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Submission of information and of complaints from individuals or groups of individuals

In the framework of his/her mandate, the Special Rapporteur receives information on alleged violations of cultural rights. To the limit of available resources, he/she may accordingly write to the concerned government (through a “communication”), either jointly with other special procedure mandate-holders or independently, inviting comment on the allegation, seeking clarification, reminding the Government of its obligations under international law and requesting information, where relevant, on steps being taken by the authorities to redress the situation in question. The Special Rapporteur urges all stakeholders to respond promptly to his/her communications and to take all steps necessary to redress situations involving the violation of cultural rights.

Communications of the Special Rapporteur can take various forms including:

  • Urgent appeals, which are used in cases where the alleged violations are time-sensitive in terms of involving loss of life, life-threatening situations or either imminent or ongoing damage of a very grave nature to victims that cannot be addressed in a timely manner by the procedure of allegation letters.
  • Allegation letters, which are used to communicate information about violations that are said to have already occurred or in cases not covered by urgent appeals.

Submitting a complaint - To see all communications sent by the Special Rapporteur, click here

In order for a complaint to be assessed, the following information is needed:

  • Who is the alleged victim(s) (individual(s), community, group, etc.); Please also indicate whether:
    • The victim(s) has given you his or her consent to send this communication on his or her behalf. Please make sure you obtain the victim’s consent, whenever possible.
    • The victim(s) has been informed that, if the Special Rapporteur decides to take action on his or her behalf, a letter concerning what happened to him or her will be sent to the authorities.
    • The victim(s) is aware that, if this communication is taken up, a summary of what happened to him/her will appear in a public report of the Special Rapporteur.
    • The victim(s) would prefer that his or her full name or merely her initials appear in the public report of the Special Rapporteur.
  • Who is the alleged perpetrator(s) of the violation; Please provide substantiated information on all the actors involved, including non-state actors if relevant.
  • Date, place and detailed description of the circumstances of the incident(s) or the violation, in chronological order; The information submitted can refer to violations that are said to have already occurred, that are ongoing or about to occur. Information should include the legal remedies, if any, taken at the national level or regional level, and any other relevant information, such as relevant legislation, on the various aspects of the case.
  • Identification of the person(s) or organization(s) submitting the communication (this information will be kept confidential); As a general rule, the identity of the source of information on the alleged violation is always kept confidential. When submitting information, please indicate whether there is any of the submitted information which you would like to remain confidential.

It is also recommended to explain in detail why you believe the incident is relevant to the Special Rapporteur’s mandate. For example, which cultural rights are allegedly infringed upon, taking into consideration the relevant international standards, as well as to, where relevant, the thematic reports of the Special Rapporteur?

As a general rule, communications that contain abusive language or that are obviously politically motivated are not considered. Communications should describe the facts of the incident and the relevant details referred to above clearly and concisely. The information should be submitted by any person or group of persons claiming to be victim of violations and/or to have direct or reliable knowledge of those violations.

The Special Rapporteur is open to receiving communications under any format. You may also use our model questionnaire. Annexes such as pictures and copies of documents, etc., can also be included.

Please submit information preferably in English, French or Spanish.

A complaint can be submitted by:

E-mail: urgent-action@ohchr.org or srculturalrights@ohchr.org
Fax: +41 22 917 90 06

or Postal mail:

Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights
OHCHR-UNOG
1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland

Follow-up

Communications from the Special Rapporteur to the government are confidential at an initial stage until the letters and the answer of the State are included in the communications reports of Special Procedures, which are submitted to each regular session of the Human Rights Council (in March, June and September).

It is important for the Special Rapporteur to receive updated and relevant information on the situations referred to in the complaints submitted to enable him/her to continue to follow-up on the issue through his/her dialogue with the involved Parties. Person(s) or organization(s) that have submitted information and complaints are urged to consider the response made by Government and to submit their comments, if necessary, to the Special Rapporteur.

Also note that several other individual complaint mechanisms have been established as part of the international human rights system. For more information please visit the Special Procedures page and the Human Rights Bodies-Complaints Procedures page.

Allegations that cover several human rights issues

The Special Rapporteur constantly consults with other Special procedures mandate holders whose own mandates are implicated in a particular case and frequently sends joint letters of concern with these mandate holders.

Complaints addressed by the mandate

In the table below, you will find all the communications the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights has addressed since the establishment of the mandate in 2009. The list is organized in alphabetical order, according to the name of the country. Allegation letters are identified with (AL), urgent appeal with (UA). Most communications are addressed jointly with other Special procedure mandates, and are therefore joint communications, identified with as JAL or JUA.

Original letters and the response received by concerned States can be accessed through the joint communication reports, published on this page: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/CommunicationsreportsSP.aspx

Latest communications:

Country

Date

Type of comm and ref.

Summary of the allegations transmitted  (original language)

Reply from State

Bahrain

30/11/2015

JAL
BHR 6/2015

Alleged patterns of continuous discrimination against Shia citizens, including through cultural, economic, educational and social government policies in Bahrain since 2011. According to the information received, peaceful protestors and other Shia citizens have experienced excessive use of force during and after the protests of 2011, with Shia religious clergy being particularly targeted. Government violence has also led to the destruction of many Shia mosques and sites of religious and cultural significance and of other signs of Shia presence in the country. The official historical narrative which systematically undermines the role of Baharna and Shia religious and cultural heritage in the country is also promoted in the official school curricula and media. Shia citizens allegedly also experience discrimination in access to citizenship, public sector employment and government social policies, particularly housing and welfare programs, making them more vulnerable to poverty. Various aspects of this situation, including the destruction of two mosques and withdrawal of citizenship, have already been raised in previous communications sent on 5 may 2011, see A/HRC/18/51, case no. BHR 8/2011, and on 29 November 2012, see A/HRC/23/51, case no. BHR 12/2012.

Yes 1/2/2016

Bangladesh

24/11/2015

JAL
BGD 7/2015

Allegations concerning the killing of a Bangladeshi publisher and writer as well as of violent attacks against another publisher. According to the information received, on 31 October 2015, Mr. Faisal Arefin Dipan, a Bangladeshi publisher and writer, was murdered at his publishing house in Dhaka. He had recently published books by the secular writer and blogger Mr. Avijit Roy who was murdered in February 2015. Earlier that day Mr. Ahmedur Rashid Tutul, another Bangladeshi publisher, was the victim of a violent attack, which left him injured and hospitalized. Mr. Tutul had published four of Mr. Roy’s books. It is reported that the responsibility for these attacks has been claimed by the armed group Ansar al-Islam, Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). Concern is expressed at what appears to be a pattern of violence and intimidation against secular writers, publishers, bloggers/journalists and other intellectuals in the country, ostensibly in response to the exercise of their human right to freedom of expression and freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief. A previous related communication was sent on 30 April 2015, see A/HRC/30/27, case no. BGD 2/2015.

yes, request extention to reply, 25/11/2015

Bulgaria

15/9/2015

JAL
BGR 3/2015

Allegations concerning the initiation of archaeological excavations in the vicinity of a mosque and planned conversion of the religious site into a museum. According to the information received, on 14 June 2015, the local government of Karlovo started excavation works aimed at exposing archaeological remains in and around Kurshun Mosque and at converting the site into a museum, without prior notification or consultation with the Muslim community of Bulgaria. The ownership of the Kurshun Mosque has been long disputed and is currently not open for worship; however, it reportedly bears great religious importance for the Muslim community, who view the works as an act of desecration. Similar projects of public works and excavations have allegedly also been carried out at other sites of religious significance for the Muslim community without prior consultation, including at Hamza Bey Mosque in Stara Zagora, Makbul Pasha Mosque in Razgrad and Mihaloglu Mosque in Ihtiman. Controversies regarding the ownership and use of mosques in Bulgaria have reportedly caused tension in the country, including protests against the religious use of Muslim places of worship.

Yes
18/11/2015

Cuba

20/10/2015

JUA
CUB 3/2015

Alegada detención arbitraria prolongada de un artista por ejercer su derecho a la libre expresión artística. Según la información recibida, el Sr. Danilo Maldonado Machado, conocido como “El Sexto”, fue arrestado el 25 de diciembre de 2014 mientras transportaba dos cerdos con los nombres “Raúl” y “Fidel” pintados en ellos, con la intención de liberarlos durante una manifestación artística en el Parque Central de la Habana. Ha permanecido en prisión más de 9 meses, sin embargo no ha sido formalizada ninguna acusación en su contra y aún no ha sido presentado ante un tribunal. El 7 de octubre de 2015 el Sr. Maldonado desistió de una huelga de hambre de un mes, al ser informado que sería liberado luego de 15 días. Sin embargo permanece en prisión al momento de esta acción urgente. Preocupaciones son manifestadas por el hecho de que esta detención sea una violación del derecho a la libertad de expresión y de opinión, del debido proceso y a un juicio justo, incompatibles con los estándares internacionales sobre derechos humanos.

Yes  22/12/2015

Egypt

19/8/2015

JOL
EGY 9/2015

Alleged undue restrictions to the right of everyone to freedom of artistic expression under Egyptian legislation. According to the information received, Law 430/1955 on censorship of artistic works, as well as Minister of Culture Decrees 162/1993 on implementing regulations of the censorship of artistic works and 220/1976 on the criteria to be considered for censorship, as well as several provisions of the Criminal Code (Law 58/1937), establish undue restrictions to the right to freedom of expression, especially in the form of art. It is reported these provisions establish a regime of prior and post-censorship of the arts that is not in compliance with international human rights standards. Furthermore, Law 35/1978 on the Federation of Artistic Syndicates imposes affiliation to a unique syndicate, raising issues about the right to freedom of artistic expression, as recognized under international human rights law. The regime of sanctions provided for in these laws, as well as in the Penal Code, includes severe criminal sanctions and liberty-depriving penalties. The Government is urged to take measures to ensure compliance of the national legislation and its implementation with international human rights norms and standards.

NO

France

28/9/2015

OL
FRA 5/2015

Lettre concernant l’adoption prochaine d’une loi en France sur la liberté de création, l’architecture et le patrimoine. Selon les informations reçues, le projet de loi en discussion au Parlement français affirme clairement la liberté de création, mais omet de mentionner les libertés correspondantes de présenter, d’exposer et de diffuser des œuvres et créations. La lettre rappelle que ces aspects sont indissociables pour la jouissance du droit de participer à la vie culturelle, tel qu’énoncé dans l’article 27 de la Déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme et l’article 15 du Pacte international relatif aux droits économiques, sociaux et culturels, et pour la réalisation du droit à la liberté d’opinion et d’expression, y compris sous une forme artistique, tel que consacré à l’article 19 du Pacte relatif aux droits civils et politiques.

NO

Iran

29/10/2015

JUA
IRN 20/2015

Alleged arbitrary detention, sentencing to flogging and subjecting human rights activists to a virginity test. According to the information received, Ms. Fatemeh Ekhtesari was sentenced to over 11 years in prison for her collection of poetry. Mr. Mehdi Moosavi was sentenced to six years in prison for his poetry. Ms. Atena Farghadani was sentenced to over twelve years for a cartoon. All three were also charged with “illegitimate sexual relationship short of adultery” for shaking hands with a non-relative of the opposite sex. Ms. Ekhtesari and Mr. Moosavi were sentenced to ninety-nine lashes. Ms. Farghadani has not been sentenced but has already been subjected to forced virginity and pregnancy testing. Ms. Narges Mohammadi, a prominent Iranian rearrested 5 May 2015, has been subjected to harassment and deprived of necessary medical care. Ms Farghadani and Ms Mohammadi have been the subjects of seven previous communications, the most recent of which was sent 4 June 2015, see above, case no. IRN 6/2015.

no

Al Qatar

16/10/2015

JOL 
QAT /2015

Alleged arbitrary detention of a Qatari poet for writing and reciting poems criticizing the Amir of Qatar and praising the Tunisian revolution. According to the information received, since February 2013, Mr. Mohammed al-Ajami, also known as Mr. Mohammed Ibn al-Dheeb, is serving a 15 years prison sentence for a poem he wrote in 2010 criticizing Sheikh Tamim Al Thani. Irregularities have been reported throughout the legal procedures, including the fact that the legal reasons for reducing the sentence from life imprisonment to 15 years were not clearly exposed. It is also alleged that, for the last two years, Mr. al-Ajami has been subjected to harsh conditions, with periods of solitary confinement during his detention. Serious concerns are raised regarding the compatibility of the sentence with international human rights standards relating to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to take part in cultural life, as well as concerning the right to a fair trial. Mr. Al-Ajami has been the subject of a previous communication sent on 21 December 2012, see A/HRC/23/51, case no. QAT 1/2012.

Yes 2/12/2015

Saudi Arabia

14/10/2015

JAL
SAU 7/2015

Alleged destruction of various Mosques and sites of religious, historical and cultural importance in Saudi Arabia. According to the information received, Government authorities have destroyed many sites linked with important religious and historical figures all over the country, which are considered by many Muslim believers, especially Shias and Sufis, as significant sites for their cultural and religious identity. It is alleged that the destructions have been continuous over years in an effort to prohibit religious practices that are not recognized by the country’s dominant interpretation of Islam, in violation of international human rights standards relating to the right to freedom of religion and belief and the right to take part in cultural life, including the right to have access to and enjoy cultural heritage.

Yes  23/10/2015

Saudi Arabia

25/11/2015

UA
SAU 10/2015

Allegations concerning the imposition of the death sentence following an unfair trial against a poet of Palestinian origin in Saudi Arabia. According to the information received, on 25 May 2014, Mr. Ashraf Fayadh was sentenced to four years imprisonment and 800 lashes for allegedly having committed apostasy. The prosecution appealed the verdict and, on 17 November 2015, the General Court of Abha sentenced Mr. Fayadh to death under the same charge. Mr. Fayadh, who had no legal representation during the judicial proceedings, was given 30 days to appeal the sentence. He remains in detention.

NO

United States

17/8/2015

JAL
USA 16/2015

Alleged desecration of Mauna Kea Sacred Mountain located on Hawai’i for the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMC). According to the information received, the construction violates United States of America’s international obligations to protect the human rights of indigenous people to participate in cultural life, to freedom of religion and belief and to be meaningfully involved in decision making-processes that impact on their human rights. It is alleged that the decision to adopt the project was made without appropriately consulting the people for whom the mountain has high cultural and religious value, and that no serious consideration was given to alternative locations for the construction.

Yes 9/12/2015

Zambia

3/8/2015

JAL
ZAM 2/2015

Alleged arrest and prosecution of a musician and singer for having released a song critical of the President of the ruling party. According to the information received, on 8 June 2015, Mr. Chama Fumba, aka Pilato (Pilate), a 31-year-old musician, was arrested for a song in which he is said to have ridiculed the President and the ruling party. He was subsequently detained and denied police bond, despite the request from his lawyers that he be released pending trial. On 9 June, Mr. Fumba appeared before the Chief Resident Magistrate at Lusaka on charges of “conduct likely to cause a breach of the public peace”, contrary to Section 178 (f) of the Penal Code of Zambia. Mr. Fumba pleaded not guilty and was granted release pending trial on bail. His trial was initially set for 24 June 2015, but later adjourned until 13 July 2015, reportedly because the prosecutor had no witnesses. On 13 July, the director of the Public Prosecution entered a Nolle Prosequi and the case against Mr. Fumba was discontinued. It is alleged that the arrest of Mr. Fumba might be linked with the upcoming presidential electoral campaign for 2016.

No

For all communications in alphabetical order please click here.