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UN Human Rights Council: As US Retreats, Other Countries Need To Work Together in Defense of Human Rights

Item 4 General Debate

At a time when courageous leadership in defense of human rights is most critical, Human Rights Watch regrets the self-defeating decision by the United States to withdraw from this Council. By walking away, the US is turning its back not just on the Council, flaws and all, but on victims of human rights violations around the world it purports to defend, including in Syria, Yemen, North Korea and Myanmar.

The US is also turning its back on victims of abuses in countries that are indeed rights-violating Council member states, including in China, where the government has significantly tightened top-down repression of civil society, the internet, the media and academia, and where authorities forcibly disappear human rights defenders or subject them to show trials; in Egypt, where President al-Sisi presides over the country’s worst human rights crisis in decades, where police and authorities use arbitrary arrests and forced disappearances to silence political dissent, and work to eradicate independent civil society and free media through travel bans, restrictive legislation, and arbitrary detentions and prosecutions; and, in Venezuela, where a ruthless government crackdown has led to thousands of arbitrary arrests, hundreds of civilians prosecuted by military courts, and torture of detainees, and where families can no longer feed their children, mortality from preventable diseases has grown exponentially, and two million people have fled the country. Other Counsel member states commit serious abuses against their people, notably the Philippines, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Burundi. Clearly, the Council needs stronger measures to ensure that states comply with their membership obligations, and are subject to increased scrutiny during their time on the Council.

But the solution to gross human rights violations in these countries and other dire situations, such as in Cambodia and Turkey, is not disengagement, but rather deeper engagement – and bold, determined leadership in defense of human rights. Countries around the world need to rise to responsibility to ensure robust collective action by this Council on the critical rights situations around the world.

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