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Human Rights Council Concludes General Debate on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention

22 March 2022

The Human Rights Council in a midday meeting concluded its general debate on agenda item four on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention, after hearing from speakers who raised a range of different topics, including the politicisation of the Council and that country-specific mandates and resolutions ran counter to its mandate; the effects of the pandemic on the enjoyment of a range of rights, including the right to development; the rise of hate speech; the shrinking of space for civil society; threats to the freedom of expression; threats to civilians during conflict; as well as a range of violations in many countries and regions.

The politicisation of the Council was an issue that it could not afford, some speakers said. It was up to the Council to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights on the ground, without bias, and whilst respecting the sovereignty of each State. The Council needed to serve humanity, protect human rights, and contribute to the humanist goals of the United Nations through impartiality and independence, respecting the principles enshrined in its Charter. Council initiatives should favour dialogue, as selectivity and politicisation ran counter to its work, making it harder to uphold the rights of millions of people. Its discussions should be fully transparent.

Some speakers said that country-specific mechanisms and resolutions ran counter to the Council’s mandate to be impartial and non-selective. Country-specific resolutions only served to polarise the work of the Council, and were a drain on the Council’s resources, which could be better spent on other areas that required urgent attention. There should be clearer criteria for the appointment of persons as mandate holders. The Council should focus on developing technical ability and providing capacity building to States, rather than targeting specific States, which only weakened confidence in it. The trend to country-specific mandates and resolutions needed to be reversed. The growing polarisation of the Council was undermining its efforts and making it ineffective.

The COVID-19 pandemic was entering its third year, having wreaked havoc on many levels, and to build back better should be the Council’s priority, said some speakers. The pandemic had had a grave effect on the economic, social and cultural rights of millions, in particular the right to development, and all States should uphold solidarity and multilateralism in working to ensure that all countries emerged from its shadow. The health crisis had exacerbated inequalities throughout the world, and States must do more, within the fragile security context, to implement their international commitments in the field of human rights. All human rights, in particular the right to development, were interdependent, intertwined, and indivisible. The impact of climate change on human rights should also not be neglected, nor ignored.

Hate speech was polarising people and societies, and more should be done to ensure cooperation, rather than continuing antagonism. The rights of minorities should be a priority within States. Human rights were mutually reinforcing, and should be ensured without discrimination. Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism were tools in spreading the hatred of Jews. Anti-Zionism was racism. The assimilation of a people by intensifying control of language and culture was also a form of racism and violation of human rights. The war crime of usurpation of sovereignty, whether through invasion or colonisation, was a historic crime which required addressing.

The guarantee to access human rights should be ensured for all, without discrimination, and in particular without being impeded by the imposition of unilateral coercive measures, which impeded access to many rights, including the right to health and the right to development. Hostilities against Muslims online were also symptomatic of a wide-ranging trend, namely that of marginalised groups, which also included Christians, creating an untenable situation for minorities in many areas. All religious minorities should be allowed to express their faith freely.

The death penalty was an issue of concern, and a grave violation of human rights, some speakers said. Accountability must be ensured for all human rights violations, and all perpetrators of such violators must be held to account. There should be fair trials and an end to arbitrary detention for all prisoners. Human rights should not be politicised, regardless of national conditions. The United Nations must listen to the voices of those who were condemned to death and ensure that all could live lives without being tormented by the fear of State-mandated death.

A number of speakers said that freedom of expression and access to information were vital for democratic States, and all should work to ensure that journalists and other media workers could do their work without the fear of reprisals or the threat of violence in any form. The limitation of access to information needed to be reversed, in particular the limitation of access in particular languages, which was a racist policy. Censorship should not be tolerated. Political pluralism was essential for a democratic State to function correctly.

The shrinking space for civil society around the globe was a grave development, and all States should work to ensure that civil society and media workers could function in a safe and non-restricted space. The erosion of the fight against corruption and impunity was a concern in various areas of the globe, with the legal professionals thwarted in the search for justice. The collapse of the justice system led to threats and perils for human rights defenders, in particular those who defended land rights and the environment. Private entities were used to quell social protest in this regard. Human rights defenders should be protected and defended, not persecuted.

Conflicts always exacted the heaviest toll on civilians, including the threat of systematic sexual violence. Children must be protected in situations of conflict. Safe passage to civilians should be ensured in all situations of conflict, and civilian infrastructure should not be targeted. Rapid humanitarian access must be ensured in all cases, and humanitarian workers should not be targeted. The tools to see peace prevail now and always were already in hand, and they needed to be used. The rights of refugees should not be ignored - humanitarian corridors must be both implemented and respected. States must protect the rights of refugees and ensure that they not be further victimised by becoming the victims of trafficking, and that they be given access to health services, including sexual and reproductive health, especially for women and girls. The use of children in conflict was unjustifiable, and the international community should intervene in all situations where it occurred, ensuring that it could not continue, and that the perpetrators were punished. The international community should condemn all of the violations of children’s rights.

The systematic erosion of women’s rights was an issue of grave concern. Every country had room for improvement of human rights: the promotion and protection of human rights was a work of progress across the globe, and all should work constructively in that regard. All States should uphold multilateralism and solidarity, working to ensure that all persons enjoyed the highest possible standards of human rights.

The general debate on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention started on Monday, 21 March and a summary can be found here.

Speaking today were Cambodia, Australia, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Ireland, Belarus, Uruguay, Denmark, Belgium, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Czech Republic, Nicaragua, Malta, Georgia, South Sudan, Burundi, Sri Lanka, Cyprus, Syria, Iran, Ghana, Jordan, Madagascar, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkmenistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Liberia, Vietnam, Cabo Verde, Tanzania and Eritrea.

Also speaking were Center for Global Non-Killing, European Center for Law and Justice, B’nai B’rith, Human Rights Watch, Villages Unis, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Rahbord Peimayesh Research & Educational Services Cooperative, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Chinese Association for International Understanding, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, Dominicans for Justice and Peace, World Jewish Congress, Centre Europe Tiers Monde, Disability Association of Tavana, Jameh Ehyagaran Teb Sonnati Va Salamat Iranian, Khiam Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture, World Evangelical Alliance, Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man, Peace Track Initiative, Organization for Poverty Alleviation and Development, International Muslim Women’s Union, Human Rights House Foundation, Peace Brigades International, Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations, International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, Medical Support Association for Underprivileged Iranian Patients, Coordination des Associations et des particuliers pour la liberte de conscience , Minority Rights Group, Federation for Women for Family Planning, International Service for Human Rights, Baha’i International Community, British Humanist Association, Association of Iranian Short-Statured Adults, International Federation for the Protection of the Rights of Ethnic, Religious, Linguistic & Other Minorities, Franciscans International, Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, World Muslim Congress, Association d’entraide medicale Guinee, Conectas Direitos Humanos, Article 19- International Center Against Censorship, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, Right Livelihood Award Foundation, Africa Culture Internationale, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, International Buddhist Relief Organization, American Association of Jurists, Solidarite Suisse-Guinee, Al Baraem Association for Charitable Work, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, International Humanist and Ethical Union, African Green Foundation International, Ingenieurs du monde, Reseau Unite pour le Developpement de Mauritanie, Global Institute for Water, Environment and Health, Institut international pour le droit et le developpement, Beijing NGO Association for International Exchanges, Youth Parliament for SDG, International Council Supporting Fair Trial and Human Rights, Vivat International, China NGO Network for International Exchanges, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Next Century Foundation, Conselho Indigenista Missionário CIMI, United Nations Watch, Charitable Institute for Protecting Social Victims, Partners for Transparency, International Commission of Jurists, Zero Pauvres Afrique, Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling, International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Association Ma’onah for Human Rights and Immigration, iuventum e.V., Edmund Rice International, Platform for Youth Integration and Volunteerism, Civicus- World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Meezaan Center for Human Rights, Society for Threatened People, International Action for Peace and Sustainable Development, Association pour la défense des droits de l'homme et des revendications démocratiques/culturelles du peuple Azerbaidjanais-Iran - « ARC » , Amnesty International, Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches,Rencontre africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme, Promotion du developpement economique et social, Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Alliance Creative Community Project, Stichting Global Human Rights Defense, Commission africaine des promoteurs de la sante et des droits de l’homme , Human Rights Now, Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos, Asociación Civil , Reprieve, Global Appreciation and Skills Training Network, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain Inc., Alliance Defending Freedom, Alsalam Foundation. Iraqi Development Organization,Association Culturelle des Tamuls en France, Centre Zagros pour les droits de l’homme, Indigenous People of AFrica Coordinating Committee, Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Cooperation Economique Internationale , Global Welfare Association, Assocation pour l’integration et le developpement durable au Burundi , World Barua Association, Integrated Youth Empowerment- Common Human Rights Group, Association internationale pour l’egalite des femmes , Mother of Hope Cameroon Common Initiative Group, Praha, Human Is Right, Center for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, Shivi Development Society, Center for Gender Justice and Women’s Empowerment, Tumuku Development and Cultural Organization, Japan Society for History Textbook, Union of Northwest Human Rights Organization, Global Life Savers Inc, Comite international pour le respect et l’application de la Charte Africaine des droits de l’homme et des peoples , and Dignity-Danish Institute Against Torture.

Speaking in right of reply were Turkey, Cambodia, Lebanon, India, Lithuania, also speaking on behalf of Poland, Syria, China, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Russian Federation, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Armenia, Yemen, Japan, Indonesia, Tunisia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Belarus, Israel and Azerbaijan.

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-ninth regular session can be found here.

The Council will resume its work at 5:30 p.m. to hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on minority issues, followed by the presentation of reports and a general debate on agenda item five on human rights bodies and mechanisms, time permitting.

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