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Human Rights Council Continues General Debate on the High Commissioner’s Global Human Rights Update, as well as her Updates on Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Sri Lanka

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14 September 2021

​Afternoon, 14 September 2021

The Human Rights Council this afternoon continued the general debate on the global human rights update presented by Michele Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as her updates on Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Sri Lanka.

Speakers reiterated their deep concern over the reported violations and abuses of human rights across Afghanistan, which threatened to reverse the achievements of the Afghan people over the last two decades. They were particularly worried about the rights of women and girls, a fear shared by human rights defenders, journalists, civil society leaders, members of ethnic and religious minorities, and ordinary civilians increasingly targeted by the Taliban. Speakers were dismayed at the reported retaliation against those who had supported the building of a democratic Afghanistan based on the rule of law and human rights. They further called for the immediate cessation of violence against ethnic minorities, human rights defenders, journalists, members of the former government, and women and girls in Afghanistan. Some speakers echoed the High Commissioner's repeated call for the establishment of an independent mechanism to investigate all violations and abuses committed in Afghanistan, to promote accountability, and to monitor the human rights situation on the ground.

Speakers also expressed concerns about the Nicaraguan Government's systematic dismantling of all opposition political parties. They were further concerned by the threat to free and fair elections in November and called on the authorities to ensure full respect for civil and political rights in the context of the elections. Some speakers urged the Government to allow the Office of the High Commissioner to enter its territory in order for it to fulfil its mandate. Opposing those views, some speakers observed with concern the escalation of the situation around Nicaragua as the general elections approached. They stated that the wave of external pressure on Managua pursued only one goal - to remove the legitimate government from power through the use of political technologies, supplemented by illegal financial and humanitarian restrictions.

On Venezuela, speakers reiterated that the way out of the political, economic, social and humanitarian crisis could only be achieved through an inclusive political dialogue based on human rights. They strongly valued and supported the negotiation process that had taken place in Mexico between the Venezuelan Government and the opposition and hoped that this process would lead to a solution for the benefit of the Venezuelan people. The technical assistance provided by the Office of the High Commissioner should be reinforced by establishing a permanent presence in the country that would facilitate the implementation of the recommendations made by the High Commissioner. On the other hand, some speakers were saddened that human rights issues continued to be used by Western States and like-minded States to put pressure on Venezuela. This did not take into account the consequences of foreign sanctions and that the current humanitarian situation was a direct consequence of the use of illegal attacks against Venezuela.

Concerning Sri Lanka, some speakers noted the commitment of the authorities to address a set of problems in the human rights sphere, including through building cooperation with the Human Rights Council. They continued further positively assessing the course towards ensuring equal rights for representatives of all strata of the population and ethno-confessional groups and observed progress in the process of national reconciliation. Speakers repeated their negative attitude to the creation of mechanisms for collecting information, which clearly contradicted the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of States, insisting that investigation of violations and prosecution were the prerogative of Sri Lanka itself. Opposing those views, some speakers encouraged Sri Lanka to fully implement resolution 46/1, and ensure progress on reconciliation, accountability and human rights.

On the COVID-19 pandemic, speakers mentioned its significant impact on the promotion and protection of human rights globally. "Pandemics know no borders", they said, adding that nationalism in terms of vaccines was a dangerous solution, which unfortunately fed the risk of the multiplication of variants, including the most contagious. They shared their concerns that some States had used the shield of the pandemic to target human rights defenders, civil society, health workers and journalists. Speakers further expressed their opposition to States that had or continued to abuse emergency measures or use arbitrary detention to silence individuals for exercising their fundamental freedoms. They mentioned that access to justice and consular assistance to detained foreign and dual nationals should not be restricted, including under the guise of COVID-19.

Speakers fully supported the Council's stance on human rights defenders and the safety of journalists around the world, adding that the rights to freedom of opinion and expression as well as to peaceful assembly were basic human rights. Some speakers expressed concerns about the "Pegasus" programme, developed by a company called NSO Group, that had, since 2016, spied without a judicial warrant and in violation of all procedural rules on more than 50,000 people and entities. Further expressing their concerns, speakers mentioned that these practices constituted serious violations of fundamental human rights, invading privacy, violating freedom of opinion and expression and those of the media and more. They invited the Special Procedures to address this issue, in particular by ensuring strict supervision by a code of conduct for digital activities in relation to the exercise of human rights and democratic freedoms, and asking for a moratorium on the commercialisation of technologies that undermined democracy and fundamental freedoms.

The High Commissioner presented her global human rights update as well as updates on Venezuela, Afghanistan, Nicaragua and Sri Lanka on Monday, 13 September, and a summary can be found here. The statements of Venezuela, Afghanistan, Nicaragua and Sri Lanka speaking as countries concerned as well as the beginning of the general debate took place this morning and a summary can be found here.

Speaking during the general debate were Austria, Argentina, Netherlands, Bahrain, Cuba, Uruguay, Russian Federation, India, Nepal, Brazil, Namibia, China, Czech Republic, Bolivia, Pakistan, Mauritania, Sudan, Ukraine, Philippines, United Kingdom, Eritrea, Burkina Faso, Bangladesh, Côte d'Ivoire, Cameroon, Togo, Tunisia, Norway, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Qatar, Slovenia, Costa Rica, United Arab Emirates, Columbia, Egypt, Switzerland, Greece, Sovereign Order of Malta, Ecuador, Israel, Australia, Finland, Spain, Iraq, Thailand, South Africa, Albania, Kenya, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, United States, Belarus, Zimbabwe, Morocco, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Turkey, New Zealand, Ireland, Malaysia, Belgium, Singapore, Salvador, Croatia, Portugal, Iran, Syria, Estonia, Vanuatu, North Macedonia, Hungary, Dominican Republic, Georgia, Iceland, Afghanistan, Serbia, Jordan, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Algeria, Chile, Niger, Lebanon, Azerbaijan, Mali, Republic of Moldova, Sweden, Nigeria, Botswana, Kazakhstan, Cambodia, Panama, Timor-Leste, Maldives, Chad, Tanzania, South Sudan, Mauritius and Viet Nam.

Also taking the floor were the following national human rights institutions: Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, Australia Human Rights Commission on behalf of the Asia Pacific Forum, and National Human Rights Commission India.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here. All meeting summaries can be found here. Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council's forty-eighth regular session can be found here.

The Council will resume its work at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 15 September, to conclude the general debate on the High Commissioner's updates. It will then hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation.

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