16 Jul

Faced with the appropriation of their name, Peruvian NGO Madres en Acción is pushing back, filing a legal action to recover it. In an amicus brief in support of the action, ISHR argues that trademark law is being used to attack defenders and this must stop.

14 Jul
China has a presence on nearly every ECOSOC committee

A new ISHR report maps China’s presence and influence in the UN economic and social affairs system, highlighting potential risks for civil society participation and the promotion and protection of human rights.

15 Jul

Should businesses advocate for human rights defenders? What is the relationship between companies’ economic activities and civil society? The United Nations, through the Working Group on Business and Human Rights, has shed further light on the role of businesses by recently releasing a guidance for companies on ensuring respect for human rights defenders.

12 Jul

No matter where we are born, or what papers we hold, fundamental human rights don’t disappear at the border. The Special Rapporteur on migrant rights calls pushbacks a deadly violation of international law and urges States to end the practice immediately, and instead protect migrants.

21 Jun

Whether as community activists, NGO workers, or diplomats, most of us who support human rights are involved in putting stories out into the world. Discover our new guide to crafting effective human rights narratives at the UN!

Venezuela | Standing in solidarity with human rights defenders


Standing in solidarity with Venezuelan human rights defenders

The recent, ongoing and unwarranted detention of five members of the Venezuelan NGO ‘Azul Positivo’ is one more event in a series of threats, harassment, attacks, restrictions, reprisals and criminal proceedings against Venezuelan civil society organizations and human rights defenders, which has been intensifying since November 2020. In recent months and weeks, state agents have forcibly entered the offices of civil society organizations; public threats have been made against defenders who have been engaging with human rights mechanisms, NGO bank accounts have been frozen and arrest warrants issued for aid workers.

Venezuelan civil society operate in a context of serious legal and administrative obstacles with domestic laws used to target human rights defenders, such as the ‘Law Against Hate’, or having the effect of limiting the operations of NGOs and restricting their access to funding, essentially blocking the work of many organizations vital for Venezuelans in need.

In a public statement, a number of UN independent human rights experts and regional experts have described threats and measures taken against Venezuelan civil society since November 2020 as amounting to ‘systematic persecution and stigmatization.’

It is essential that humanitarian and human rights organizations responding to the grave humanitarian and human rights crises in the country, pushing for accountability for violations and abuses and the return of guarantees provided by democratic institutions and processes are able to do their work without fear or hindrance. 

Human rights defenders are critical, constructive and essential to democracies and the functioning of the rule of law. Attempts to silence and cow them are counterproductive and shameful. 

We urge the Venezuelan authorities to ensure that harassment and threats against Venezuelan defenders stop and for all international legal guarantees to be respected.  We call on all states and UN bodies and agencies to actively support civil society organizations, defenders and activists and to speak up loudly and consistently for the right to defend human rights in Venezuela and globally.

We are inspired by the daily commitment and courage of Venezuelan human rights defenders and humanitarian workers and stand in solidary with our Venezuelan partners and friends.

Amnesty International

Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL)


Civil Rights Defenders

Conectas Direitos Humanos

Freedom House

Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

Human Rights Watch

International Commission of Jurists

International Service for Human Rights

People in Need

Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)


Contact:  Eleanor Openshaw

Photo: EfectoEco

UNGA75 | Country-specific mandates discuss increased persecution and detention of journalists and defenders


In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, interactive dialogues between country-specific mandate holders and member States took place in a virtual setting. While several important issues were discussed during these dialogues, technical issues posed challenges for those monitoring, as well as States participating.

Arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances and imprisonment of political prisoners were discussed in several dialogues. The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea noted the lack of progress in the situation of political prisoners in the country. The Special Rapporteur lamented those languishing in prisons with no prospect of release. Concerns were also voiced by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK who called for the release of all political prisoners. A call that was supported by several States, such as the Czech Republic and the EU, while Germany expressed concern about female detainees particularly vulnerable to sexual violence. The Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi stated that freeing defenders, journalists, political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, and guaranteeing the freedom of press and assembly were necessary steps to improve the human rights situation. In the run up to parliamentary elections in Somalia, the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia called on the government to strengthen democratic space by protecting the right to freedom of expression and assembly, free from harassment, intimidation or arbitrary arrest.

The protection of human rights defenders was another predominant theme in the interactive dialogues. The report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran focused on intimidation, harassment, arbitrary arrests and detention, and execution of protesters, defenders, environmentalists, and women human rights defenders. The Special Rapporteur regretted that in spite of steps to temporarily release prisoners since the COVID-19 outbreak, others had not been released, resulting in death. The Special Rapporteur called for the urgent release of human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, currently imprisoned under abysmal conditions, while Switzerland welcomed the release of defender Narges Mohammadi. Norway and the Czech Republic denounced the harassment and detention of defenders and called for their release, while Canada and Germany expressed concern about reprisals against defenders and their families. 

Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea stated that there would be no long term change to the human rights situation unless journalists and defenders were able to carry out their work. The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, the Special Envoy of the Secretary General on Myanmar, the EU, UK, US and Czech Republic spoke about the deteriorating situation for journalists, defenders, and civil society, including persecution, criminalisation and attacks in a culture of impunity. The Special Rapporteur expressed gratitude to defenders for their first-person perspective and role in fulfilling her mandate.

Once again we heard certain countries voice their opposition to these integral and important mandates - including Belarus, Burundi, China, Cameroon, DPRK, Eritrea, Russia, Iran, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. We encourage all States to cooperate with these all Special procedures mandate holders.

Contact: Tess McEvoy,

Photo: Photo: Joao Araujo Pinto 

GA75 | Civil society assess outcomes of Third Committee session

Joint civil society statement on outcomes of the UNGA’s Third Committee 

As we continue to respond to  the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, civil society discuss various outcomes at this session of the Third Committee, despite additional challenges associated with the session being held mostly online. 

We welcome the joint statement on reprisals led by the United Kingdom and joined by a cross-regional group of countries, calling on all States and the UN to prevent, respond to, and ensure accountability for cases of intimidation and reprisals against those who engage or seek to engage with the UN. We welcome in particular the increased number of States joining this year (75 compared to 71 last year).

One highlight of this session was a powerful joint statement on China by a cross-regional group of 39 Member States. This statement represents a strong public rebuke of the Chinese government’s widespread human rights violations in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Tibet, and is further proof that a growing number of governments are braving Beijing’s threats of retaliation and voicing alarm. The joint statement endorsed an appeal from 50 UN human rights experts for the creation of a UN mechanism for monitoring human rights in China. It also urged China to allow the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights unfettered access to Xinjiang. We hope the Chinese government will heed the message of this statement and end the abuses, including in Xinjiang, Hong Kong.

We welcome a resolution on the right to privacy in the digital age. The resolution contends with many new and emerging challenges for the right to privacy worldwide, with strong language on biometric technologies and encryption, as well as recommendations on artificial intelligence. The resolution has also crucially strengthened the link between privacy, equality and non-discrimination and once again expressed concern about threats and harassment faced by those defending human rights. We urge all States to take heed of these developments and implement the resolution to its full extent at the national level.

We welcome the adoption of the resolution on Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions by a vote. The resolution aims to uphold the right to life, liberty and security for everyone and acknowledges that impunity continues to be a major factor in the continuation of these executions. We support the additional reference to human rights defenders and the fact that this session’s resolution once again highlighted the targeting of specific groups of persons including killings of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, killings of members of indigenous communities, killings of persons related to their activities as human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists or demonstrators, or because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. We welcome the successful rejection of an oral amendment proposed by a group of States attempting to remove the reference to particularly targeted groups by a vote.

We welcome support by an overwhelming majority of States for the resolution on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty proposed by Mexico and Switzerland (on behalf of an Inter-Regional Task Force of States). A total of 120 UN Member States voted in favor of the text - including for the first time Djibouti, Lebanon and South Korea - while 39 voted against and 24 abstained. The text reiterates calls made in previous resolutions, most prominently for a halt of executions with the view to abolishing the death penalty. It also includes additions on the importance of civil society in public debate on the issue, the role of UN treaty bodies, the discriminatory application of the death penalty on women and the need to ensure that children, families and legal representatives are provided with adequate information about a pending execution. 

We welcome the adoption of the resolution on Inclusive development for and with persons with disabilities, urging non-discrimination, accessibility and inclusion in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, including for women and girls with disabilities. In particular, we welcome the request for the Secretary-General to report on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on persons with disabilities, and on the implementation of the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy. 

We deeply regret the 30 amendments were proposed by Russia and the United States across various resolutions relevant to gender. At the heart of these amendments were attempts to break consensus, weaken references to sexual and reproductive health, and delete references to UNFPA and WHO in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are concerned by constant attempts to limit access to sexual and reproductive health services for women and girls, particularly as access to these services have been diverted in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also disconcerting to see persistent attempts to erode progress achieved through extensive negotiations among Member States, particularly in regard to rollover resolutions. 

We welcome the adoption by consensus of the resolution on Child, Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM). The resolution included updates related to the impacts of COVID-19 and response measures on girls and root causes and efforts to end CEFM. The resolution acknowledged that adolescent girls are most affected by the CEFM and called for transformative, participatory and adequately funded COVID-19 response measures, including uninterrupted access and funding for sexual and reproductive health-care services; adolescent-centered services; and redistribution of unpaid care and domestic work. Unfortunately, the resolution did not reference multiple and intersecting forms of violence and discrimination or include survivor-centered approaches. Further, we deeply regret the presentation of 8 amendments by the US and Russia, which suggest a deprioritization of this issue, especially as we have seen a surge in cases in the context of COVID-19 and associated response measures.

We commend the support of a majority of Member States for the resolution on Intensification of efforts to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, presented by France and the Netherlands, which was adopted by a vote. Although we are encouraged by the rejection of 10 amendments presented by Russia and the US, we deeply regret the attempt to break global consensus on an issue widely recognized as a gross human rights violation and a public health issue, particularly as this year’s text addresses increased violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. While ultimately no delegation voted against the resolution, it is discouraging that the balance reached on sensitive issues following weeks of negotiations was called to a vote. 

We welcome the adoption of the resolution on Intensifying global efforts for the elimination of female genital mutilation presented by Burkina Faso (on behalf of African Group) and the resolution on Intensifying efforts to end obstetric fistula presented by Senegal (on behalf of African Group). These resolutions were technical rollovers (with no substantive changes to the respective 2018 texts) ultimately adopted by consensus. While we are deeply disappointed by the amendments presented by the US to delete references related to sexual and reproductive health in both texts and to delete references to UNFPA and WHO in an attempt to disregard their leadership and contributions in efforts to end obstetric fistula, we are encouraged that the majority of Member States stood behind these essential references and rejected the amendments. 

We welcome the passage of the resolution on Women and girls and the response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) presented by Spain that underscores the fundamental role of women and girls in pandemic responses, and calls for a gender responsive action to the pandemic. The text sends a powerful message to promote and protect the human rights of all women and girls and to end all forms of discrimination. While the resolution was adopted by consensus, we regret the six amendments presented by Russia and the US aimed at debilitating and reversing long-standing global agreements regarding women’s sexual and reproductive health, as well as the fundamental importance of the outcome documents and reviews related to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the ICPD. 

We note the adoption without a vote of the resolution on Strengthening national and international rapid response to the impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on women and girls presented by Egypt (on behalf of Algeria, China, Saudi Arabia, and Zambia). We also commend the rejection of two amendments presented by the US to delete reference to the essential role played by the WHO and weaken the reference to sexual and reproductive health. However, we regret that the text falls short in addressing the impact of the pandemic on women and girls from a human rights perspective. The text fails to comprehensively address the sexual and reproductive health needs of all women and girls, turning a blind eye to the impact of lockdowns and quarantine measures on continued access to these essential services. We are disappointed that language from the General Assembly omnibus resolution on COVID-19 adopted by consensus barely two months ago on sexual and reproductive health in the pandemic was not included in the text.  

We welcome the adoption of the resolution on Trafficking in women and girls presented by the Philippines. While a technical rollover, we welcome additional references to COVID-19. The resolution calls on governments to establish or enhance preventive measures to address underlying causes, as well as risk factors that increase vulnerability to human trafficking - including poverty, gender inequality and stereotypes - and to allocate resources to programmes for the physical, psychological and social recovery of victims of human trafficking, including sexual and reproductive health-care services. While the resolution was adopted by consensus, we regret the attempt by the US to delete the reference to sexual and reproductive health-care services, which are essential for survivors, particularly given the same resolution in 2018 passed by consensus without any amendments presented.

We welcome the overwhelming cross-regional support to the resolution on the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This resolution recognises ongoing systemic and systematic human rights violations in the country, urging the Iranian authorities to hold those responsible to account. We remain deeply concerned by impunity for deliberate use of unwarranted lethal force by security forces during the November 2019 protests, mass arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment and unfair trials in relation to the protests, and the intimidation and silencing of victims’ families. Other violations remain unaddressed, including the death penalty, discrimination against women and girls and ethnic and religious minorities, and the repression of freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. These serious violations warrant continued scrutiny by the UN Secretary-General mandated by this resolution. We urge Member States to support the resolution when considered in the upcoming Plenary session.

The cross-regional support demonstrated by the adoption of the resolution on the situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic sends a strong message to the Syrian government, Russia and other parties to the conflict responsible for war crimes. The resolution underscores the essential role of cross-border aid mechanisms in bringing life saving humanitarian assistance, especially in light of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, urging the Security Council to reauthorize the use of border crossings of Bab al-Salam and al-Ya‘rubiyah. We welcome the condemnation of the government’s human rights violations, including use of sexual violence, attacks on schools and hospitals, denial of humanitarian access, arbitrary arrest of civilians, detention, torture and killing of detainees, as well as violations by anti-government groups. We welcome continued calls for accountability for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law and urge Member States to follow through on the resolution, and work within the Security Council and the General Assembly to ensure cross-border humanitarian assistance resumes.

We welcome the passage, by overwhelming support, of the resolution on the Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar. The resolution highlights the urgency of addressing root causes of human rights abuses and the critical need for accountability for violations of international law against the Rohingya and ethnic minorities in Chin, Shan, and Kachin states. With strong language on humanitarian access, statelessness, systematic and institutionalized discrimination, accountability for sexual and gender-based violence, the need for credible and transparent justice processes, and the need for free and inclusive elections, the resolution sends a timely message on the need for action by the Myanmar government, the UN Secretariat and Security Council.

The resolution on Situation of human rights in the Democractic People's Republic of Korea was adopted by consensus, with Belarus, China, DPRK, Russia, Syria and Venezuela disassociating. We welcome the condemnation of ongoing widespread and systematic violations of human rights in the DPRK and the importance of following up on recommendations contained in the 2014 report of the Commission of Inquiry. The resolution urges the Security Council to engage on the situation in DPRK and consider referring it to the International Criminal Court. 

We welcome the adoption by consensus of the resolution on the Human rights treaty body system. We regret that States were not able to ‘welcome’ the report of the co-facilitators of the 2020 review of the treaty body system. We urge all States to follow through with their reaffirmation of the formula contained in resolution 68/268, and allocate the corresponding financial and human resources in the Fifth Committee that the treaty bodies require to function effectively.

The slender opportunities for civil society to engage with the Third Committee became even fewer during Covid-19 times as in-person restrictions did away with encounters with States delegates and UN officials at UNHQ. Given this, it was deeply disappointing that more States did not extend an invitation to civil society organisations to join online informals and defend the presence of civil society as observers. Keeping abreast of the timing of informals was also challenging as this information was not included in the UN Journal as is generally the case. These additional challenges were particularly disappointing, given that well before the start of the Third Committee session in April, 14 civil society organisations called on UN agencies, mechanisms, and bodies to ensure that, in adapting their work to social distancing measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, they not limit the meaningful inclusion of civil society voices in UN discussions.

Watch a video of an abbreviated version the joint statement read by civil society here:

Access Now
Amnesty International
Association for Progressive Communications - APC
Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
Global Justice Center
Human Rights in China (HRIC)
Human Rights Watch
Impact Iran
International Disability Alliance
International Planned Parenthood Federation Western Hemisphere Region (IPPFWHR)
International Service for Human Rights
International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC)
OutRight Action International
Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights (UAF)

Conact: Tess McEvoy,

Photo: Screnshot of UNTV


UNGA75 | Council has shown the fight for human rights continues despite Covid-19, says President


Covid-19 is not only a health emergency but a human rights crisis, and the Human Rights Council has shown itself to be ‘nimble and flexible’ in facing challenges - by introducing innovations to its ways of working, the President of the Human Rights Council told State delegates in a dialogue held with the UN’s Third Committee (human rights).  She also underlined the importance of the work of civil society in the work of the Council, and the coordination between the UN in New York and Geneva.

In regard to Council innovation over the last months, the President noted the use of digital tools for meetings and information apps.  Through the use of virtual meetings, many people around the world had been reached that the Council would otherwise not have, which was key to ensuring that people around the world could see that human rights were being promoted and protected despite the crises. These innovations in her view, should be retained beyond the span of the current crisis.

On the interaction between UN bodies in Geneva and New York, Tichy-Fisslberger said that ‘this is one UN system and the UN should deliver as one … in the world out there, nobody cares if it is one body or another’. Opportunities should be taken to compare analysis between delegates in different spaces, as these ‘add to the consistency, relevant and effectiveness of all our work’, she added.

In that regard, arguably the most interesting State interventions came in the form of questions on specific opportunities for greater synergy, such as Croatia’s enquiry as to how the Council should feed in to the General Assembly’s special session on Covid-19 in December.

The President spoke of civil society actors as the ‘cornerstone of the work of the Council’ making the Council’s work ‘more tangible and connected to the reality on the ground.’ Human Rights Council successes so far ‘would not be possible without the active participation of civil society’, she added.

Several States spoke of the supposed politicisation of the Council.  This the President pushed back against, requesting member States to engage with Special Procedures, for example, and voice their opinion rather than fail to engage and then accuse the mandate-holders of bias. 

Finally, Tichy-Fisslberger noted that the UN’s financial crisis has had its impact on the Council workings although Covid-19 had also allowed for savings related to conference services.  Over the next months she was keen to keep looking at means to increase Council efficiency and effectiveness. 

Contact: Eleanor Openshaw,

Photo: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

UNGA75 | Vital work of women in promoting and protecting human rights must be recognised and safeguarded


The Special Rapporteur opened by expressing concern for systematic repression of peaceful protests by States, citing diverse threats on civil society including restrictive laws, digital attacks, and criminalisation of human rights defence. His report highlighted the courage of women’s organisations and defenders, whose contribution remains underestimated, underfunded and discredited.

‘Women human rights defenders face patterns of State repression, as well as obstacles and reprisals from within communities and families, in public space, at work, or on the digital sphere. In addition to the risks of threats, attacks and violence faced by all defenders, women human rights defenders are exposed to specific risks, driven by deep-rooted discrimination against women and stereotypes related to gender and sexuality,’ said ISHR’s Tess McEvoy.

Women-led movements are integral to development and peace. The Special Rapporteur called on States to ‘take specific measures which will ensure that women’s movements are recognized, that we act to eliminate gender discrimination, and to ensure that women’s organisations are properly funded.’

Many States welcomed the report and reiterated the Special Rapporteur concerns. Several States echoed on the need to address gender-based violence and threats against women human rights defenders, both online and offline. Switzerland expressed particular concern regarding reports of sexual violence against women during demonstrations and consequent arrests, while the EU echoed calls for States to cease using Covid-19 as ruse to limit political participation. The Russian Federation, on the other hand, questioned the gender-oriented theme of the report and accused foreign States of interference in national matters by funding protesters.

Both the EU and the US raised concerns over restrictions on the right to freedom of association in specific countries. The EU noted reports of women’s movements in Belarus being limited, while the US raised concerns over restrictions in Belarus, Nicaragua, Cambodia and China. In response, China refuted these accusations and criticised systematic racial discrimination and police brutality in the US.

In his concluding remarks, the Special Rapporteur appealed to States to cease imposing restrictions on demonstrators and welcome open dialogue. He also called on those States with pending country visit invitations to respond.

Contact: Tess McEvoy,

Photo: ISHR

HRC45 | Evidence of crimes against humanity in Venezuela, conclude UN experts


Update: The UN fact-finding mission on Venezuela delivered its report on 23 September and engaged in an interactive dialogue with States and civil society. The mission outlined how Venezuela had failed to respond to any of the requests made to meet or provide information, but this in no way undermined the rigourous nature of the methodology underpinning the report. The vast majority of States intervening supported the work of the mission and many spoke to the need for the mission’s work to continue. 

ISHR was pleased to deliver a statement along with Venezuela NGO Alfavic (watch the statement at the end of this page).

The UN fact-finding mission on Venezuela, provided with a year-long mandate by the Human Rights Council last year to assess a range of alleged human rights violations since 2014, could not have provided more damning findings at a time of interconnected and worsening human rights and humanitarian crises in the country.

The mission of independent experts have made public their report and shared their findings, which include:

  • Evidence of crimes against humanity planned and executed by Venezuelan authorities and security forces since 2014.
  • That these crimes against humanity are made evident in patterns of violations and crimes that are in highly coordinated in line with State policies and part of a widespread and systematic course of conduct. This is not ad hoc activity but coordinated.   
  • That President Maduro and the Ministers of the Interior and of Defence ‘gave orders, coordinated activities and supplied resources’ to promote the policies and programmes under which the crimes – crimes against humanity and others - were committed. 
  • That the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN) targeted political dissidents and human rights activists, and others considered to be against the Government.
  • That the vast majority of unlawful killings by security forces have not led to prosecutions, and 'at no stage have officials with command responsibility been brought to justice'.

Several of the findings of human rights violations and the context of an erosion of democratic institutions, the rule of law and judicial independence chime with those of other parts of the UN, including Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR).  Notably, the findings of crimes against humanity are also not new.  NGOs, such as Amnesty International have already shared similar conclusions.  In 2018 a panel of independent experts of the Organisation of American States concluded something similar.  In addition, Venezuela has been referred to the International Criminal Court. 

‘This report is unflinching. It does something very important – bear out what victims and civil society have been telling the world for many years,’ said ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw.

‘It is now for the Human Rights Council to keep the investigation going.  This report should be the start of deep reform in Venezuela to respect the rights of its people,’ she added.

The fact-finding mission will present its report to and hold a dialogue with the Human Rights Council on the 23rd September.  Follow at: UN web tv. 

Watch the statement here (in Spanish): 


Contact: Eleanor Openshaw

Photo: ISHR 

China l 300+ global rights groups call for international accountability mechanism

Image for China and accountibility


The United Nations should urgently create an independent international mechanism to address the Chinese government’s human rights violations, a coalition of more than 300 civil society groups from dozens of countries said today.

The signatories stressed the need to address rampant human rights violations across China, including in Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang.  They also highlighted the impact of China’s rights violations world-wide, including targeting human rights defenders, global censorship and surveillance, and rights-free development, with ensuing environmental degradation. 

'This global coalition joins together with 50 UN experts and dozens of governments to demand an end to China’s impunity at the UN Human Rights Council,' said John Fisher, Geneva director at Human Rights Watch. 'The UN needs to act on the growing chorus of voices calling for China to be held accountable for its rights abuses.'

The groups’ call echoes an unprecedented statement by more than 50 UN human rights experts, who in June 2020 detailed the Chinese authorities’ serious rights violations and called for 'decisive measures to protect fundamental freedoms in China'.

'China’s disdain for human rights no longer affects only its citizens—its support to dictators and efforts to rewrite international standards are making the work of defending human rights harder than ever', said Sarah Brooks, Asia Advocate at the International Service for Human Rights. 'This joint statement, for the first time, unites organizations from around the world standing up for their own communities'.

In their statement, the coalition highlighted China’s efforts to distort the mandate of the UN Human Rights Council by persecuting activists from China who use UN mechanisms to seek redress, and opposing initiatives to bring scrutiny of serious rights violations and international crimes in countries around the world. China typically rejects UN consideration of its human rights record as 'gross interference'.

'China has systematically persecuted rights defenders in reprisal for their cooperation with UN human rights operations—torture, enforced disappearance, imprisonment, stripping licenses from lawyers', said Renee Xia, director of Chinese Human Rights Defenders. 'The UN system should no longer tolerate such treatment'.

 The coalition echoes the UN experts’ calls for a special session of the Human Rights Council to evaluate the range of violations by China’s government, and an impartial and independent UN mechanism focused on China. The groups also urge UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to take responsibility for publicly addressing China’s sweeping rights violations.

'The international community can no longer sit back and allow the Chinese authorities to trample on human rights at home and abroad', said Joshua Rosenzweig, the head of Amnesty International’s China team. 'Without decisive action now, things will only get worse. It is urgent for UN member states to work together and ensure that violations committed by Beijing are officially monitored and meaningfully challenged.

'No State should be above the law'.

You can read the full letter below:

An open letter to: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, UN Member States


We, the undersigned organizations, join together to call for an international mechanism to address the Chinese government’s human rights violations, and urge you to take decisive action to achieve this goal.

On 26 June 2020, an unprecedented 50 United Nations experts called for “decisive measures to protect fundamental freedoms in China.” They highlighted China’s mass human rights violations in Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang,  suppression of information in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, and attacks on rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and critics of the government across the country.

Our organizations are also concerned about the impact of China’s rights violations world-wide. China has targeted human rights defenders abroad, suppressed academic freedom in countries around the world, and engaged in internet censorship and digital surveillance. We deplore China’s promotion of rights-free development and the ensuing environmental degradation at the hands of government-backed extractive industries, as well as the racist treatment of people in China, or by Chinese state actors in other parts of the world.

We are dismayed at China’s efforts to distort the mandate of the UN Human Rights Council by promoting  “cooperation” over accountability, and opposing initiatives to bring scrutiny of serious rights violations and international crimes in countries around the world. It has used its seat on the UN’s NGO Committee to baselessly deny accreditation to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), while accrediting government-organized NGOs (GoNGOs). It has sought to deny access to human rights defenders to UN premises, denounced speakers on NGO side events as “terrorists,” and threatened delegates to deter them from attending UN side events on rights violations, including abuses in Xinjiang.

When the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Special Procedures, and dozens of states urged China to comply with international human rights standards, China contended that they were “improper remarks” that “grossly interfered” with China’s sovereignty.

A state that tries to hold itself above any kind of scrutiny presents a fundamental threat to human rights.  That China—a state with extraordinary global power—expects such treatment affects us all. 

We therefore endorse the call by UN experts for a Special Session of the Human Rights Council to evaluate the range of violations by China’s government, and to establish an impartial and independent UN mechanism to closely monitor, analyze, and report annually on that topic.  We urge the UN Secretary-General to appoint a Special Envoy, consistent with his Call to Action on Human Rights, and we call on the High Commissioner for Human Rights to fulfil her independent mandate to monitor and publicly report on China’s sweeping rights violations. We support the call that UN member states and UN agencies use all interactions with Chinese authorities to insist that the government comply with its international human rights obligations.

We write in the spirit of global solidarity and partnership, urging that you act swiftly to counter and remediate grave human rights violations committed by Chinese authorities. No state should be above the law.

Illustration: ISHR 

Treaty Bodies | Welcome move towards predictable cycles of reviews


In a joint submission to the co-facilitators of the 2020 review of UN Treaty Bodies (Switzerland and Morocco), the 10 Chairs of the UN Treaty Bodies shared their decision to review countries in accordance with a fixed schedule. The adoption of predictable cycles of State party reviews, which the UN Human Rights Commmittee has pioneered, means that all States parties will be periodically reviewed, whether they submit their reports on time or not.

"The adoption of fixed and predictable review cycles by all Treaty Bodies constitues a major breakthrough" says Patrick Mutzenberg of the Centre on Civil and Political Rights, an organisation that works closely with the Human Rights Committee, and a member of the TB-Net network. "With four out of five States currently failing to submit their periodic reports on time to the Treaty Bodies, the proactive adoption of a fixed calendar of reviews will significantly facilitate civil society engagement in the process".

The move towards fixed and predictable review cycles by the Treaty Bodies will also contribute to equality of treatment amongst States parties, notably between the minority of States parties that submit periodic reports on time, and those who don't. In opting for fixed cycles, the Treaty Bodies will follow established practices amongst other international human rights mechanisms such as the Universal Periodic Review, by which all States are reviewed according to a fixed calendar.

ISHR welcomes the move towards fixed review cycles. Nevertheless, ISHR remains concerned about the distinction in periodicity of reviews between the Covenant Committees and the other Convention Committees, currently envisaged in the Chairperson's submissionISHR voiced those concerns during the 28 August civil society briefing organised by the co-facilitators of the 2020 Treaty Body Strengthening Process.

In addition to the question of fixed review cycles, ISHR's statement addresses: elections and membership of the Committees; the capacity strengthening programme; in-country reviews; and digital tools.

Link to the Chairpersons' submission to the co-facilitators:

Link to the ISHR statement to the co-facilitators:

photo: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

HRC45 l Keep the pressure on Venezuela for human rights change


85 national, regional and international organisations have put their name to a call to the Human Rights Council to renew and strengthen the mandate of the fact-finding mission to Venezuela, which will report to the Council at the upcoming session in September. 

In their statement to the Council, the organisations note that, given the lack of judicial independence in Venezuela resulting in rampant impunity, an international accountability process is urgently needed. 

Renewing and strengthening the mandate of the fact-finding mission would allow it to go beyond its more limited current mandate to then  'collect, consolidate, preserve and analyze evidence for future prosecutions or other accountability purposes, including international justice mechanisms, in order to avoid impunity for crimes under international law and gross human rights violations committed in Venezuela.’

Venezuela has been the subject of two recent Council resolutions requesting, amongst other things, reports from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights which now has a small temporary presence in the country.  Establishing a permanent presence through a re-negotiated Memorandum of Understanding is also on the table for September.

‘Venezuela is the focus of several UN initiatives currently,’ noted ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw. ‘In all cases, the analysis and recommendations of national level human rights organisations should be sought and considered – these can act as a steer for effective action,’ she added. 

The fact-finding mission’s report on Venezuela, prepared without the Venezuelan State allowing the UN experts access to the country, is expected to be published on 8 September.  The Council runs from 14 September – 6 October with final decisions generally made in the final two days of the session.

Contact: Eleanor Openshaw

Photo: Jean-Marc Ferré- UN Photo

The full NGO statement on the renewal and strengthening of the fact-finding mission on Venezuela:

Venezuela: Human rights organizations call on UN Human Rights Council to extend and strengthen Fact-Finding Mission

Today, 85 national and international human rights organizations have launched a call on states at the UN Human Rights Council to renew and strengthen the important mandate of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela during the upcoming Council session in September. States should ensure that the Fact-Finding Mission has sufficient funding and is empowered to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyze evidence for future prosecutions or other accountability purposes, including international justice mechanisms, in order to avoid impunity for crimes under international law and gross human rights violations committed in Venezuela.

The Fact-Finding Mission was launched by the Human Rights Council through resolution 42/25 on September 27 of 2019, with a mandate to investigate human rights violations, including extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment since 2014, with a view to ensuring accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims. Although the Mission was not allowed to enter Venezuela, it will present its report to the Human Rights Council in September 2020, when its current mandate ends.

The need for this international mechanism to continue to investigate and report on crimes under international law and human rights violations in Venezuela is clear in a context where they continue unabated, despite heightened international scrutiny, and impunity for these crimes at a national level is the rule.  

Millions in Venezuela continue to suffer violations of the rights to life, freedom, physical and mental integrity or access to justice. The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded and worsened the humanitarian emergency in the country, where many people face difficulties in accessing health care services, water, food, fuel, electricity and gas, all of which hamper their ability to protect themselves from the pandemic. More than 5.2 million Venezuelans have fled the country due to the human rights, humanitarian, political and economic crisis in their country. Meanwhile, the pandemic has also served as a twisted justification for Nicolás Maduro’s government to continue and expand its crackdown on dissent, including health care workers and journalists. 

These serious human rights violations and crimes under international law are facilitated by generalized impunity at the national level. As many organizations have reported, and a recent UN High Commissioner for Human Rights report has made clear, Venezuela’s justice system lacks independence and systemically fails to provide impartial justice to victims of human rights violations. Instead, Maduro’s administration is using it to criminalize and control the population. 

The publication of the Fact-Finding Mission’s first report in September will mark an important first step on the path to accountability in Venezuela through the documentation of the participation of those suspected of criminal responsibility. It is critical that the Human Rights Council respond meaningfully to the findings and recommendations in the report. States need to ensure the full renewal and strengthening of the Fact-Finding Mission’s mandate and make sure it has adequate resources to continue its critical investigations.

A.C. Reforma Judicial

Acceso a la Justicia

Acción Solidaria

ACCSI Acción Ciudadana Contra el SIDA

Alerta Venezuela

Alianza de Familiares de Víctimas del 2017 (ALFAVIC2017)

Amnesty International

Asociación Civil Fuerza, Unión, Justicia, Solidaridad y Paz (FUNPAZ)

Asociación Civil Mujeres en Línea

Asociación Gremial Pensionados y Jubilados en Venezuela residentes en Chile

Asociación Venezolana en Chile

Aula Abierta

Caleidoscopio Humano

Canada Venezuela Democracy Forum

Cátedra de Derechos Humanos de la Univerisidad Centrooocidental Lisandro Alvarado

Catedra de la Paz y Derechos Humanos Mons Oscar Arnulfo Romero de la Universidad de los Andes

Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL)

Centro de Acción y Defensa por los Derechos Humanos

Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Católica Andrés Bello (CDH-UCAB)

Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Metropolitana (CDH-Unimet),

Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos "Segundo Montes Mozo SJ" (CSMM)

Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)

Centro de Formación para la Democracia CFD

Centro de Justicia y Paz (CEPAZ)

Centro para los Defensores y la Justicia (CDJ)

Centro para los Derechos Civiles y Políticos (CCPR)

CISFEM (Centro de Invetig. Soc. Formación y Estudios de las Mujeres.

Civilis Derechos Humanos

Clínica Jurídica de Migrantes y Refugiados de la Universidad Diego Portales

Clínica Jurídica para Migrantes y Centro de Estudios en Migración, Universidad de los Andes



Comisión de Derechos Humanos de la Facultad de Ciencias Jurídicas y Políticas de la Universidad del Zulia

Conectas Direitos Humanos

Control Ciudadano para la Seguridad, la Defensa y la Fuerza Armada Nacional

Convite AC

Defensa en Acción

Defiende Venezuela

EPIKEIA. Observatorio Universitario de Derechos Humanos

Espacio Público

EXCUBITUS Derechos Humanos en Educación

Foro Penal



Fundación Aguaclara

Fundación Apure Lidera

Fundación colombo venezolana Nueva Ilusión

Fundación para el Desarrollo Integral FUNDESI

Fundación Ramón Devia


Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P)


Gritemos con Brío



LGBTI Rights | ISHR intervenes in regional legal proceedings against Honduras in case of transfemicide of defender Vicky Hernández


This week, on 11 November, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights heard the case of Vicky Hernández and Family v. Honduras. Vicky Hernandez (she / her), a trans woman, sex worker and  human rights defender working for the protection of trans rights with Unidad Color Rosa, Colectivo TTT.  On 28 June 2009, Vicky Hernández was the victim of an extrajudicial killing. On 18 June, ISHR submitted a third-party intervention to the Court in relation to the case. 

Over a decade later, Honduras has failed to conduct an adequate investigation, ignoring critical evidence and failing to identify or prosecute those who murdered Vicky Hernández at a time when the streets were almost exclusively occupied by State officers. Her family have yet to be provided with the truth about her death and with the redress to which they are entitled.

Hernández’ transfemicide occurred in the context of widespread deadly violence against LGBTI individuals, and particularly trans defenders and sex workers, in Honduras. Six of the seven women who founded Unidad Color Rosa Colectivo TTT have been murdered. To this day, Honduras fails to protect LGBTI persons, and in particular LGBTI rights defenders.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) found Honduras’ failure to investigate, identify and prosecute the perpetrators of Vicky Hernández’ transfemicide, among other things, to be in violation of the American Convention on Human Rights. After Honduras failed to comply with its recommendations, the IACHR presented Hernández’ case, which is being litigated by  La Red Lésbica Cattrachas and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on 30 April.   

ISHR’s intervention is intended to assist the Inter-American Court by providing an extended analysis of the scope of the rights under the American Convention on Human Rights. It also demonstrates that Honduras also violated its obligations under the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the Yogyakarta Principles, which apply existing human rights standards to the specific issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity.

‘The Honduran authorities’ failure to prevent,  investigate and hold perpetrators accountable for Hernández’ murder, especially in the context of widespread violence against trans persons and trans rights defenders, was a flagrant violation of Honduras’ obligation to take measures to prevent and provide protection from all forms of discrimination, violence and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,' said ISHR’s Legal Counsel and Programme Manager Tess McEvoy.

‘Hernández’ right to life and right to defend rights are clearly articulated in the American Convention, the Yogyakarta Principles and the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, as is Honduras’ obligation to ensure protection of its citizens against threats, attacks, or discrimination as a consequence of the exercise of those rights,’ McEvoy added.

ISHR’s intervention urges the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to rule that Honduras has violated the American Convention on Human Rights, informed by the Yogyakarta Principles and the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. ISHR also urges the  Court to recommend that Honduras enact and implement laws and policies that protect trans persons and trans rights defenders, and enables LGBTI defenders to safely carry out their activities.

ISHR was provided with expert pro bono assistance in the preparation of the third party intervention by leading international law firm Allens.

Contact: Tess McEvoy,

Photo: Flickr / Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos


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