Council stands with human rights defenders

Michel Forst - UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

From The International Service for Human Rights:

The Human Rights Council has united to adopt a consensus resolution on the protection of human rights defenders. The resolution, extending the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur, comes at a time when the work of defenders has never been more important nor more threatened.

The UN Human Rights Council – the world’s peak human rights body – has today adopted a resolution which affirms the vital and legitimate work of human rights defenders and extends the mandate of a UN expert tasked to support and protect them.

‘Through this resolution the Council has sent an important signal that human rights work is legitimate, and that human rights defenders must be respected and protected by States and non-state actors,’ said ISHR’s Director of Human Rights Council Advocacy, Michael Ineichen.

Source: Council unites to stand with human rights defenders | ISHR

Guatemala high court lifts immunity of presidential adviser

Finally, some positive news from Guatemala:

Guatemala’s Supreme Court on Wednesday granted a request by prosecutors to lift the immunity of Edgar Justino Ovalle, a lawmaker and adviser to President Jimmy Morales.

Ovalle has been linked to the kidnapping of multiple people in 1983 and 1984, when he was second in command of a military zone in Coban, north of Guatemala City. The victims were later killed and buried in clandestine graves on a military base. More than 500 human remains have been found in the area.

Aura Elena Farfan, president of the Association of Detained and Disappeared Family Members of Guatemala, praised Wednesday’s ruling.

“For us as relatives, it is encouraging,” said Farfan, who is a plaintiff in the case. “It gives us hope and strength and we hope due process is followed.”

Read the article: Guatemala high court lifts immunity of presidential adviser | News OK

Threats to Civil Society Around the World 

The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission
Here is an invitation to join the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission for a hearing on threats to civil society around the world:

Date: Tuesday, March 21, 2017 – 1:00pm

The hearing will be live-streamed via YouTube on the Commission website, https://humanrightscommission.house.gov/.

A healthy and functioning civil society is vital for human rights and democracy everywhere. Civil society organizations (CSOs) play a crucial role in realizing the rights protected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  They educate individuals about their rights; document human rights abuses; monitor the behavior of governments, including police and security forces; and advocate for the rule of law. CSOs also contribute to development, provide disaster relief, and deliver humanitarian aid in war zones.

But in recent years, civil society has been under threat. The legal “space” in which civil society is permitted to operate is being systematically “closed.”  More and more countries are passing restrictive laws that hamper civil society organizations by limiting or even criminalizing the receipt of foreign funding, imposing onerous administrative requirements, or defaming CSOs as terrorists or foreign agents.  Even worse, advocates for human rights and political reform face torture, disappearance, and assassination. These repressive policies are no longer confined to authoritarian states or countries in transition, but are occurring in established democracies, including in close U.S. allies like India, Egypt, Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic.

Presenters:

  • Maina Kiai, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of  peaceful assembly and of association
  • Vanessa Tucker, Vice President for Analysis, Freedom House
  • Margaret Huang, Executive Director, Amnesty International USA
  • Douglas Rutzen, President & CEO, International Center for Not-for-Profit Law
  • Maria Stephan, Senior Policy Fellow, United States Institute of Peace

Source: Threats to Civil Society Around the World

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016

The U.S. State Department has just released its annual report documenting the human rights situation of countries around the world.

Unfortunately, the current Secretary of State has decided to downplay the importance of this yearly event, revealing the Trump administration’s apparent disregard for human rights observance and reporting.

Nonprofit Quarterly writes:

Given that the 41st annual Human Rights Reports were issued by the Trump administration, the rollout naturally included some controversy, which centered on the decision by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson not to hold an official unveiling.

Critics argued that his absence gave the report less attention, as Reuters reported, with only an anonymous U.S. official answering reporters’ questions by phone instead of the usual press conference.

The administration’s commitment to human rights was already under fire, after news recently emerged that the U.S. is considering leaving the United Nations’ Human Rights Council under new Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley.

The 2016 U.S. State Department Report on Human Rights Practices for Guatemala, with a fairly conservative analysis of the human rights situation, states that:

Local human rights NGO Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders reported 14 killings of human rights defenders through November 30, compared with 12 killings in all of 2015. The NGO also reported 205 attacks against human rights defenders through October, compared with 493 attacks in all of 2015.

According to various human rights NGOs, many of the attacks related to land disputes and exploitation of natural resources.

Here is the Guatemala 2016 Human Rights Report:

GUATEMALA 2016 HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT