Skip to main content

UN rights body should do more to address abuses in Russia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China

HRW Statement - Item 4 General Debate - HRC49

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

Russia's continued assault on human rights both in Ukraine and nationally highlights the importance of ensuring Council scrutiny of country situations not formally on its agenda. We welcome the creation of a Commission of Inquiry on the Ukraine conflict, but the Council should also put in place a Special Rapporteur to address Russia’s own relentless and escalating rights crackdown at the national level.

The absence of scrutiny can embolden states to ramp up human rights violations. Since Saudi Arabia and its coalition allies arm-twisted their way to impunity by lobbying Human Rights Council members to terminate the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts, civilian casualties in Yemen have almost doubled. Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia embarked on its largest mass execution spree in years, killing more than 80 people, many for vaguely-defined offences.

Egypt continues to suffer from one of the worst human rights crises in the country’s modern history. Despite an obvious campaign to whitewash its abuses, the government continues to arbitrarily detain tens of thousands of political prisoners, many of whom have been held for years without trial on trumped-up “terrorism” charges. The military and security forces apparently summarily execute alleged militants. Courts consistently impose the death penalty following fundamentally flawed prosecutions on overbroad national security charges, for example executing seven purported “terrorists” just days ago. Security forces routinely carry out enforced disappearances and torture with impunity. The NGO law places draconian restrictions on the work of independent groups.

The High Commissioner’s announced visit to Xinjiang does not alleviate her responsibility to release her long-promised report so that the Council can address Chinese authorities’ continued crimes against humanity and other rights violations.

Mr. President, all of these situations warrant more than the occasional joint statement – they should each be subject to sustained Council scrutiny, so that serial rights violators do not feel they can perpetrate abuses with impunity.

Your tax deductible gift can help stop human rights violations and save lives around the world.