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Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Human Rights Council: Speak out strongly for civil society protection

(Geneva) - Members of the UN's top human rights body should support the positive contribution of civil society to the protection of human rights, and resist attempts to undermine a resolution intended to respond to the global crackdown on civil society, a group of more than 240 civil society groups said today.

In an open letter addressed to member States of the Human Rights Council, the organisations spanning across all regions of the world called on delegations to support the draft resolution on the protection of civil society space, to be considered for adoption at the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council later this week.

The resolution, proposed by Chile, Ireland, Japan, Sierra Leone and Tunisia was developed through broad consultation with States and civil society and in the past was adopted by consensus. It is based on the UN High Commissioner's report on civil society space, and highlights the important role civil society actors play in contributing to peace and security, human rights and sustainable development. It also includes a number of positive measures on promoting and protecting civic space and requests OHCHR to develop a report on the participation of civil society across the UN and regional and international organisations.

Despite the important normative standards set out in the resolution the Russian Federation has presented adverse amendments seeking to undermine the core international human rights principles articulated in the resolution. The joint civil society letter calls on States to reject the amendments, and adopt the resolution as presented.

In March 2016, the Human Rights Council rejected a similar series of amendments presented by the Russian Federation and other States, at the time seeking to undermine a resolution protecting human rights defenders who work on economic, social and cultural rights. During the current session of the Council, Russia, Pakistan (on behalf of the OIC except Albania), China and others have also presented a large number of amendments on the resolutions on sexual orientation and gender identity, on violence against women and the protection of human rights on the Internet.

'The tactic to present a large number of formal amendments clearly seeks to problematise issues, such as the protection of civil society space, and aims at crippling the Council's role in speaking out against human rights violations, and providing policy guidance to States to correct them', said Michael Ineichen, ISHR's Director of Human Rights Council Advocacy.

'And the substance of the amendments - including in the areas of registration of NGOs, access of civil society to funding, and protecting against reprisals - would serve to justify and perpetuate human rights violations in many of the States proposing them', Mr Ineichen said.


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