We appreciate the High Commissioner’s call for an international investigation on the Kasais unless DRC agrees to a joint investigation by tomorrow. The High Commissioner has rightly brought attention to cases of non-cooperation with UN mechanisms. We should be concerned:

John Fisher's statement for Human Rights Watch at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland on June 7, 2017.

  • when Burundi acts in contempt of a Council resolution and refuses to cooperate with the duly established Commission of Inquiry.
  • when the Philippines imposes unreasonable conditions on a proposed country visit by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, in an attempt to subvert her ability to independently report on the more than 7,000 deaths perpetrated in the name of President Duterte’s “war on drugs”.
  • when Ethiopia has not accepted a Special Procedure request to document the human rights situation in the country in ten years, despite evidence of the killing of an estimated thousand protesters by security forces, with tens of thousands detained.
  • when the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty reports that China attempted to impede his country visit through excessive monitoring, vetting of meeting requests, and intimidation of civil society representatives with whom he sought to meet, and many more Special Procedure country visit requests remain outstanding.

What is striking about these examples is that all are Human Rights Council members, and as such have the obligation to uphold the “highest standards of human rights” and to cooperate with the Council and its mechanism. There should be consequences for failure to do so.

Yesterday, we heard a message from the US about improving membership standards. While the US rightly brought attention in the Council to the dire human rights situation in Venezuela, consistency demands that attention is also brought to systemic rights violations in member states such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Nonetheless, the core message and objective is valid. A renewed commitment to improving membership standards would result in a strengthened HRC with enhanced credibility to address human rights abuses worldwide.

A good starting-point would be a joint statement, perhaps at the closing of this HRC session, outlining the commitment of Member States to competitive elections, to candidate pledges, and to objective criteria for addressing a broader range of situations without selectivity.

It can happen, it should happen, and we stand ready to work with States from all regions to translate the promise of a Human Rights Council that can more effectively deliver on its mandate a reality.