The High Commissioner regularly brings to this Council’s attention severe human rights violations in all regions of the world. Too often, however, the Council’s response falls short.
One year ago, for example, the High Commissioner called for an international investigation into civilian deaths and injuries in Yemen. Instead, the Council opted to support a national process, which as the High Commissioner recently noted is “unable to implement its mandate in line with international standards.” In the meantime, more Yemeni civilians have lost their lives and their limbs in coalition-led airstrikes on homes, schools, hospitals, and marketplaces, and from landmines and indiscriminate shelling by Houthi and allied forces.
The Council’s willingness to do what it should have done a year ago and put in place an independent international investigation will be a litmus test of its ability to take effective action when civilian lives are at stake.
While we welcome the Special Session that took place last year on Burundi, killings, enforced disappearances, torture and arbitrary arrests continue unabated. After the High Commissioner’s team of experts reports back this session, there will be a gap, unless the Council creates a mechanism with a strong focus on accountability, to send a clear message that these violations cannot be perpetrated with impunity.
The Council similarly has an opportunity to take preventive action in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as the date set for stalled elections approaches, discontent increases and democratic space continues to shrink. The Council has the tools to ensure mechanisms are put in place for systematic monitoring, reporting, and rapid response before a volatile situation gets worse.
While individuals in all regions routinely face violence and discrimination because of their sexual orientation and gender identity, some delegations have vowed not to cooperate with any new mandate holder appointed to the position of Independent Expert created last June – even though cooperation with Council mechanisms is a requirement of membership. While we recognize the issues are sensitive for many, this session will be a test of the Council’s ability to rise above the polarization and appoint a qualified mandate-holder to address these very real human rights needs.
And the Council continues to underperform in addressing the human rights of migrants and refugees, and the surge of xenophobia and intolerance in Europe or, as the High Commissioner aptly put it, the “banalisation of bigotry.”
In its tenth anniversary year, the Council stands at a crossroads: three weeks from now we will know whether it has been able to put principle before politics, making a real difference where it matters most.