Tag Archive: United Nations


by Renato G. Mabunga

(This article has been presented by the author to the delegates of the 6th Asian Human Rights Defenders Forum (6th AHRDF) held in Quezon City, Philippines on 3-5 December 2014)

 

Though use inter-changeably and oftentimes carries the same meaning, intent and even connotation, there is a THIN LINE DISTINCTION between Security of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and the Protection of Human Rights Workers.

Coming from an Organization Development (OD) perspective: Security of HRD speaks more of the assessment of the Slide2internal realities of individual defenders and their organizations vis-à-vis their actual experience and perceptions in the conduct of doing human rights work. It is an evaluation of perceived risks and threats that directly impacts on one’s personal commitment (to the cause of human rights), involvement (to organizations), and sustainability of seeing through some changes in the external situation. It also defines the degree of threshold for organization indicating critical shift or change in the conduct of operation – from a normal, acceptable level of usual activities to conscious weighing of the impact and dangers of particular action to the lives of the implementers and/or the target communities.

Protection of HRDs, on the other hand, is a response or measures derived from the assessment of risks and threats. This could either be personal or at the individual level, or organizational. And, may take the form of internal policies of the organization or personal disciplinary measures and precautions of individual HRDs. All of which are aimed at lessening risks and threats. Continue reading

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The UN Special Rapperteur on HRD, Michel Forst with Asian HRD-subregional workshop group reporters during the 6th Asian Human Rights Defenders Forum (AHRDF) in Quezon City, Philippines, 3-5 December 2014. (Photo by FORUM-ASIA)

The UN Special Rapperteur on HRD, Michel Forst with Asian HRD-subregional workshop group reporters during the 6th Asian Human Rights Defenders Forum (AHRDF) in Quezon City, Philippines, 3-5 December 2014. (Photo by Jerbert Briola)

 

 

Human rights defenders from around the world gathered in Manila last week to consolidate “protection platforms” for human rights workers. The meeting highlighted various protection initiatives on the ground and the challenges for their implementation.

The event tracked various organizational protection systems and mechanisms as stopgap measures against violations of the rights of activists. It also mapped out effective engagement and cooperation with the newly appointed UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

In his speech, Michel Forst, the UN rapporteur, noted that Asian human rights defenders are the most threatened, intimidated or investigated.

They are also the most harassed or criminalized, and the most likely to be prevented from travelling.

Such violations and denials of fundamental freedoms have been aimed to discredit, silence and eliminate human rights defenders in the region, he said.

Forst observed that the space for civil society and human rights defenders in the Asian region has shrunk while state and non-state entities in Asia use “sophisticated patterns of attacks” to impede the legitimate work of human rights defenders.

Indeed, Asian human rights defenders are facing increasing restrictions on freedom of expression and information, on the rights to freedoms of association and peaceful assembly and the criminalization, vilification and use of judicial harassment in persecuting development workers and even environmental activists.

It is precisely because of the critical role of human rights defenders in promoting human rights awareness and debate at national and international levels that many find their own rights flagrantly violated by repressive governments.

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Photo by Human Rights Online PH

For three years, the United Nations has marked the International Day of the Disappeared on August 30 in recognition of the fact that “enforced disappearances” have no place in a world that aspires to freedom and justice.

An “enforced disappearance” is defined as “deprivation of liberty outside of the protection of the law by agents of government or of authority through concealment of the victim’s whereabouts.”

Beyond this definition, however, is the immense suffering of families haunted by the fate of the “desaparecidos,” the term used for the disappeared in the Philippines.

In Asia, where most governments hide behind the pretext of law and order and national security, official rhetoric has failed to cover up enforced disappearances.

In Bangladesh, 24 disappeared were documented in 2012. This year, there have already been 14 documented cases, allegedly perpetrated by members of the Rapid Action Battalion, the Police Detective Branch and the Industrial Police.

In Jammu and Kashmir in India’s restive northwest, conflicting statements by different government agencies have become a feature of this issue. There have been more than 8,000 cases of recorded disappearances since 1989, yet successive governments have officially downplayed the number. In 2005, the People’s Democratic Party-led government claimed there were 3,931 such cases. In 2009, the National Conference-led government claimed 3,429 missing and then last year, the same government claimed only 2,305 people had disappeared since 1989.

Whether there has been just one or thousands of victims is of secondary concern. What is essential is an effective mechanism for probing cases of violations, finding victims, easing the burden and suffering of families and for holding governments accountable within a human rights framework.

In Indonesia, the entrenched and successful use of terror during the New Order regime (1965-1998) terrified the populace into not reporting enforced disappearances. Even with the change of government, 414 mostly unsolved cases of missing persons were documented in the restive province of Aceh alone from 1999 to 2005.

The decade-long civil war in Nepal from 1996 claimed 1,378 disappeared. On November 21, 2006, a Comprehensive Peace Accord ended the conflict and promised to clarify the fate of the disappeared within just 60 days.

Yet in December the following year the government was still at the stage of being required to set up a commission of investigation, a call repeated in various political agreements between various parties and factions including a landmark deal in November 2011. Still a commission into disappearances in Nepal has not been set up.

In the Philippines there have been at least 2,214 recorded cases of enforced disappearances, with at least 20 of these committed during the past three years under the current administration of President Benigno Aquino.

There has been progress here, however. After 17 long years of lobbying for an Anti-Enforced Disappearances Act, the law was finally signed off last year, becoming the first of its kind in Asia. But passing a law and enforcing it are two very different things in the Philippines, as in many countries in this region.

 

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HRD PROTECTION MANUALIntroduction

The universality of human rights does not guarantee that it is indeed respected, protected, and fulfilled. On the other hand, cases of human rights violations persist, in the Philippines and all over the world. Hence, there is a need to raise people’s awareness on human rights and how to defend them.

According to the United Nations document Human Rights Defenders: Protecting the Right to Defend Human Rights Fact Sheet No. 29,

“Human rights defender” is a term used to describe people who, individually or with others, act to promote or protect human rights. Human rights defenders are identified above all by what they do…[1]

 In summary, gathering and disseminating information, advocacy and the mobilization of public opinion are often the most common tools used by human rights defenders in their work…they also provide information to empower or train others. They participate actively in the provision of the material means necessary to make human rights a reality – building shelter, providing food, strengthening development, etc. They work at democratic transformation in order to increase the participation of people in the decision-making that shapes their lives and to strengthen good governance. They also contribute to the improvement of social, political and economic conditions, the reduction of social and political tensions, the building of peace, domestically and internationally, and the nurturing of national and international awareness of human rights.[2]

 Sadly, those who defend human rights are the ones who often face risks and challenges. Human rights defenders have become victims of harassment, arrest and detention, vilification campaigns, sometimes, even torture, or worse, enforced disappearance, or extrajudicial killing. State authorities are the most common perpetrators of violations against human rights defenders.

Who will then defend the defenders in situations when the human rights defenders themselves become targets of attacks?

In recognition of the risks faced by human rights defenders, steps have been made by the United Nations, no less, to guarantee their protection.

The first major step was formally to define the “defence” of human rights as a right in itself and to recognize persons who undertake human rights work as “human rights defenders”. On 9 December 1998, by its resolution 53/144, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (commonly known as the “Declaration on human rights defenders”). The second step was taken in April 2000, when the United Nations Commission on Human Rights asked the Secretary-General to appoint a special representative on human rights defenders to monitor and support the implementation of the Declaration.[3]

Despite positive developments on the protection of human rights defenders, there is a need for human rights defenders themselves to come up with comprehensive and realistic strategies to ensure their protection.

This manual aims to provide human rights defenders with practical knowledge and some effective tools that may be useful for improving their understanding on human rights defender’s security and protection. The manual is intended to help defenders to undertake their own risk assessments and define security rules and procedures which suit their particular situation.

Click to Download Entire Manual/Document:  PROTECTION MANUAL FOR HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS


[1] Human Rights Defenders: Protecting the Right to Defend Human Rights Fact Sheet No. 29, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations, Geneva, April 2004.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

adil

11 August 2013

 
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina 
Office of the Prime Minister
Gona Bhaban, Old Sangsad Bhaban, Tejgaon
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Email: info@pmo.gov.bd
 
 

 Dear Prime Minister Hasina,

The Human Rights Defenders-Pilipinas (HRDP) was informed by the Asia Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia) and the ODHIKAR, a prominent human rights organization in Bangladesh, of the arbitrary arrest and detention of Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan, secretary of ODHIKAR by forces believed to be members of the Detective Branch of Dhaka Metropolitan Police.

We know Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan and his advocacies; we know ODHIKAR, its mandates and activities; and, we are worried of Adilur’s situation including that of his organization. As Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) we know by experience the possibilities of more violations under custody including the possibility of torture.  We are aware of the vilification proceedings usually conducted by States to organizations of HRDs to descredit their works.  Let us all be reminded that the United Nations General Assembly including Bangladesh unanimously approved the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders in 1998; that, human rights works are not anti- government unless the latter vowed to be despotic.

The nature of arrest without warrant employed by State agents against Mr. Adilur blatantly violated the due process of law.  Bangladesh, being a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2000, should know too well that actions of its agents contravene all the provisions in Article 9 of the said covenant.

We are therefore calling on the Government of Bangladesh to immediately release Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan from custody.  Respect and protect his rights including that of all Human Rights Defenders in Bangladesh.

Sincerely,

Renato G. Mabunga, Ph.D.
Chairperson, Human Rights Defenders – Piipinas (HRDP)
 
Copy Furnished:
 
 
Mr. Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir
Minister for Home Affairs
Email: mkalamgir@yahoo.com; minister@mha.gov.bd;
 
Barrister Shafique Ahmed
Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs
Email: info@minlaw.gov.bd
 
Mr. Hasan Mahmud Khandaker
Inspector General of Police
Email : ig@police.gov.bd
 
H.E. Mr. Abdul Hannan
Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to the United Nations in Geneva
E-mail: mission.bangladesh@ties.itu.int
 
Prof.  Dr. Mizanur Rahman, Chairman
National Human Rights Commission
Email: nhrc.bd@gmail.com,
 
High Commission of Bangladesh in New Delhi, India
Email: bdhcdelhi@gmail.com
 
Ms. Saartje Baes
Human Rights Defenders (HRD) Programme Officer, FORUM-ASIA

Email: saartje@forum-asia.org

Philippines needs a heart to protect its gems

(A Statement on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders)

February 14, 2012

In this month of love and affection, the Philippine government needs a heart to protect its gems – the Human Rights Defenders (HRDs).  HRDs are gems of precious value.  They abound in the depths of human longings.  That is, the protection and defense of the dignity of person.  They are cultivated by natural desires of loving peace and respect; tested by concrete experiences of grief and sufferings; of joys and happiness in ushering individual and community empowerment and development. HRDs are gems personified.  They check the balance of power with the scale of justice.  They keep sanity of the ‘wannabes’ from the lures of corruption and tyranny.  They call for peace in times of war.

Their noble desire to promote the well-being of all has prompted the United Nations to pass Resolution A/RES/53/144 otherwise known as the “Declaration on the Rights and Responsibilities of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms or the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders” in 1998.  It recognizes the importance and legitimacy of their works and their vital role in engaging governments on human rights issues.  Even as they find their own rights flagrantly violated, they remain “STEADFAST IN PROTEST” amid the worldwide trends of:

1)     Restrictions of the enjoyment of rights through policy enactments and legislations;

2)     Increasing restrictions to the right to expression and opinion;

3)     Women HRDs are increasingly targeted for who they are and for their work;

4)     Continuing threats to the independence and effectiveness of National human rights institutions,

The Philippines is a rich source of human rights defenders.  So rich that those hit by their brilliance aspire to shred them into pieces, threat their existence and plot all legal and extra-judicial ways to silence them.  This is the current case of Temogen “Cocoy” Tulawie – a Human Rights Defender slapped with various charges from allegedly masterminding assassination plots to bombing the City of Jolo.  These accusations emanate from his being vocal on the policies and actions of the local government that violate human rights in Sulu.

Extra-judicial executions, torture, intimidation, harassment and vilification of organizations are just some realities of human rights work and human rights defenders in the Philippines.  With these realities, is an urgent call on the government to take to heart its primary responsibility and duty on the situation of HRDs.  To wit: “Each State has a prime responsibility and duty to protect, promote and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms, inter alia, by adopting such step as maybe necessary to create all conditions necessary in the social, economic, political and other fields, as well as the legal guarantees required to ensure that all persons under its jurisdiction, individually or in association with others, are able to enjoy all those rights and freedoms in practice” (UN Declaration on HRD, 1998, Art. 2).  With this Human Rights Defenders-Pilipinas calls for:

  • an urgent enactment of legislative policies protecting human rights and development workers;
  • mainstreaming human rights in governance through the use of rights-based approach;
  • ensuring the independence and integrity of the judiciary; and,
  • Putting in place protection programmes to ensure the physical and psychological integrity of defenders from attacks and threats.

 

I. Description of the methodology and the consultation process followed for the preparation of information provided under the universal periodic review

1. This submission was prepared through facilitation of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) with assistance of the Philippine Human Rights Information Center (PhilRights) in coordination with sixty-three (63) civil society organizations (see annex 1). Four (4) national workshops and consultations including one with Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHRP) were conducted to gather inputs and recommendations for this report.

II. Issues and concerns on the promotion and protection of human rights on the ground and implementation of international human rights obligations

2. During this UPR review period, Philippines adopted domestic laws that mirror international human rights instruments, such as Anti-Torture Law or Republic Act 9745, criminalization of violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) or Republic Act 9851, Magna Carta for Women, anti-child pornography law of 2009 and ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

3. The Aquino government stated that human rights would be a pillar of his governance, a basis of his development plans and the core of the paradigm shift in the security sector. However, after one and a half years in power, it still has no clear human rights agenda with the draft National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP) still waiting presidential approval.

4. Furthermore, human rights violations persist while the culture of impunity remains to be a glaring reality in the country. Factors behind this are the militarist and punitive approach in addressing the root causes of insurgency, weak exercise of command responsibility and poor implementation of laws. Police and military forces continue to be among the top human rights violators as shown in the records of the CHRP. Human rights enjoyment also suffers due to lack of harmonization of and conflicts in the implementation of laws, such as the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) and the Mining Act of 1995.

5. In a study of Atty. Parreño, among the 305 incidents of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) from 2001 to August 2010, 32% of victims were activists while 10% were farmers. This only shows that civil and political rights (CPR) violations such as EJKs and enforced disappearances could often be traced to suppression of people’s assertion and claiming of their economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights.

6. The Philippines also failed to adopt its NHRAP that would have given direction to the State to implement its obligations under the rights of children, women, migrants, indigenous peoples, and lesbians, gays, bi-sexual, and trans-gender (LGBT), persons with disabilities as well as the rights to life, food, health, education and work. Concomitantly, there is lack of decisiveness and haphazard approach by State agents in following-up the implementation of the accepted recommendations from the last UPR.

7. The absence of a National Monitoring Mechanism (NMM) composed of the CHRP, government agencies, security sector, and civil society, exacerbated by the non-passage of a law on the right to information and lack of transparency in complaint processes has eroded the substance of human rights pronouncements and encouraged impunity to thrive.

8. The State has to fully integrate and consistently use the rights-based approach in its governance, legislative and development plans.

9. Government also needs to harness the potential of civil society by reinstating CSOs’ participation in the revitalized Presidential Human Rights Committee (PHRC) and encouraging CHR deputization of human rights defenders (HRDs).

10. Finally, the State has to maximize the expertise and material assistance of the United Nations and its member nations, such as inviting the UN Special Rapporteurs, e.g., the Special Rapporteur in Promoting Human Rights while Combating Terrorism and the Special Rapporteur on Disability.

III. Achievements, best practices, challenges and constraints in relation to the previous review’s recommendations

To read more. Please click this link:   Joint CSO Report to 2nd UPR_cycle

(A Statement on the 63rd Human Rights Day & the 13th Anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders)

On the 63rd celebration of the International Human Rights Day (December 10), we pay tribute to thousands of human rights defenders (HRDs) who offered their lives in the cause of freedom and dignity of life.  We take pride in the continuing assertion of others amid violent repression.  We salute those who have never wavered for the cause of human rights.

More than ever this year is a witness to the blossoming of human rights as an ideal and value in action.  The uprisings that spring from the Arab world, the protests that sweep major cities and urban centers in Europe, the Americas and Africa, the continuing difficult situations in Asia, all of which highlight the mainstreaming of human rights in governance and the aspiration of peoples for respect, protection, promotion and defense for human rights.  These conditions bring out the core spirit of people to be human rights defenders.  Young and old, male and female or whatever sexual orientation, rich and poor, summon all their voices together in pains of oppression in crying out mantras of non-discrimination, people empowerment and development, equality and human rights for all.

With these mantras, many tools have been mustered to usher effective advocacies and facilitate peoples’ solidarity with those who face persecution.  The social media for one made people see the actions going on.  Captured pictures and videos not allowed in a ‘seemingly’ controlled media have found their way through available modern communication technology, reaching even the remotest areas many people have not known to exist.  Appeals for help and international solidarity are made timely, on time and online.   ‘Revolutions’ for human rights have become virtual reality through communication gadgets made available for ordinary people.  What is inspiring, people have mastered these technologies to spread out the news, the truth and the dream of people to be free.  And, recognize the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world (UDHR, 1948; ICCPR, 1966; ICESCR, 1966).

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By: Dr. Renato G. Mabunga

(Note:  This article was first published in HUMAN RIGHTS FORUM, Volume 5, Number 1issue.  Updated and modified to incorporate latest developments and preparation on the Philippine 2nd Cycle Universal Periodic Review slated on the 13th HRC/UPR Working Group session in May to June 2012.)

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“Every day we are reminded of the need for a strengthened United Nations, as we face a growing array of new challenges, including humanitarian crises, human rights violations, armed conflicts and important health and environmental concerns. Seldom has the United Nations been called upon to do so much for so many. I am determined to breathe new life and inject renewed confidence in a strengthened United Nations firmly anchored in the twenty-first century, and which is effective, efficient, coherent and accountable.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

IN 1997, and again in 2002, reforms in the United Nations gained ground in Geneva and New York, respectively. These reforms came in the heels of then-Secretary General Kofi Annan’s challenge to the UN’s “continued significance” in the face of 21st century realities. He called for improvements in how the UN conducts its work, implements its mandate and manages the funds entrusted to it by its Member States in order to bring human rights to all peoples of the world.

These reforms took a significant turn during the General Assembly’s 60th session. The world’s leaders adopted UNGA Resolution 60/251 on the 15th of March 2006, which created the Human Rights Council (HRC). The HR Council is now a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly, taking over the role of the Commission on Human Rights, which was created under article 68 of the UN Charter on Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The HRC was mandated to conduct a Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a mechanism to evaluate each member state’s human rights commitments. The said review shall be a cooperative mechanism, based on an interactive dialog, with the full involvement of the country concerned and with consideration given to its capacity-building needs. The UPR is intended to complement and not duplicate the work of treaty bodies.

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