(GENEVA 23 August 2012) – “It is time for the Bahraini authorities to comply with the rights to peaceful assembly and expression and immediately release those arbitrarily detained for exercising their legitimate freedoms,” a group of United Nations human rights experts said today, calling for the prompt release of prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, who was recently sentenced to three years imprisonment. The call comes amidst serious concerns about the ongoing campaign of persecution of human rights defenders in Bahrain.

Mr. Rajab was convicted on three charges of illegal assembly related to his participation in peaceful gatherings in favour of fundamental freedoms and democracy, including a peaceful protest to denounce the detention of fellow human rights defender Abdulhadi Al Khawaja.

“The sentencing of Nabeel Rajab represents yet another blatant attempt by the Government of Bahrain to silence those legitimately working to promote basic human rights,” said the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya. “The Bahraini Government must immediately cease its campaign of persecution of human rights defenders in the country.”

The Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, stressed that “the exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly should not be subject to prior authorization from the authorities.” For the rights expert, “the criminalization of people participating in peaceful assemblies for the sole reason that they did not seek the approval of the authorities to hold such assemblies contradicts international human rights law.” (more…)

GENEVA (13 April 2012) – Four United Nations human rights experts on Friday urged the Government of Bahrain to immediately release human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja who is serving a life sentence handed down by a military court on terrorism-related charges. The call comes amid serious concerns about the lack of due process and fair trial guarantees.

The National Safety Court, a military court, sentenced Al-Khawaja to life imprisonment on 22 June 2011, after his trial alongside a group of more than 20 human rights defenders. An appeal was rejected by the National Safety Court of Appeal on 28 September 2011. Al-Khawaja’s case is now being reviewed by the Court of Cassation which is due to deliver its verdict on 23 April.

“I am seriously concerned that Mr. Al-Khawaja’s trial and sentence are linked to his legitimate work to promote human rights in Bahrain,” said Margaret Sekaggya, the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders. “This case is sadly emblematic of the overall treatment of human rights defenders in Bahrain.” (more…)

GENEVA (19 March 2012) – In an open letter* to world Governments, a group of 22 UN independent human rights experts called on States to incorporate universally agreed international human rights norms and standards with strong accountability mechanisms into the UN Rio+20 sustainable development conference’s goals, as the Rio+20 first round of informal-informal negotiations began today in New York.

“Global goals are easily set, but seldom met,” the rights experts warned, raising the bar for what the conference can and should achieve. “A real risk exists that commitments made in Rio will remain empty promises without effective monitoring and accountability,” they stressed less than a hundred days before the conference starts.

The second Rio Summit, Rio+20, is expected to lay the foundations for a set of global Sustainable Development Goals to complement and strengthen the UN Millennium Development Goals created in 2000.

“Learning from the mistakes of the Millennium Development Goals, the new sustainable goals must integrate the full range of human rights linked with sustainable development, and human rights must be the benchmark for whether or not inclusive, equitable and sustainable development is occurring,” the independent experts said

Twenty years after the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, and ten after the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, the mounting effects of climate change and environmental degradation have raised the stakes further. Both the Goals and the means of reviewing progress must be based on human rights from the start.

“Human rights have guided sixty-plus years of progress by providing a legal baseline for political actions,” they said. “Human rights must now be the glue in Rio: they must bind countries to the commitments they make. States have an opportunity in Rio to create the transformative changes needed or else fare no better than in previous global attempts in this regard.” (more…)

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…)

The Rapporteurs on Human Rights Defenders from the United Nations (UN), the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) express their grave concern over acts of reprisals against individuals and groups seeking to cooperate with the UN and/or the regional human rights systems. These reprisals against individuals and/or groups engaging directly with the UN, the ACHPR and the IACHR, or otherwise providing information on particular countries’ human rights situation, take the form of smear campaigns, harassment, intimidation, direct threats, physical attacks and killings.

The UN, the ACHPR and the IACHR all have normative agreements and rules of procedure explicitly prohibiting acts of reprisals by States and non-State actors.1/In an effort to safeguard the vital collaboration between civil society and the UN and regional human rights mechanisms, the Rapporteurs on human rights defenders commit to and call for enhanced monitoring and action to respect those rules, and support the recent initiative by the President of the UN Human Rights Council to call on States to immediately put an end to intimidation and harassment of individuals and groups attending the 19th session of the Human Rights Council.2/ (more…)