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Human Rights Council: Adopt resolution on human rights defenders and reject hostile amendments

 unitedMember States of the UN Human Rights Council should support the adoption of a vital draft resolution on the protection of human rights defenders and vote down over 30 hostile amendments proposed by China, Cuba, Egypt, Pakistan and Russia to substantially weaken the text.

In an open letter to governments, a group of more than 150 non-governmental organisations from all regions of the world have said that the resolution – which focuses on the situation and protection needs of those working to promote economic, social and cultural rights – is a timely, balanced and important response to the worsening crackdown on human rights defenders. States from all regions, including Australia, Brazil, France, Ghana, Japan and Tunisia, among others, have already pledged their support for the Norwegian-led text.

The countries sponsoring the hostile amendments are among the worst perpetrators in this regard, with China detaining or disappearing more than 300 journalists, lawyers and human rights defenders since July 2015 and Egypt moving rapidly to shut down the remaining credible, independent human rights organisations in the country.

The draft resolution, which has been developed, through open and transparent negotiations, will be voted upn by 47 Member States of the Human Rights Council on 24 March 2016. Leading human rights experts from around the world, including South African jurist and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, have also publicly called on States to support the draft text.

‘Human rights defenders play a vital role in promoting transparency, good government and the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights for all. Their work is essential for sustainable development and the maintenance of the rule of law. States that support these principles should stand with civil society and co-sponsor and support the draft text,’ said ISHR Human Rights Council Advocacy Director Michael Ineichen.

‘By contrast, a vote in favour of the amendments is, and will be seen to be, a vote against the important and legitimate work of human rights defenders and in favour of attacks and restrictions on their work. It will also be seen as a vote against ESC rights and the right to development,’ Mr Ineichen said.

The amendments being pushed by China, Cuba, Egypt, Pakistan and Russia include proposals to remove any reference in the text to the term ‘human rights defenders’, to deny the legitimacy of their work, and to weaken their protection against attacks and reprisals.

‘If States support the protection and realisation of economic, social and cultural rights and the right to development for all, including the most disadvantaged and vulnerable, they should equally support the protection of human rights defenders who work tirelessly and courageously to achieve these rights,’ Mr Ineichen said.

Contact: Michael Ineichen, Human Rights Council Advocacy Director, International Service for Human Rights, on or + 41 78 827 77 86

Letter to Member States of the UN Human Rights Council

Re: Support resolution on the protection of human rights defenders addressing economic, social and cultural rights

24 March 2016

Your Excellency,

The undersigned 150 civil society organisations, coming from all regions, urge your delegation to support the adoption of the resolution on the protection of human rights defenders working to promote economic, social and cultural rights as tabled. We urge you to resist efforts to undermine and weaken this resolution.

The draft resolution entitled ‘Protecting human rights defenders addressing economic, social and cultural rights (A/HRC/31/L.28) is being considered by the 31st session of the Human Rights Council. It will be presented for adoption today, 24 March.

South African jurist and former High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has articulated the importance of such a resolution in the following terms:

As a South African, I have seen and experienced first-hand the role of ESC rights defenders in combating poverty and injustice and in promoting universal human rights for all, even the most powerless and disadvantaged. I have seen how the work of those who defend ESC rights benefits entire communities; just as attacks against those who defend ESC rights harm entire communities. That is why it is so important and timely that the UN Human Rights Council is currently negotiating a resolution on the protection of ESC rights defenders.

The draft resolution has been developed through a number of open and transparent informal negotiations.

The text, as tabled, is balanced and appropriate, in recognising the vital contribution of human rights defenders to the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights and the right to development. It is currently cosponsored by a broad group of States from all regions of the world.

The text also identifies the threats, attacks and challenges facing this group of defenders and the obligations, duties and interests of State and non-State actors in terms of supporting and safeguarding this work. It provides good practice guidance to both State and non-State actors in this regard.

Despite the importance of the resolution – so tragically illustrated at the commencement of the 31st session with the murder of Honduran woman human rights defender Berta Caceres – a small group of States, led by the Russian Federation, China, Egypt, Cuba and Pakistan are seeking to seriously undermine the text. A large number of adverse amendments being pushed by these States include proposals, which have the purpose or would have the effect of:

  • Removing any reference to the term ‘human rights defenders’;
  • Denying the legitimacy of the work of human rights defenders;
  • Weakening protection against, and accountability for, intimidation and reprisals against human rights defenders and others who cooperate with the United Nations;
  • Failing to acknowledge the specific risks and violations faced by women, indigenous, and land and environment human rights defenders, their families and communities;
  • Diluting and regressing from consensus language and terminology from past human rights defenders resolutions; and
  • Seeking to justify limitations on human rights that are impermissible under international human rights law.

The amendments being advocated by the Russian Federation, China, Egypt, Cuba and Pakistan should be seen in the context of the systematic efforts currently underway in several of these States to restrict and criminalise the important and legitimate work of human rights defenders and independent civil society organisations in violation of international human rights law. The proposal to weaken language on reprisals should similarly be understood in the context of several of the proposing States being the subject of allegations of intimidation or reprisals in both the Secretary-General’s report and the joint communications report of Special Procedures.

We urge you not to associate with such positions. Instead, we respectfully urge your delegation to co-sponsor resolution L.28 as tabled, vote against the amendments presented, and vote in favor of the resolution as drafted.

Civil society and human rights defenders around the world look to the HRC and its Member States for support and protection, and we hope your delegation will stand with us.

Yours sincerely,

  1. International Service for Human Rights
  2. Acción Solidaria on HIV/Aids
  3. Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights
  4. Alkarama Foundation
  5. All India Network of Individuals and NGOs working with National and State Human Rights Institutions (AiNNI)
  6. Amnesty International
  7. Arc International
  8. ARTICLE 19
  9. Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP)
  10. Asia Pacific Forum on Women Law and Development
  11. Asian Association of Police Studies
  12. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development
  13. Asociación Interamericana para la Defensa del Ambiente (AIDA)
  14. Association for Advancement of Legal Right
  15. Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
  16. Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT)
  17. Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)
  18. Australian Civil Society Coalition on Women, Peace and Security
  19. Avam NGO
  20. Boys of Bangladesh
  21. Bread for the World, Germany
  22. Business & Human Rights Resource Centre
  23. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  24. Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR)
  25. Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)
  26. CELS (Argentina)
  27. Center for Inquiry
  28. Center for Islamic Thought
  29. Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights (Russia)
  30. Centro Regional de Derechos Humanos y Justicia de Género – Corporación Humanas (Chile)
  31. Child Rights Connect
  32. Child Rights International Network CRIN
  34. CIVILIS Derechos Humanos
  35. Coalition Ivoirienne des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CIDDH)
  36. Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL)
  37. Colombian Commission of Jurists
  38. Community Resource Centre Foundation (Thailand)
  39. Conectas Human Rights (Brazil)
  40. Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights
  41. Corporacion Reiniciar
  42. Defend Defenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  43. Digital Empowerment Foundation (India)
  44. ECLT Foundation
  45. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)
  46. Equitable Cambodia
  47. EuroMed Rights – Euro Mediterranean Human Rights Network
  48. Federatie van Nederlandse Verenigingen tot Integratie van Homoseksualiteit – COC Nederland
  49. Federation of Women and Family Planning
  50. FIAN International
  51. FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  52. Fiji Women’s Rights Movement
  53. Fórum Suape Espaço Socioambiental – Brazil
  54. Foundation HELP (Tanzania)
  55. Franciscans International
  56. Freedom House
  57. Freedom Now
  58. Freemuslim Association Inc
  59. Front Line Defenders
  60. Function 8
  61. Gender Empowerment and Development GeED
  62. Global Bersih
  63. Global Human Rights Clinic
  64. Global Initiative for Economic, Social & Cultural Rights
  65. Global Justice Clinic, NYU School of Law
  66. Globe International Center
  67. Groundation Grenada
  68. Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
  69. Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly – Vanadzor
  70. Human Dignity
  71. Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan
  72. Human Rights Council of Australia
  73. Human Rights Defenders Alert – India
  74. Human Rights Defenders Network Sierra Leone
  75. Human Rights House Foundation
  76. Human Rights Law Centre (Australia)
  77. Human Rights Watch
  78. Humane, Koraput
  79. ICCA Consortium (
  80. Inclusive Development International
  81. Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety
  82. International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute
  83. International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran
  84. International Commission of Jurists
  85. International Council of AIDS Service Organizations (ICASO)
  86. International Council on Social Welfare – Europe
  87. International Humanist and Ethical Union
  88. International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA)
  89. International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR)
  90. International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net)
  91. International Platform against Impunity
  92. International Women’s Development Agency
  93. International Youth Human Rights Movement (YHRM)
  94. Ivorian Observatory for Human Rights (OIDH)
  95. Just Associates (JASS)
  96. Kvinna till Kvinna
  97. LGBT Centre (Mongolia)
  98. Loretto Community
  99. Martin Ennals Foundation
  100. MiningWatch Canada
  101. Minority Rights Group International (MRG)
  102. Mongolian Women’s employment supporting federation
  103. Mosaiko Instituto para a Cidadania
  104. Movimento Xingu Vivo para Sempre
  105. Movimiento Homosexual de Lima – MHOL, Perú
  106. National Economic and Social Rights Initiative
  107. National Fisheries Solidarity Organization (NAFSO), Sri Lanka
  108. Nazra for Feminist Studies (Egypt)
  109. Nuremberg Human Rights Centre
  110. Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program
  111. OT Watch (Mongolia)
  112. Peace Brigades International
  113. People’s Watch – India
  114. PODER
  115. Polish Institute for Human Rights and Business
  116. POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti
  117. Professor Ben Saul, Sydney Law School, The University of Sydney, Australia
  118. Project Maisha
  119. Promo-LEX Association, Moldova
  120. Protection International
  121. Proyecto de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales (ProDESC)- México
  122. Public Interest Advocacy Centre (Australia)
  123. Public Verdict Foundation
  124. Rede Pantanal de ONGs e Movimentos Sociais
  125. Reporters Without Borders
  126. Réseau International des Droits Humains “RIDH”
  127. Rights and Accountability in Development
  128. Rivers without Boundaries Mongolia
  129. Salmmah Women’s Resource Centre (Sudan)
  130. SAVIA –  Asociación para la conservación, investigacion de la bioversidad y el desarrollo sustentable
  131. Scholars at Risk Network
  132. Shia Rights Watch Inc
  133. Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC)
  134. Steps Without Borders NGO
  135. Terra de Direitos (Brazil)
  136. The Honorable Justice Elizabeth Evatt AC, former member of the UN Human Rights Committee
  137. The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People(MOSOP)
  138. The Tibet Bureau
  139. Think Centre
  140. Transparency International
  141. True Heroes Films
  142. UN Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA)
  143. Union Internationale des Avocats (UIA – International Association of Lawyers)
  144. Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights
  145. US Human Rights Network
  146. Uthnau
  147. We Women Lanka  (National conviner ) Marian Geetha lakmini
  148. West African Human Rights Defenders’ Network
  149. Workplace Pride Asia
  150. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  151. World Uyghur Congress
  152. Yemen Organization for Defending Rights & Democratic Freedoms

category: General news, International affairs

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