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Human Rights Council should act to address rights crises - including Venezuela, Kashmir, Philippines and Cambodia

Item 2 General Debate on High Commissioner’s update

The High Commissioner has played an invaluable role in monitoring and documenting human rights crises around the world. In many cases, his Office has stepped up when this Council has failed to act.

The High Commissioner has rightly brought attention to the growing human rights and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. Severe shortages of food make it extremely difficult for many families to feed their children, a ruthless government crackdown has led to thousands of arbitrary arrests, hundreds of civilians prosecuted by military courts, and torture and other abuses against detainees. About two million Venezuelans have fled, mostly to neighboring countries. We welcome the leadership of the Lima Group, but the Human Rights Council should also play its part, engage actively with the Office’s report, to be released this week, express collective concern this session through a joint statement or resolution, encourage continued reporting, and establish the investigative mechanism called for by the High Commissioner.

We similarly welcome the High Commissioner’s report on Kashmir, the first-ever by his Office, which highlights the decades of suffering endured by millions of Kashmiris. These human rights concerns have been well documented. Cross-border shelling by Indian and Pakistani troops have killed and injured hundreds. Tens of thousands of indigenous Kashmiri Hindus remain displaced after being forced to flee the valley. Thousands of men have been forcibly disappeared, their wives described as “half widows.” More than 50,000 people have died since the insurgency broke out in 1989. Kashmiris have been tortured or summarily executed by state security forces and threatened or killed by militants. There are serious allegations of sexual violence by all forces.

We are disappointed that the Indian government’s immediate response was to reject the report, calling it “fallacious, tendentious and motivated,” and saying the findings are “overtly prejudiced.” Any responsible government should address human rights concerns, not blame the messenger. The Human Rights Council should act on the call for an independent international investigation into violations and abuses by all parties to the conflict.

The joint statement delivered today by New Zealand on behalf of a group of states appropriately highlighted the further deterioration of the human rights situation in Cambodia. With elections scheduled for late July, the government of longtime Prime Minister Hun Sen has dissolved the main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party; arbitrarily detained its leader, Kem Sokha, on concocted treason charges; and has harassed, surveilled, threatened, and arbitrarily detained and prosecuted human rights defenders, journalists, opposition politicians and ordinary citizens critical of the government in violation of their basic rights. We encourage the High Commissioner to keep the Human Rights Council informed through intersessional briefings, and the Council should put in place monitoring and reporting of the human rights situation in Cambodia before, during, and after the elections.

We are similarly dismayed by the unabating extrajudicial killings related to the “war on drugs” in the Philippines, with President Rodrigo Duterte just last month issuing new threats against detained drug suspects in Cebu province, as well as the harassment of outspoken human rights defenders, journalists, lawmakers and members of the Commission on Human Rights. Special Procedures mandate holders have not only been denied access to the country, but in some cases have been targeted for personal attacks and threats by the government, violating the Philippines’ obligations as a member of this Council.

The High Commissioner has called for credible and independent investigations into the extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. We welcome the joint statement delivered today by Iceland on behalf of a broad range of states, and urge the Human Rights Council to mandate the independent international investigation that is urgently needed.

What all these situations have in common is that the Office of the High Commissioner has rightly flagged areas of serious concern, but the Human Rights Council has yet to put in place the sustained monitoring, investigations and reporting needed to reverse these disturbing developments.


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