These are testing times for the protection of international human rights around the world. The next three weeks will reveal whether the Human Rights Council is up to the test.
The High Commissioner has rightly identified several areas where greater leadership is required. The most obvious of these is Yemen. For the third consecutive year, the High Commissioner has called for an independent international inquiry into violations and abuses by all parties to the conflict. Twice before, the Human Rights Council has failed to heed this call, and Yemeni civilians are paying for this failure with their lives. The Council should step up, and create the international inquiry that is desperately needed and long overdue.
We welcome the High Commissioner’s recent report on the human rights and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. Instead of addressing the human rights situation on its merits, the Foreign Minister of Venezuela yesterday dismissed all such reports as “lies.” A country that can’t admit it has human rights problems definitely has human rights problems. More than 115 NGOs, including 81 from Venezuela, yesterday called on the Council to address the human rights situation in the country as a matter of priority. We urge the High Commissioner to keep the Council regularly informed, including through an intersessional briefing prior to the March session.
Last week, Human Rights Watch released a report detailing China’s systematic efforts to deflect criticism and undermine UN human rights mechanisms. How many Cao Shunlis and Liu Xiaobos must die in Chinese government custody before the Council speaks out against China’s ruthless efforts to stifle dissent?
We support the calls by numerous states for Myanmar to grant access to the Council’s Fact-Finding Mission. This was urgent when the mission was created and is even more so now as violence by state security forces escalates.
Despite concerns raised by states in all regions during the Philippines’ UPR, extrajudicial executions continue unabated in the government’s so-called “war on drugs.” President Rodrigo Duterte has openly praised the police for the high number of killings and expanded his threats to include rights defenders, stating that those working to protect rights should be shot for “obstructing justice.” When a sitting Council member displays such open contempt for the right to life, states should speak collectively to say “enough!”, and pursue a resolution to ensure an international investigation into these deaths.
Mr. President, these are times when victims of human rights violations are crying out for leadership. They need the Human Rights Council and its members to act. If you don’t, who will?