GA75 | Civil society assess outcomes of Third Committee session

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.

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Stop the Execution of Lisa Montgomery

Dear President Trump,

As over 800 organizations, scholars, individuals, law clinics, and survivors who are dedicated to ending all forms of violence against women, we are painfully aware of the victimization histories of most incarcerated women. Studies consistently show that up to 95% of incarcerated women have been victims of physical or sexual abuse. Lisa Montgomery’s story is a shocking example of what the research only begins to describe. Lisa suffered a life-time of horrific abuses, was consistently failed by people and systems that should have helped her, and became severely mentally ill by the time she committed her crime. Lisa committed her terrible crime – the seriousness of which we do not minimize – in the wake of a lifetime of victimization and mental illness. We urge you to have mercy and to commute her death sentence to life without the possibility of parole.

Lisa Montgomery was born with permanent brain damage as a result of her mother’s alcohol intake during pregnancy. Sexually abused by her stepfather for the first time at eleven years old, Lisa was repeatedly raped for years. Lisa’s mother beat her children brutally and emotionally tortured them, once killing the family dog in front of them. Lisa’s mother also trafficked Lisa to men for sex beginning when Lisa was in her early teens. Lisa developed dissociative disorder and complex posttraumatic stress disorder as a result of the repeated anal, oral, and vaginal rapes she suffered by the men to whom her mother trafficked her. Lisa told people about her abuse, but no one intervened. School administrators knew that Lisa came to school dirty, in tattered clothes, but failed to investigate or report. At age eighteen, Lisa, at her mother’s behest, married her stepbrother, who also raped and beat her. She had four children, then was sterilized against her will—another form of violence. Her mental health continued to spiral downwards. When her ex-husband/stepbrother filed for custody of two of her children and said he would reveal her sterilization to her new husband (who believed her to be pregnant), Lisa’s history of victimization, trauma, and mental illness tipped over the edge. Threatened with the loss of the children she deeply loved, Lisa committed a horrific crime.

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International Solidarity with Women and Peaceful Protestors in Poland

As organizations committed to the advancement of human rights and gender equality, we stand in solidarity with all those in Poland who for the last week have peacefully protested against the politicized attack on women’s fundamental human rights and access to health care.

Last week Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal issued a decision purporting to invalidate a legal ground for abortion. If this decision is given legal effect it will amount to the introduction of a near-total ban on abortion in Poland.

Thousands across Poland have protested peacefully against this unlawful and retrogressive decision. We express our deep admiration for the courageous and tireless efforts of those defending the rights of women in Poland. Women’s fundamental human rights are universal. Attacks on these rights concern everyone in society and their impact transcends national borders.

We urge the Polish Government to respect the right of freedom of assembly and peaceful protest, and to exercise restraint and refrain from excessive use of force and violence. We are deeply concerned by reports that military action is being planned to suppress peaceful protests and demonstrations. We urge the EU and the international community to monitor the situation and to act with urgency to prevent violence against peaceful protestors and attacks on women human rights defenders. 

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Prioritizing the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda in the First Hundred Days

Since the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) recognizing the vital role of  women in peacebuilding, peacekeeping, and post-conflict recovery, the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS)  Agenda has gained global recognition. In the two decades since, the United States (U.S.) has taken steps to  

elevate WPS in its foreign and national security policies. In particular, in 2011, President Obama launched the  first U.S. National Action Plan on WPS via executive order, which was subsequently updated in 2016. In 2018,  Congress enacted the landmark WPS Act. In 2019, pursuant to the WPS Act, the Trump Administration released  the U.S. Strategy on Women, Peace, and Security (WPS Strategy). In 2020, the U.S. Agency for International  Development (USAID), as well as the Departments of Defense, State, and Homeland Security, as required by  the WPS Act, rolled-out agency-specific implementation plans to operationalize the WPS Strategy.

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Letter Opposing Nomination of Amy Coney Barrett

We 136 organizations in support of reproductive health, rights, and justice — strongly oppose  the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. The Senate should not  consider any nominee to fill any Supreme Court vacancy until after the inauguration. Whoever  fills Justice Ginsburg’s seat could spend decades being a crucial vote on a range of issues that  affect our lives -- from voting rights to health care access to employment discrimination. The  people deserve to have a voice in who is confirmed to the Supreme Court and in some states  people are already casting their votes to make that voice heard. As the COVID-19 pandemic  continues to spread throughout the United States — including now on Capitol Hill and in the  White House — we demand the confirmation process of Judge Barrett be halted. The time to  confirm the next Supreme Court Justice is not as we work to rein in our global health crisis.

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Joint Statement: UN Human Rights Council Update on Resolution on Racism, Police Brutality

We welcome the High Commissioner’s first update on the implementation of the Human Rights Council resolution  (A/HRC/RES/43/1) which followed an Urgent Debate "on current racially inspired human rights violations, systemic racism, police brutality and violence against peaceful protests."

The resolution has mandated the High Commissioner, with the assistance of relevant Special Mandate Holders, “to prepare a report on systemic racism, violations of international human rights law against Africans and people of African descent by law enforcement agencies, especially those incidents that resulted in the death of George Floyd and other Africans and of people of African descent, to contribute to accountability and redress for victims.” The resolution has also requested that your office “examine government responses to antiracism peaceful process peaceful protests, including the alleged use of excessive force against protesters, bystanders and journalists.” In addition, the resolution also requested that the High Commissioner “include updates on police brutality against Africans and people of African descent in all her oral updates to the Council.”

While we were disappointed that the Council adopted a watered-down resolution due to enormous diplomatic pressure from the United States and other allied countries, we consider the outcome of the urgent debate a crucial first step towards full accountability for systemic police violence against Black people in the United States and more generally against people of African descent around the world. We make the following recommendations and suggestions to ensure effective implementation of the resolution and a transparent, inclusive process for producing the report with maximum meaningful participation and engagement from directly impacted communities and other relevant stakeholders:

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HRC 45: Joint Civil Society Statement on Abortion

In the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, States recognized that women’s rights are human rights and that all human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. This should have been the basis for an intersectional approach to human rights and the recognition that the denial of access to safe and legal abortion impacts all aspects of women’s lives.

Everyone has the right to life-saving interventions during or outside of crises. And yet, women and girls’ rights to bodily autonomy and safe abortion have been some of the first rights to be conveniently sacrificed under the guise of prioritizing COVID, as if health was a zero-sum game. That includes free, safe and legal abortion and comprehensive abortion and post-abortion care, without which women, girls and gender-non-conforming persons are forced to seek unsafe clandestine abortions or to carry unwanted pregnancies to term, in complete violation of our rights.

During this pandemic, some governments are increasing barriers to abortion services by deeming it a non-essential medical procedure, or are instrumentalizing the crisis to further restrict access in law or practice.  In health systems, for example, inadequate planning and the redeployment of medical personnel and resources to COVID-19 have decreased access to abortion and contraception.

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Non-Governmental Organizations, Faith-Based Groups, Legal Professionals, Experts, and Former Government Officials Unequivocally Oppose U.S. Sanctions Against the International Criminal Court

The undersigned organizations and individuals write to express grave concerns and unequivocally oppose the Trump administration’s use of the sanctions authority of the United States to attack the International Criminal Court (ICC), an independent judicial institution dedicated to combatting impunity for the gravest crimes known to humanity.

Many of the undersigned spoke out against steps in this direction taken earlier this year by the U.S. administration. We now issue this further statement because it is uniquely dangerous, extreme, and unprecedented to utilize a mechanism designed to penalize criminals, their aiders, and abettors, against an independent judicial institution. Asset freezes and entry restrictions are tools intended to combat individuals and entities constituting a threat to U.S. national security. By applying these measures to a court that 123 countries – and on two occasions, the United Nations Security Council – have entrusted with providing accountability for atrocity crimes, the United States has brought upon itself the stigma of siding with impunity over justice. The administration’s actions jeopardize the ability of desperate victims to access justice, weaken the credibility underpinning the use of sanction tools in other contexts, and put the United States at odds with its closest allies.

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Letter to US Congress: Reproductive Rights and Racial Justice

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer, and Leader McCarthy,

We, the 189 undersigned local, state, and national organizations, write to you in solidarity with Black women Reproductive Justice advocates leading the work to ensure Reproductive Justice for all, which includes the ability to make decisions about our lives, bodies, sexuality, and reproduction free from interference and violence. We call on you as federal leaders representing constituents who have been directly harmed by police violence and other state sanctioned violence to support the efforts and leadership of Black women and other reproductive and racial justice leaders in each and every one of your districts and states across the country.

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Open Letter to the Secretary General: Annual Children in Armed Conflict Report

Dear Mr. Secretary-General,

As nongovernmental organizations working to alleviate humanitarian suffering and protect human rights, we strongly support United Nations Security Council Resolution 1612 (2005) and subsequent resolutions on children and armed conflict, as concrete tools for improving the protection of children in war.

We are, therefore, deeply disappointed and troubled by your new report on children and armed conflict (A/74/845-S/2020/525), and in particular, the significant disparities between the evidence presented in the report and the parties listed in its annexes for committing grave violations against children. We are writing to urge you to reconsider your decisions to de-list the Saudi-led coalition for killing and maiming children in Yemen, and the Tatmadaw for recruiting and using children in Myanmar. We also urge you to take steps to ensure that going forward, the annexes accurately and consistently reflect the evidence collected and verified by the UN’s Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM), in line with existing criteria. We have provided evidence of other concerning disparities between the annual report and its annexes in the attached annex.

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Letter to Human Rights Council: Urgent Debate on current racially inspired human rights violations, systematic racism, police brutality and the violence against peaceful protests

Excellencies,

I write to you on behalf of the Global Justice Center (“GJC”), an international human rights organization, with special ECOSOC consultative status, dedicated to advancing gender equality through the rule of law. We combine advocacy with legal analysis, working to ensure equal protection of the law for women and girls.

Last week, GJC was proud to join over 600 of our fellow-organizations, as well as the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown and Philando Castile,1 in calling for the Human Rights Council to convene a special session the escalating situation of police violence and repression of protests in the United States. We thank the Council for heeding this call and scheduling an urgent debate on this topic for this upcoming Wednesday, June 17, 2020.

While we understand that the debate is not focused solely on the United States, we are hopeful that this session will bring crucial international attention to the unchecked violations against Black people, and peaceful protestors in the United States. We also urge you to utilize this meeting to take concrete action to ensure accountability for racist policing tactics and excessive force used against peaceful protesters in the country, in particular by mandating an independent inquiry to document and investigate extrajudicial killings of unarmed Black men and women, and police violence against protesters and journalists.

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Joint Statement Opposing Trump Administration Measures against the International Criminal Court

The undersigned organizations express their deep concern regarding today’s announcement by Secretary of State Pompeo and other senior U.S. officials that the United States, among other things, has invoked emergency powers in order to threaten asset freezes and other punitive actions against officials of the International Criminal Court, their family members, and those who assist their investigations. 

The International Criminal Court exists because it is difficult to hold government officials and other powerful actors accountable when they commit grave human rights abuses.  That impunity, in turn, is corrosive to the broader rule of law, the prospects of lasting peace, and respect for the dignity of all.  Since the ICC’s establishment in 2002 as a court of last resort, diverse coalitions of faith-based organizations, human rights advocates, legal practitioners, victims of atrocities, and other constituencies have often looked to it to complement and reinforce their work for justice.  Like all other human institutions, the ICC has room for improvement. Nevertheless, from Uganda and the Central African Republic to Darfur and the situation in Bangladesh/Myanmar, the ICC continues to play a vital role, filling gaps in the justice system by independently investigating and prosecuting grave atrocity crimes when national authorities do not do so, or when they seek out help.

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Sign on Letter: Request to convene UNHRC special session on Police Violence

Excellencies,

The undersigned family members of victims of police killings and civil society organizations from around the world, call on member states of the U.N. Human Rights Council to urgently convene a Special Session on the situation of human rights in the United States in order to respond to the unfolding grave human rights crisis born out of the repression of nationwide protests. The recent protests erupted on May 26 in response to the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which was only one of a recent string of unlawful killings of unarmed Black people by police and armed white vigilantes.

We are deeply concerned about the escalation in violent police responses to largely peaceful protests in the United States, which included the use of rubber bullets, tear gas, pepper spray and in some cases live ammunition, in violation of international standards on the use of force and management of assemblies including recent U.N. Guidance on Less Lethal Weapons.

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Statement of Solidarity with the World Health Organization

Dear Dr. Tedros,

As U.S.-based public health research, academic, and advocacy organizations, representing millions of people across the country, we write to express our solidarity with the World Health Organization (WHO) and your individual staff and teams around the world. We thank you for the WHO’s efforts to rapidly and effectively prevent the spread of COVID-19.

We are deeply disappointed by the U.S. government's decision to play politics with public health and safety by slandering the WHO’s vital work in combating the global coronavirus pandemic and subsequently terminating ​U.S. government funding​ to the organization. We reject our government’s decision to end U.S. contributions to the WHO, because we recognize the harms that doing so will cause to the global community’s ability to both combat the coronavirus pandemic and safeguard global health and public safety in the future.

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FY 2021 Appropriations - Repro Community Letter

Dear Chairman Shelby, Vice Chairman Leahy, Chairwoman Lowey, and Ranking Member Granger:

As you debate and consider fiscal year 2021 (FY 2021) funding bills, the undersigned organizations committed to advancing reproductive health, rights, and justice urge you to introduce and pass bills that promote access to reproductive health care, including abortion, and protect reproductive freedom.

As we work together to face an unprecedented national crisis and global pandemic, our country is at a juncture. Policymakers opposed to reproductive health care are exploiting this crisis to eliminate abortion access. They are building off decades of attacks, including existing restrictions in appropriations bills that have for too long denied individuals access to affordable, comprehensive health care. Now is the time to put an end to these policies. The appropriations bills for FY 2021 must instead build to the future we want where access to comprehensive health care, including abortion and birth control, is provided precisely because it is essential for people’s dignity and economic security.

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CSO letter in support of the UN and WHO

Dear Excellencies,

We are writing to register our outrage at Acting USAID Administrator John Barsa’s letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres demanding the UN remove reference to “sexual and reproductive health” from the Global Humanitarian Response Plan’s (HRP) guidance on COVID-19. The removal of this wording is not symbolic--it will have a detrimental impact on people who need and rely on sexual and reproductive health services. We are deeply concerned about the health and human rights impact of this request, which comes at the same time the U.S. Government is attacking the WHO and threatening to freeze funding in the midst of the COVID- 19 pandemic.

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Letter sign-on: Allow civil society to submit new supplemental reports for the UPR

Dear XXX,

The undersigned civil society organizations request an opportunity to provide supplements to submissions made to the 36th session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group, tentatively scheduled for November 2 to 13, 2020. In order for civil society contributions to meaningfully support the work of the Human Rights Council, we also request that the supplemental submissions be summarized and published by the UPR Secretariat and shared as an addendum to the summary of stakeholders' information.

On March 20, 2020, the Bureau of the Human Rights Council decided to postpone the 36th session of the Working Group, which was scheduled to take place May 4 to 15, 2020. The decision was made because “of the spread of COVID-19 and the emergency measures that have been taken by affected countries worldwide, including the host country, Switzerland.”

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Asia Justice Coalition Statement - Rohingya at sea

The Asia Justice Coalition – a network of organizations that have come together to focus on international justice and accountability in Asia – expresses its grave concern at the plight of Rohingya refugees stranded at sea.

Currently, it is estimated that there are two boats with more than 500 refugees that are being denied permission to disembark and have been ‘pushed back’ at sea by Malaysia. On 16 April 2020, nearly 400 Rohingya refugees who were adrift at sea, and denied sanctuary in Malaysia were permitted to disembark in Bangladesh. The situation is again critical now, with the grave threat of loss of life.

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Global Submission to US Commission on Unalienable Rights

Dear U.S. State Department Commission on Unalienable Rights:

As human rights organizations, scholars, defenders and activists, we the 167 undersigned, write to express our grave concern about the work of the U.S. State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights and any potential report or output that undermines the international human rights system and purports to reinterpret its respective treaties and monitoring bodies. In particular, we urge the Commission to reject the prioritization of freedom of religion as a cloak to permit violations of the human rights of women, girls, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Now more than ever, countries worldwide should prioritize the rights to health and well-being of all their people without discrimination and recognize that reproductive rights are clearly established and articulated under international law. These rights are interrelated and indivisible from all human rights and cannot be subordinated within a hierarchy of rights.

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Joint CSO letter to UNSC on participation & transparency

Excellency,

We, the undersigned civil society organisations, write to you as human rights, humanitarian, development and peacebuilding organisations that actively and regularly contribute to the work of the UN Security Council. We write to you at this time to raise concerns around the transparency of the work of the Security Council and obstacles to the effective participation of civil society in its work due to recent changes to the working methods of the Council in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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