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Human Rights Council Should Take Action on Bahrain, the Philippines, and Turkey

Item 4 General Debate

Human Rights Watch is deeply concerned about the many serious human rights situations on which this Council has failed to take any meaningful action:

Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab arrives for his appeal hearing at court in Manama, February 11, 2015. © 2015 Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters

The situation in Bahrain deteriorated further in the latter half of 2016. The government has intensified its attacks on rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association, including dissolution of the country’s main opposition group, Al-Wifaq, arbitrary stripping of citizenship from Bahrainis who have been critical of the government, and subjecting civil society actors to arbitrary travel bans. Authorities also made little progress in holding officials accountable for the mistreatment and torture of detainees. Emboldened by the silence of the international community, during this session of the Council alone the Bahraini authorities once again postponed the trial of human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, who remains in jail and faces charges that violate his right to free speech, and the Shura council approved an amendment to the constitution that will allow for civilians to be tried in military courts. The Council should immediately take collective action to address the worsening situation in Bahrain.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks before local town mayors in Davao city in southern Philippines March 9, 2017. © 2017 Reuters

Human Rights Watch is deeply concerned that more than 7,000 people have been killed in an anti-drug campaign in the Philippines since President Duterte took office last June. Far from investigating these killings by the police and unidentified gunmen, Duterte has actively encouraged them in the “war on drugs.” He has made his intentions to drug suspects clear: “My order is to shoot to kill you. I don’t care about human rights, you better believe me.” During the high-level segment, the Philippine Foreign Minister told this Council: “We will not be kind, and we will not hesitate to destroy criminals who seek the wholesale destruction of our society.” In view of the massive violations of the right to life, and the President’s instigation and incitement of further abuses, we urge the Council to support an international investigation, and remind the Philippines that gross and systematic human rights violations and lack of cooperation with UN Special Procedures are incompatible with its continued membership in the Council.

Since the violent coup attempt in July 2015 and in the run-up to the April referendum on a constitutional amendment, which, if accepted, will give the president almost unchecked power, the Turkish government’s crackdown on fundamental freedoms has been widespread and systematic. Over 140 journalists and media workers are now in jail and many media outlets and NGOs have been closed. Thirteen MPs, including the leaders, from the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party are in jail, and their municipalities taken over by the government.  Over 100,000 civil servants have been fired or suspended without due process, and over 40,000 people languish in pretrial detention nominally in connection with the coup attempt. The Human Rights Office only last week released a devastating report on the grave violations including unlawful killings and enforced disappearances that occurred in the south east of the country between July 2015 and the end of 2016. The High Commissioner, as well a wide range of special procedure mandate holders, have expressed great concern. However, the Council has largely remained silent on the human rights crisis in Turkey. We call on the Council to immediately address violations committed in Turkey, to call for the release of jailed journalists and MPs, and support calls by the High Commissioner to allow access to places of detention for independent observers and for an independent investigation into the violations committed in southeast Turkey. 

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