[UPR Trax] No 61: Restriction of civil society must not go unchecked

The arrival of spring saw UPR Info Pre-Sessions at the top of agenda. 11 States were discussed over three days, where we had the highest rate of participation by national NGOs to date. While the Pre-sessions successfully served as a key human rights advocacy platform for civil society, we unfortunately also experienced an unprecedented situation on the restriction of participants. A few days before the Pre-session of Sudan, the Sudanese authorities prevented four of the country's prominent human rights defenders from travelling to Geneva to participate. UPR Info is deeply concerned by this flagrant restriction on civil society participation, and calls on Sudan to remove the travel bans and to ensure that NGOs can freely participate in the UPR process.
March was also marked by the 31st Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC). During the general debate on the UPR, both States and NGOs raised numerous issues. Some States took the floor against introducing any changes to the mechanism in advance of the third cycle. Others advocated for the UPR as the only forum for country-specific deliberations. The NGOs for their part emphasised the role of human rights defenders and the need to address urgent human rights situations both within and outside the UPR. The HRC also announced its decision to commence the Third Cycle of the UPR in April/May 2017, and has already made the calendar of reviews available.

As part of the UPR Info Follow-up programme, staff members met with civil society representatives in Sierra Leone and Niger to lay the ground work for monitoring the implementation of recommendations. 2016 will continue to be an exciting year in which UPR Info will expand its Follow-up programme to several countries including Thailand, Tanzania, Uganda, and Togo. Stay tuned!


Pre-Sessions UPR 25

Human rights advocacy platform gives centre stage to NGOs from the ground
On 30 March - 1 April 2015, UPR Info held its 13th round of Pre-Sessions in preparation for the 25th UPR Working Group (2 - 13 May 2016). Over 50 civil society organisations (CSOs) and National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) were represented during the three-day international human rights conference, taking the floor on: Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Tanzania, and Thailand. The NGOs and NHRIs briefed the Permanent Missions on both the current human rights situation and the implementation of first cycle recommendations. A wide variety of issues were raised over the three days including, but not limited to: land rights, the right to housing, women's rights, limitations to freedom of expression, assembly and association, LGBTI rights, independence of the judiciary and interference with the duties of lawyers, the rights of asylum-seekers and refugees, the rights of the child, and minority rights. Read more here.
Four Sudanese human rights defenders banned from participating in UPR Info Pre-session
The defenders had their passports confiscated at the airport by Sudan’s security agency NISS while en route to Geneva
Four human rights defenders from Sudan were banned from travelling to Geneva to participate in the UPR Pre-session of their country held on 31 March 2016. One of the defenders was due to speak on behalf of a coalition of Sudanese civil society organisations named “Our Rights Group”. This is the first time, since the Pre-sessions were established in 2012, that defenders have been prevented to participate. UPR Info strongly condemns this restriction on civil society participation in the UPR process. Read more here.
31st Session of the Human Rights Council
The 31st Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) saw the adoption of the reports of the States under Review (SuR) during the 23rd Session of the UPR Working Group. The SuR provided their final answer to all the recommendations received in May 2015 and offered clarification with regard to the noted recommendations. On Friday 18 March 2016, the General Debate under Agenda Item 6 took place in room XX. During this session, marking the 10th anniversary of the HRC, reoccurring themes of the upcoming 3rd UPR cycle, technical cooperation and the participation of civil society permeated the statements of the speakers. Read more here.
The role of legal professionals in the UPR
On 17 March 2016, UPR Info attended the launch of the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) latest publication, "The role of the Universal Periodic Review in advancing human rights in the administration of justice". The publication advocates for greater involvement of the legal profession within the UPR to ensure that the administration of justice is at the forefront of human rights protection. The study analyses 38,928 recommendations and addresses two interrelated issues: the involvement of legal professionals in UN human rights mechanisms and reference to legal professionals in international recommendations. Read more here.

27 NGOs commit to paying their interns
27 international NGOs in Geneva have signed a Charter intended to ameliorate the working conditions of interns. The initiaitve is a commitment by the organisations to pay their interns, and draws attention to the subject of the unpaid internships in international governmental and non-governmental organisations. The Charter enshrines the basic principles of adequate remuneration for interns, which should guide all international governmental and non-governmental organisation. Read more here


Thai voices from the ground: Pre-session on Thailand held in Bangkok
On 14-16 March 2016, an in-country Pre-Session on Thailand was organised in Bangkok by UPR Info Asia. The first event of its kind brought together 59 members of the Thai CSOs Coalition for the UPR, Commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit from the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, and more than 35 diplomats. Organised ahead of Thailand's second UPR (11 May 2016), the three-day conference allowed the Thai Coalition to advance its role as agents of change, bringing solutions to the Thai Government through the recommendations of UN Member States. Read more here
Quote of the month
With their determination to be the ears and the eyes throughout the UPR, the role of the civil society organisations within this mechanism is undeniable. I would like to further encourage civil society and States to work together in order to advance the common objectives of the UPR.
Ms. Shahrzad Tadjbakhsh
Chief of the UPR Branch at the OHCHR
Opening remarks at the Pre-Session UPR 25

Work with us!

UPR Info is recruiting a Junior Programme and Administrative Officer to support the work of its office in Geneva. Main tasks will include: administrating the website, managing communication including social media, and providing logistical support to the organisation as needed. The deadline for applications is Sunday, 1 May 2016Read more here