[Appeal] Open Letter to candidates to the (U.N.) Human Rights Council

 

Open Letter to candidates to the Human Rights Council

 

 

 

Excellency,

 

 

 

We are a diverse group of nongovernmental organisations from all parts of the world who have
contributed to the Human Rights Council (the Council) and its work since its establishment. We
write to you regarding your candidacy for membership of the Council.

 

 

 

 

UNHRC file photo source indiadaily.org

UNHRC. file photo source indiadaily.org

 

 

 

In establishing the Council in 2006, the General Assembly provided that Council members “shall
uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights” and “fully
cooperate with the Council” (GA Resolution 60/251).

 

 

 

We are concerned about the clear failure of some candidates to fully comply with these criteria.
Failure by Council members to take effective measures to address violations of human rights for
which they are responsible, particularly of a gross or systematic nature, or to fully cooperate with the Council and its mechanisms undermines the ability of the Council to promote and protect
human rights and to demand full state cooperation with its mechanisms. While this letter focuses
on three important requirements that help measure candidate’s suitability as a Human Rights
Council member, a more detailed assessment of each candidate’s record in the promotion and
protection of human rights and cooperation with the Human Rights Council must be made on a
case-by-case basis by members of the General Assembly before they cast their votes. This
should also include consideration of the level of ratification of core international human rights
treaties.

 

 

 

We are also concerned at the failure of some candidates to respect and support the important
role played by civil society, non-governmental organisations and human rights defenders in the
promotion and protection of human rights at the national and international levels, including in the Council (Article 38 of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, GA Resolution 60/251
and the Human Rights Council’s Institution Building Package).

 

 

 

We expand on each of these areas of concern below.

 

 

 

Cooperation with Special Procedures

 

 

 

As a candidate, it is incumbent on every State to set an example by cooperating fully with the
Council’s human rights mechanisms, in particular by:

 

 

 

1. Issuing and honouring an effective standing invitation to the Special Procedures. This
requires responding promptly to all requests for visits by providing one or more sets of
specific possible dates within two months, and facilitating such visits in accordance with the
Terms of Reference on Fact-finding Missions by Special Procedures.

 

 

 

2. Acting responsibly and respectfully in relations with Special Procedures and refraining from all attempts, by word or action, to interfere with the independence of mandate holders or to
otherwise undermine their work;

 

 

 

3. Regularly providing information to the Special Procedures and to the Human Rights Council
on how the recommendations arising from country visits have been implemented, and any
obstacles to implementation;

 

 

 

4. Responding promptly and substantively to urgent appeals and to letters of allegations by
Special Procedures, taking into account the urgency of the communication; and

 

 

 

5. Supporting the creation of a mechanism to review and assess, on an annual basis, the
degree of cooperation with the Council and the Special Procedures, both in relation to Council
members and candidates for Council membership.

 

 

 

Reprisals and intimidation

 

 

 

We are also gravely concerned about acts of intimidation and reprisals against individuals and
groups who seek to cooperate, have cooperated, or cooperate with the UN human rights system,
including the Council, as well as against relatives of victims of human rights violations or those who have provided legal or other assistance to victims. Such intimidation or reprisals may take the form of smear campaigns, harassment, intimidation, prosecutions, direct threats, physical attacks and killings.

 

 

 

As the Council depends heavily on the free and safe cooperation of human rights defenders for
its effective functioning, it has a concomitant duty to prevent and immediately respond to threats and reprisals against those who cooperate with it. The Council took a significant step at its 24th session to safeguard the vital collaboration between human rights defenders and the UN rights mechanisms through the call for the creation of a senior focal point to work to prevent, protect against and seek accountability for reprisals and intimidation against persons who cooperate with the United Nations (HRC/RES/24/24). While we welcome this development, ending reprisals and intimidation requires continued action and responses by all stakeholders. In particular, each candidate should:

 

 

 

1. Cooperate fully with the focal point once established;
2. Take positive steps to facilitate safe and unimpeded access to the UN human rights
mechanisms by all individuals and groups, and in particular human rights defenders;
3. Take all necessary measures to prevent intimidation and reprisals against human rights
defenders and take appropriate action to provide remedies for all acts of intimidation and
reprisals;
4. Inform the Council through its President and on an ongoing basis of steps taken to protect
individuals mentioned in the Secretary-General’s report on reprisals and to provide remedies,
reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence;
5. Support recent initiatives by the President of the Council calling on States to immediately put
an end to intimidation and harassment of individuals and groups cooperating or seeking to
cooperate with the UN human rights mechanisms;
6. Commit to and call for enhanced monitoring and action by the Council. Consider the
development of an online and regularly updated registry of allegations of intimidation and
reprisals, as proposed by several of the panellists during the Council’s panel on reprisals;
7. Maintain pressure on States that commit or tolerate reprisals, including by using bilateral and multilateral dialogue to raise cases of intimidation or reprisals as documented in the
Secretary-General’s report and discussing follow-up;
8. Prioritise protection for all human rights defenders including those who cooperate with the
UN, through missions in Geneva and embassies around the world. This should be done in close coordination with all stakeholders involved in protecting human rights defenders,
including the UN, regional and national actors;
9. Consider establishing focal points at the national level to address acts of intimidation and
reprisals;
10. Review and where necessary change legislation, policies and practices that have the effect of
undermining unhindered access to and communication with international human rights bodies
and mechanisms and avoid adopting any such new legislation; and
11. Prevent the occurrence of intimidation or reprisals, including, where necessary, by developing and implementing specific legislation and policies and by issuing appropriate guidance to national authorities.

 

 

 

Respect for effective civil society participation

 

 

 

Human rights defenders and independent civil society play a critical role in promoting human
rights, development and the rule of law (HRC/RES/24/21) and related accountability measures.
Free and vibrant civil society participation at all levels is therefore essential, including at the local, national, regional and international levels. This implies that each candidate should:

 

 

 

1. Ensure that domestic legal and administrative provisions and their application facilitate,
promote and protect an independent, diverse and pluralistic civil society; and
2. Support the full and effective participation of civil society in the work of the United Nations and the Human Rights Council in particular, including by guaranteeing right of everyone,
individually and in association with others, to unhindered access to and communication with
the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms.
Your Excellency, we urge you to consider the above mentioned elements in the pursuit of your
country’s candidacy for membership on the Human Rights Council and would very much welcome
your response to these recommendations at your earliest convenience.

 

 

 

Yours sincerely,
Philip Lynch
Director – International Service for Human Rights

 

 

 

On behalf of
1. Action Canada for Population and Development
2. Amman Center for Human Rights Studies
3. Amnesty International
4. ARC International
5. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
6. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
7. Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
8. Center for Reproductive Rights
9. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
10. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
11. East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project
12. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)
13. Fondazione Marista per la Solidarieta Internazionale ONLUS
14. Franciscans International
15. Front Line Defenders
16. GAYa NUSANTARA
17. Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
18. Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF)
19. Human Rights Watch
20. International Association for Catholic Education
21. International Catholic Child Bureau
22. International Commission of Jurists
23. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
24. International Federation of University Women (IFUW)
25. International Lesbian and Gay Association
26. International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR)
27. International Service for Human Rights
28. KIFKIF LGBT GROUP
29. Lutheran World Federation
30. Matrix Support Group
31. Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders
32. Pax Christi International
33. Public Information and Need of Knowledge NGO
34. Public Union of Democracy and Human Rights Resource Centre
35. Rainbow-Ethiopia HIV and Media Initiative (REHMI)
36. Red Nacional de Promoción de la Mujer, RNPM-Perú
37. Russian Research Center for Human Rights
38. Vietnam Committee on Human Rights
39. World Federation of United Nations Associations
40. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

 

 

 

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