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UN Rights Council needs to address China, Ethiopia, systemic racism and climate change

Item 2: Interactive Dialogue on High Commissioner’s annual report

Delegates sit at the opening of the 41th session of the Human Rights Council, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, June 24, 2019. © 2019 Magali Girardin/Keystone via AP

High Commissioner, last session you underlined the importance of an “independent and comprehensive assessment of the rights situation” in Xinjiang, and indicated your Office was assessing reports of “arbitrary detention, ill-treatment and sexual violence in institutions; coercive labour practices; and erosion of social and cultural rights.” 

Such an assessment is urgently needed. For more than two-and-a-half years, you have been seeking unfettered access to Xinjiang: that’s more than two-and-a-half years during which Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang have continued to be arbitrarily detained and forcibly disappeared, subjected to torture and forced labor; more than two-and-a-half years that children have been separated from their families; more than two-and-a-half years of cultural and religious persecution. It’s also more than two-and-a-half years that China has had the opportunity to ramp up its propaganda machine, bully states into endorsing its narrative, and bury the evidence of its crimes.

This needs to end. In recent months, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have published findings that the Chinese government is committing crimes against humanity in Xinjiang. High Commissioner, when will you present your assessment to the Council, so that it can consider appropriate action?

We look forward to your report, High Commissioner, on systemic racism and police violence. This session will be a test of the US’s stated commitment, reinforced by President Biden’s January 2021 Executive Order, to addressing racial inequities and the systemic racism that remain deeply entrenched in the United States to this day. It can’t be “business as usual”. We urge this Council to put in place a robust mechanism that would investigate systemic and structural racism in law enforcement, including the root causes of law enforcement’s excessive use of force and other human rights violations against Africans and people of African descent, and carry forward the demands we’ve heard from families of victims of police violence and civil society both in the US and around the world.

Since the outbreak of conflict in Tigray in November 2020 grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights law have occurred, including: massacres of civilians; widespread rape and sexual violence against women and girls; forced displacement; arbitrary detentions; widespread destruction and pillage of hospitals, schools, factories, and businesses; destruction of refugee camps; and a concerted effort to prevent reporting from the ground with attacks and intimidation of humanitarian workers and journalists. As you have noted, High Commissioner, war crimes and crimes against humanity, may have been committed.  The region is now facing a severe man-made famine: a consequence of the deliberate actions of the warring parties, including the destruction of harvests, looting of farms and agricultural resources, and restrictions of movement of people and aid workers. We call on the Council to adopt a resolution this session to ensure international scrutiny of this human rights crisis.

Finally, climate change is an existential threat for humanity, jeopardizing the realization of all human rights for present and future generations. It is past time for climate change to be elevated in the work of the Council through the establishment of a dedicated special procedures mandate.

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