Timeline

Human Rights & Refugees

We work to strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights through the United Nations system, with particular reference to the interface between human rights and armed conflicts, and the protection of refugees.
Event of Note
July 2012

UN Adopts First-ever Resolution on Conscientious Objection

On 6 July, the UN Human Rights Council adopted its first-ever resolution on conscientious objection to military service. The resolution requires the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to publish a regular report on new developments, best practices and remaining challenges regarding conscientious objection around the world. This will ensure that developments at international and regional level, in many of which QUNO is involved, will be brought to the attention of a wide audience, including all governments.

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October 2013

Geneva Reporter, July-October 2013

Read QUNO Geneva's newsletter for the period July to October 2013. Features stories:

  • Children of parents sentenced to death or executed
  • New framework for trade and investment in agriculture
  • Conscientious objection to military service
  • New energy on nuclear disarmament
  • Highlights from QUNO New York

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December 2013

Rachel Brett, QUNO Representative for Human Rights and Refugees, delivers training on the right to Conscientious Objection in Colombia

Rachel Brett, QUNO's representative for Human Rights and Refugees, delivered training to conscientious objectors at the Foro Internacional Por la Objeción de Conciencia al Servicio Militar Obligatorio in Bogotá, Colombia. This presentation focused on the international standards on the right to conscientious objection to military service and alternative service applicable to Colombia.

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December 2013

UNHCR issues ‘Guidelines on International Protection No. 10: Claims to Refugee Status related to Military Service’

QUNO welcomes new Guidelines on International Protection relating to claims to refugee status based on objection to military service released by UNHCR. These Guidelines focus on individuals who seek international protection as refugees to avoid recruitment and service in State armed forces, including conscientious objectors, as well as forced recruitment by non-State armed groups. They will provide guidance for governments, decision makers, lawyers and the judiciary as well as UNHCR staff. QUNO hopes that the new Guidelines will help protect conscientious objectors and others fleeing recruitment and service in the military when they seek asylum abroad.

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March 2014

QUNO co-sponsors 'Conscientious Objection to Military Service: Challenges and International Responses' Human Rights Council side event

At the 25th session of the Human Rights Council, QUNO co-sponsored a side-event entitled “Conscientious Objection to Military Service: Challenges and International Responses”, with the Permanent Missions of Costa Rica, Croatia and Poland. During this side event, which was moderated by Rachel Brett from QUNO, the panellists explored different elements of the right to conscientious objection. The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, addressed the philosophical underpinnings of conscience and the right to conscientious objection. Sir Nigel Rodley, the Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee, discussed developments within the Committee regarding conscientious objection. The third speaker, Emily Graham from QUNO addressed the practical implications of refusing military service, including prosecution and imprisonment but also fines, lack of necessary identity documentation and discrimination.

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May 2014

Meeting of the European Bureau of Conscientious Objectors in Brussels

QUNO attended the meeting of the European Bureau of Conscientious Objectors in Brussels. At the meeting, QUNO reported on recent developments at the United Nations regarding the right of conscientious objection to military service. In particular, QUNO highlighted new Guidelines on International Protection issued in December 2013 by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which focus specifically on claims to refugee status related to military service. In addition, Emily Graham from QUNO discussed the practical implications of refusing military service, focusing on the lack of necessary identity documentation and discrimination. 
 

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July 2014

Open Letter regarding the Outcome Document of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples

QUNO partners, Amnesty International and the Canadian Friends Service Committee (CFSC), have written an open letter regarding the Outcome Document of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples to be held in New York in September. The letter expresses concern at developments in the run-up to the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples that appear to run against this principle of participation of representatives of Indigenous Peoples. They also express concern at statements by member states during consultations around the document, that appear to be aimed at weakening the rights contained in the Declaration, and the status of the Declaration itself.

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August 2014

QUNO raises the rights of prisoners and their families at the 27th session of the UN Human Rights Council

QUNO has raised the issue of the rights of the families of persons deprived of their liberty and of children of parents sentenced to death at the 27th Session of the UN Human Rights Council.  These issues have been raised by QUNO in the General Debate and in the Panel on the Human Rights of Persons Deprived of their Liberty. This Panel was the first time the Council has dedicated time to considering the full range of human rights violations experienced by people in detention and made reference to the impact on their families including their children. 

Laurel Townhead, Representative for Human Rights and Refugees, delivered three oral statements, on the topics of women in prisons, older prisoners and children of parents sentenced to death or executed. Video of the three statements are available below:

  • Statement on women in prison given at the Panel on Persons Deprived of their Liberty
    (statement begins at 01:24:00)
  • Statement on children of parents sentenced to death at the General Debate
    (statement begins at 00:07:00) 

     

  • Statement given at the Interactive Dialogue with Independent Expert on Older Persons.
    (statement begins at 01:48:11)

 

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August 2014

A new Human Rights and Refugees Representative at QUNO Geneva

In February, Rachel Brett who has been Representative, Human Rights and Refugees (HRR) at QUNO Geneva since 1993 announced her plan to retire.  After an international selection process, Laurel Townhead has been appointed to this position from 18 August; we extend a warm welcome to Laurel. Laurel obtained her Master's degree in International Human Rights Law from the University of Essex in 2003. She has experience, among other issues, of work on women in prison, children of prisoners, conscientious objection to military service and support to asylum seekers. She was at QUNO Geneva as HRR Programme Assistant and Project Assistant in 2005-7 and comes to us now from her position as Policy & Campaigns Manager at the UK NGO Women in Prison that she has held since 2008. Laurel has been an attender of Peckham Quaker Meeting in London for several years.

Rachel will continue to work with us part-time as Adviser, HRR during a significant transition period. Her outstanding work has improved the lives of many, changed attitudes, built understanding and led to new international agreements. Rachel has worked on the needs of child soldiers, women prisoners, conscientious objectors to military service, stateless people, and children of parents sentenced to death.

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March 2015

QUNO co-hosts side event on children of incarcerated parents at the Human Rights Council

QUNO, along with the Permanent Delegation of the African Union to the UN in Geneva, the Permanent Mission of Uruguay and Child Rights Connect Working Group on Children of Incarcerated Parents hosted a panel discussion and good practice exchange on policy and practice developments related to children of incarcerated parents.

The event is being held during the 28th session of the Human Rights Council, on 11 March in Geneva. Further details are available in the flyer below.

 

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March 2015

QUNO particpates in a side event on strengthening death penalty standards at the Human Rights Council

On Monday, 9 March, QUNO participated in a side event on strengthening death penalty standards, organized by Penal Reform International and the Permanent Representations of Switzerland and Mexico. QUNO Representative Laurel Townhead spoke at the event on the impact of death penalty on children of parents sentenced to death. Further details about the event can be found in the flyer below.

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April 2015

QUNO hosts CFSC for the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

For the last two weeks of April, QUNO hosted partners from the Canadian Friends Service Committee (CFSC) in New York for the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Canadian Friends carry the program on Indigenous issues for the Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC), and have been engaged internationally for many years, including on the drafting and adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This year CFSC contributed to three joint statements: Outcome of the World Conference on Indigenous Issues, Implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (read by National Chief Perry Bellegarde), and Eradicating violence against Indigenous women and girls

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April 2015

QUNO hosts event on children of incarcerated parents at the 13th UN Congress of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice

QUNO's Laurel Townhead and Rachel Brett presented the findings of the COPING project, a transnational research project looking at the impact of parental incarceration on the mental health and well being of children at the Thirteenth UN Congress of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Doha, Qatar.

The COPING project examined ways criminal justice professionals and others can support children's resilience and the session will cover recent developments in the UN human rights system in the promotion and protection of the rights of children of incarcerated parents, including children of parents sentenced to death. Following the presentations was an opportunity to discuss these issues and to share examples of national practice.

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May 2015

QUNO co-hosts side event at the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Vienna

QUNO, together with Friends World Committee for Consultation and Penal Reform International, hosted a side event at the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Vienna on Friday, 22 May 2015. The event presented an opportunity for further discussion following the presentation to the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice​ (CCPCJ) of the ninth quinquennial report of the UN Secretary-General on "Capital punishment and implementation of the safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty." Further details are available in the flyer below. 

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