Reflections on the 32st session of the UN Human Rights Council

At the end of the 32nd session of the UN Human Rights Council, DefendDefenders looks back on three weeks of intense advocacy efforts, which, despite challenges along the way, resulted in a number of key decisions for civil society as a whole, and in the East and Horn of Africa in particular.

On 21 June, the world turned its attention to the sub-region, as the UN Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea (CoI) presented its second and final report. Originally established for one year, the Commission’s mandate was renewed in June 2015 to further investigate human rights violations in Eritrea, “with a view to ensuring full accountability, including where these violations may amount to crimes against humanity.”

During the 32nd session, the CoI gave its answer, finding that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed in Eritrea since 1991.” While this report represents a landmark moment for Eritreans and the human rights community at large, the priority for this session was to ensure that the CoI’s report was translated into tangible actions, including full accountability for crimes against humanity.

Despite challenges from certain states relating to the African Union’s threat to leave the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the refugee crisis in Europe, to which Eritrea contributes in large numbers, the UNHRC responded to the combined voices of international and Eritrean civil society by adopting a strong resolution that takes initial steps towards ensuring justice for the victims.

Eritrea: Crimes against humanity and next steps

On 24 June DefendDefenders organised the side-event “Eritrea: Crimes against humanity and next steps,” at the margins of the UNHRC. During a fruitful discussion, panellists Selam Kidane (Stop the Slavery), Daniel Rezene (Eritrea Law Society), and Biniam Simon (Radio Erena) shared their unique perspectives on campaigns and legal recourses that could contribute to bringing perpetrators to account.

In his global update, High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein drew attention to the worsening patterns of human rights violations being committed across the world, and specifically in Eritrea, Sudan, Burundi, and Kenya. In South Sudan, he emphasised that “the appalling violence that the country has suffered has roots in past failures of accountability, and there must now be a clear and determined commitment to hold perpetrators to account.”

During the session, DefendDefenders joined its partners to urge the UNHRC to consider a number of thematic resolutions particularly relevant to the East and Horn of Africa.

In an historic vote, the UNHRC established a mandate for an Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) rights to combat and prevent violence, hatred, and discrimination against sexual minorities. The importance of this decision can hardly be overstated, particularly for the East and Horn of Africa where human rights defenders working on SOGI rights still face frequent threats and harassment.

The UNHRC also adopted a resolution on Internet freedom, reaffirming that people should enjoy the same rights online as offline. The text specifically condemns measures to prevent and disrupt Internet access, such as the February and May 2016 social media blackouts in Uganda.

With civil society space shrinking across the East and Horn of Africa, and on the brink of collapse in some countries, DefendDefenders also welcomed a strong resolution on the protection of civil society space, emphasising the positive contribution of civil society and human rights defenders, and offering guidelines for its further development.

Finally, DefendDefenders delivered statements to call the Council’s attention to urgent situations of concern in Burundi and Ethiopia, highlight the importance of continued monitoring during the Interactive Dialogues on Burundi and South Sudan, and welcome the adoption of Somalia’s Universal Periodic Review.

Oral statements to the Council
Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea

Item 4 – 21 June 2016

Delivered by Ms Clementine de Montjoye


Thank you Mr President,

The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project welcomes the second report of the Commission of Inquiry highlighting the extremely concerning human rights situation in Eritrea, and reiterates its recommendations to the Council.

Mr President, our organisation has been working on Eritrea since it was founded ten years ago. The Commission of Inquiry has brought attention to one of the most concerning human rights situation in the world today. Civil society in Eritrea has effectively been decimated, and at least 15 journalists are still being held in its insalubrious jails, detained incommunicado since 2001.

The limited access to the country has affected regional and international non-governmental organisations including our own. We cannot reach human rights defenders in the country who need our support, and those outside of the country are harassed and fear retaliation for speaking critically of Eritrea.

The Commission of Inquiry has found that the government of Eritrea is responsible for unspeakable crimes of enslavement, imprisonment, enforced disappearance, torture, persecution, rape and murder, which gives them reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed.

Mr President, we are extremely concerned by the Government of Eritrea’s refusal to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry, and its lack of adequate national mechanisms to address the Commission’s findings. The Government of Eritrea’s rejection of the findings highlights the need for the Council to take steps to ensure victims of grave and systematic human rights violations, including those amounting to crimes against humanity, access justice.

Mr President, we echo the Commission’s call for the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea to be renewed, and for the establishment of a structure by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights with a protection and promotion mandate, to assist in ensuring accountability for human rights violations in Eritrea, especially where such violations amount to crimes against humanity. Finally, we call on the Government of Eritrea to immediately and unconditionally release all activists, journalists, and prisoners of conscience detained for exercising their rights.

I thank you.

Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on South Sudan

Item 4 – 23rd June 2016 

East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation

Delivered by Ms Clementine de Montjoye


Thank you Mr President.

The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and CIVICUS welcome this enhanced interactive dialogue with national, regional and international stakeholders on the grave situation in South Sudan.

Mr President, the establishment of a Commission on human rights in South Sudan at the 31st Session of the Council and the appointment of Commissioners last week represent a welcome step towards accountability for the victims of grave human rights violations in Africa’s newest nation. The Commission represents an important opportunity for regional and international cooperation in response to one of the most brutal conflicts happening in the world today.

While mechanisms have been developed to ensure heightened scrutiny of human rights violations and pave the road towards accountability – and ultimately peace – in South Sudan, our organisations are extremely concerned about the growing number of human rights defenders being targeted through threats, intimidation, kidnappings and torture.

Local civil society wishing to take an active part in or report on the implementation of the peace agreement, including Chapter V relating to the establishment of a hybrid court, have reported being threatened and targeted for their work. Many journalists attempting to objectively report the conflict, the Transitional Government of National Unity and the peace agreement are being forced to either do so anonymously or from outside the country.

Today, human rights defenders ask not only for truth and reconciliation in South Sudan, but also for justice and accountability. It is critical to the successful implementation of the Peace Agreement that they are given the opportunity to participate safely and effectively in these processes.

Mr President, we strongly urge the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission for the Agreement of the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan, the South Sudan Human Rights Commission, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, and the newly mandated UN Commission on the situation of human rights in South Sudan to not only encourage but also facilitate the active involvement of local civil society in the peace process in order to achieve sustainable peace, stability and the respect for all human rights in South Sudan.

I thank you Mr President.

Human rights situations that require the Council's attention

Item 4 – 23rd June 2016 

East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation

Delivered by Ms Clementine de Montjoye


Thank you Mr President.

The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and CIVICUS welcome this enhanced interactive dialogue with national, regional and international stakeholders on the grave situation in South Sudan.

Mr President, the establishment of a Commission on human rights in South Sudan at the 31st Session of the Council and the appointment of Commissioners last week represent a welcome step towards accountability for the victims of grave human rights violations in Africa’s newest nation. The Commission represents an important opportunity for regional and international cooperation in response to one of the most brutal conflicts happening in the world today.

While mechanisms have been developed to ensure heightened scrutiny of human rights violations and pave the road towards accountability – and ultimately peace – in South Sudan, our organisations are extremely concerned about the growing number of human rights defenders being targeted through threats, intimidation, kidnappings and torture.

Local civil society wishing to take an active part in or report on the implementation of the peace agreement, including Chapter V relating to the establishment of a hybrid court, have reported being threatened and targeted for their work. Many journalists attempting to objectively report the conflict, the Transitional Government of National Unity and the peace agreement are being forced to either do so anonymously or from outside the country.

Today, human rights defenders ask not only for truth and reconciliation in South Sudan, but also for justice and accountability. It is critical to the successful implementation of the Peace Agreement that they are given the opportunity to participate safely and effectively in these processes.

Mr President, we strongly urge the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission for the Agreement of the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan, the South Sudan Human Rights Commission, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, and the newly mandated UN Commission on the situation of human rights in South Sudan to not only encourage but also facilitate the active involvement of local civil society in the peace process in order to achieve sustainable peace, stability and the respect for all human rights in South Sudan.

I thank you Mr President.

Adoption of the Universal Periodic Review report on Somalia

24 June 2016

Joint Statement by the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and the International Refugee Rights Initiative

Delivered by Ms Kafia Omar


Thank you Mr President,

The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and the International Refugee Rights Initiative welcome steps taken by Somalia to strengthen the human rights framework since its last UPR, such as creating the Ministry of Women and Human Rights and ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child. However there are three critical areas that are urgent to address to ensure Somalia continues to strengthen its promotion and protection of human rights: the safety and enabling environment of human rights defenders and media workers; abuses committed against civilians by armed actors in the country; and the need for inclusive nationality laws.

Human rights defenders and media workers continue to face threats to their safety and security, including violent retaliation such as killings and harrassment, for reporting on security and governance issues. Although the armed group Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the majority of appalling human rights violations against media workers, the Government of Somalia itself has placed unacceptable restrictions on the right to freedom of expression with closures of radio stations and arrests of journalists deemed critical of the government, and the introduction of laws and policies contrary to its international and regional human rights obligations, including the media law signed by the President in January 2016. Media workers have expressed concern that broad provisions are likely to prompt self-censorship. We therefore strongly urge the government to take effective and meaningful steps to implement the important recommendations put forward during this examination and ensure the creation of a safe and enabling environment for media workers and human rights defenders.

In addition, there have been a series of well-documented human rights violations committed against civilians by the African Union Mission in Somalia and the country’s own security forces. In light of this, we urge Somalia to devote attention to raising awareness among its forces and AMISOM in the areas of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and to conduct investigations into violations perpetrated by these actors.

Moreover, in the previous review, Somalia committed to making progress in providing gender equality and rejecting historical discrimination in its laws. Yet its current nationality law results in statelessness for children of Somali women who cannot pass on their nationality. Therefore, we urge Somalia to address the issue of nationality expediting the necessary reform of its laws.

Thank you once again, Mr President.

Interactive Dialogue on the High Commissioner's report on Burundi

Item 10 – 29 June 2016

Delivered by Ms Renate Bloem


Thank you, Mr. President,

CIVICUS and the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project welcome the report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Burundi.

We note with extreme concern the dire deterioration of the situation, including restrictions on fundamental freedoms and arbitrary arrests and detentions, cruel and inhumane treatment, torture and extrajudicial executions, perpetrated by the armed forces and the Imborenakure.  This – as the report mentions – has created a climate of fear and intimidation, fuelled by high levels of impunity.

The report further highlights the closure and suspension of media houses, threats and intimidation of journalists which have forced many into exile. These attacks on the independent media have severely limited the publication of information relating to human rights violations and made it impossible for journalists to work, making the work of the expert mission all the more important.

Moreover, the suspension of several NGOs, and the freezing of the accounts of others have paralysed these organisations in order to prevent them from carrying out any activity.  Human rights defenders have been the subject of targeted assassinations, arbitrary detentions, intimidation and enforced disappearances.

Burundian civil society groups have documented increasing cases of extrajudicial executions, and are extremely concerned that many remain undocumented, particularly outside the capital Bujumbura. We regret that the government of Burundi has not allowed any independent investigations into alleged mass graves, and call on the government to immediately do so.

Mr President, our organisations believe that there is a critical, urgent and overwhelming need for increased monitoring and public reporting on the human rights situation in Burundi. Given the grave risks Burundian human rights defenders face when attempting to continue their human rights work, we believe that the Office of the High Commissioner in Burundi has a fundamental role to play in raising awareness of on-going violations in the country.

Moreover, we urge the Council to establish a Special Rapporteur mandate on Burundi to immediately take over from the mission of independent experts dispatched by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Open letters to the Council
Re: Addressing human rights violations in Eritrea and the UN Commission of Inquiry’s findings

20 June 2016

Your Excellency,

We, the undersigned civil society organisations (CSOs), write to express our grave concern about the Eritrean Government’s continued and egregious violations of human rights. We urge your delegation to co-sponsor a resolution renewing the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea and supporting the establishment of robust accountability mechanisms to facilitate access to justice to the victims of human rights violations and crimes against humanity in Eritrea during the 32nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC).

The mandate of the UN Commission of Inquiry (CoI) was established at the 26th session of the UN HRC with a view to assess human rights violations documented by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea. [1] The CoI’s mandate was extended at the 29th session and instructed to “investigate systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights in Eritrea with a view to ensuring accountability, including where these violations may amount to crimes against humanity.”[2]

On 8 June 2016, the CoI released its second report, which states that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed in Eritrea since 1991,” and that Eritrean government officials are responsible for crimes of enslavement, imprisonment, enforced disappearance, torture, other inhumane acts, persecution, rape and murder. [3]

The CoI further found that there has been no change in Eritrea’s national service policy since the CoI’s establishment in 2014, which includes the use of conscripts to carry out non-military work, including for State-owned and other enterprises. The CoI secured evidence that reprisals, including extrajudicial executions, for evasion of conscription remain rampant. Most recently, on 3 April 2016, armed forces opened fire in the centre of the capital Asmara, killing an unconfirmed number of young conscripts, who were being transferred from Tessney to Massawa, and attempted to visit their families while in Asmara.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, an estimated 5,000 Eritreans flee the country every month as a result of the dire human rights situation, some risking their lives to escape to Europe despite the dangers and obstacles they face in obtaining asylum.

Since June 2014, the Eritrean Ministry of Information has refused to cooperate with the CoI while publicly claiming that the CoI’s research constitutes a “campaign of unwarranted witch-hunting of Eritrea by an entity which has clearly opted to instrumentalise human rights to serve political agendas.”[4] In June 2015, the UN HRC’s President condemned attacks and intimidation perpetrated against members of the CoI during their mission to Geneva.[5]

In light of the lack of adequate national mechanisms to address the CoI findings and the Government of Eritrea’s claim that the report’s findings are “extreme and unfounded charges with no solid and legal evidence to support its conclusion,”[6] it is incumbent upon the international community, including the UN HRC, to facilitate access to justice for the victims of the Eritrean Government’s grave and systematic violations of international human rights law, including those amounting to crimes against humanity.

Therefore, we respectfully request your delegation to co-sponsor a resolution during the 32nd UN HRC session that:

  • Renews the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea for one year; provides the mandate holder with the necessary human and financial resources; and includes in her mandate the promotion of and reporting on the implementation of the CoI’s recommendations;
  • Supports the establishment of a structure by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights with a protection and promotion mandate, to assist in ensuring accountability for human rights violations in Eritrea, especially where such violations amount to crimes against humanity;
  • Requests the High Commissioner for Human Rights to report regularly on the situation of human rights in Eritrea; and
  • Transmits the report of the CoI to the UN General Assembly, the UN Security Council, and the UN Secretary-General.

Sincerely,

  • Amnesty International
  • Article 19
  • Christian Solidarity Worldwide
  • Citizens for Democratic Rights in Eritrea
  • CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  • DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  • Eritrean Initiative on Refugee Rights
  • Eritrean Law Society
  • Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights
  • Eritrean Unity for Justice
  • Eritreans for Human and Democratic Rights – UK
  • Freedom Friday
  • Human Rights Concern – Eritrea
  • International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  • International Service for Human Rights
  • Network of Eritrean Women
  • One Day Seyoum
  • Release Eritrea
  • Reporters Without Borders
  • Stop Slavery in Eritrea
  • Suwera Centre for Human Rights
  • World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

[1] A/HRC/RES/26/24, 27 June 2014

[2] A/HRC/RES/29/18, 22 July 2015

[3] Report of the commission of inquiry on human rights in Eritrea, A/HRC/32/47, 8 June 2016

[4] Eritrean Ministry of Information, “’Commission of Inquiry’: Unwarranted witch-hunting of Eritrea”, 12 December 2015, http://www.shabait.com/editorial/press-release/21422-commission-of-inquiry-unwarranted-witch-hunting-of-eritrea

[5] Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea, 29th Session of the UN HRC, 23 June 2015

[6] Statement by Mr Osman Saleh, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Eritrea, 32nd Session of the UN HRC, 14 June 2014

Re: Call for your support and solidarity in rejecting amendments to HRC32 draft resolution protecting civil society space

29 June 2016

Your Excellency,

We, the undersigned 244 civil society organizations, spanning across all regions of the world, call on your delegation to stand in solidarity with civil society by supporting the draft resolution on the protection of civil society space, to be considered for adoption at the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council (on 30 June or 1 July). We urge you to cosponsor the draft resolution, reject all amendments, and vote in favour of the resolution if a vote is called.

The draft resolution, presented by a cross-regional group of States comprising of Chile, Ireland, Japan, Sierra Leone, and Tunisia, was developed through broad consultation with States and civil society and in the past was adopted by consensus.

The essential ingredients for States to create a safe and enabling environment for civil society are spelled out in the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ report, on which the draft resolution is based. It affirms that:

“If space exists for civil society to engage, there is a greater likelihood that all rights will be better protected. Conversely, the closing of civil society space, and threats and reprisals against civil society activists, are early warning signs of instability. Over time, policies that delegitimize, isolate and repress people calling for different approaches or legitimately claiming their rights can exacerbate frustrations and lead to instability or even conflict.”

The draft resolution welcomes the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and recognizes the key role of civil society in achieving the goals. Once adopted, the resolution will be a substantive contribution to the Council’s work to protect civil society space. In particular, it:

  • Emphasizes the positive contribution of independent, diverse and pluralistic civil society to peace, security, sustainable development and human rights, and highlights good practice in protecting and supporting this role;
  • Provides useful guidance for States to ensure that legal and policy frameworks are enabling for civil society and prevent intimidation and reprisals against civil society actors;
  • Helps States and civil society to identify areas of legal, policy and administrative reform to safeguard the ability of civil society actors to fully exercise the rights to freedoms of expression, opinion, assembly and association, and to participate in democracy and public life, without hindrance. This includes on registration and reporting requirements, access to information, and securing resources for the vital work of civil society;
  • Creates opportunities and incentives for States to voluntarily share and develop their good practices, and to lay the groundwork to benefit from the transformative potential of a vibrant civil society in any healthy, pluralistic and participatory democracy;
  • Mandates OHCHR to study practices and procedures for civil society to contribute to the work of international and regional organisations, and consolidate best practices and challenges in that regard; and
  • Invites United Nations bodies, agencies, funds and programs to themselves contribute to the protection and expansion of space for civil society.

However, fifteen amendments (L. 51 – L. 66) tabled by the Russian Federation seek to remove these essential elements from the draft resolution, and insert language to justify illegitimate restrictions on civil society that would undermine the protections of international human rights law. Many of the amendments challenge previously agreed HRC or General Assembly language.

If adopted, the amendments would undermine international efforts to safeguard space or civil society, including because they would effectively:

  • Reject the expert guidance and practical recommendations made by the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights on civil society space, including to remove substantive recommendations to states on ensuring: a supportive legal framework for civil society and access to justice; public and political environment for civil society; access to information; public participation of civil society actors, and human rights education (L. 63);
  • Remove or otherwise limit commitments to protect and promote the right to freedom of association, in particular civil society’s right to access resources for its vital work, and to be free of arbitrary registration and reporting requirements that seek to hinder the work and safety of civil society (L. 56, L. 57, L. 61, L. 63);
  • Remove references to the gravity of threats civil society faces, including illegitimate restrictions to their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, as well as reprisals against those seeking to cooperate or cooperating with the United Nations and other international bodies (L.51, L.54);
  • Narrow the understanding of “minority groups”, by seeking to include only a limited and under-inclusive list of protected characteristics to the exclusion of others recognised under international human rights law (L. 59);
  • Remove reference to the term “human rights defenders”, as well as previous work of the HRC on their protection (L.51, L. 53);
  • Remove concerns that restrictions on civil society may limit the United Nations in achieving its purposes and principles (L. 52), and removing the emphasis on the Universal Periodic Review as an important mechanism to create space for civil society (L.62).

Excellency, we therefore ask that your delegation stand in solidarity with civil society by cosponsoring draft resolution L.29 on civil society space, opposing any amendment that would weaken the text, as those tabled appear to do, and voting in favour of the resolution if a vote is called.

Yours sincerely,

  1. Abibiman Foundation
  2. Access Now
  3. Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights
  4. Adala Center for Human Rights
  5. African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
  6. Akahata AC
  7. Albanian Helsinki Committee
  8. Alkarama Foundation
  9. Alliance for Democracy in Laos
  10. Alliance for Good Governance (AGG)
  11. Allied Rainbow Communities International
  12. Alternatives
  13. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
  14. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain
  15. Amnesty International
  16. Anuak Justice Council (AJC)
  17. Arab Forum for the rights of people with disability
  18. ARTICLE 19
  19. Asia Pacific Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights
  20. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  21. Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC)
  22. Association des victimes et parents du 28 Septembre 2009
  23. Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE)
  24. Association for Progressive Communications
  25. Association for Promotion of Sustainable Development, Hisar, India
  26. Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)
  27. Association of Scientists, Developers and Faculties
  28. Association of Women for Awareness & Motivation (AWAM)
  29. Association of World Citizens
  30. Baha’i International Community
  31. Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy
  32. Bahrain youth society for Human Rights
  33. Boat People SOS
  34. Both ENDS
  35. British Humanist Association
  36. Brot für die Welt
  37. Burma Task Force/Justice for All
  38. Business & Human Rights Resource Centre
  39. Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)
  40. Center for Civil Liberties (Ukraine)
  41. Center for Development of International Law
  42. Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance (CEWLA)
  43. Center for Inquiry (USA)
  44. Center for International Environmental Law
  45. Center for Reproductive Rights
  46. Center for Women’s Global Leadership, Rutgers University
  47. Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights
  48. Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Montaña Tlachinollan
  49. Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)
  50. Centro Regional de Derechos Humanos y Justicia de Género
  51. CEPAZ (Venezuela)
  52. Child Rights Connect
  53. Child Rights International Network (CRIN)
  54. Christian Solidarity Worldwide
  55. Citizens for Democratic Rights in Eritrea (CDRiE)
  56. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  57. Coalition de la Societe Civile pour le Monitoring Electoral (COSOME)
  58. Coalition Ivoirienne des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CIDDH)
  59. Coalition of African Lesbians
  60. CODDHD (Niger)
  61. COFADEH (Honduras)
  62. COMBITE POUR LA PAIX ET LE DEVELOPPEMENT
  63. Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos
  64. Comité Catholique contre la Faim et pour le Développement – Terre Solidaire
  65. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
  66. Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (South Sudan)
  67. Community Legal Education Center (CLEC)
  68. Concertation Nationale de la Societe Civile du Togo (CNSC- TOGO)
  69. Conectas Human Rights
  70. Cooperation Committee for Cambodia (CCC)
  71. Coordination des associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience
  72. CREA (India)
  73. Deepti Bhuban
  74. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  75. Dimension Humaine
  76. Due for youth and women Tainment Forum (Nigeria)
  77. East Timor and Indonesia Action Network
  78. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
  79. Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance (CEWLA)
  80. Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
  81. Emonyo Yefwe International
  82. End Impunity Organization
  83. Equality Myanmar
  84. Ethiopian Human Rights Project (EHRP)
  85. European Center for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)
  86. European Center For Not For Profit Law
  87. European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights
  88. Femmes et Droits Humains
  89. Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action (FAIRA)
  90. Foundation for Media Alternatives
  91. Foundation for Media Alternatives (Philippines)
  92. Freedom House
  93. Front Line Defenders
  94. Function 8 Ltd
  95. Girls Education Mission International
  96. Global Bersih
  97. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
  98. Global Fund for Women
  99. Global Human Rights Group
  100. Global Initiative for Economic, Social & Cultural Rights
  101. Global Initiatives for Human Rights – Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights
  102. Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
  103. Hawaii Institute for Human Rights
  104. Help & Shelter
  105. Helsinki Citizen«s Assembly, Vanadzor
  106. Hope for Community Development Organization(HCDO)
  107. HRM “Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan”
  108. Human Rights and Legal Aid Network (HRLAN)
  109. Human Rights Concern Eritrea (HRCE)
  110. Human Rights Defenders Alert – India
  111. Human Rights Defenders Network
  112. Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF)
  113. Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA)
  114. Human Rights Law Centre
  115. Human Rights Watch
  116. Humanitaire Plus
  117. Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team
  118. Humanrights.ch
  119. Hungarian Civil Liberties UNion
  120. Hurisa
  121. IFEX
  122. IHEU in New York
  123. iilab UG
  124. Indian Social Action Forum – INSAF
  125. Insight Namibia
  126. Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa
  127. Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM)
  128. Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights
  129. International Alliance Of Women
  130. International Association for the Advancement of Innovative Approaches to Global Challenges IAAI
  131. International Center For Not For Profit Law
  132. International Commission of Jurists
  133. International Dalit Solidarity Network
  134. International Federation for East Timor (IFET)
  135. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  136. International Humanist and Ethical Union
  137. International IDAHO committee
  138. International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR)
  139. International Platform against Impunity
  140. International Presentation Association
  141. International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT)
  142. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  143. International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA)
  144. International Youth Human Rights Movement (YHRM)
  145. Iraqi Al-Amal Association
  146. Irish Council for Civil Liberties
  147. Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights
  148. JASS (Just Associates)
  149. JOINT LIGA DE ONGs em Mocambique
  150. Jonction
  151. Justice and Peace Netherlands
  152. Karapatan Alliance Philippines
  153. Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law
  154. Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC)
  155. Knowledge and Rights with Young people through Safer Spaces (KRYSS)
  156. Komuniti Muslim Universal (KMU) Malaysia
  157. Korean Confederation of Trade Unions
  158. Korean House for International Solidarity
  159. Kuwait Watch
  160. Timor-Leste Institute for Development Monitoring and Analysis (La’o Hamutuk)
  161. Labour, Health and Human Rights Development Centre
  162. Lawyers Rights Watch C anada
  163. Legal and Human Rights Centre
  164. Legal-Informational Centre for NGOs, Slovenia
  165. LGBT Human Rights NASH MIR Center
  166. LIDEJEL
  167. Loretto Community
  168. Lutheran World Federation
  169. Mariakani Magnet Theater
  170. Martin Ennals Foundation
  171. Mauritius Council of Social Services
  172. Men against Violence and Abuse Alliance
  173. MINBYUN – Lawyers for a Democratic Society – South Korea
  174. Minority Rights Group
  175. Mityana Rural Sustainable Farmers Organisation
  176. Mongolian Gender Equality Center
  177. Mouvement pour les Libertes Individuelles
  178. Muslims for Human Rights (Muhuri )
  179. Nagorik Uddyog
  180. National Center For Advocacy Studies
  181. National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders -Burundi
  182. National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders-Kenya
  183. National Human Rights Monitors Organization (NHRMO)
  184. New Future Foundation
  185. New Woman Foundation
  186. NGO Federation of Nepal
  187. Niwaafa (Nigerian women agro allied farmers association)
  188. Observatorio de derechos humanos de la Universidad de Los Andes
  189. ONG Ezaka ho Fampandrosoana any Ambanivohitra, ONG EFA, Madagascar
  190. P24 Platform for Independent Journalism
  191. Pacific Womens Indigenous Networks
  192. Pacificwin-SamoaNZ
  193. Pacificwin-Youth
  194. Palestinian Consultative Staff for Developing NGOs
  195. Pan Africa ILGA
  196. Partnership for Justice
  197. Peace Brigades International
  198. People in Need (PIN)
  199. People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy
  200. Polish Institute for Human Rights and Business
  201. Privacy International
  202. Public Association “Dignity”
  203. Public Sphere Project
  204. Public Verdict Foundation
  205. Pusat KOMAS
  206. Radio Souriat
  207. Renewable Freedom Foundation
  208. REPORTERS SANS FRONTIERES INTERNATIONAL
  209. Reseau de Defenseurs des Droits Humains de l’Afrique Centrale (REDHAC)
  210. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
  211. Rural Reconstruction Nepal
  212. Seguridad en Democracia (SEDEM)
  213. Sexual Rights Initiative
  214. Sisters’ Arab Forum for Human Rights (SAF)
  215. Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (PROHAM), Malaysia
  216. Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia
  217. Stichting Global Alliance for LGBT Education (GALE)
  218. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
  219. Sudanese Development Initiative (SUDIA)
  220. Supolnasc Centre
  221. Tenaganita
  222. The Norwegian Human Rights Fund
  223. Timor-Leste Institute for Development Monitoring and Analysis (La’o Hamutuk)
  224. Togolese Coalition for Human Defender’s Right
  225. Transformation Resource Centre
  226. Unidad de Protección a Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos -Guatemala
  227. Unión Nacional de Instituciones para el Trabajo de Acción Social
  228. United Federation for peacekeeping &Sustainable Development
  229. United Religions Initiative
  230. Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights
  231. Vietnam Committee on Human Rights
  232. VOICE
  233. We women Lanka
  234. Women Peace Network-Arakan
  235. Women Thrive Worldwide
  236. World Federalist Movement – Institute for Global Policy
  237. World Movement for Democracy
  238. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  239. World Uyghur Congress
  240. Yemen Organization for Defending Rights & Democratic Freedoms
  241. Zambia Council for Social Development (ZCSD)
  242. Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights)
  243. Zimbabwe United Nations Association
  244. Zo Indigenous Forum
Re: Support resolution on the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the internet

29 June 2016

Your Excellency,

The undersigned organisations working to promote and protect human rights online, call on your delegation to support the adoption of a strong and consensus resolution on “the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet” (A/HRC/32/L.20). The resolution is the joint initiative of Brazil, Nigeria, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, and the United States of America.

We urge all delegations to cosponsor the draft resolution, and urge HRC Member States to reject proposed amendments aimed at weakening it, and vote in favour of the resolution if a vote is called.

The HRC has affirmed twice by consensus that “the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online” (A/HRC/res/26/13, June 2014; A/HRC/res/20/8, June 2012). In the digital age, it is imperative that the HRC maintains consensus support for this fundamental principle.

The draft resolution, following the adoption of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, is timely in identifying the vast opportunities the Internet presents for the promotion of human rights and the advancement of sustainable development. It also identifies challenges all states must address to promote and protect human rights online.

In particular, the draft resolution:

Recognises that a global and open Internet is a driving force in accelerating progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. In particular it calls for States to bridge the gender digital divide, requesting the High Commissioner to prepare a report to provide guidance in this regard, and to promote Internet access for persons with disabilities;
Stresses the importance of a human rights based approach in providing and expanding access to the Internet, and recognises civil society and the technical community as key stakeholders in the promotion and protection of human rights online;
Unequivocally condemns and calls on States to ensure accountability for all human rights violations and abuses committed against persons for exercising their human rights online, including for extrajudicial killings and arbitrary detention;
Unequivocally condemns “measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online” and calls for States to refrain from and cease such practices.

However, four amendments to the draft resolution tabled by the Russian Federation and China (L.85 – L.88) would if adopted together, significantly weaken the resolution. This includes proposals that would:

Delete reference to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Article 19 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) language on the application ofthe right to freedom of expression “regardless of frontiers” and “through any media of one’s choice” (Amendment L.86). These elements of the ICCPR, a treaty widely ratified by states, are central to the Human Rights Committee’s interpretation of the application of the right to freedom of expression online. It is also consensus language unchallenged in two previous HRC resolutions on this topic. Additional references to the right to privacy in the draft resolution, also suggested in the amendment, should not come at the expense of detailed references to the right to freedom of expression or the UDHR.
Delete references to a “human rights based approach” in providing and expanding access to the Internet, including in relation to bridging various forms of digital divide (Amendment L.87). Underpinning the expansion of Internet access with a human rights based approach is essential to ensure the benefits of Internet access are universal, non-discriminatory, and facilitate the exercise of human rights online for all people. A human rights based approach requires addressing economic, social and cultural barriers to access, and respecting the right to privacy to ensure trust in technology.
Undermine the intended focus of the draft resolution on protecting human rights online, in particular freedom of expression, by adding additional language to the preamble concerning “hate speech” online (Amendment L.88). This suggested addition is not necessary as it duplicates in narrower terms existing language in the draft resolution stressing the importance of promoting tolerance and dialogue in combating “advocacy of hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination or violence on the Internet”. The positive focus of the draft resolution is further diluted by attempts to add references to a separate HRC initiative on child sexual exploitation (Amendment L.85).

We therefore ask that your delegation cosponsor the resolution on the ”the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet”, oppose all four proposed amendments, and vote in favour of the resolution if a vote is called.

Yours sincerely,

ARTICLE 19
Access Now
Africa Freedom of Information Centre
African Internet Governance and Open Government Data Research Foundation Institute
Albanian Media Institute
Algorithm Watch
Amnesty International
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
Association for Free Thought and Expression
Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE)
Bytes for All, Pakistan
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic
Candid Concepts Development Agencies, Bahamas
Center for Democracy & Technology
Center for Inquiry
Centre for Law and Democracy
Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights
Centro de Estudios en Libertad de Expresión y Acceso a la Información CELE de la Universidad de Palermo
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
La Coalition Burundaise des défenseurs des droits humains
Committee to Protect Journalists
DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
Digital Rights Watch
Electronic Frontier Finland
Electronic Frontier Foundation
ENDA Tiers Monde (Environment Development Action in the Third World)
European Center for Not-for-Profit Law
Forum pour le Renforcement de la Société Civile – Burundi
Foundation for Media Alternatives (Philippines)
Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP), Colombia
Free Press Unlimited
Global Forum for Media Development
Global Integrity
Global Partners Digital
Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
Human Rights Movement “Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan”
Human Rights Watch
i Freedom Uganda Nwtwork
Imagining the Internet Center
International Modern Media Institute
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law
International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)
International Media Support (IMS)
International Press Institute
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
Internet Freedom Foundation (India)
iRights, Germany
IT for Change, India
JasHim Foundation
Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet)
Korean Progressive Network Jinbonet
Lawyers for Justice in Libya
Media Matters for Democracy, Pakistan
Media Rights Agenda
National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders -Burundi
Nazra for Feminist Studies
One World Platform
OpenMedia
Pakistan Press Foundation
PEN Bangladesh
PEN Canada
PEN International
PEN Philippines
PEN South Africa
Public Knowledge
Punto24
Privacy International
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
Le Réseau des Citoyens Probes – Burundi
Sinar Project
Soroptimist International
SumOfUs.org
Universal Rights Network
Unwanted Witness Uganda
Urdu Internet Society & Internet Governance Forum of Pakistan
Vietnam Committee on Human Rights
Viet Tan
World Movement for Democracy
World Wide Web Foundation
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum

Outcomes and resolutions
Resolution on Eritrea

A/HRC/32/L.5/Rev.1 requests the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to continue to enhance engagement in improving the situation of human rights in Eritrea, to present an oral update to the UNHRC at its 35th session on the progress in the cooperation between Eritrea and OHCHR, and on its impact on the situation of human rights in the country. It also calls upon the African Union to follow up on the report and recommendations of the COI, refers the report to the UN General Assembly, and renews the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea.

The resolution, presented by Djibouti and Somalia and co-sponsored by 11 countries, was adopted without a vote, although a last minute amendment removed the direct referral of the CoI’s report to the UN Security Council.

Resolution on Internet freedom

A/HRC/32/L.20, a joint initiative of Brazil, Nigeria, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, and the United States of America, on “the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet,” was adopted with more than 70 states supporting the resolution as co-sponsors. Attempts to weaken the resolution, led by Russia and China, were resoundingly rejected.

The resolution specifically condemns measures to prevent and disrupt Internet access and further recognises the importance of access to information and privacy online for the realisation of the right to freedom of expression. In resolutions adopted in 2012 and 2014, the UNHRC had previously affirmed that “the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online.”

Resolution on SOGI rights

In a defining, three hour vote, the UNHRC adopted a resolution on “protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation, and gender identity.” A/HRC/32/L.2/Rev.1 establishes a mandate for an Independent Expert to combat and prevent violence, hatred, and discrimination against sexual minorities.

The core group of seven Latin American countries – Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Uruguay – and 41 additional countries jointly presented the text. Although the resolution was watered down by a series of amendments led by countries like Russia and members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the resolution was adopted by a vote of 23 in favour, 18 against, and 6 abstentions.

Resolution on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association

A/HRC/32/L.29, presented by a cross-regional group of states comprising Chile, Ireland, Japan, Sierra Leone, and Tunisia, issues a clear policy blueprint for countries around the world to create a safe and enabling environment for civil society. The resolution emphasises the positive contribution of civil society and human rights defenders, and creates opportunities and incentives for States to voluntarily share and develop their good practices.

The resolution was adopted by a vote of 31 in favour, 7 against, and 9 abstentions, while fifteen amendments tabled by Russia that would have undermined international efforts to safeguard space of civil society were rejected.

Resolution on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association

A/HRC/32/L.32 renews the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly for three years to build on the trailblazing mandate of Maina Kiai.

Mr Kiai dedicated himself to analysing international standards relating to peaceful assembly and association and translating them into tangible recommendations to states.

President of UNHRC appoints members of monitoring mission on South Sudan

On 14 June 2016, Ms Yasmin Sooka (Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights in South Africa), Mr Kenneth Scott (researcher on South Sudan with Amnesty International), and Mr Godfrey Musila (legal consultant for Avocats sans Frontières) were appointed to serve as the three members of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan.

The Commission was established through resolution 31/20 with a mandate to assess the human rights situation in South Sudan since December 2013, in order to establish facts in support of transitional justice, accountability, reconciliation, and healing. A comprehensive written report is scheduled to be presented to the UNHRC at its 34th regular session in March 2017.