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We appreciated the High Commissioner’s recent briefing to the Council and look forward to today’s enhanced interactive dialogue on the human rights of migrants. We are particularly concerned at recent reports that Australia has actually paid migrant smugglers to turn back. We call on the delegation to exercise its right of reply to confirm whether or not these reports are accurate, since if so, this may represent a serious breach of Australia’s legal obligations.

We share the High Commissioner’s concern at relentless crackdowns on civil society and stifling of dissent in numerous parts of the world.

We are extremely concerned by continued efforts by the Egyptian Government to restrict the activities of independent human rights NGOs. In November, authorities threatened to close down any organizations that would not register under the restrictive Law 84/2002 leading many to shut down programs or relocate abroad. On 9 June, authorities launched an investigation under that same law into the activities of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. This marks a serious escalation of the crackdown against human rights NGOs. We call on the High Commissioner to stand up in support of Egypt's civil society and to urge the Egyptian Government to immediately end its harassment of the Cairo Institute and other human rights groups.

We remain profoundly concerned by the government of Azerbaijan’s continued imprisonment of dozens of civil society activists on wrongful charges, including most of the country’s leading human rights leaders and investigative journalists, such as Intigam Aliyev and Rasul Jafarov, who have been sentenced to 6.5 and 7.5 years in prison, and Leyla Yunus, her husband Arif, and Khadija Ismailyova, who are in pre-trial custody. We urge the High Commissioner to call for their immediate and unconditional release, and for the government to end its brutal crackdown on civil society and human rights work.

We are dismayed that Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court recently upheld the flogging and 10-year prison sentence of Raif Badawi, imposed for peacefully exercising his freedom of expression on religious and social matters. This sentence is inconsistent with Saudi Arabia’s obligations under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. It also undermines both the spirit and intent of the recent conference on “combatting religious intolerance” hosted by the OIC in Jeddah as part of the Istanbul process in follow-up to this Council’s resolution 16/18.

Also of concern are Russia’s steps to compound the draconian effect of its notorious “foreign agents” law with new legislation enabling the government to extrajudicially ban foreign or international groups as “undesirable", and punish local groups and individuals for "involvement" with them, in a move that will further restrict freedom of expression and association.

This session marks a midway point in the time given to the Sri Lankan government to demonstrate its willingness to cooperate on human rights issues. The UN Special Rapporteur on transitional justice notes that “it is imperative for Sri Lanka to take some immediate action to demonstrate its commitment to redressing past violations”, including: clarifying the fate of the disappeared; addressing land issues; and the immediate ending of continuing forms of harassment, violence and unjustified surveillance of civil society and victims of rights abuses. 

In establishing a credible and transparent justice and accountability process, the new government in Sri Lanka should ensure genuine consultations with those affected by violations, enhance the security and independence of the process through a mechanism with a majority of international judges and prosecutors, take immediate steps towards resolving key outstanding issues, and keep its promise to the UN to fully cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and allow it full access to any new or additional information it may require.

We welcome the High Commissioner’s report to this session on ending discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The violations described in the report are systemic, and require systemic responses. The HRC should ensure regular reporting, constructive dialogue and sustained attention to the breadth of human rights violations and abuses on these grounds.

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