Obama urged to support Commission of Inquiry on Burma.
Following two years of ineffectual U.S. diplomacy with the military government in Burma, 22 U.S. NGOs called on the Obama Administration to mobilize support for a UN Commission of Inquiry to investigate crimes against humanity in Burma.
The groups, which included the Democracy Coalition Project, also urged the administration to supplement its engagement efforts with increased financial sanctions against members of the ruling junta, as outlined in the U.S. JADE ACT.
"Even as Burma's government rejects these steps towards genuine democracy, Burma's military, which continues to rule the country under the guise of civilian government, has returned the country to the brink of full-scale civil war," the groups stressed.
Between May and June of this year, scores of ethnic villages were destroyed, while hundreds of people accused of supporting ethnic resistance groups were arrested, tortured and killed by Burmese troops.
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Community of Democracies spotlights emerging democracies at Sixth Ministerial
Approximately 900 heads of state, foreign ministers, high-level diplomats and civil society activists from around the world attended the Sixth Ministerial of the Community of Democracies held in Vilnius, Lithuania June 30 – July 1, 2011.
This year's Ministerial focused on emerging democracies and civil society's involvement in governance as a way to strengthen the efficacy of the Community of Democracies (CD), a global intergovernmental coalition of democratic countries founded in 2000. Participants attended forums focused on how youth, women, parliaments, corporations and civil society are essential to strengthening and promoting democracy.
Many prominent global figures gave formal remarks at the Ministerial, including Secretary Clinton, who spoke about the recent wave of democracy movements in the Middle East and North Africa.
Awards for achievements in the promotion of human rights and democracy were also distributed at the Ministerial. The Belarusian opposition won the Geremek Award, while the Palmer Prize was given to seven diplomats representing the Czech Republic, the United States, Peru, the Netherlands, Canada, Lithuania, and Poland.
The conference concluded with the adoption of the Vilnius Declaration, which emphasizes the commitment to strengthening the CD's activities, takes note of the new governing structures of the CD, and endorses the Democracy Partnership Challenge, which is a new initiative to encourage reform in countries emerging from authoritarian rule.
Mongolia will now assume the CD Presidency for the next two years and will host the Seventh CD Ministerial in 2013.
To see a report by DCP Board Member, Ted Piccone, on the Ministerial, please click here.
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HRC takes action on human rights violations in Belarus, Libya and Côte d'Ivoire; ignores Sri Lanka and Bahrain
The HRC concluded its 17th Session with the adoption of a ground-breaking resolution reaffirming the rights of the LGBTI community. Strong resolutions that extended the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Libya, established an Independent Expert on Côte d'Ivoire and renewed assistance to Somalia and Kyrgyzstan were also adopted by consensus.
At the urging of the international human rights community, the Council also adopted a resolution requesting the UN High Commissioner and other UN experts to monitor and report on the human rights situation in Belarus by a vote of 21 in favor, 5 opposed and 19 abstentions. Unfortunately, the Council failed to take action on the ongoing human rights violations in Bahrain, despite pleas from the international human rights community for strong UN response to the situation.
“The current silence that has characterized this Council’s response to the grave and deteriorating rights situation in Bahrain…only adds to the growing instability and future threat of atrocities being committed against innocent civilians within Bahrain," stated the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies at the session.
The European Union urged the Bahraini Government to grant immediate access to Office of the UN High Commissioner for a mission leading to a report on alleged cases of torture, deaths in custody, and repression against medical personnel.
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HRC reaffirms rights of LGBTI persons
The international LGBTI persons saw a breakthrough in the reaffirmation of the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons at the June Session of the HRC. The Council adopted a historic resolution expressing grave concern over acts of violence and discrimination committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity by a vote of 23 in favor, 19 against and 3 abstentions.
The resolution, presented by South Africa, also requests the UN High Commissioner commission a study to document discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against such individuals, as well as convenes a panel during the 19th Session of the HRC on the issue.
UN experts have long presented evidence of killings, torture, rape, criminal sanctions, and violence against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation. However, some States, particularly members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, have worked to prevent UN protection for, or even recognition of, this vulnerable group.
“The Human Rights Council has taken a step forward in history by acknowledging that both sexual and gender non-conformity make lesbian, gay, trans* and bi people among those most vulnerable and indicated decisively that States have an obligation to protect us from violence,” stated
Justus Eisfeld, Co-Director of Global Action for Trans* Equality.
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Film documents atrocities of Sri Lanka's civil war
During the 17th Session of the HRC, many States highlighted the need for effective accountability for war crimes committed in Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, the Council failed to heed the call of the Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka to establish an international investigation into the violations.
The UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts recently reported credible allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity by both the Sri Lankan government forces and the opposition Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam during the Sri Lanka’s 26 year-long civil war.
During the session, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch previewed a Channel 4 documentary presenting stark video evidence of the atrocities committed during the final weeks of the civil war. The film contains disturbing footage of executions and government shelling of civilians and hospitals in so-called “no-fire” zones and fiercely criticizes the United Nations and the Sri Lankan Government for the handling of the situation
To view the film, Sri Lanka's Killing Fields, please click here.
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Silent demonstration extends support to Iran's civil rights movement
Two years after Iran’s disputed presidential election began an ongoing wave of government repression against its own people, Iranian human rights defenders are urging the international community to recommit support for Iran’s civil rights movement.
On the June 12 anniversary of the elections United4Iran and Move4Iran coordinated a silent flash mob in a Paris metro station to highlight the sustained suffering of the Iranian people. Standing frozen and wearing green articles of clothing, participants displayed the peace/victory sign that has come to represent Iran’s civil society movement. Their silence was symbolic of the Iranian government’s attempt to stifle dissent inside the country.
The NGOs urged individuals worldwide to show their support for the democracy movement in Iran by organizing similar demonstrations in their own cities.
To see the video of the flash mob, please click here.
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DCP urges US to support investigation into crimes against humanity in Sri Lanka
At the urging of the US human rights community, US Ambassador to the Human Rights Council (HRC), Eileen Donahoe, highlighted the need for effective accountability for war crimes committed in Sri Lanka at the 17th Session of the HRC currently underway in Geneva.
The UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts on accountability in Sri Lanka recently reported credible allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity by both the Sri Lankan government forces and the opposition Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam during the country’s 26 year-long civil war.
In a letter addressed to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 11 US-based NGOs, including DCP, urged the US Government to express concern at the failure of the Sri Lankan government to investigate and prosecute these crimes. The NGOs also urged the US to call for the full implementation of the Panel’s recommendations, in particular the establishment of an international investigation into alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.
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NGOs call for international monitoring of repression in Belarus
Widespread human rights violations following protests against the outcome of the December 19, 2010 presidential elections in Belarus, has prompted 33 international and regional NGOs to urge the establishment of a monitoring and reporting mechanism for the country at the 17th Session of the HRC.
In the wake of the controversial re-election of President Aliaksandr Lukashenka, riot police violently beat dozens of demonstrators and arrested hundreds more. Human rights monitors continue to report that those accused are being convicted for unsubstantiated rioting or public disorder charges and that the trials lack due process. At least 700 people, including political activists, presidential candidates, and journalists, have been sentenced in unfair summary proceedings, with many suffering from abuse and ill‐treatment in custody.
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Lack of competition undermines credibility of 2011 HRC elections
The 2011 elections for the UN Human Rights Council concluded May 20, 2011 with 15 new Member States elected to the body by the UN General Assembly. Unfortunately, the absence of competition in three out of the five regional groups made it practically futile for governments to assess candidates on the basis of their human rights records and pledges.
The African, Asian and Western European and Others Group ran closed slates, enabling candidates in these regions to run unopposed and easily obtain three-year terms in the 47-member body. Nonetheless, competitive elections in the Eastern European Group allowed the Czech Republic and Romania to beat out Georgia for the two open seats. In the Latin American and Caribbean Group, Chile, Costa Rica and Peru obtained unexpectedly high margins of victory over Nicaragua, which in the past has attempted to shield repressive regimes, such as Iran, Libya, Myanmar and Syria, in UN human rights fora.
The new members elected to the Council are as follows:
Africa: Benin, Botswana, Burkino Faso (re-elected), Congo
Asia: India, Indonesia, Kuwait, Philippines
Eastern Europe: Czech Republic, Romania
Latin America and Caribbean: Chile (re-elected), Costa Rica, Peru
Western Europe and Others: Italy, Austria
To see the full membership of the 6th Cycle (2011-2012) of the HRC, please click here.
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Kuwait replaces Syria as candidate to HRC due to intense international opposition
After months of international outcry over Syria's candidacy to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), Kuwait has stepped forward to replace Syria as the preferred Asian Group candidate to the HRC elections, which will be held by secret ballot on May 20 at the UN General Assembly.
While concerns exist about Kuwait's human rights record, the international human rights community had strongly opposed Syria's candidacy, including several Syrian and Arab NGOs that urged the League of Arab States and the Asian Group to withdraw their support for Syria's membership bid. The World Forum for Democratization in Asia also expressed dismay over the prospect of Syria representing the Asian region at the HRC.
The announcement follows on the heels of the April 29 Special Session on Syria, where the HRC passed a resolution condemning the use of lethal violence against peaceful protestors by Syrian authorities. The resolution dispatches a fact-finding mission to be led by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which must report on any violations of international human rights law at future HRC sessions.
For more information regarding the upcoming HRC elections, please visit the website of the NGO Coalition for an Effective Human Rights Council by clicking here
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U.S. urged to support HRC Special Sessions on Bahrain and Yemen
Following strong U.S.-led action at the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) against the violent crackdown on peaceful protesters in Syria, U.S.-based NGOs are calling on the Obama Administration to demonstrate the same resolve toward violations in Bahrain and Yemen and seek HRC Special Sessions to address these human rights crises.
While the NGOs commended the U.S.'s efforts to obtain robust HRC actions on Syria, Libya and Iran, they urged the U.S. to dissuade charges of selectivity by signaling clear support for the convening of HRC Special Sessions on Bahrain and Yemen that would establish mechanisms to investigate human rights violations in those countries.
"It is necessary to demonstrate that the Council can consistently and uniformly uphold international human rights law, even when it is strategic allies of the United States who are responsible for serious human rights crimes," the NGOs asserted.
To read DCP's newsletter on the call for US leadership at the HRC on Bahrain and Yemen, please click here.
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Members of US Congress call on Obama to lead the establishment of an inquiry into crimes in Burma
Ongoing atrocities committed by Burmese authorities have prompted 31 bi-partisan members of the United States Congress to call on the Obama Administration to lead the establishment of an international commission of inquiry into grave human rights abuses in Burma.
In a letter addressed to President Obama, Members of the House of Representatives described the Burmese military campaign against ethnic minorities, including widespread rape, summary executions, conscription of child soldiers, forced labor and the internal displacement of more than one million people. "For too many years, the military in Burma has carried out with impunity acts which unambiguously constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity," the Members stated.
The Representatives acknowledged the Administration's previous statement supporting an international investigation, but stressed the need for immediate action in light of the mounting evidence of systematic crimes against humanity committed by Burma's military regime.
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DCP hosts Congressional briefing on U.S. leadership at the HRC
On April 14, the Democracy Coalition Project, the Open Society Foundations and Freedom House held a congressional briefing, sponsored by Congressman Russ Carnahan, on the pivotal role the United States has played in addressing gross human rights violations at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). The event was convened to highlight the importance of continued U.S. engagement with the HRC amidst a climate of budget cuts and Congressional opposition to U.S. support for the United Nations.
The event, US leadership at the UN Human Rights Council: Featuring Voices from the Ground - Iran and Burma, was comprised of a distinguished panel of prominent human rights defenders from Burma and Iran, as well as current and former ambassadors to the HRC. The speakers discussed recent accomplishments of the body, including the appointment of a special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, an unprecedented mandate on the right to freedom of association and assembly, and the Council's swift action on Libya and Cote d'Ivoire.
To read DCP's summary of the event, please click here.
For a transcript of the event, please click here.
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UN Human Rights Council to hold Special Session on Syria
The HRC will convene a Special Session on the situation of human rights in Syria on Friday, April 29. Thirty-seven cross-regional States called for the session in response to the escalating government violence and repression against peaceful pro-democracy protests in the country.
The announcement is a welcome development. On April 6, human rights groups urged the HRC to hold accountable those responsible for targeting civilians, particularly Syrian security forces that used live ammunition to silence growing protests.
Syria's grave human rights record prompted thirteen Arab human rights NGOs to urge the League of Arab States and the Asian Group to withdraw their support for the Syrian government's bid for membership to the HRC. Syria is currently a candidate for the May 20 elections within a closed slate that does not allow for competitive elections.
Eight additional Arab NGOs joined the group in another appeal to all UN Member States to ensure that Syria is not given a seat in the upcoming elections.
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NGOs urge US to press for UN investigation on human rights abuses in Burma
In an effort to renew engagement with the Government of Myanmar (Burma), the Obama Administration has nominated Derek Mitchell as the Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma. Although 13 prominent US NGOs, including DCP, welcomed the move, they expressed hope that the appointment will be utilized to press for serious democratic reforms in Burma.
“As the United States continues to try to engage the regime, it also should demonstrate that its patience is not infinite and that continued defiance of international concerns will have consequences for the government’s leaders,” the group stressed.
Last fall the Obama Administration expressed support for the creation of an International Commission of Inquiry for Burma to investigate serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in the country. The NGOs urged the US to follow through on its call and lead the effort to create an investigation mechanism at the June session of the UN Human Rights Council.
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DCP to convene congressional briefing on US leadership at the HRC
On April 14, 2011 the Democracy Coalition Project, along with Freedom House and the Open Society Foundations, will convene a briefing at the US Capitol from 10:00 to 11:30 am on the importance of US engagement at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). Leading human rights defenders from Burma and Iran and current and former ambassadors to the HRC will discuss the capacity of the body to address crisis situations, as well as chronic human rights violations worldwide.
The panel will address recent HRC accomplishments and remaining challenges, including the appointment of a special rapporteur on human rights in Iran and the possibility of establishing a commission of inquiry on international crimes in Burma. Speakers will discuss the ways in which U.S. engagement and leadership has helped the HRC more effectively realize its mandate to protect and promote human rights.
Eileen Donahoe, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council
Hadi Ghaemi, Executive Director, International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran
Dr. Thaung Htun, Representative for UN Affairs, National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma
Carlos Portales, former Chilean Ambassador to Geneva and Director, Program on International Organizations, Law and Diplomacy, Washington College of Law, American University
Moderator: Paula Schriefer, Advocacy Director, Freedom House
Opening and Closing Remarks: Dokhi Fassihian, Executive Director, Democracy Coalition Project
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Violent crackdown in Syria prompts call for HRC Special Session
The escalating violence and repression in the Syrian Arab Republic has prompted the international human rights community to call for an urgent HRC Special Session on the situation.
Twenty-one NGOs from all regions of the world called on the HRC to pursue its mandate by responding to the on-going crisis with the convening of a special session.
"Given these concerns and the past human rights record of the Government of Syria, we believe the international community should pressure them to immediately end the bloodshed and to hold to account those responsible for any unlawful shooting against demonstrators," the NGOs stated.
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NGOs Applaud US Commitment to Second HRC Term
The United States Government recently announced that it intends to pursue a second term on the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). In response, eleven prominent US based NGOs welcomed the move and congratulated the US government on the successes that it achieved at the 16th session of the HRC, including strong resolutions on Iran, Cote d’Ivoire, Tunisia, Guinea, North Korea and Burma, as well as derailing the dangerous “defamation of religions” concept.
The group underscored the need for continued leadership and engagement by the United States to address the many problems that remain at the HRC, such as eliminating the Council’s disproportionate focus on Israel and increasing attention on other ongoing and emerging human rights priorities.
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DCP welcomes US announcement to seek second term
DCP welcomes the recent announcement that the United States will seek a second term on the UN Human Rights Council next year in light of recent achievements by the body. Improvements in addressing critical human rights situations were particularly evident throughout the Sixteenth Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC), which concluded last Friday.
The appointment of a UN expert to investigate rights abuses in Iran marked the creation of the first new country rapporteur since the inception of the HRC. The establishment of a Commission of Inquiry into violence in Côte d'Ivoire and resolutions on the human rights situations in Tunisia and Guinea also demonstrated the Council's increased responsiveness to grave human rights violations.
In another significant development, the dangerous resolution on “defamation of religions” was discontinued in favor of a well received resolution that focused on combating intolerance and incitement to violence against persons based on religion or belief. The international human rights community also welcomed a statement made during the session by Columbia (on behalf of 85 countries) which called on States to end violence, criminal sanctions and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
For a more comprehensive overview please see the end of session statement from the International Service for Human Rights.
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Urgent action needed on the human rights crisis in Yemen
Building on the achievements of the 16th HRC session, fifteen NGOs – including DCP - called on the Council to urgently respond to the deteriorating human rights situation in Yemen.
Since February 2011, authorities in Yemen have violently attacked protestors across the country in an effort to halt the spreading call for economic reforms, an end to corruption and the removal of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
“In the face of grave and widespread violations such as those being carried out in Yemen, silence is not an option,” the NGOs stated. “We therefore urge the Council to hold, without delay, a ‘Special Session on the Human Rights Situation in Yemen.’”
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UNGA and UNHRC urged to strengthen UPR and HRC membership
On the last day of the March session, the HRC adopted by consensus the outcome of the Inter-governmental Working Group charged with reviewing the work and functioning of the Council five years after its inception. In response, twenty-nine NGOs, including DCP, expressed disappointment over a process they described as "diluted to a mere 'fine-tuning' exercise as opposed to a thorough Review." The group regretted that the review did not introduce major improvements in any area and did not include proposals aimed at strengthening the Universal Periodic Review Process.
DCP also joined eleven NGOs in calling on the General Assembly (GA) to strengthen the HRC membership criteria in order to offset the failure of the HRC Review Process to improve the Council.
The NGOs urged the GA to create a public "pledge review" mechanism to help States evaluate which candidates meet the membership threshold and an annual "cooperation audit" where the GA would assess the degree of state cooperation with the Council's special procedures, as well as put in place measures to guarantee that elections are genuinely competitive.
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Is the U.S. Prepared to Win at the UN Human Rights Council? We Just Did.
Dokhi Fassihian, executive director of DCP has published an opinion editorial in the March 25, 2011 edition of the Huffington Post in which she discusses the role of the United States in the lasted session of the UN Human Rights Council.
“The Obama administration's 2009 decision to reverse the counterproductive non-engagement policy [of the Bush administration] is producing dramatic changes at the Geneva-based body [the UN Human Rights Council], as evidenced by this week's vote on Iran. The United States wasted no time in working to reverse the worrying trend away from country scrutiny. In addition to the victory on Iran, attention to severe situations in Sudan and Burma have been strengthened, while emerging conflicts in Honduras, Kyrgyzstan, Cote D'Ivoire, and Libya were swiftly addressed. The U.S. has worked intensively to combat the dangerous resolution on "defamation of religions," and achieved another signal victory this week when the whole concept was abandoned by its sponsors…
The Obama Administration deserves credit for the positive changes we've witnessed at the Human Rights Council even as we recognize that there is more to be done. The Iranian people will be the most recent beneficiaries. For those still denied their rights in places like Burma and North Korea, and those struggling to attain them in Bahrain and Belarus, it is critical for us to stay, to lead, and to win…”
To read the full article, please click here.
To read DCP's newsletter on the HRC adoption of the Iran resolution and rejection of "defamation of religions" concept, please click here.
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NGOs push for HRC to uphold human rights at 16th Session
With the 16th Session of the UN Human Rights Council underway in Geneva, 38 NGOs working mainly on behalf of the rights of citizens of Muslim countries urged States belonging to the Organization of the Islamic Conference to support the establishment of a human rights monitoring mechanism for Iran.
“The Human Rights Council must do all it can to prevent the Islamic Republic from following the violent course of Libya, and encourage the Iranian authorities to adhere to human rights principles and standards,” the NGOs stated.
The deteriorating human rights situation in Bahrain has also prompted a group of NGOs from around the world to call on the HRC to hold an urgent debate on that situation during the session. The group argued that the systematic use of excessive force by Bahraini security forces against protestors constitutes a human rights emergency, and the Council has a solemn duty to react promptly to it.
A group of Burundian NGOs called on the President of the HRC to abide by the decision to hear the report of the independent expert on Burundi and hold a dialogue with him on the human rights situation in the country this session. Despite repeated commitments to hold a discussion with the expert at successive sessions, opposition from the Burundian Government continues to delay the interaction.
Meanwhile, the annual resolution on the controversial concept of “defamation of religions” prompted 112 NGOs from across the globe, including the Democracy Coalition Project, to urge States to vote against any resolution which refers to the concept. In addition, the group called on governments to support a resolution which focuses on freedom of expression, freedom of religion and non-discrimination.
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HRC establishes commission of inquiry on Libyan crisis
At the request of fifty-three member and observer States to the UN Human Rights Council, the first special session addressing human rights violations of a current member state was held on Libya at the Council.
The resulting resolution was among the strongest texts consensually adopted by the Council. It decides to urgently dispatch an independent, international commission of inquiry to investigate those responsible for violations of international human rights law in Libya. In addition, it recommends that the General Assembly consider suspending Libya’s membership to the Human Rights Council.
At the session, Pakistan, on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, condemned the violence and called on Libyan authorities to ensure equality, civil liberties and social justice, and to promote transparency and accountability.
A group of global NGOs, including the Democracy Coalition Project, are also urging
the UN General Assembly to suspend Libya’s membership to the Council, as is advised in such circumstances according to the resolution that created the Council.
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NGOs call for urgent HRC action to address violent repression in the Middle East and North Africa
In response to the rising backlash against protestors across the Middle East and North Africa, NGOs from around the globe are urging the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) to condemn the violent repression of demonstrators calling for their democratic rights.
Over the past few weeks, hundreds of thousands of people are rejecting governments that have long deprived their citizens of fundamental civil, political, social and economic rights. In response, security forces in Libya and Bahrain have initiated a violent crackdown that has left hundreds dead.
In a petition
addressed to UN member states, nineteen NGOs, including the Democracy Coalition Project, urge the HRC to condemn the killings and excessive force against demonstrators, call for the release of people arbitrarily detained, and to call for independent investigations into rights violations committed during the demonstrations.
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US Senate members call for HRC mandate on Iran
In a letter addressed to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, twenty-four US Senators called on the Administration to work through multilateral institutions to address the state-sponsored repression of peaceful protestors in Iran since its disputed 2009 Presidential elections.
The Senators noted that the Human Rights Council has thus far failed to take any concrete measures to address the situation or provide meaningful protections for Iranian citizens.
“We believe it is essential that US membership on the HRC be utilized this March to take an overdue step to address Iran’s human rights crisis by reestablishing an independent human rights monitor to observe and report on the grave situation in the country,” the letter concludes.
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NGOs call for improvements to HRC
On February 17 and 18, an open-ended intergovernmental working group will meet once again to review the work and functioning of the HRC. In anticipation of the meeting, fourteen NGOs, including the Democracy Coalition Project, sent the President of the HRC a series of 'minimum outcomes' they believe are essential to the Human Rights Council review process.
"We believe that the success of the review requires an outcome that improves the Council's responsiveness to the realities of human rights situations around the world, and strengthens and safeguards the independence of the Council's mechanisms," the document states.
To see the NGOs key benchmarks, please click here.
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DCP calls for UN HRC Special Session on Egypt
As the crackdown on the public call for democratic reforms escalates inside Egypt, 29 NGOs, including the Democracy Coalition Project, urged the establishment of a UN Human Rights Council (HRC) Special Session that could help prevent further human rights violations and protect Egyptian citizens who have already suffered government repression.
“With the strong risk that escalating repression, violence and instability in Egypt could lead to an unprecedented deterioration in the human rights situation in the coming days, it is critical that the international community take up this issue,” the letter states.
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NGOs call for free and fair elections in Egypt
In response to the week-long violent government crackdown on protesters across Egypt, 94 NGOs, including the Democracy Coalition Project, urged the international community to condemn the human rights violations being carried out by the Egyptian authorities.
Since January 25, Egyptians have staged mass protests calling for democratic reform and the end of President Hosni Mubarak's repressive three-decade authoritarian rule. Government retaliation, including beatings, arbitrary detentions and the use of live ammunition against unarmed civilians, has led to more than a hundred deaths thus far.
In a letter on behalf of civil society organizations from around the world, signatories called on UN Member States and regional bodies to remind the Egyptian government to respect the basic rights and freedoms of the people in the region.
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NGOs call for HRC Special Session on Côte d’Ivoire
Amidst growing violence in Côte d’Ivoire following its disputed Presidential election, the Democracy Coalition Project and 13 NGOs called today for an urgent special session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) to address the deteriorating situation.
On December 2, 2010, Côte d’Ivoire’s Independent Electoral Commission announced that opposition leader, Alassane Ouattara, defeated incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo in the Presidential elections. However, the President of the Constitutional Council declared the results invalid and pronounced Gbagbo the winner. Tensions surrounding the elections have given way to numerous reports of violations inside the country, including illegal detention, abductions and extrajudicial killings.
Fearing a risk of further violence, the NGOs sent a letter to member states of the HRC urging them to support a special session that requests the High Commissioner for Human Rights appoint a special representative to report to the HRC on developments until the situation stabilizes. “A special session could condemn attacks on civilians as well as UN peacekeepers and staff, and firmly remind those responsible that they will be held accountable, in accordance with international human rights law,” the letter states.
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Human rights experts and NGOs seek to strengthen HRC
As the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) undertakes its five-year review, governments, NGOs, and human rights experts are re-examining its effectiveness in promoting and protecting human rights.
The Intergovernmental Working Group mandated to review the work and functioning of the HRC since its creation in 2006 concluded its first session October 29th in Geneva, Switzerland. At the session, states discussed proposals on key aspects of the HRC; including the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a mechanism developed to assess the human rights situations of all UN Member States; and Special Procedures, which generally refers to the body of human rights experts mandated by the HRC to work on country or thematic issues.
In conjunction with the meeting, human rights experts and NGOs submitted recommendations designed to improve the ability of these mechanisms to address human rights situations, as well as to enhance state cooperation with these tools.
To view these recommendations, please read DCP's full report by clicking here.
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NGOs Survey the Work and Functioning of the HRC
To enhance the relevance of the HRC 2011 review to the needs and experiences of victims and human rights defenders on the ground, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Conectas and the International Service for Human Rights, developed a survey to solicit the views of local and national level NGOs who have had prior experience with the work of the HRC.
The preliminary results of the survey were then presented during the first session of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the HRC review. A number of concerns were indicated by NGOs as the most problematic to fulfilling the mandate of the HRC to promote and protect human rights.
The survey found the UPR consultation process at the national level insufficient and lacking effective follow-up mechanisms to UPR recommendations. The survey also revealed that financial constraints of NGOs and limited speaking time for NGOs during the interactive dialogue diminished NGO participation at HRC sessions. In addition, the survey found that the HRC should prioritize its attention to human rights emergencies and implement States' human rights obligations and commitments.
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NGOs call for a robust response to critical human rights violations in Iran
In a joint statement to the UN General Assembly, six human rights organizations called for stronger follow-up mechanisms to address the critical human rights situation in Iran.
The signatories highlighted the increasing human rights violations since Iran’s disputed 2009 Presidential elections, as well as the Iranian authorities’ refusal to cooperate with existing international human rights mechanisms.
“Such evidence requires a robust response by the international community to respond to the failure of the Iranian authorities to address such serious human rights concerns and their obstruction of international scrutiny,” assert the signatories.
The signatories included the Democracy Coalition Project, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, the International Federation for Human Rights, and the Iranian League for the Defence of Human Rights.
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NGOs seek to improve HRC responses to human rights violations in the Five-year Review
In preparation for the Human Rights Council's (HRC) five-year review, 16 NGOs, including the Democracy Coalition Project, have presented a paper that seeks to strengthen HRC responses to human rights violations based on the level of genuine cooperation offered by governments.
The paper, sent to the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights and the HRC President, maintains that cooperative approaches are only effective when the concerned state acknowledges and seeks to address human rights abuses. Unfortunately, this principled commitment to protect human rights is often neglected at the HRC.
To provide incentives for cooperation, the signatories developed a methodology of when and how to use the tools at the HRC’s disposal to address human rights violations contingent upon the level of cooperation of the concerned state. If the state demonstrates willingness to cooperate, it is granted greater participation and authority in the HRC process to address the violations.
To read the paper in its entirety, please click here.
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Report on UN Special Procedures Released
A new report on UN Special Procedures that analyzes the on-the-ground impact of this system has been released by Ted Piccone, Deputy Director of Foreign Policy for the Brookings Institution and board member of the Democracy Coalition Project. The report entitled, Catalysts for Rights: The Unique Contribution of the UN's Independent Experts on Human Rights, assesses for the first time, how these mechanisms promote international human rights norms at the national level.
The report finds that UN independent experts (IE) play an important role influencing government behavior and shedding light on compliance with international human rights norms. However, Piccone notes that IEs face several challenges including a frequent lack of state cooperation, inadequate resources and training, and the absence of a systematic process to implement their recommendations.
To read the report in its entirety, please click here.
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DCP calls on governments to oppose Cuban resolution on OHCHR oversight
The Democracy Coalition Project urges members of the UN Human Rights Council to reject a draft proposal at the 15th session of the HRC which will infringe on the independence of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
The resolution, presented by Cuba, attempts to usurp OHCHR's independence by enabling the HRC to exercise administrative and budgetary oversight of the High Commissioner's program plans.
In a letter addressed to member states of the HRC, 20 NGOs, including DCP, argued that the resolution fundamentally threatens the High Commissioner's ability to remind governments of their obligations and to recommend specific actions to improve the protection of human rights.
To learn more about this and other resolutions being considered at the HRC and UN General Assembly please read DCP’s full report by clicking here.
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US Senators and EU Parliament call for re-establishment of UN mandate on Iran
A bi-partisan group of US Senators and the European Parliament have called for the re-establishment of a UN mandate to monitor the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
In a letter addressed to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a bi-partisan group of US Senators, led by Carl Levin (D-MI), urged the Obama Administration to support the re-establishment of a human rights monitor to provide accountability for those perpetrating human rights violations in Iran.
On September 8, 2010 the European Parliament passed a resolution that expressed concern about the human rights situation in Iran and joins the call for the re-establishment of a UN mandate for a Special Rapporteur to investigate human rights abuses in Iran. The resolution also calls for the expansion of the EU travel ban and freezing of assets to include those responsible for human rights violations in Iran.
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NGOs call for a renewal of the mandate on the human rights situation in Sudan
The Democracy Coalition Project joined twenty-six national, regional and international NGOs from around the world in calling upon governments to address the widespread human rights abuses which continue to occur in Sudan.
Signatories to the letter expressed serious concern over the severe human rights violations in Sudan, including post-election repression, the increasing violence in Darfur, and ongoing insecurity and human rights abuses by the security forces in Southern Sudan. They noted that the 15th Session of the Human Rights Council, taking place in Geneva September 13th – October 1st, will take place at a critical moment for Sudan, following the April 2010 elections, and in the run-up to the referendum on southern self-determination scheduled to take place in January 2011.
The letter urged member states to respond to human rights abuses in Sudan by supporting a resolution renewing the mandate of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan at the 15th Session of the Human Rights Council.
To learn more about this and other resolutions being considered at the HRC and UN General Assembly please read DCP’s full report by clicking here.
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DCP urges strong UN action on Myanmar, Iran, and Sudan
The Democracy Coalition Project calls on governments around the world to support UN action to address the grave human rights situations in Myanmar, Sudan, and Iran at upcoming UN meetings in New York and Geneva.
Recently, the United States announced support for a UN Commission of Inquiry into possible crimes against humanity and war crimes in Myanmar as called for by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. The UN General Assembly and UN Human Rights Council will also be considering the human rights situations in Sudan and Iran at its upcoming sessions. DCP urges the Human Rights Council to renew the mandate of the independent expert on Sudan and give particular attention to the lack of protection of the human rights of civilians, the culture of impunity, as well as ongoing restrictions on political expression.
Likewise, urgent action should be taken to extend protection to Iranian citizens. While states have extended significant political will and resources toward resolving the nuclear issue, they have failed to give adequate attention to the country's worsening human rights situation.
To learn more please read DCP’s full statement by clicking here.
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It's time for Obama to support a UN rights monitor on Iran
In an article published September 3, 2010 in Foreign Policy Magazine, DCP executive director, Ms. Dokhi Fassihian, calls on the US government to support an independent UN mandate to address the severe human rights crisis in Iran.
"Over the past year, the Obama Administration has missed successive opportunities to bring real international pressure on the Iranian government to address the severe human rights crisis gripping the country. Instead, it has focused its political muscle on the singular objective of convincing Iran's leadership to stop nuclear enrichment. The result has been an almost cruel disregard for the plight of the Iranian people and their urgent need for international attention to their human rights situation."
"The Iranian people need the UN's help -- as did the citizens of Chile, South Africa, and Hungary -- to attain justice. At the UN General Assembly meeting this fall, the United States has another opportunity to help them by ensuring the establishment of a UN mandate that will investigate abuses and encourage accountability for those perpetrating crimes in Iran. We should not miss it again."
To read the article in its entirety please click here
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HRC struggles to challenge governments on rights violations
The Fourteenth Session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) concluded last Friday with limited action on human rights situations requiring its attention. While the Council took positive steps toward addressing the urgent human rights crisis in Kyrgyzstan, as well as an Israeli attack of a humanitarian flotilla in international waters, it failed to adequately address the situations in Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Burundi, and Afghanistan among others.
"If the Council reacted to urgent crises around the world the way it does to every new incident relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we may actually have an effective body," said Dokhi Fassihian, executive director of the Democracy Coalition Project. "So it is clear the tools are there and states know how to use them. What's missing is principled leadership."
Shortly following the end of the session the HRC elected Ambassador Sihasak Phuangketkeow, the Permanent Representative of Thailand, as the President of the Council for a period of one year. In response, 55 Asian NGOs urged the government of Thailand to demonstrate a renewed commitment to human rights and to provide accountability for the human rights violations committed during the recent unrest in its capital.
To learn more about the resolutions and events surrounding the Fourteenth Session of the HRC please read DCP’s full report by clicking here.