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We share the High Commissioner’s profound concern at restrictions, harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders and civil society organisations in countries and regions around the world.

While recent releases of some human rights defenders, activists, and journalists in Azerbaijan are a step in the right direction, the unjust convictions and continued systemic restrictions on the work of many of these defenders, and on non-governmental organizations in general, remain in place, and there is a need for concerted follow-up to ensure further releases and systemic reforms. We urge the Government to accept the High Commissioner’s offer of dialogue to ensure these issues are meaningfully and promptly addressed.

We appreciate the High Commissioner’s public statement urging Egypt to halt its repression of NGOs, and end travel bans, asset freezes and threats of closure. We similarly welcome the recent European Parliament resolution condemning the torture and murder of Italian student Giulio Regeni, which noted that his body showed signs of something “inhuman, animal-like, an unacceptable violence”, while also underlining “with grave concern that the case … is not an isolated incident but that it occurred within a context of torture, death in custody and enforced disappearances across Egypt in recent years”. The time is past due for States at this Council to exercise leadership and raise their voices collectively to condemn the crackdown in Egypt and call for an end to violations and a reform of repressive laws.

The joint statement delivered at the last session condemning the relentless crackdown on civil society taking place in China sent a powerful message that the suppression of dissenting voices cannot be perpetrated with impunity.  As we approach the one-year anniversary of the July 2015 crackdown on lawyers—which has left about two dozen people still in detention - we encourage the High Commissioner to continue to speak out strongly and States to ensure follow-up to the joint statement by raising concerns at these violations throughout the Council agenda.

We share the High Commissioner’s concern at threats and reprisals directed at human rights defenders, and appreciate the President’s acknowledgment that threats – online or offline – are unacceptable and need to be denounced in any form. The barrage of Russian-led amendments at the last session designed to strip the term “human rights defenders” from a resolution on human rights defenders hardly set the right tone, and provided the context in which a human rights defender received a serious threat on Twitter from an accredited governmental delegate in room XX, and we welcome the President’s assurance that the matter remains under active consideration.

In addition to the human rights violations identified by the High Commissioner in Bahrain, we were concerned to hear reports just this morning of the re-arrest of Nabeel Rajab, and an apparent travel ban preventing a civil society delegation from travelling to Geneva to participate in the current session of the Human Rights Council.

We welcome the High Commissioner’s recent report on creating a safe and enabling environment for civil society and urge states to translate his recommendations into reality.

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