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A time to stand up for human rights: UN rights body needs to ensure effective outcomes, placing victims first

Interactive Dialogue with High Commissioner for Human Rights

In this anniversary year, we share your concerns at the gap between the promise of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its implementation.

The hashtag for your UDHR campaign is appropriately #StandUp4HumanRights. This is a time when all who care about human rights need to stand up. We are at a crossroads. The UDHR inspires us to be the best version of ourselves, to find the connections across our differences, and celebrate our shared humanity, yet we live in an age of xenophobic populism, a retreat from multilateralism, an assault on human rights defenders and critical journalism, a denigration of those who are different.

This Council is engaged in an efficiency drive, but efficiency cannot be separated from effectiveness, and the Council’s effectiveness will be measured by its ability to respond to needs on the ground. There are a number of situations on the Council’s agenda this session where we will be looking for an effective response.

The findings of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan cannot be ignored, and we look to the Council to renew and strengthen its mandate.

As Rohingya Muslims continue to face ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, the Council should heed your call to press for an independent international mechanism to expedite criminal proceedings against those responsible.

In Libya, we share your concerns about the “near-complete lawlessness throughout the country, with almost total impunity.” While you have previously called for an Independent Expert, the Council has consistently fallen short. Could you elaborate on how such a mechanism could assist in bringing public reporting more consistently to the attention of this Council?

As elections loom in Cambodia, we are dismayed at the repression of dissent and banning of the opposition party. We encourage you to brief the Council prior to its June session, so that it may consider appropriate action.

The Council will also be measured by its willingness to address the situations that are not on its agenda, but should be, including the crushing of dissent in Turkey and systematic use of torture in Egypt.

We welcome the fact, High Commissioner, that your June update will focus on access and cooperation. In this regard, we note your concerns about the disconnect between China’s rhetoric on “win-win cooperation,” and realities on the ground. In your experience, has China been a model of cooperation? Has it allowed access to you and your Office, and to Special Procedures, without restriction? Does it support independent civil society voices, including those who express dissenting views? Of course, these are somewhat rhetorical questions, since we all know the answers, but we’d welcome your views nonetheless.

Mr. President, despite these challenges, it is also a time of opportunity, and we have consistently seen that principled leadership can make a difference, whether it be the Dutch taking a stand for an investigation in Yemen, Iceland challenging extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, the Lima Group speaking out against rights abuses in Venezuela, the OIC calling for a Special Session on Myanmar, or the UK moving an urgent debate on Eastern Ghouta in Syria.

Everyone in this room can make a difference, and we look to every one of you to take a stand, and deliver meaningful outcomes this session that will uphold the values of the UDHR and place the needs of victims first.



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