The High Commissioner paints a grim picture of the human rights challenges facing the global community, including mounting conflicts, attacks on civil society groups, a rise in government hate speech and discrimination, and violations and abuses so widespread that it seems as if not just basic protections and freedoms, but the human rights framework itself, are under attack.
As the Council enters its 10th year, what will be needed to address these challenges?
First, many have rightly put the emphasis on the need for implementation of existing resolutions, if the Council is to have relevance and impact on the ground. For example:
- We welcomed Sri Lanka’s cosponsorship and commitment to implementation of the landmark resolution adopted by consensus last September, but were concerned at high-level government statements earlier this year calling into question its commitment to abide by the resolution’s provisions on an accountability mechanism. We urge the government to deliver on its commitments to the Council through full implementation of the resolution, and we look forward to the High Commissioner’s oral update on progress towards that end in June.
- Similarly, a key provision of the resolution on Yemen adopted last September was cooperation by the Yemeni authorities with the OHCHR. We were therefore dismayed at the expulsion of the High Commissioner’s representative to the country in January, although hastily rescinded, and a recent unprecedented smear campaign against the same representative, exposing the High Commissioner’s team to real risk of reprisals. As unlawful attacks against civilians continue, these actions call into question Yemen’s commitment to meaningful cooperation required by this Council’s resolution, and reinforce the need for an international investigation into violations by all sides.
Second, those who aspire to membership in the Council should expect their own actions to be subject to greater scrutiny, not less:
- Burundi should be held accountable as a Council member for the deteriorating human rights situation, including the cycle of killings and impunity, the increasing number of enforced disappearances, and numerous cases of arbitrary arrest and torture.
- We express profound concern at the relentless crackdown on civil society taking place in China, and the brazenness with which this suppression of dissenting voices has now expanded to include human rights defenders, outspoken booksellers and lawyers, increasingly with extraterritorial reach. As we mark the two-year anniversary of the death in custody of activist Cao Shunli, the time has come for collective action to send a clear message that trampling dissent cannot be perpetrated with impunity.
Finally, the Council should do more to address global crises in which it is underperforming. As refugees and asylum seekers continue to face danger and death seeking safety in Europe, and the continent turns its back, more is needed to ensure respect in all regions for the right to seek asylum, the right of non-refoulement, safe and legal processing, and respect for the rights of migrants and asylum seekers throughout the process. We would welcome the High Commissioner’s views on what more the Council can do to ensure that global responses are consistent with the international human rights framework.