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Human Rights Council: With Human Rights under Threat, a Time for Leadership

Item 2 – Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner on his Annual Report

We share the High Commissioner’s concerns about current threats to human rights values, and to the international framework itself. Whether the Council can rise to these challenges will depend on a number of factors.

First, leadership: many important issues have escaped Council scrutiny. The High Commissioner has identified violations including torture in Egypt, China’s intimidation and groundless detention of lawyers and activists, Turkey’s campaign against critics, a new US administration that has banned entry to nationals of several Muslim-majority countries with evident discriminatory intent. States from all regions need to step up and speak out.

Second, membership in the Council should mean something. Is the killing by police and unidentified “vigilantes” of more than 7,000 people in the Philippines since President Duterte took office, or Burundi’s refusal to cooperate with a Council-appointed commission of inquiry compatible with their obligations as members?

Thirdly, human rights defenders are key stakeholders in the Human Rights Council. Yet Bahrain still imposes travel bans on those seeking to participate in the Council, Azerbaijan continues to silence civil society groups, and Russia uses various laws to limit the right to free expression, while seeking to strip even the concept of “human rights defenders” from the Council’s lexicon.

Finally, the effectiveness of this Council will be measured by the credibility of its outcomes:

  • With Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims facing killings, rape, and burning of villages, will the Human Rights Council put in place the independent international investigation that is so desperately needed?
  • Will it take meaningful action to advance accountability for grave international crimes in North Korea and in Syria?
  • Will it respond to the numerous reports of killings, rape and torture in South Sudan by strengthening the investigative mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, while supporting a hybrid court?
  • Will it put in place an independent expert in Libya to strengthen reporting and provide concrete recommendations for improving the human rights situation?
  • Will it adopt a follow-up resolution on Sri Lanka robust enough to maintain confidence that the commitments in its previous resolution will be met in full?

We’d welcome the High Commissioner’s views on further steps the Council can take to meet the global challenges he has described, while delivering effective results.

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