and freedom to stand up for human rights. The Council is stronger when it has the full participation of civil society, and can hear the voices of those affected. It can protect and support those trying to effect positive change in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. It can create a route to justice for victims of violations and accountability for perpetrators.

But it can only do so if its members, as set out in GA Resolution 60/251 ‘uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.’ Their failure to do so weakens the Council, and undermines its outcomes. We call on the Council to seek the reform needed to address this.

We thank you.

 

Russian Federation: UN General Assembly should suspend Russia’s membership of the UN Human Rights Council

We, the undersigned civil society organisations, call on Member States of the United Nations to take and support action at the UN General Assembly to suspend the Russian Federation as a member of the UN Human Rights Council.

 

Tigray: Escalating violence & restrictions to civic space requires action to protect those on the ground

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Interactive Dialogue on the oral update of the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights in the Tigray region of Ethiopia

Delivered by Sibahle Zuma

Thank you, Mister President.

CIVICUS and its partners in Ethiopia thank the High Commissioner for the timely update on the human rights situation in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. We are deeply concerned at the high levels of violence exemplified in the attack of the Bahrale refugee camp on 3 February which resulted in five refugees killed and several women kidnapped by armed men. We are getting reports of Tigrayan fighters killing civilians, gang-raping women and girls and looting, including from hospitals, with impunity.

We are particularly concerned about restrictions that have made it nearly impossible for civilians to receive critical supplies from humanitarian organisations. Humanitarian operations in Tigray are largely reduced or suspended due to the lack of fuel, cash and other supplies. The ongoing fighting in Afar contributes to the large-scale displacements in the region and hinders the delivery of humanitarian supplies into Tigray.

Civic space in Tigray has shrunk considerably with the repression of civil society both by State and non-state actors. Telecommunications restrictions continue with the aim of controlling communication channels. These restrictions risk silencing victims and hinder access to information.

The special session in December 2021 highlighted the urgent need for investigations and accountability for the serious violations of international law, possibly amounting to war crimes, that have rocked Tigray since November 2021 and which continue to escalate.

We ask the High Commissioner to provide more information on how States can best support civil society, including humanitarian groups, and to protect those on the ground amidst worsening conditions.

We thank you.


 Civic space in Ethiopia is rated as "repressed" by the CIVICUS Monitor 

 

Amidst an ongoing human rights crisis, the Council must take stronger action

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

 

The situation in Sudan since the coup is critical, and risks further escalation

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

 

Eritrea’s membership of the Human Rights Council at odds with the dire human rights situation in the country

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Interactive Dialogue on the oral update of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea

Delivered by Helen Kidan

CIVICUS and the EMDHR welcome the Special Rapporteur’s update.

 

The UN must act to protect civilians & human rights defenders & hold Russia accountable

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Urgent Debate on Ukraine

Delivered by Susan Wilding

CIVICUS stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and calls for a swift, unified and targeted international response on Russia.

 

HRC49: Open letter to States on the draft resolution on human rights defenders

At its current session, the UN Human Rights Council will be discussing a draft resolution on human rights defenders operating in conflict and post-conflict situations.  This is a useful and timely focus providing a means to give effect to a range of recommendations including those contained in the report of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in 2020. 

 

Advocacy priorities at the 49th Session of UN Human Rights Council

The 49th Session of the Human Rights Council will run from 28 February to 1 April 2022. For the first time since 2020, the session will be held in hybrid mode: civil society will be able to engage in certain debates in person as well as via video, while still being limited to video statements during General Debates. CIVICUS encourages States to continue to highlight the importance of civil society participation, which makes the Human Rights Council stronger, more informed and more effective.

 

Belarus: Letter to Permanent Representatives of Member & Observer States of the Human Rights Council

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

Excellency,

The Human Rights Council will consider the possible renewal of the mandate of the OHCHR examination of the human rights situation in Belarus at its 49th session.

We, the undersigned national, international and Belarusian organisations, urge your delegation to support the renewal of this mandate, which is critical for maintaining scrutiny on Belarus’s human rights crisis.

The human rights situation in Belarus which necessitated Council action in 2021 is deteriorating. There are continuing cases of arbitrary detention and arrest, torture and cruel,  inhuman, or degrading treatment, and unfair and closed trials on trumped-up charges against persons perceived by the authorities as being critical of the government.

As of 1 February 2022, well over 1000 prisoners are recognized as “political prisoners” by the Belarusian human rights organisation Viasna. However, the number of those detained for political reasons is much higher and might reach as many as 5,000. Torture and ill-treatment of those detained continue, with the objective of eliciting forced “confessions”, and punishing and silencing those carrying out human rights and civic activities. 

In 2021, civil society came under prolonged systematic attack by the Belarusian authorities. The government liquidated at least 275 civil society organisations, including all independent human rights organisations. Authorities have initiated criminal cases against 13 human rights defenders, 12 of whom have been detained.

Legislative amendments to the Criminal Code adopted in December 2021 re-introduced criminal liability for "acting on behalf of unregistered or liquidated organisations.” The liquidation of all independent human rights organisations by the authorities has therefore led to a de facto criminalisation of human rights work. Independent media also face systematic persecution, with journalists frequently being labelled as “extremist”, targeted under defamation charges, and blocked from publishing. At least 31 journalists and media workers remain behind bars on criminal charges and at least 22 lawyers have been disbarred by Belarusian authorities on political grounds or because of their representation of defendants in politically sensitive cases . In addition, Belarus is considering introducing criminal proceedings in absentia, with implications for those who have fled the country.

Those who are subject to human rights violations in Belarus do not currently have any effective legal remedies or recourse to justice, and look to the United Nations Human Rights Council to ensure an accountability process for serious human rights violations.

At the 46th session, the Human Rights Council mandated the OHCHR to conduct an examination. This was a welcome development given the widespread and systematic, human rights violations that occurred in Belarus in the context of 2020’s presidential election, and the environment of impunity and lack of accountability within which they occurred.

Unfortunately, the OHCHR examination received only around 50 per cent of the budget for its work in 2021 against what was originally approved by the Council at HRC46. It became fully operational only in the final months of 2021. Despite these challenges, the OHCHR examination is still expected to provide a report to the Human Rights Council at the 49th session.

Given the current dire human rights situation in Belarus, and the ongoing importance and unique nature of the OHCHR examination, we call on this Council to renew the mandate at HRC49, and ensure its work is sufficiently resourced and funded.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of our highest consideration,

Signed

  • Amnesty International
  • ARTICLE 19
  • The Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House
  • CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  • Civil Rights Defenders
  • FIDH - International Federation for Human Rights
  • Human Rights House Foundation
  • Human Rights Watch
  • IFEX
  • Index on Censorship
  • International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI)
  • International Commission of Jurists 
  • World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

Civic space in Belarus is rated as "closed" by the CIVICUS Monitor . Belarus is also on the CIVICUS Monitor Watchlist 

 

Extend the mandate of the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan

To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council

 

Civil society’s expectations for the Human Rights Council in 2022

To the incoming President of the Human Rights Council, His Excellency Mr Federico Villegas, Permanent Representative of Argentina to the United Nations Office at Geneva

 

The Human Rights Council must establish a mechanism on Ethiopia

UN Human Rights Council – 33rd Special Session on Ethiopia
December 2021
Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

Thank you, Madame President.

We welcome the convening of this long overdue Special Session on Ethiopia. 

The High Commissioner’s update to the Council in November highlighted the need for transparent investigations and accountability for what has been unfolding in the country over the past year. The conflict and the human suffering have both escalated since then. 

Restrictions imposed have left humanitarian groups unable to carry out their work amidst increased humanitarian needs, food insecurity, and disruption of livelihoods. As a result of this loss in services, millions could be denied the aid they need to stay alive.

Fragile gains made by civil society over the past few years are at great risk. It has become dangerous for national civil society to engage in public advocacy, with pressure imposed and threats perpetrated by both State and non-State actors, compounded by a sweeping state of emergency. The online space for dissent is radically shrinking. Numerous journalists have been detained, with at least nine still in custody at the beginning of this month. 

The conflict itself has spread to neighbouring regions and threatens millions of civilians.

There is a clear absence of any transparent and credible national accountability process for violations and abuses committed. Following calls from the High Commissioner and civil society, the Council must act on its prevention mandate, which was established to avert atrocity and crimes against humanity. It can do so by adopting a resolution that establishes an independent investigative mechanism mandated to investigate, report on, and to collect and preserve evidence of alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law and violations of international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict.

We thank you. 

 

Nicaragua: The Council must establish an investigation and accountability mechanism at its next Session

High Commissioner’s intersessional update on Nicaragua

Delivered by Debora Leao, CIVICUS Monitor Research Officer for the Americas

 

Thailand: States must urge the government to address the deterioration of fundamental freedoms

As Thailand’s human rights record is examined at the Human Rights Council on 11 November 2021, CIVICUS and the Asia Democracy Network (ADN) call on UN member states to raise serious concerns about Thailand’s civic freedoms.

In the previous UPR cycle in 2016, Thailand committed to guarantee and respect the right to freedom of expression, assembly, and association; put an end to all forms of harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders; and ensure that all legislation comply with international human rights standards protecting fundamental freedoms. It received 35 recommendations related to civic space, accepting 10 and noting 25.

Thailand has not upheld these commitments. A joint submission by CIVICUS and ADN to the Human Rights Council in March 2021 highlighted Thailand’s ongoing use of repressive laws against human rights defenders, activists and journalists as well as harassment, physical attacks and allegations of enforced disappearances of activists. Our organizations also raised concerns about the crackdown on peaceful protests, the arrests and criminalization of protesters and the use of excessive force by the police.

Over the last four years, criminal defamation laws such as section 116 of the Penal Code on sedition have been used to quash dissent by the authorities. More recently, sedition charges have been brought against human rights defenders involved in protests calling for democratic reforms. Although rarely used since 2018, there has been an escalation of investigations and arrests for lèse majesté (section 112 of the Penal Code) since November 2020 against the leaders of the pro-democracy movement.

Other concerns related to freedom of expression include the Computer-Related Crime Act (CCA), which allows the authorities to conduct surveillance on online content and prosecute individuals under broadly defined offences and the cybersecurity law passed in 2019 that gives the government sweeping access to people's personal information. Outspoken media outlets and reporters have also often face intimidation and punishment for commentaries critical of the authorities.

“In the upcoming session at the Human Rights Council, states must use the opportunity to call out Thailand for its systematic repression of pro-democracy activists, human rights defenders and journalists. These actions are inconsistent with Thailand’s international obligations,” said Cornelius Hanung, Advocacy and Campaigns Officer for Asia from CIVICUS.

The Thai authorities have also imposed restrictions on peaceful protests in recent years and arbitrarily arrested peaceful protesters. In 2020, at least 90 people joining peaceful protests were arrested between 13 and 21 October 2020 by the police. The use of excessive force by the police to disperse protesters have been widely reported. On 17 November 2020, during a protest outside parliament, police used water cannon laced with purple dye and an apparent teargas chemical, as well as teargas and pepper spray grenades, to forcibly disperse thousands of protesters, including students, some of whom were children.

“No one should be detained merely for exercising the right to peaceful assemble. The authorities must immediately end its harassment of protest leaders and participants and release all those detained. There should also be prompt, effective and independent investigations into any violations during protests and perpetrators held accountable,” said Ichal Supriadi, Secretary General at Asia Democracy Network.

Civil society organizations, pro-democracy groups, student networks and labor groups in Thailand have been subjected to restrictions and multiple forms of intimidation for carrying out their work. More recently, the Thailand Government is considering a revised NGO law that contains arbitrary and vague-defined powers that could be used to muzzle civil society groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). It includes excessive punishments, places discriminatory restrictions on organizations that receive foreign funding and allows for intrusive surveillance and searches without judicial oversight.

Key recommendations that States should make include:

• Ensure that processes to draft any new laws to oversee the formation and operation of CSOs include meaningful consultation with CSOs and HRDs and are consistent with international law and standards related to the freedom of association.
• Provide HRDs, civil society members and journalists with a safe and secure environment in which they can carry out their work. Conduct impartial, thorough and effective investigations into all cases of attacks, harassment and intimidation against them and bring the perpetrators of such offences to justice.
• Specifically, repeal or review article 112 (lèse-majesté) and article 116 (sedition) of the Penal Code to bring it in line with the ICCPR, UN Human Rights Committee General Comment No. 34 and the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders
• Specifically, review and amend the Computer Crime Act and Cybersecurity law to ensure that these laws are in line with best practices and international standards in the area of the freedom of expression.
• Ensure that journalists can work freely and without fear of criminalization or reprisals for expressing critical opinions or covering topics that the government may deem sensitive.
• Unconditionally and immediately release all protesters detained for exercising their right to the freedom of peaceful assembly and drop all charges against them.
• Review and, if necessary, update existing human rights training for police and security forces, with the assistance of independent CSOs, to foster the more consistent application of international human rights standards, including the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms

The examination of Thailand will take place during the 39th Session of the UPR on 10 November 2021. 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 Thailand is rated as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor

 

Sudan: The Human Rights Council must take urgent robust action

UN Human Rights Council – 32nd Special Session on Sudan

Delivered by Abdel-Rahman El Mahdi

We welcome this Special Session on Sudan. It is imperative that this scrutiny continues.  

The military coup which took place last week threatens to reverse fragile gains made over the last three years towards democracy in Sudan. The Sudanese military has arrested and detained members of the Sovereign Council, government officials and politicians. 

At least 12 people have been killed and around 300 injured as a result of excessive force used by the military to quell peaceful protests calling for the transitional administration to be respected. The military has disrupted telecommunications and internet connectivity, restricting access to information. Journalists, human rights defenders, and other critics of the government have been arrested and held incommunicado. We call for the immediate release of detained human rights defenders, journalists, protesters, and politicians as a matter of urgency, and for the immediate cessation of violence against protesters.

The situation risks deteriorating still further and the international community has an important role in preventing this. To this end we fully support the creation of a Special Rapporteur mandate on Sudan which would complement existing regional efforts, both to address the current crisis and to better ensure protection of civic space henceforth. The gravity of the situation, highlighted by Sudan’s suspension from the African Union, justifies an even stronger mechanism. 

Special Procedures and the High Commissioner for Human Rights have echoed the calls of protesters for robust action from the Council. Today the Council has an opportunity to heed the voices of those most affected by the decisions it makes, and to take such action. We urge you to do so.

Thank you.

 

Call to action to protect the democratic transition and human rights in Sudan

A military coup targeting the civilian government in Sudan took place on Monday 25 October 2021. The African Union suspended Sudan’s membership. The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat made a statement noting that the deeply concerning events occurring in Sudan have resulted in the arrest of the Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdock, who was released on October 26, and other civilian officials. The total number of arrests made during the coup in unknown, but it is believed all cabinet ministers have been arrested and are being subjected to torture or at severe risk of torture. Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat calls for “the immediate resumption of consultations between civilians and [the] military” and “the release of all arrested political leaders”.

At the international level, the United Nations Special Envoy for the Sudan and South Sudan and United Nations Security Council must take urgent action to protect Sudan’s transition to democracy and the human rights situation in the country following the second military coup in so many months which targeted the civilian government today.

The UN High Commissioner strongly condemned the military coup in Sudan and the declaration of a nationwide state of emergency, the suspension of key articles of the Constitutional Document and the governing bodies, deplored the reported arrest of the Prime Minister, several Ministers, leaders of the Forces of the Freedom and Change and other civil society representatives, and call for their immediate release, and reminded the military and security forces to refrain from unnecessary and disproportionate use of force, to respect people’s freedom of expression, as well as the right of peaceful assembly.

It is crucial that women’s rights and the situation of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) is addressed in the international community’s response to the coup as their position is particularly worrisome and today’s events have only exacerbated their already vulnerable position. This comes as militarisation of the State and violence against protestors remain some of the biggest threats to women’s rights in Sudan.

Civil and political rights were once again violated as peaceful protesters were met with violence including live ammunition, resulting in at least five confirmed deaths and hundreds being injured. Rapid Security Forces (RSF) stormed medical centers that were providing medical care to the injured. A number of activists and protesters were arrested in several cities. Residential areas were also attacked by weapons. Further the majority of means of communication in the country have been cut off including phone lines and internet connection. Blanket internet shutdowns contravene international law. On October 26, Internet and mobile services were briefly restored for a few hours, they must be immediately restored

We call on all States at the Human Rights Council to consider urgent action, such as convening a Special Session, to ensure respect for human rights and the rule of law. In addition, the upcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Sudan on 3 November presents one opportunity for States to bring to the fore these issues and call on the required urgent action. We urge all States to make statements during Sudan’s UPR condemning the coup and supporting the civilian-led democratic transition, and make recommendations relating to[1]:

  • reform of the military and security forces
  • accountability for violence against protesters
  • access to justice for women
  • legal reforms combatting violence and discrimination against women
  • ensuring gender equality
  • ratification of international and regional instruments
  • women, peace and security
  • guaranteeing freedom of expression and assembly
  • the protection of women human rights defenders.

Read also here a statement by the MENA Women Human Rights Defenders Coalition.

 

Signatories

Organisations:

  • Sudan Women’s Rights Action
  • Regional Coalition for Women Human Rights Defenders in the Middle East and North Africa
  • International Service for Human Rights
  • Global Fund for Women
  • Inter Pares, Canada
  • Canada for Africa Group
  • Rights for Peace Foundation
  • Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan
  • Vital Voices, USA
  • Equality Fund, Canada
  • Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  • CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

Individuals

  • Susan Bazilli, Director of International Women’s Rights Project
  • Karen Breeck MD
  • Carole Doucet, Gender/ Women, Peace and Security Expert Adviser
  • Georgina Bencsik, Advisor, Consultant and Strategist
  • Monique Cuillerier (WPSN-C)

 

Civic space in Sudan in rated as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor 

[1] In March 2021 Sudan Women Rights Action, Nora Centre for Combating Sexual Violence, ISHR and the Regional Coalition for Women Human Rights Defenders in the Middle East and North Africa made a joint submission to the UPR of Sudan. Read here a summary of the recommendations to Sudan on women’s rights and women human rights defenders and the full joint submission to the UPR of Sudan.

 

Sudan: The UN Human Rights Council should act urgently and hold a special session

Following the 25 October 2021 military coup in Sudan, CIVICUS and partners have released a call on the UN Human Rights Council to convene a special session to address the crisis in the country. 


To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (Geneva, Switzerland)

Excellencies,

As violence is increasing in Sudan following the military coup of 25 October 2021 and decisive action is needed to protect the transition, Sudan’s constitutional order, and the human rights of people in Sudan, the UN Human Rights Council has a res­ponsi­bility to act urgently.

The Council should fulfil its mandate to prevent violations and respond promptly to human rights emer­gen­cies by convening a special session and adopting a resolution requesting the UN High Com­mis­sio­ner for Human Rights to set up a fact-finding mission to monitor, verify and report on the situ­ation in Sudan with a view to preventing further human rights violations and abuses, iden­ti­fying per­pe­trators, and ensuring ac­coun­tability for these violations and abuses.

Ahead of the 48th session of the Human Rights Council (13 September-11 October 2021), 37 civil so­ciety organisations (CSOs) highlighted[1] the need for the Coun­cil to extend its support to, and scrutiny of, Sudan. The CSOs highlighted that Su­dan’s political transition re­mained incomplete, mentioned on­going challenges and risks, and urged States to maintain the moni­tor­ing and public reporting ca­pacity of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). They wrote: “[T]he Human Rights Coun­cil has a respon­sibi­lity to keep Sudan high on its list of priorities and to contribute to mea­ningful pro­gress in the country.”

Their call remained unanswered as the Council failed to adopt any Sudan-focused resolution.

Two weeks after the session ended, on 25 October 2021, Sudan’s military forces arrested Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and several civilian figures, including members of the Transitional Government and Transitional Sove­reign Council (SC), who were placed under house arrest or taken to unknown loca­tions. At the time of writing, several of them remain held incommunicado or under house arrest. Military elements took con­trol of the national television and key centres of information. They imposed a partial in­ternet shutdown in the country and closed roads, bridges, and the airport in Khartoum.

This military coup occurred one month before the head of the former Transitional Military Council (TMC), Ge­neral Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan, who had since August 2019 been heading the SC, was due to hand over the presidency of the SC to civilian representatives, as per the power-sharing agreement and Constitutional Document of 2019.[2]

General al-Burhan announced a nation-wide state of emer­gen­cy and the dissolution of the SC and the civilian-led Transitional Government.

He unilaterally announced the suspension of Articles 11, 12, 15, 16, 24-3, 71, and 72 of the Cons­ti­tutional Document. These articles pertain to the SC, the Transitional Council of Ministers and Cabinet, the Transitional Legislative Council (which was to be constituted), and the TMC. The latter’s disso­lution seems to have been annulled, paving the way for military rule.[3]

The coup and military takeover also threaten the implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement for Sudan, which was signed on 3 October 2020 between the Transitional Government and parties to the peace process, including armed groups that were involved in the conflicts that have affected several of Sudan’s regional States in the last three decades.

General al-Burhan sought to justify the illegal takeover by blaming “political infighting” within civilian bodies and groups, including the Transitional Government and the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), the coalition that brings together the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), civic groups, and political parties that signed the Declaration on Freedom and Change of January 2019 and led the peaceful popular revo­lution of 2018-2019 that led to the ouster of former President Omar al-Bashir, in April 2019, and the political transition. General al-Burhan even asserted that the army had ousted the gov­ern­ment to avoid a “civil war.”[4]

* * * * * * * * *

Immediately after the coup was reported, and despite restrictions on communications, protesters pea­ce­fully took to the streets to denounce the military’s illegal actions and demand the reinstatement of the gov­ern­ment and a transition to civilian rule. The SPA called for strikes and civil disobedience. Pro­testers erected barricades in the streets. Soldiers opened fire on crowds and reportedly killed at least ten people and injured dozens. Arrests have been reported.[5]

These acts demonstrate the armed and security forces’ lack of commitment to a democratic tran­sition to civilian rule and their determination to consolidate control, including by using violence. The 25 October 2021 military coup fol­lowed a reported coup attempt on 21 September 2021, which “the mili­tary blamed on a cadre of Bashir-allied Islamists but which several diplomats described […] as a trial balloon,” as tensions were growing within the SC.[6]

Fears of a full-fledged, bloody crackdown are mounting. These fears are made credible by the illegal actions of the reconstituted TMC, the history of violence and abuse that characterises Sudan’s armed and security forces, including the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), and the current context, including restrictions on communications, which are remi­nis­cent of the shutdown that was imposed following the atrocities committed on 3 June 2019 (known as the “Khartoum massacre”[7]).

While the total number of arrests made is unknown, it is likely to increase after the release of the present letter. Human rights defenders (HRDs), protest organisers, journalists, and independent voices, in par­ticular women human rights defenders (WHRDs), women journalists, and women and girls protesting the coup, are at a heightened risk of being subjected to violations and abuses. These include arbitrary arrests, the use of unwarranted and lethal force, beatings, ill-treatment and torture, and sexual and gen­der-based violence, as was the case during the Khartoum massacre.[8]

* * * * * * * * *

The coup has drawn condemnation. States, including partners of Sudan, condemned it as a betrayal of the transition, demanded the release of political leaders, and urged full observance for the Constitutional Document and the reinstatement of transitional institutions.[9]

The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), of which Sudan is a Member, issued a sta­te­ment in which its Executive Secretary, Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu, said he was “alarmed by the current political developments.” He “strongly condemn[ed] any attempt to undermine the transitional govern­ment” and called for the “im­mediate release” of all arrested political leaders.[10]

The Arab League expressed “deep concern” about the military coup. The organisation’s Secretary-Ge­ne­ral urged all parties to “fully abide” by the Constitutional Declaration signed in August 2019.[11]

The Chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, who learned “with deep dismay of the serious development of the current situation in Sudan,” called “for the immediate resumption of consultations between civilians and military” and reaffirmed that “dialogue and consensus is the only relevant path to save the country and its democratic transition.” He further called “for the release of all arrested political leaders and the necessary strict respect of human rights.”[12] However, despite the Lomé Declaration on Unconstitutional Changes of Government,[13] he did not con­vey a “clear and unequivocal warning to the perpetrators of the unconstitutional change that, under no circumstances, will their illegal action be tolerated or recognized by the [AU].”

The AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) met on 26 October 2021. The following day, it released a communiqué[14] in which it “strongly condemn[ed] the seizure of power by the Sudanese military on 25 October 2021 and the dissolution of the Transitional Government, and totally reject[ed] the uncons­ti­tutional change of government, as unacceptable and an affront to the shared values and democratic norms of the AU.” It decided to “suspend, with immediate effect, the participation of the Repu­blic of Sudan in all AU activities until the effective restoration of the civilian-led Transitional Authority.”

While this is a positive step, more needs to be done to stop military rule and protect the transition, Sudan’s constitutional order, and the human rights of people in Sudan. As repression increases, AU me­diation efforts and Human Rights Council action are not mutually exclusive but complementary.

The UN Secretary-General, Mr. António Guterres, “strongly condemn[ed] the ongoing military coup d’état in Khartoum and all actions that could jeopardize Sudan’s political transition and stability.” He called for the immediate reconstitution of the governing arrangements provided for under the Consti­tutional Document.” He referred to the “unlawful detention” of the Prime Minister, government officials and politicians as “un­ac­ceptable” and called for the immediate release of those detained arbitrarily. He added: “Any at­tempts to undermine this transition process puts at risk Sudan’s security, stability and development.”[15]

The Special Representative for Sudan and Head of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), Mr. Volker Perthes, said he was “deeply concerned about reports of an ongoing coup and attempts to undermine Sudan’s political transition.” He “called on the security forces to imme­diately release those who have been unlawfully detained or placed under house arrest” and urged an “[immediate] return to dialogue and [engagement] in good faith to restore the constitutional order.”[16]

For her part, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Michelle Bachelet, “strongly con­dem­n[ed] [the] military coup in Sudan and the declaration of a nationwide state of emergency, the sus­pen­sion of key articles of the Cons­titu­tional Document and the governing bodies.” She reminded “military and security forces to refrain from unnecessary and disproportionate use of force, to respect people’s freedom of expression, as well as the right of peaceful assembly.” She added: “It would be disastrous if Sudan goes backwards after finally bringing an end to decades of repressive dictatorship.”[17]

On 26 October, the UN Security Council met behind closed doors to discuss the crisis. It failed to adopt a resolution to unequivocally condemn the military coup, or even to release a statement.

* * * * * * * * *

In this context, the Human Rights Council cannot afford to stay silent or wait for its next regular session, which is due to open on 25 February 2022, to act.

It should make clear that the TMC cannot be considered a legitimate partner; strongly condemn the mi­li­tary coup; urge full respect for the Constitutional Document and the reinstatement of transitional institutions; call for an im­mediate stop to the violence against protesters; demand a release of all poli­tical prisoners; and demand accountability for the human rights violations and abuses committed.

The Human Rights Council should fulfil its mandate to prevent violations and respond promptly to human rights emer­gen­cies, convene a special session, and request the UN High Com­mis­sio­ner for Human Rights to set up a fact-finding mission to monitor, verify and report on the situation in Sudan with a view to preventing further human rights violations and abuses, iden­ti­fying per­petrators, and ensuring ac­coun­tability for these violations and abuses.

The report of the fact-finding mission should be shared with the UN Security Council. The Hu­man Rights Council should further ensure that the High Commissioner publicly and regularly reports on the human rights situation in Sudan, relying on both in-house expertise and the work of the OHCHR country office in Sudan, and it should hold interactive dialogues on the human rights situation in Sudan twice a year.

We thank you for your attention to these pressing issues and stand ready to provide your delegation with further information as required.

Sincerely,

  1. African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS)
  2. AfricanDefenders (Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network)
  3. African Initiative for Peacebuilding, Advocacy and Advancement (AfriPeace)
  4. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  5. Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR)
  6. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  7. CSW (Christian Solidarity Worldwide)
  8. Darfur and Beyond
  9. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  10. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
  11. Global Rights
  12. Human Rights and Peace Centre (HURIPEC)
  13. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  14. International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI)
  15. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  16. Justice Center for Advocacy and Legal Consultations
  17. Kamma Organization for Development Initiatives (KODI)
  18. Kenya Human Rights Commission
  19. Kongamano La Mapinduzi
  20. Lawyers for Justice Sudan
  21. Mouvement Inamahoro
  22. Never Again Coalition
  23. PAX
  24. Physicians for Human Rights
  25. REDRESS
  26. Regional Centre for Training and Development of Civil Society (RCDCS)
  27. The Sentry
  28. Skills for Nuba Mountains
  29. Sudan Archives
  30. Sudan Human Rights Hub
  31. Sudan Unlimited
  32. Victims Advocates International
  33. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights

 

[1] DefendDefenders et al., “The Human Rights Council should extend its support to, and scrutiny of, Sudan,” 10 September 2021 (accessed on 26 October 2021).

[2] For background, see DefendDefenders et al., “Sudan: ensuring a credible response by the UN Human Rights Council,” 3 September 2019, (and Annex) (accessed on 26 October 2021).

[3] Al Jazeera, “Sudan coup: Which constitutional articles have been suspended?” 26 October 2021,  (accessed on 26 October 2021).

[4] France 24, “Sudan’s Burhan says army ousted government to avoid civil war,” 26 October 2021,  (accessed on 27 October 2021).

[5] Al Jazeera, “‘No to army rule’: Pro-democracy protesters take to Sudan streets,” 27 October 2021; BBC News, “Sudan coup: Why the army is gambling with the future,” 27 October 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-59050473 (both accessed on 27 October 2021).

[6] International Crisis Group, “Reversing Sudan’s Dangerous Coup,” 26 October 2021. See also BBC News, “Killings of Peaceful Sudanese Democracy Protesters Demand Accountability: Urgent International Action Needed to Prevent Further Violence,” 21 September 2021, (both accessed on 27 October 2021).

[7] See previous civil society letters on Sudan, in particular International Refugee Rights Initiative et al., “Killings of Peaceful Sudanese Democracy Protesters Demand Accountability: Urgent International Action Needed to Prevent Further Violence,” 6 June 2019, ; DefendDefenders et al., “Sudan: ensuring a credible response by the UN Human Rights Council,” 3 September 2019, (and Annex); DefendDefenders et al., “The Human Rights Council should support human rights reforms in Sudan,” 9 September 2020,  (all accessed on 26 October 2021).

[8] Human Rights Watch, “‘They Were Shouting ‘Kill Them’: Sudan’s Violent Crackdown on Protesters in Khartoum,” 17 November 2019, (accessed on 26 October 2021).

[9] For a comprehensive list of responses by Governments and intergovernmental organizations to the military coup, see Sudan Unlimited, “World Unites with the People of Sudan and Against #SudanCoup,” (accessed on 26 October 2021).

[10]IGAD Statement On The Current Political Development In Sudan,” 25 October 2021,  (accessed on 26 October 2021).

[11] Asharq al-Awsat, “Arab League Expresses ‘Deep Concern’ over Sudan,” 25 October 2021,  (accessed on 26 October 2021).

[12]Statement of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission on the situation in Sudan,” 25 October 2021,  (accessed on 26 October 2021).

[13] AU PSC, “Declaration on the Framework for an OAU Response to Unconstitutional Changes of Government” (AHG/Decl.5 (XXXVI)), 10-12 July 2000, (accessed on 25 October 2021).

[14]Communiqué of the 1041st meeting of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union held on 26 October 2021 on the Situation in Sudan,” 27 October 2021, (accessed on 27 October 2021).

[15]Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General - on Sudan,” 25 October 2021, (accessed on 26 October 2021).

[16]SRSG Statement about Reports of an Ongoing Coup and Attempts to Undermine Sudan’s Political Transition,” 25 October 2021,  (accessed on 26 October 2021).

[17]Statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on the coup d’état in Sudan,” 25 October 2021, (accessed on 26 October 2021).


 Civic space in Sudan is rated as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor.

 

Outcomes from the UN Human Rights Council's 48th session: Progress & Shortcomings

Joint statement from the end of the United Nations' 48th Session of the UN Human Rights Council1


13 organisations share reflections on the key outcomes of the 48th session of the UN Human Rights Council, as well as the missed opportunities to address key issues and situations.

Thematic issues and resolutions

To commemorate the International Safe Abortion Day, 372 organisations demanded free, safe and accessible abortion for everyone.

We welcome the adoption of the resolution on the establishment of the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and climate change, who will focus on the interdependence between human rights, a healthy environment, and combating climate change and we welcome the Council’s historic recognition of the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. These are vital steps towards addressing the climate crisis and achieving environmental justice.

Ensuring a safe and enabling environment for civil society participation at the national and international levels is essential.

We welcome the adoption by consensus of the resolution on cooperation with the UN in the field of human rights, in particular the invitation to the Secretary-General to submit his annual reprisals report to the General Assembly, which will ensure greater attention to the issue and contribute to a more coherent system-wide response across the UN.

We express concern over the reclassification of NGO written statements submitted to the 48th session of the HRC from Agenda Item 4 to Agenda Item 3 without informing or consulting with the submitting organizations, and without transparency for the reasons or scope of this reclassification.

We welcome that the resolution on equal participation in political and public affairs puts an important focus on the context of elections and on the impact of COVID-19, underscoring the importance of protecting civil society participation at every level as part of an effective response to the pandemic, in post-pandemic recovery and as a vital component of democratic electoral processes. We regret that, in this and other resolutions, there has been systematic pushbacks against the inclusion of references to children’s right to participate in public affairs, in particular girls, in contravention of international human rights standards.

We also welcome the resolution on privacy in the digital age. Among other issues, the resolution responds to recent Pegasus revelations and includes new commitments on the use of privately-developed surveillance tools against journalists and human rights defenders. It is now essential that the Council goes further and champions the call made by various UN human rights experts to implement a global moratorium on the sale, export, transfer, and use of private surveillance technology without proper human rights safeguards. We also welcome new language in the text on privacy violations and abuses arising from new and emerging technologies, including biometric identification and recognition technologies. In future iterations of the text, we encourage the core group to go further in calling for a ban on technologies that cannot be operated in compliance with international human rights obligations.

With the withdrawal of the resolution on the realisation of a ‘better life’, we are glad to see that the Council’s mandate and resources will not be diverted to efforts that would distract from its core work or dilute human rights standards.

We regret that it was not possible to schedule the briefing by the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) as per resolution 45/31 – and look forward to future opportunities for exchanges between the HRC and the PBC to learn from one another in efforts to address common contemporary challenges.

Human rights situations on the Council’s agenda

We deplore the abandonment of the Yemeni people by the HRC member States who did not support the renewal of the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen. This failure of the HRC gives the green light to all parties to the conflict to continue their campaign of death and destruction in Yemen. We demand an international criminal investigative mechanism. Anything less is unacceptable.

We regret that the HRC has not responded to the calls of civil society and the evidence of widespread violations in countries including China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia where the situations manifestly warrant the establishment of international investigation and accountability mechanisms.

The establishment of a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan supported by additional and dedicated expertise in OHCHR should bring much needed scrutiny. While we are disappointed that the Council did not establish the full-fledged investigative and monitoring mechanism that the situation warrants, we hope this decision represents a first step towards a stronger response to ensure accountability for human rights violations and crimes under international law in Afghanistan.

While the extension of international scrutiny in Burundi, including through ongoing documentation of violations, is welcome, we regret the absence of a clear strategy post-Commission of Inquiry. As the Burundian government continues to reject cooperation with the Council and its mechanisms and to deny violations, and given that the newly-created Special Rapporteur will not have access to the country for the foreseeable future, it is vital for the Council to rely on benchmarks to design the next steps of its action on, and engagement with, Burundi. We thank the COI for its important work since 2016. It has set the bar high for investigative mechanisms.

We welcome the extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia with a mandate to provide an additional oral update to the Council. However, the resolution falls short of the minimum action required to credibly address the increasing regression in democratic space and civil and political rights and to put in place necessary measures to create an environment conducive for free, fair and inclusive elections in 2022 and 2023, including mandating enhanced monitoring and reporting by the High Commissioner.

More than four years after the beginning of the conflict in the North-West and South-West regions in Cameroon, we deeply regret States’ failure, once again, to collectively address the country’s human rights crisis. As other international and regional bodies remain silent, the Council has a responsibility to act, including through the creation of an investigative and accountability mechanism.

We welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on Libya but regret that the mandate has only been extended for a 9-month period. The severity of ongoing and past violations and abuses in Libya, including war crimes, requires an FFM with a sustained and properly resourced mandate.

We welcome a second joint statement on Nicaragua, and urge concerned States to step up collective action in light of increasing repression ahead of the November 7 elections. Should the Government not revert course, it is fundamental that the Council takes stock and provides an adequate, strong response, including the establishment of an international mechanism at its 49th session.

We welcome the High Commissioner's oral updates on the Philippines. While the UN Joint Program on Human Rights (UNJP) might provide a framework for improvements, we remain concerned that the UN Joint Programme on Human Rights is instrumentalized by the Government only to please the international community. The national accountability mechanism fails to show meaningful progress. We continue to urge the Council to consider establishing a Commission of Inquiry on the Philippines, to eventually start the long-overdue independent and transparent investigation into the human rights violation in the country.

We welcome the robust resolution that extends the mandate of the Independent Expert on Somalia for a further year.

While human rights advancements since 2019 in Sudan should be recognized, Sudan still faces significant human rights challenges including threats of the militarization of the State which is also the most challenging peril for women’s rights and WHRDs in Sudan. The transition is not complete, and political uncertainty remains. Against this backdrop, the Council’s decision to discontinue its formal monitoring of and reporting on Sudan is premature as the military establishment continues to pose a threat to democracy and stability in Sudan. We urge the Sudanese authorities to fully cooperate with the UN human rights system to address ongoing violations including sexual and gender based violence and the legacy of 30 years of dictatorship, including impunity for crimes under international law.


1   Signatories :

  1. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  2. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
  3. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  4. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
  5. FIDH
  6. ARTICLE 19
  7. International Commission of Jurists
  8. FORUM ASIA
  9. International Bar Association
  10. Franciscans International
  11. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  12. Association of Progressive Communications - APC
  13. Child rights connect

 

UN Human Rights Council falls short of action needed on Cambodia’s human rights crisis

Resolution on Cambodia adopted at the 48th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council

The Human Rights Council has renewed the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia, but the resolution adopted by the Council today does not reflect nor adequately address the escalating political and human rights crisis in the country.

With Cambodia’s main opposition party dissolved in 2017 and its politicians barred from politics, the fragile veneer of democracy engendered by the Paris Peace Accords has disintegrated, leaving the country a de facto one-party state. 

The resolution mandates one additional update by the Special Rapporteur to the Council in March 2022, which will allow for further scrutiny of the country ahead of the communal election, set for June 2022. A second additional update, set for March 2023 ahead of the national elections in June that same year, was removed from the draft resolution shortly before its adoption.

‘It is disappointing that the resolution does not reach the bare minimum needed to address the ongoing deterioration of human rights in Cambodia,’ said Cornelius Hanung, Asia Advocacy Officer for CIVICUS. ‘The human rights situation in the country has drastically deteriorated since the last time this resolution was negotiated in 2019, and conditions for free and fair elections are fundamentally and conspicuously absent. There is no sign of domestic or international political will to address this.’

Calls from civil society for enhanced monitoring and reporting by the High Commissioner were not considered.

‘Free and fair elections depend not only on the ability of political parties to participate, but also on press freedom, the ability to dissent without fear of harassment and reprisals, and on civil society being able to organize and assemble,’ said Cornelius Hanung. ‘But we consistently see repressive laws and judicial harassment used in Cambodia to restrict civic freedoms, undermine and weaken civil society, and criminalize individuals for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom of peaceful assembly.’

Cambodia has consistently cited its constructive engagement with the Human Rights Council to pre-empt stronger action, such as additional monitoring, to address its human rights crisis. 

‘Attacks against the Special Rapporteur and his mandate by Cambodia during the Interactive Dialogue to his report represented just the latest example of ‘constructive engagement,’ which to date has been minimal at best and weaponized by Cambodia at worst,’ said Cornelius Hanung. ‘Human rights defenders and those calling for democratic reform on the ground can no longer afford for the Council to seek consensus resolutions at the expense of their protection.’

The adoption of the resolution under the Council’s technical cooperation and capacity-building Item ensures that Cambodia stays on the Council’s agenda for a further two years. CIVICUS maintains its call for the Council to establish a robust monitoring mechanism to adequately assess and address the human rights crisis and further election-related violations.


Civic space in Cambodia is rated 'repressed' by the CIVICUS Monitor. 

 

Resolution on cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms adopted

UN Human Rights Council adopts resolution on cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights 

 

UN Human Rights Council adopts resolution on equal participation in political and public affairs

 

CIVICUS welcomes the adoption by consensus of a resolution on equal participation in political and public affairs by the UN Human Rights Council.

 

The crisis of accountability persists in the Philippines

Statement at 48th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Delivered by Roneo Clamor, Karapatan

CIVICUS and Karapatan welcome the High Commissioner’s update.

In June 2020, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said that violations of human rights, including the widespread and systematic killing of thousands of alleged drug suspects, attacks on human rights activists and the vilification of dissent, were pervasive in the country, and accountability for these actions are virtually non-existent. We have seen no human rights progress on the ground, and the crisis of accountability persists.

The UN national joint programme for human rights adopted in July 2021 has minimal prospects to improve the situation on the ground, particularly given the obvious lack of political will to do so.

Those who protect human rights and call for justice continue to be targeted and attacked. Activists have been killed over the year both by the security forces and unknown individuals. In many instances this occurred following reports of them being red-tagged. In virtually none of the cases has anyone been held accountable.

Others, like 64-year-old human rights worker Teresita Naul, have been arrested on trumped up criminal charges without due process. Senator Leila de Lima remains in prison for politically motivated charges because of her actions to investigate killings in the drug war.

The draconian Anti-Terror Act, adopted in 2020, appears to be aimed at further criminalising dissent.

Justice is about holding perpetrators of human rights violations accountable, reparations for the victims, and the non-repetition of the crimes and atrocities committed. None of these will be forthcoming under the current administration, or the current resolution. We urgently call on the Human Rights Council to establish an overdue independent investigation in the Philippines.

Thank you.

Civic space in the Philippine is rated as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor

 

Cambodia: the Council must address human rights and political crisis

Statement at 48th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Item 10: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia

Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

Thank you, Madame President, and thank you Special Rapporteur. The shrinking civic space and political monopolisation raised in the report has entrenched Cambodia into a de facto one-party state.

Repressive laws are routinely misused to restrict civic freedoms, undermine and weaken civil society, and criminalize individuals for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of peaceful assembly. Human rights defenders, trade unionists, youth activists and journalists and other critical voices are routinely subject to judicial harassment and increasing online surveillance. Environmental activists from Mother Nature Cambodia, along with political activists, have been particularly targeted. Highly politicized courts mean that those arbitrarily detained and charged are often held for prolonged periods in pre-trial detention and have no chance of getting a fair trial.

These concerns have escalated over the past two years. The COVID-19 pandemic and the government’s repressive response have exacerbated restrictions on fundamental freedoms.

The main opposition party was dissolved in 2017 and its politicians remain barred from politics. Communal and national elections, set for 2022 and 2023 respectively, are likely to take place under a political climate severely unconducive to being free or fair.

The fragile veneer of democracy engendered by the Paris Peace Accords has disintegrated past the point of no return in recent years. Those calling for human rights on the ground can no longer afford for the Council to treat the situation as business-as-usual. The Council must take meaningful action now to address the ongoing human rights and political crisis in Cambodia.

Special Rapporteur, given that the Cambodian government has indicated no political will towards democratic or human rights reform, what action must the Council and member states take to protect civic space and contribute to concrete human rights progress on the ground?

We thank you.


Civic space in Cambodia is rated as "repressed" by the CIVICUS Monitor

 

DRC: Ongoing restrictions on civic freedoms must be addressed and accountability ensured

Statement at 48th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Item 10: Enhanced Interactive Dialogoue on the High Commissioner's report on the Democratic Republic of Congo

Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

Thank you, Madame President, and thank you High Commissioner for your report. We share your concerns on ongoing restrictions on civic freedoms. Journalists and HRDs continue to face threats, harassment, intimidation and arbitrary arrests, while protests have been at times met with disproportionate force.

In the past few months, under the state of emergency laws in the provinces of Ituri and North Kivu, three journalists - Joël Musavuli, Héritier Magayane and Barthelemy Kubanabandu Changamuka – were killed, and numerous others have received threats. Actualite.cd journalist Sosthène Kambidi was arrested by military officers last month on accusations of “criminal conspiracy, rebellion and terrorism” for being in possession of a video of the murder of two UN monitors in 2017. Kambidi was involved in a media investigation on the circumstances of those murders.

Protests are too often met with disproportionate force on the part of security forces. An opposition protest to demand the depoliticization of the national electoral commission in September 2021 was violently repressed by police officers in Kinshasa, who also beat and assaulted journalists who were covering the protest, including RFI correspondent Patient Ligodi.

Human rights defenders have been subjected to arbitrary detention and judicial harassment for their peaceful activism. LUCHA activists Elisée Lwatumba Kasonia and Eric Muhindo Muvumbu were arrested in April while calling for a strike to protest increasing insecurity. They were charged with “civil disobedience” and “threatening an attack” and released under stringent bail conditions in July. Other LUCHA activists, Parfait Muhani and Ghislain Muhiwa, have been charged with defamation, among other charges, and await trial before the Military Court.

We call on the Tshisekedi administration to ensure that fundamental freedoms are respected, including by reviewing all restrictive legislation, decriminalising press offences, and as a matter of urgency ensuring the protection of human rights defenders and journalists.

To ensure sustained improvements, ending impunity for rights violations, including those against civil society, must be a priority. To this end, we call on the Council to maintain critical ongoing efforts towards accountability, including that of the team of international experts on Kasai. We further ask the High Commissioner how members and observers of this Council can best support those on the ground to prevent further civic space violations.

We thank you.


Civic space in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is rated as "repressed" 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

 

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.

 

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  

 

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