Category Archives: human rights defenders

International Community Questions Fairness of Election As Hungary Re-elects Orbán

Hungarian Parliament
Credit: Andrew Shiva via Wikimedia Commons

International election observers, civil society, and protesters have raised concerns over the fairness of Hungary’s April 8 parliamentary elections in which the incumbent prime minister, Viktor Orbán, and his Fidesz party secured a strong majority, winning 133 of 199 parliamentary seats; media bias and intimidation of independent journalists as well as xenophobic and intimidating rhetoric, civil society and election observers have noted, steered the election outcomes in favor of Fidesz. [Guardian: OSCE; HRW; Reuters: Protest] The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), an intergovernmental body that monitors the elections of Member States, found that the incumbent Fidesz party exploited its current position in power to “[undermine] contestants’ ability to compete on an equal basis” through the use of intimidating rhetoric, media bias, and the government’s use of public money to support the campaign of the incumbent party to influence the voting public. See OSCE, Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions (2018), 1. Echoing the OSCE, civil society organizations raised concerns over Fidesz’s practice of smearing journalists and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that oppose the party’s views, and over the government’s support, announced a day after the election, of a law that would limit the activities of civil society working with migrants and refugees. [HRW; HHC Press Release] Protesters gathered in Budapest over the weekend referring to the election as unfair and calling for a free media. [Reuters: Protest] Before the election, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights raised concerns over the “racist and xenophobic” rhetoric of Orbán and the undermining of the independence of the press and the judiciary. [OHCHR Press Release] Under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Hungary is obligated to ensure the rights to non-discrimination, to freedom of expression, to freedom of association, and to vote. Read more

IACHR Holds Colombia Responsible for Unsolved Killing of Human Rights Defender

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights holds a hearing on Colombia
Credit: CIDH

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) recently published its merits report in a case concerning the 1988 extrajudicial killing of Colombian human rights defender Valentín Basto Calderón, which has gone unsolved. See IACHR, Merits Report No. 45/17, Case 10.455, Valentín Basto Calderón et al. (Colombia), 25 May 2017 (in Spanish). Bystanders Pedro Vicente Camargo, who was also killed, and his daughter Carmenza, who was injured, were also included as victims in the petition to the IACHR. At a time of armed conflict when State agents and paramilitaries frequently assassinated human rights defenders and community leaders, State agents had threatened Basto Calderón and harassed his family members. The State then failed to conduct a thorough and timely investigation of the events. See id. at para. 1. The International Justice Resource Center (IJRC) submitted an amicus curiae brief to the IACHR to provide supplementary analysis on this case, with a focus on Colombia’s obligations specific to human rights defenders. The Colombian Commission of Jurists represented the petitioners before the IACHR. In holding Colombia responsible for violations to the rights to life and humane treatment, among others, the IACHR took special note of the State’s specific obligations to protect and respect the rights of human rights defenders. Read more

January 2018: Universal Periodic Review and Regional Bodies in Session

Palais des Nations
Credit: UN Photo/Violaine Martin

In January 2018, several universal and regional human rights bodies and experts will assess States’ compliance with their human rights obligations through the consideration of State and civil society reports, interactive dialogues, country visits, and hearings. One United Nations treaty body will meet throughout January to assess States’ compliance with their treaty obligations related to the rights of the child. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group will also be in session and will conduct interactive dialogues with representatives from 14 States. Three UN special procedures mandate holders will conduct country visits, and an additional special procedure working group will hold sessions. Regionally, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) and the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) will be in session, and the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will hear two cases related to the rights of liberty and security, the right to freedom of assembly, the right to a fair trial, and the limitation of restrictions on rights.

The UN treaty body’s session may be watched via UN Web TV. The IACtHR’s session may be viewed on its website or Vimeo page, and the ECtHR’s hearings may be viewed on its webcast.

 To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar. Read more

News Clips- September 1, 2017

Journalists are briefed at the UN on the situation in Yemen
Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

Civil Society

  • On Friday, the German government shut down a left-wing extremist website connected to violence at the Group of 20 summit meeting in July. [New York Times]
  • On Wednesday, human rights groups called for the establishment of an independent inquiry into alleged abuses taking place in Yemen. [Guardian]

Corruption

  • On Sunday, the Constitutional Court in Guatemala issued a temporary injunction blocking President Jimmy Morales’ order to expel Iván Velásquez, the head of the United Nations International Committee against Impunity in Guatemala. [Al Jazeera]
  • This week, it was reported that the government of Mexico has allegedly made ongoing attempts to silence a prominent advocate who has spoken against corruption and impunity. [New York Times]

Violence & Humanitarian Crises

  • On Friday, violent clashes occurred in northern India in response to a spiritual leader’s conviction of rape; at least 30 people have been killed. [New York Times]
  • On Friday, gunmen, claimed by ISIS, attacked a mosque in Kabul, Afghanistan killing at least 20 people. [New York Times]
  • On Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council renewed the peacekeeping mission in Lebanon for one year in response to concerns about Hezbollah near Israel’s border. [New York Times]
  • On Thursday, the Prime Minister of Iraq, Haider al-Abadi, announced that Tal Afar is free from ISIS after an 11-day battle. [New York Times]

Migrants, Refugees, & Asylum Seekers

  • Last week, the International Organization for Migration condemned Facebook for failing to monitor traffickers using the site to broadcast abuse of migrants and using the videos to seek ransom from victims’ family members. [Reuters]
  • On Thursday, the United Nations representatives reported that more than 27,400 Rohingya migrants have fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar since August 25. [Reuters]
  • On Monday, leaders from France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Chad, and Niger agreed to work together on aid and border control to stem the influx of migrants. [Guardian]

News Clips- August 18, 2017

The UN Security Council met this week to discuss peace and security on the African continent.
Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

Civil Society

  • On Thursday, three young activists in Hong Kong, China were sentenced to six to eight months in prison for their participation in the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests. [Washington Post]
  • On Wednesday, the president of the Philippines encouraged police officers to shoot activists who obstruct justice. [Guardian]
  • Last week, Amnesty International reported that at least 66 people detained during protests in Morocco reported being subject to torture and ill-treatment. [AI]

Violence & Humanitarian Crises

  • On Thursday, at least 13 people were killed when a van drove into a crowd in Barcelona, Spain. [Guardian]
  • On Wednesday, police found mass graves containing 36 bodies of victims of a militant attack on a village in Afghanistan; the attack, claimed by the Islamic State, left at least 62 people dead. [Reuters]
  • On Monday, the United Nations reported seven people killed, and seven wounded, during an attack on UN headquarters in Timbuktu, Mali. [Washington Post]
  • Over the weekend, gunmen attacked a restaurant in Burkina Faso, killing almost 20 people. [UN News Centre]

Migrants, Refugees, & Asylum Seekers

Politics

  • On Wednesday, Lebanon repealed a law that prevented the criminal prosecution of rapists who subsequently married their victims. [Guardian]
  • On Monday, the government of Canada announced its core objectives, including protections based on gender and for indigenous peoples’ rights, for the pending North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations. [New York Times]
  • On Tuesday, the president of the Republic of Guinea Bissau, H.E. José Mário Vaz, pledged to ratify the Protocol establishing the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. [AfCHPR Press Release]

UN Experts Warn of Continued Rights Violations in the Philippines

The Philippines’ representative at the United Nations participates in debates at the UN General Assembly
Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

Last week, three United Nations independent experts – the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and the Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children – made an urgent appeal to the government of the Philippines concerning grave human rights violations, including murder; threats against human rights defenders including those advocating for indigenous peoples’ rights; and the summary execution of children. [OHCHR Press Release: Experts] Since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in June 2016, a violent “war on drugs,” spearheaded by the government of the Philippines continues to undermine the respect for human rights. See HRW, World Report: Philippines (2017). According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the drug war has led to the killing of more than 7,000 suspected drug users and dealers, the overcrowding of jails, and the targeting of critics of the drug war, without any meaningful investigation into these incidents. See HRW, Philippines. The High Commissioner of Human Rights said last year that the war on drugs has created an atmosphere of violence and impunity. [OHCHR Press Release: Zeid] The UN independent experts recommend that the Philippines investigate all instances of violence, eliminate impunity, and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. [OHCHR Press Release: Experts] The Philippines is a State party to several human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and it is obligated to uphold the rights to life; prohibition of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; and liberty, among others. Read more

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