Activities 2005 - Abstract
The Icelandic Human Rights Centre was founded on 17 June 1994 by nine organizations and institutions working in various fields of human rights. Partners today are the Icelandic Red Cross Society, the Icelandic Section of Amnesty International, the Bishop’s Office of the Lutheran Church (the national church of Iceland), the Icelandic Church Aid, the National Federation for the Aid of the Disabled, the Office for Gender Equality, the Organisation of Disabled in Iceland, Save the Children, UNIFEM, the Women’s Rights Association, the Association of ‘78 (Association of homosexuals) and the University of Akureyri.
The purpose and aim of the Centre is to promote human rights by collecting information on and raising awareness of human rights issues in Iceland and abroad. The Centre works to make human rights information accessible to the public by organising conferences and seminars on human rights issues and by providing human rights education. The Centre also promotes legal reform and research on human rights issues and has established the only specialised human rights library in Iceland. Furthermore, the Centre is a member of the AHRI network and the Nordic School of Human Rights Research. In addition, the Centre serves a monitoring role and has, since its inception, commented on dozens of bills of law and provided information to international monitoring bodies on the state of human rights in Iceland.
Conferences, seminars and lectures
Conferences, seminars and lectures are organized by the Centre on a regular basis. In 2005 the Centre held conferences and seminars on the following topics:
Human rights provisions in the Icelandic Constitution.
Women’s human rights and the right to health.
Violence against women, the need for legal reform.
National human rights institutions.
Peace movements in the Occupied Territories in Palestine.
The role of non-governmental organisations in promoting human rights.
Topics of upcoming seminars, courses and conferences in 2006 include: ‘The meaning of human rights’, ‘Human rights and business’, ‘Justiciability of economic, social and cultural rights’, ‘The role of private actors in promoting human rights’, ‘Due diligence and violence against women’, ‘The report of the CoE Commissioner for Human Rights on Iceland’, ‘The role of national human rights institutions in human rights promotion’, ‘Art and human rights’ and ‘Gender and human rights’.
Campaign to combat violence against women
The Centre works actively to promote an action-plan to combat gender-based violence in Iceland base on a draft formulated at the Centre in 2004. In 2005 the Centre participated in the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence campaign and held a seminar on women’s human rights and health in connection with that campaign and raised the issue of domestic abuse in the media.
Campaign to promote the rights of asylum seekers
The Centre works actively in promoting due process in asylum cases and rights of asylum seekers in general. The Centre participates in visits to Iceland’s reception centre.
The Centre works actively to promote human rights issues in the media. The most prominent issues in 2005 were violence against women, immigration, refugee rights and asylum and funding for human rights work, as the Government drastically cut the Centre’s funding, without prior warning or negotiation in 2004.
Comments on bills of law
The Icelandic Human Rights Centre comments on bills of law presented at the Parliament (Althingi), with the aim of ensuring that Icelandic law is in accordance with the Iceland’s international human rights obligations. In the year 2005 the Centre commented on a bill on the Schengen information system, a bill on water rights, a bill amending the law incorporating the European Convention into domestic legislation No. 62/1994, a bill amending the Act on Foreigners No. 96/2002, a bill amending the Act on Employment Rights of Foreigners, No. 97/2002, a new bill on prisoners, a bill criminalising female genital mutilation.
The Centre files additional reports with United Nations treaty monitoring bodies and reports to the Council of Europe.
Notes on Iceland’s Combined Seventeenth and Eighteenth Periodic Reports on Implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
The Centre provided the CERD-Committee with information and held a briefing session with Committee members in connection with discussion of Iceland’s Seventeenth and Eighteenth Periodic Reports on Implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
National correspondence to the CoE Directorate General of Human Rights
The Centre services the Council of Europe Information Office on Human Rights with regular information about developments in the use and influence of the European Convention on Human Rights on legislation and judicial practices in Iceland.
The Icelandic Human Rights Centre publishes a human rights reports series on various topics. In 2005 work continued on a forthcoming report on the participation of the Icelandic Government in international human rights promotion, a report on human Rights in Icelandic development co-operation projects and a compilation of decisions of international human rights bodies on human rights.
The Centre contributes to the Human Rights Education Project, published by the UN University for Peace with support from the Government of the Netherlands. The Project consists of three books and a CD-ROM: The Human Rights Reference Handbook, Universal and Regional Human Rights Protection: Cases and Commentaries, Human Rights Instruments and Human Rights Ideas, Concepts and Fora. The materials have been distributed world-wide. Currently, the Centre, with assistance from Masters students at the University for Peace is charged with developing a human rights portal where materials from the Human Rights Education Project are made accessible on the Internet. The Centre is also developing a web portal Human Rights in Iceland where materials on human rights in Iceland are made easily accessible.
Furthermore, the Centre is a limited party to the publication of the Nordic Journal of Human Rights in co-operation with the Nordic Human Rights Institutes and the Yearbook of Human Rights in Development, which is a co-operation project of several European human rights institutes.
The Centre works in co-operation with various organizations and institutions in other countries. It works with the UN University for Peace in Costa Rica and is a partner organization to the Danish Institute for Human Rights, the Norwegian Institute for Human Rights, the Raoul Wallenberg Institute for International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law in Lund, Sweden and the Abo Institute for Human Rights in Finland. The Centre is also a member of the Association of Human Rights Institutes – AHRI – that was founded in Iceland in September 2000. The Director of the Icelandic Human Rights Centre was elected its first chairperson. In 2005 the Icelandic Human Rights Centre participated in the work of AHRI and the Nordic co-operation by, inter alia, taking part in contributing to a report on the Nordic Roundtable on Protocol No.12 to the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and a series of meetings on proposed reform of the United Nations human rights system. The Centre also joined the Coalition for an Optional Protocol to the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.