Brussels, 5 August 2011 A 313/11 – The spokesperson of Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the Commission, issued the following statement today:

“The High Representative expresses her concern over reports that the authorities in Belarus detained Mr Ales Bialiatski, a prominent human rights defender who is chairman of the non- governmental organization Viasna and Vice-President of the International Human Rights Federation, and that Mr Bialiatski’ s private residence was searched, with the participation of the state security services.

The High Representative calls on the authorities in Minsk to clarify as a matter of urgency the reasons for the reported detention of Mr Bialiatski. The High Representative reiterates her strong regret at repeated acts of intimidation and harassment of peaceful human rights defenders in Belarus, and at the continued refusal to grant legal status to independent human rights organisations in the country.”


Brussels, 5 August 2011 A 312/11 – The spokesperson of Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the Commission, issued the following statement today:

“The High Representative expresses her serious concern over the rejection, on 2nd August, by the Supreme People’s Court, of lawyer Cu Huy Ha Vu’s appeal against the 4 April Hanoi People’s Court decision sentencing him to seven years in prison and another three years of supervised probation.

The High Representative is very concerned by the treatment received by Mr Vu, the failure to respect due process and the upholding of the sentence at the appeal.

Such failure to uphold the law and the fundamental right of all persons to hold opinions and freely and peacefully express them – in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Vietnam is a party – is particularly disappointing in light of Vietnam’s good economic progress and its stated ambition to take a greater and more responsible place in the world.

The High Representative expresses her goodwill and readiness to continue to work in partnership with Vietnam on these and other human rights and rule of law issues, so that Vietnam’s full potential can be realised”.


GENEVA (5 August 2011) – A group of UN human rights experts* today warned that the scale and gravity of the violent crackdown in the Syrian Arab Republic continues unabated, and reiterated their call for an immediate end to the violent strategies adopted by the Government to quash the on-going demonstrations.

“We continue to receive reports on systematic use of excessive force resulting in killings and injuries; allegations of torture, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detention of protestors; targeting of human rights defenders; and unjustified limitations on freedoms of peaceful assembly and expression,” the independent experts said.

Arbitrary executions:
“The indiscriminate use of heavy artillery against demonstrators cannot be justified; no State is allowed to use its military force against an unarmed civilian population regardless of the situation prevailing on the ground,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns. “The killings that result are clearly arbitrary executions and punishable under international law.”

“Syria has disregarded, and continues to, every international norm against torture and ill-treatment,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Méndez. “Its leaders must cease such acts immediately and take note that they will be held accountable for their action.”



Washington, D.C., August 2, 2011—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murder of women’s rights defender Keila Esther Berrio Almanza, a member of the League of Displaced Women of Colombia (Liga de Mujeres Desplazadas, LMD). The IACHR had granted precautionary measures for the League of Displaced Women in 2009 and expanded them twice, in 2010 and 2011, to the benefit of all members of the LMD and 16 members of the organization’s Youth League.

According to publicly available information, different theories are being considered as possible motives for this crime. The LMD has stated that this murder could be linked to Keila Esther Berrio’s activities in defense of women’s rights.

The beneficiaries of the precautionary measures of the League of Displaced Women have informed the IACHR that the Colombian authorities have not responded in a timely manner to their situation of risk. They have also reported experiencing problems and delays in the implementation of the precautionary measures. In response to this information, the IACHR has sent special communications to the State and held working meetings during its periods of sessions, as well as during a visit to Colombia by the Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in May of 2011. Specifically, during this visit, the Rapporteur on the Rights of Women, Luz Patricia Mejía Guerrero, held meetings aimed at promoting compliance with the precautionary measures that the IACHR has granted in favor of women’s organizations and following up on the Agreement signed by the State of Colombia and the women’s organizations. During this visit, the Rapporteur examined the problems and obstacles detected in the implementation of the precautionary measures and emphasized the need to establish a distinct approach to the measures of protection that seek to benefit women, in response to the causes and effects related to the situation of risk that they face in light of their gender. (more…)


GENEVA, 27 July 2011 – “It is not easy being a human rights defender; in too many countries it is dangerous, plain dangerous,” said United Nations Special Rapporteur Margaret Sekaggya launching her essential guide to the right to defend human rights*, a key document aimed at supporting those who stand for our rights by increasing understanding of the UN Declaration on human rights defenders and awareness on the dangers they face.

“Despite the efforts to implement the Declaration, human rights defenders continue to face numerous violations,” Ms. Sekaggya said. “I hope that this essential guide, the new ‘Commentary to the Declaration on human rights defenders’, will contribute to the development of a safer and more conducive environment for defenders to be able to carry out their work.”

The ‘Commentary to the Declaration on human rights defenders’ is a 100-page downloadable document which maps out the rights provided for in the Declaration, based mostly on information received and reports produced by the two Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights defenders, Hina Jilani (2000-2008) and Margaret Sekaggya (since 2008), during the past eleven years. (more…)