Geneva-Paris, March 15, 2012. On March 8 and 9, 2012, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), organised the fourth “inter-mechanisms” meeting, which was hosted by the Office of the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva, Switzerland.

On that occasion, international and regional mechanisms and programmes for the protection of human rights defenders – operating within the United Nations, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), the Council of Europe, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights – joined by representatives of the European Union, the International Organisation of the Francophonie and various NGOs, discussed the drafting of a joint report on existing standards and recommendations related to the protection of human rights defenders at the international and regional levels. IACHR offered to take a coordinating role in drafting the report, with the back up of the Observatory. This report would be inspired by the 2011 Commentary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and the IACHR Second Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders. Such a document, the first of its kind, will not only be a useful tool to human rights defenders, States and other relevant stakeholders, but will also demonstrate a unity of approaches among mechanisms. (more…)

25/05/2011 08:03 – Thomas Hammarberg´s latest Human Rights Comment – In Belarus, the crackdown on opposition politicians, civil society groups, human rights defenders and media continues. While no less than seven hundred demonstrators were arrested in the evening after the elections of 19 December, several of them have now been brought to court, have faced unsubstantiated charges and received extreme sentences.

The presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov, who was badly ill-treated, has now been sentenced to five years of hard labour for having protested against election fraud. Others who stood trial with him got between three and three and a half years in prison.

The charge was “organising mass disturbance”. The court held the well-known activists among the 30 000 peaceful demonstrators at Independence Square responsible for the broken windows on the House of Government caused by a small number of hooligans some distance from the main and orderly demonstration.

False charges against peaceful demonstrators

No proof has been shown for such a link between the peaceful mass demonstration and the violent actions by a few at the doors of the government site. The connection was rather that the police – after having failed to protect this building – responded by attacking the peaceful demonstrators with brutal, excessive force.

The politicised court procedures have been accompanied by stigmatising statements by government officials. Human rights defenders have been accused of being traitors and a fifth column. These attacks acquired a particularly senseless and menacing dimension after the terrorist attack at Minsk metro station on 11 April – as if there was any connection between this awful crime and human rights defence. One of those targeted was Ales Bialiatski, the head of the Human Rights Centre “Viasna”.

Human rights defenders targeted

There have been numerous reported cases of intensified restrictions of general activities of human rights defenders and activists. They have been harassed and repeatedly questioned by law-enforcement officers. Private homes of leading members have been searched, warnings issued against individuals and organisations, and computers and data storage devices confiscated. The offices of major human rights defence organisations, such as Belarusian Helsinki Committee and Human Rights Centre “Viasna”, and of independent media have been searched. (more…)

On 9 May 2011, the Commissioner for Human Rights has published a press release about the publication of the report following his visit to Armenia from 18 to 21 January 2011. The report focuses on human rights issues related to the March 2008 events, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association, and the human rights situation in the army.

Warsaw, December 9, 2010. The third « inter-mechanisms » meeting organised by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders[1] and hosted by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) ended today in Warsaw, coinciding with the international human rights defenders day. On this occasion, international and regional mechanisms and programmes for the protection of human rights defenders (within the United Nations, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Council of Europe, European Union, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, ODIHR, joined by the International Organisation of the Francophonie) shared their respective experiences, and identified best practices and ways to increase their efficiency. Action-oriented discussions focused on the treatment of individual cases and their follow-up, preventive actions and emergency protection measures, information sharing on country visits and trial observations, as well as the publicity of their actions. (more…)

WARSAW, 8 December 2010 – Ahead of the International Human Rights Day on Friday, participants at an international meeting hosted by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) today called for better inter-institutional co-operation to strengthen protection of human rights defenders.

The two-day event is organized by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture. ODIHR hosts the annual meeting for the first time.

Snjezana Bokulic, the head of ODIHR’s human rights department, stressed that the OSCE highly values the work of civil society in promoting human rights: “The international community must combine its efforts in a joint and comprehensive approach in order to effectively support the important work that is done by human rights defenders in the region.” (more…)

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