Category Archives: civil society

UN Experts, ACHPR Call for Investigation into Violence in Ethiopia

H.E. Mr. Hailemariam Dessalegn
Prime Minister

General Assembly Seventy-first session 10th plenary meeting
General Debate
Ethiopia H.E. Mr. Hailemariam Dessalegn Prime Minister General Assembly Seventy-first session 10th plenary meeting General Debate

Primer Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn addresses the United Nations General Assembly
Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

In response to the continued suppression of protests in Ethiopia, international and regional human rights bodies as well as political figures have voiced their concerns and called for investigations into the government’s use of force. These observers question police tactics against anti-government peaceful protesters, who have been demonstrating during the last year against the expansion of the capital’s borders and recently against police forces’ use of tear gas and firearms during a religious ceremony earlier this month causing a stampede and resulting in deaths. [Al Jazeera: Merkel; OHCHR Press Release; ACHPR Press Release] United Nations experts have urged authorities to cease violent intervention in peaceful protests and allow an international commission to conduct an investigation, and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) has also called for an investigation into the stampede. [OHCHR Press Release; ACHPR Press Release] German Chancellor Angela Merkel, during her recent visit with Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, encouraged the government to engage in an open discussion with those fighting to be heard while allowing protests to continue, as long as law enforcement’s response is kept proportional. [Al Jazeera: Merkel]

While recent remarks focus on the unrest of the last year, civil society has documented the ongoing suppression of journalists, bloggers, and voices critical of the government since before the May 2015 elections. [Amnesty International; HRW] Ethiopia’s international human rights obligations require it to respect and uphold the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, to freedom of association, to freedom of expression, and to life. Read more

UN Mandate Created to Reduce Reprisals Against Human Rights Defenders

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Andrew Gilmour Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Andrew Gilmour Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Andrew Gilmour
Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

On October 3, 2016, the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in consultation with the High Commissioner for Human Rights, announced a new mandate for the Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights, Andrew Gilmour, to lead UN work on ending intimidation and reprisals against human rights defenders. [United Nations Information Centre] In a recent report, Ban Ki-moon emphasized the range and severity that reprisals can take and their connection to engagement with and the functioning of the United Nations human rights system. See Human Rights Council, Cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights: Report of the Secretary-General, UN Doc. A/HRC/33/19, 16 August 2016. The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders has similarly noted, in particular, the risk to human rights defenders who are also members of other vulnerable groups, such as women, and the need to put an end to impunity for attacks on them. See Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, UN Doc. A/70/217, 30 July 2015. The new mandate is in keeping with the Secretary General’s previous recommendation that United Nations bodies do more to respond to early warning signs before reprisals grow more severe. See Cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights, paras. 50-55. Civil society praised the Secretary General’s decision to entrust a senior official with leading these efforts. [ISHR] Read more

Inter-American Commission: Funds Secured to Temporarily Mitigate Financial Crisis

Credit: IACHR
Credit: IACHR

Credit: IACHR

After a severe financial crisis threatened to effectively shut down major operations at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) this year, the IACHR recently announced that the immediate crisis is now over. Many States and other entities have agreed to donate funds, allowing the IACHR to salvage its budget and continue operating. Because the IACHR has overcome the crisis, it will be able to hold its second period of sessions for the year, in Panama City from November 29, 2016 to December 7, 2016. [IACHR Press Release: Panama] It will also avoid laying off staff, nearly half of whom were at risk of losing their positions. [IACHR Press Release: Crisis]

While the IACHR expressed its gratitude to donors and its relief at avoiding disaster, it emphasized that its overall financial health remains precarious and States must do more to fund its effective functioning. To that end, the IACHR and its judicial counterpart, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), have drafted a joint budget proposal for 2017. The Extraordinary General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) will review the proposal and adopt the OAS budget on October 31. [IACHR Press Release: Overcome; IACHR Press Release: Proposal] Read more

News Clips- September 9, 2016


Migrant and refugee camp in Calais
Credit: VOA/ Nicolas Pinault

Migrants and Refugees

  • The United Nations Children’s Fund released a report on refugee and migrant children around the world, finding that over 28 million children have migrated in an effort to leave violence and insecurity. [UN News Centre]
  • Locals in Calais, France gathered to protest the migrant camp in the town where over 7,000 people live. [BBC]

Civil Society

  • The United Nations Mission in South Sudan has called for South Sudan to stop suppressing the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of movement of civil society members. [UN News Centre]
  • Before and during the G-20 meeting held in Hangzhou, China this week, Chinese authorities arrested dozens of journalists and activists. [Washington Post]
  • An activist and village leader in China was sentenced to three years in jail this week after he confessed to bribery. [BBC]
  • The High Court in Zimbabwe ruled this week that a two week ban on protests was unconstitutional. [Jurist]
  • The Supreme Court of Thailand upheld the prison sentence of 20 years in the case of Sondhi Limthongkul, an opposition party leader. [Jurist]
  • The United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights jointly published a report this week on freedom of expression in Somalia. [OHCHR Press Release]
  • Authorities in Brazil used tear gas and stun grenades against protestors after tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against President Michel Temer. [BBC]

Human Rights Bodies’ Activities


  • The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights criticized Donald Trump, a United States presidential nominee, and Geert Wilders, a Dutch politician, for spreading fear and manipulating the public in a way that may lead to violence. [Guardian]
  • Denmark has started negotiating to buy data on Danish tax payers from the Panama Papers. [Guardian]
  • The United States and China both signed the Paris Agreement on climate change this week. [Jurist]
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