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GSS Geneva Seminar on Religions and gender-related rights

GSS Geneva Seminar on Religions and gender-related rights

What we achieved in 2016:


In 2016, GHR gave a course during each normal session of the UN Human Rights Council (GDH-GSC):

 GSC-38: 27 February – 11 March 2016 (31st session of the HR-Council);
GSC-39: 13 – 24 June 2016 (32nd session of the HR-Council);
GSC-40: 12 – 23 September 2016 (33rd session of the HR-Council).


The organisation invited diplomats, officials and NGO’s to its ‘Geneva Specific Seminars (GDH-GSS)’ : 

GDH GSS death penalty rev 1 web


What we achieved in 2015:

In 2015, GHR conducted its three Geneva Courses  during the ordinary sessions of the Human Rights Council.

  • three Geneva Courses on the occasion of the ordinary sessions of the Human Rights Council in March, June and September 2015;
  • three Expert Seminars, on Business and Human Rights (with the Ebert Foundation); on Religions and gender-related rights; and on Religions, Conflicts and Minorities (with the University of Padova);
  • a specific Geneva Course for Burmese Lawyers (with the Human Rights Institute of the International Bar Association);
  • several courses and briefings during the sessions of the UPR Working group;
  • the animation first global pilot of the Institute ‘Women’s Institute on Peace and Security’ (with Cordaid, January 2015, Istanbul);
  • a dozen lectures for our partners, in particular universities and the OHCHR.



As in previous years, all GHR trainers worked pro bono. For the three Geneva Courses of 2015, the two full-time trainers were Edward Flynn (Ireland, Vivat International) and Adrien-Claude Zoller (Switzerland, GHR).  Four other experts lectured during these courses: Ms. Danica Finger (Germany), René Kosirnik (Switzerland), Ruki Fernando (Sri Lanka), and Rogier Huizenga (the Netherlands, IPU).

37th Geneva Course (GSC-37)   14 – 25 September 2015

17 defenders attended GHR 37th Geneva Course  conducted during the 30th session of the HR-Council

Thirteen defenders came from the regions: from Bosnia Herzegoniva, Namibia, Tanzania (2), Mali, Philippines (2), West Papua, Armenia (2), Nicaragua, Guatemala, Colombia. The other participants were students and members from partner organisations from Austria, Ireland, Romania, and Hungary.

The General Course took place from 14 to 18 September, with the full-day course on Tuesday 15. The special courses concerned enforced or involuntary disappearances; the OHCHR; the use of the special procedures; and the UN and women’s rights.

Additional Courses were given during the second week on the UPR; transitional justice; the UN and indigenous peoples; country situations in the HR-Council; Sri Lanka (Commissions of inquiry and OHCHR); International Humanitarian Law; International Criminal Law; and Human Rights Treaty Bodies.
The trainers held private meetings with the trainees from Namibia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Guatemala, Tanzania, Philippines, Armenia and Papua to discuss their follow-up initiatives in their countries. All the trainees obtained their certificate.

36th Geneva Course (GSC-36)    12 – 26 June 2015

17 defenders attended GHR 36th Geneva Course during the 29th session of the HR-Council

The 17 participants included 4 defenders from the regions: Myanmar, India (2) and Sri Lanka. Other participants were students, nationals from Spain, Italy-Morocco, Italy, France (2), Norway (2), Switzerland-Korea, Switzerland-Portugal, Switzerland (2), and the USA.

The General Course started on Friday 12 June with an introduction to human rights standards. It continued on Monday 15 June with the opening of the 29th session of the HR-Council and the course on the tools of the Council. During this first week, the trainers gave special courses on the UN and Human Rights; the use of Special Procedures; the right to freedom of expression; the UN and Freedom of Religion and Belief; the UN and Women’s Rights; the UPR; and the OHCHR.

Additional Courses during Week-2 were given on business and human rights; International Humanitarian Law; country situations and strategies; transitional justice; and implementation inside countries.

All the trainees also participated in GHR Expert Seminar on religions and gender (18 June). The trainers had individual meetings with the trainees from Burma, Sri Lanka and India. All the trainees obtained the Course’s certificate.

35th Geneva Course (GSC-35)     2 – 13 March 2015

17 defenders attended GHR 35th Geneva Course conducted during the 28th session of the HR-Council

There were eleven defenders from the regions: from Cambodia (2), Taiwan, Philippines, West Papua, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, Brazil, Guatemala, Uruguay. The other trainees were students from Australia , Finland, Italy, Switzerland, and the USA (2).

The General Course took place from 2 to 7 March, with the full-day class on Saturday 7 March. Special Courses were given on the work of the HR-Council; the Special procedures (and how to write to thematic mandate holders); women’s rights; religious freedom; the international human rights standards; the UPR; and treaty bodies.

During the second week, after the analysis of the reports submitted to the Council and of the Council’s debates, the trainers gave additional courses during the daily morning classes on human rights defenders and civil society; International Humanitarian Law; International Criminal Law; Transitional Justice; and economic, social, and cultural rights.

The recapitulation of the course and GHR course on implementation in the countries were presented during the last class on Friday 13 March. The farewell dinner with the certificates took place on Friday Evening 13 March. All 17 trainees received a certificate.

During the Course, GHR trainers met individually with the trainees from Cambodia, Guatemala, the Netherlands, and Uruguay to discuss their specific follow-up initiatives. The participant from Uruguay attended several meeting on human rights and environment, and the one from Guatemala met with assistant of Special Rapporteur on transitional justice.



GHR elaborated a specific training scheme, covering all the stages of UPR, and highlighting the importance of bolstering the cooperation with the States, with the special procedures and the treaty bodies.

As many NGO coalitions come to Geneva to attend the review of their country, since December 2008 GHR offers briefings and orientation at each UPR session. GHR main training activities during the UPR sessions in 2015 were:

  • Briefing to NGOs from Laos (20 January);
  • Briefing to NGOs from Honduras (with Misereor, 12 March);
  • Briefing to the NGO delegation from Honduras (convened by the F. Ebert Foundation, 8 May);
  • During the 10th UPR training for civil society organisations, conducted in Geneva by CIPHEDOP from 27 October to 2 November, 30 trainees attended the course given by Adrien-Claude Zoller on the UPR mechanism (27 October); the trainees came from Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Congo, DRC, Ivory Coast, Mali, Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, Malaysia, Nepal, Hawai, Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Moldavia, Ukraine, Canada and Switzerland;
  • Chairing the side-event of FES with Nepalese NGOs (on the occasion of UPR, 4 November 2015);
  • Briefing to Australian partners (9 November 2015).



Since 2006, GHR has a special Training Fellowship Fund for Defenders from the Regions to offer fellowships to be trained in the Geneva Courses. A fellowship for a defender from the regions covers the registration fees for the Geneva Course, the travel expenses to and from Geneva, and to the cost of living in Geneva. GHR Executive Council and its Bureau award the scholarships following the recommendations of GHR advisors and partners in the regions. In 2015, UEM (Wuppertal), Bread for the World (Berlin), and Vivat International (Geneva) contributed to this Fund. Seven fellowships were awarded to trainees from Cambodia (2), Burma, Namibia, Guatemala, Tanzania and Armenia.


What we achieved in 2014:

  • three Geneva Courses on the occasion of the ordinary sessions of the Human Rights Council in March, June and September 2014;
  • four Expert Seminars, on Indigenous Peoples, on International Criminal Law, on Enforced Disappearance and on Business and Human Rights;
  • a specific Geneva Course for Uyghur Representatives;
  • several briefings during the sessions of the UPR Working group;
  • two In-Country Courses in India (for Tibetans) and in Nepal;
  • the second national Implementation Workshop in Botswana;
  • a dozen lectures for our partners, in particular universities and the OHCHR.
Geneva Course GSC-32 –  (3 – 21 March 2014)

21 defenders attended GHR 32nd Geneva Course conducted during the 25th session of the HR-Council

Thirteen trainees came from the regions: from Panamá, Venezuela, Palestine, Iraq, Tanzania, Angola, Iran, India, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Sri Lanka (3). Four trainees were from partner organizations: AFEDEM-Congo (two trainees from France) and Yellowcross International (two Sri-Lankans from Switzerland). The other participants were students from Denmark, Ireland, Italy and Norway.

 The full-time trainers were Edward Flynn (Ireland, Geneva Representative of Vivat International) andAdrien-Claude Zoller (Course Director, Switzerland). The other trainers were René Kosirnik (Legal Advisor GHR, Course on IHL, Switzerland), Penny Parker (Course on treaty bodies, USA) and Helen Walker (Course on persons with disabilities).         Support staff: Maria Teresa Tienda Rivera (Course Coordinator, Spain), Nicolas Zoller (GHR IT Officer, Switzerland) and George D’Souza(Advisor, India).

GHR  32th  Geneva Course took place from 3 to 21 March 2014, during the 25th session of the HR-Council. Since the creation of the HR-Council in 2006, GHR has conducted this 3-week Geneva Course at each ordinary session of the Council.

The Course had two segments: the General Course (3 to 8 March 2014) to teach the international system; and the Course on the proceedings of the Council (10 to 21 March) had daily morning classes to analyze the debates in the HR-Council (which the trainees learn to monitor) and taught  drafting communications to the UN special procedures. Every day, GHR trainers summarized the reports submitted by the Experts and the OHCHR, and explained the ongoing negotiations.

To obtain the Course’s certificate, trainees compied with several tasks, including reading reports submitted to the Council, drafting reports on the deliberations in the Council, a summary of the situation in their country and a communication to the UN thematic procedures; there were also three written tests.

Indigenous Peoples: Expert Seminar

GHR Expert Seminar took place on 19 March 2014. Theme was ‘Indigenous Peoples: Towards the World Conference’. The Seminar discussed the UN action regarding indigenous peoples (Working groups, Sub-Commission, Commission, Council, Special procedures, treaty bodies, Permanent Forum) and the preparation of the World Conference, which shall take place next September 2014 in New York. For more information, contact

Research institutes: visit to Galway

On 10 – 11 February 2014, a delegation of GHR  visited the Irish Centre for Human Rights of the National University of Ireland, in Galway. With the Director of the Centre, Prof. Michael O´Flaherty, GHR had an exchange of views on GHR study programme and Experts Seminars. Prof. O’Flaherty is a member of GHR as well. During this visit, GHR President addressed Master students on the main challenges facing the HR-Council.

Botswana: 2nd National Workshop on the National Plan

In April 2013, GHR actively participated in a first National Workshop in Botswana to prepare a Comprehensive National Human Rights Strategy and National Action Plan (CHRSNAP). Botswana’s 2nd National Workshop took place from 24 to 27 February 2014 to elaborate the National Action Plan. The Workshop was facilitated by Adrien-Claude Zoller. More on the background to this Implementation initiative.

GHR General Assembly 2014

The 13th General Assembly of Geneva for Human Rights took place on Thursday afternoon 6 March 2014.  Secretariat

31st Geneva Course for defenders from the regions

Twenty human rights defenders attended the 31st Geneva Course (9 – 27 September 2013), which took place during the 24th session of the UN Human Rights. 13 trainees came from the regions: Sri Lanka, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia (incl. one from Papua), Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Brazil. The others were GHRfellows and graduate students from Italy, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, the United States and Switzerland.

The Course was conducted by Edward Flynn, Adrien-Claude Zoller, René Kosirnik, Ms. Maria Teresa Tienda Rivera.The other resource persons for the Course were Ms. Agnès Gràcia Corberó (Project Officer, Spain) and Nicolas Zoller (IT Officer). More.


UPR: GHR invites defenders from Saudi Arabia

For the 17th session of the UN Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), GHR invited to Geneva human rights defenders from Saudi Arabia to monitor the review of their country (Geneva, 17 – 24 October 2013). Briefing and orientation was provided by GHR team composed of Maria Teresa Tienda Rivera (Secretariat Coordinator), and two Project Officers, Alex Guye (Switzerland) and Nuno Santos Rocha (Portugal).

UPR: Side-event with Jordanian NGOs

During the UPR session, GHR met the coalition of NGOs from Jordan hosted by the Ebert Foundation. GHR was involved in the Ebert Foundation’s side-event, which discussed the main human rights issues of Jordan, the recommendations of the civil society, and those made by the States during the review. The event was moderated by the President of GHR (25 October 2013).

Minorities: Training for OHCHR

On the eve of the 6th session of the UN Forum on Minority Issues, OHCHR invited Adrien-Claude Zoller to give a Course to OHCHR Minority Fellows and staff on the ‘Minority rights in the League of Nations and in the UN system’ (5 November 2013). His Course focused on the international policies regarding minority protection. The 13 participants came from England, Canada, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Sudan, Latvia, Nepal, and Colombia.

GHR Board member: Nicolas Joffre passed over

On 4 November 2013, GHR board member Nicolas Pierre Abel Joffré passed over. As a wise architect, he built our pivotal Department of Human Rights Policy Studies, which ensures our knowledge and the quality of our teaching. From 2005 to 2010, Nicolas Joffré coordinated the Department. Since 2003 he was Executive Council member. During seven years, he resisted to his illness. Ultimately, he lost this battle. He was 39.

During all these years, we all learned a lot from Nicolas Joffré, in particular from his unlimited efforts to be always available, at the service of all the defenders GHR trains. He was a great defender. We really miss him.

Enforced Disappearances: GHR 2nd Expert Seminar

GHR second Expert Seminar on Enforced Disappearances took place on Thursday 7 November. Theme was ‘The pivotal role of the CED in the treaty bodies and in the thematic procedures’.The Seminar was sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Argentina and France. Ambassador Alberto Pedro D’Alotto (Argentina) and GHR President Adrien-Claude Zoller co-chaired the Seminar.

14 (out of 15) members of the Committee and of the Working Group attended, as well as delegates from 11 countries, eight NGOs and OHCHR staff members. Special guest was French expert Louis Joinet, who just published his Memoirs. The Working Group member Prof. Olivier de Frouville introduced the Memoirs, and highlighted Louis Joinet’s significant contribution to main chapters of the UN human rights programme, in particular those on impunity and on the crime of enforced or involuntary disappearances.

The Seminar focused on the promotion of a system-wide coherence in the fields of doctrine and action regarding enforced disappearances. Amb. D’Alotto and the Chairs of the Committee and of the Working Group made the key-note speeches. More.

Course at the University of Padova

The Masters programme of the University of Padova’s has set-up a ‘Padova Human Rights Laboratory’. It invites field experts in human rights and humanitarian action, international organizations’ officers, diplomats, practitioners, and scholars from foreign universities and research centres to address students and the faculty and report on their experience and studies. On 12 and 13 November 2013, Adrien-Claude Zoller contributed to the first Human Rights Laboratory. Theme of his Course was ‘The decision making process in the UN regarding human rights violations since 1945’.

Forum on Business and Human Rights: GHR briefing

The Ebert Foundation (FES) brought to Geneva eighteen CSO representatives (human rights NGOs, national institutions, trade unionists) to attend the 2nd session of the UN Forum. On 2 December 2013, GHR joined the FES to conduct a briefing for these defenders from Macedonia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Singapore, Philippines, Mongolia, Malawi, Kenya, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, Argentina, Ecuador, Guatemala and Peru. Six of them were sponsored by the FES. The others were funded by a grant of the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs. Three delegates of ‘Forum Asia’ were also present. Felix Kirchmeier (FES) and Adrien-Claude Zoller conducted the session.

Implementation Programme: International Seminar in Morocco

With the support of the UNDP, the OHCHR and the Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF), Morocco’s Inter-ministerial Delegation for Human Rights (DIDH) convened an International Seminar in Skhirat (3 and 4 December 2013). Theme was the ‘Follow-up to the Implementation of the Recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review and Strategic Planning in the field of Human Rights: Compared Experiences and Good Practices’.

About 200 persons attended. GHR contributed to this Seminar. To discuss the good practices of other States, diplomats from Thailand, Mexico, Mauritius, France, and OHCHR, OIF and GHR Representatives presented their experiences. Interestingly, the Action Plan of Morocco concerns all the UN recommendations (UPR, thematic procedures and treaty bodies). More.

GHR: Meeting of the Bureau

Meeting in GHR Secretariat on 17 December 2013, the Bureau of the Executive Council prepared the financial report and adopted the guidelines for the annual narrative report and for Action Plan 2014. The Bureau is composed of four members of GHR Executive Committee, Alain Dick, Jean-Pierre Huber, Eric Revillet and Adrien-Claude Zoller.

Visit and Briefing in Dubai

On the invitation of the lawyers trained in 2013 in the Geneva Courses of June and September, GHR President paid a visit to the United Arab Emirates (3 to 5 January 2014). A series of meetings took place, during which he provided information and orientation on strategies to develop their work at domestic and international levels and to set-up their organization.

Course at the Catholic University Lyon

The Human Rights Institute of the Catholic of Lyon has longstanding working relations with the UN Secretariat in Geneva. His Director, André S. Dizdarevic, welcomed Adrien-Claude Zoller in the Institute. On this occasion, the President of GHR addressed a group of forty-six students of their Master Programme (17 January 2014). His lecture focused on the trends in the multilateral negotiations regarding human rights, in particular in the HR-Council.