Washington, D.C., March 10, 2023
Re. Priorities for the UN Human Rights Council 52nd session
As negotiations get underway at the UN Human Rights Council’s (HRC) 52nd session in Geneva, we are writing to Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, and Paraguay governments to share Human Rights Watch’s recommendations for action.
We consider Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, and Paraguay’s engagement to be particularly important on five key situations, and encourage you specifically to:
- ensure a two-year extension of the mandate of the Group of Human Rights Experts on Nicaragua and the reporting mandate of the OHCHR on that country;
- press for a resolution to ensure follow-up to the Fact-Finding Mission on Libya’s work and continued human rights monitoring and reporting on the situation;
- support the joint statement, led by Australia, calling for an effective investigation into the Beirut port explosion;
- reject Ethiopia’s attempt to prematurely end the mandate of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE) and to prevent the publication of its forthcoming report;
- support the resolutions addressing the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), publicly condemn the abuses by Israeli authorities and recognize the reality of apartheid in the OPT.
We have included, in annex to this letter, more detail on each of these five priorities.
In addition to these priorities, during the session, we urge Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, and Paraguay governments to support the renewal of other important mandates, including on Iran, DPRK, Myanmar, South Sudan, Syria, and Ukraine. We also encourage you to support the strengthening of the Council’s approach to Belarus, as suggested by HRW together with a group of national, regional, and international NGO partners. Finally, we urge your governments to commit to working towards the establishment of independent monitoring and reporting on the Chinese government’s human rights violations in Xinjiang and beyond, and to publicly follow up on the findings and recommendations of the OHCHR report on Xinjiang.
We urge you to ensure that Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, and Paraguay’s foreign policy consistently applies human rights norms without double standards. As a party to many foundational international human rights agreements, and current members of the UN Human Rights Council, Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, and Paraguay have a legal obligation to promote and defend human rights at home and abroad and to speak out when other countries fail to comply with their international human rights obligations.
Please accept the assurance of our highest consideration,
Tamara Taraciuk Broner
Americas acting director
UN Geneva director
Annex: Background information on recommended HRC action on Nicaragua, Libya, Lebanon, Ethiopia, and Israel/Palestine
The government of President Daniel Ortega has deepened its systematic repression of people perceived as government critics and no international human rights monitor has been allowed to access the country since late 2018. Arbitrarily stripping 317 critics of their nationality, including 222 political prisoners who were expelled to the United States, is the most recent demonstration of the Ortega government’s ruthless and open disregard for fundamental freedoms.
The UN Group of Human Rights Experts on Nicaragua recently published a report documenting crimes against humanity, including murder, imprisonment, torture, sexual violence, forced deportation, and persecution on political grounds. Supporting a two-year extension of their mandate and of OHCHR’s reporting mandate on the country would allow them to continue gathering evidence of serious and ongoing human rights violations, report on current dynamics in the country, and provide recommendations for necessary action, including by identifying perpetrators and suggesting pathways for international criminal investigations against those responsible for the crimes against humanity.
In July 2022 the HRC adopted Resolution 50/23 extending the mandate of the UN Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya (FFM) “for a final, non-extendable period of nine months, to present its concluding recommendations” at the HRC’s upcoming 52nd Session.
Human rights conditions in Libya today remain precarious as systematic abuses carried out by militias, armed groups and the authorities remain rampant, and impunity for past abuses continues. Internationally banned landmines and other unexploded ordnance abandoned since the 2011 conflict continue to cause substantial civilian harm and displacement. To date, no commanders or Libyan or foreign fighters have been held to account for their involvement in crimes under international law and other serious violations or abuses, such as extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings, indiscriminate attacks leading to civilian casualties, arbitrary detentions, torture, and the use of antipersonnel mines, including during the 2019-2020 Tripoli armed conflict.
Despite repeated calls from civil society echoed by the FFM and other UN experts to lift the sweeping restrictions against domestic and international civic groups in the country, such restrictions remain in place, including in relation to obtaining visas or accessing detention facilities and communities in need, effectively muzzling independent groups doing vital human rights and humanitarian work. Faced with an ongoing culture of impunity and increasing restrictions on civic space, HRC members should support an independent follow-up accountability mechanism to continue documenting and reporting on the human rights and impunity crisis in Libya and monitoring the implementation of the FFM’s recommendations.
The Lebanese government has blatantly interfered in the domestic investigation on the 2020 devastating Beirut port blast. Lebanese authorities have ordered the release of all suspects detained in connection with the catastrophic explosion and continue to harass the head of the investigation, and other judges involved in the case, causing the inquiry to be repeatedly suspended.
Given this interference, the HRC delegations should urgently pass a resolution to create an impartial fact-finding mission into the Beirut port explosion in order to help secure a path toward truth and justice for the victims, as well as help to hold accountable those responsible for human rights violations.
On February 15, the Deputy Prime Minister of Ethiopia to the Executive Council of the African Union announced the government’s plans to present a resolution at the HRC to prematurely terminate the mandate of the ICHREE. This unprecedented effort to terminate ICHREE’s mandate during its term could set a dangerous precedent suggesting that states where there are international investigations, including in our region Venezuela and Nicaragua, can overturn HRC decisions to avoid independent scrutiny and accountability. HRC members should reject any attempt to avoid accountability for human rights violations and support those seeking justice.
Recently there has been an alarming uptick in killings, deadly attacks, and repression in the occupied West Bank. The new Israeli government has expanded settlements, which are illegal under international law, and expedited demolitions of Palestinians’ homes in response to Palestinian attacks on Israelis, which amounts to collective punishment, a war crime. States should publicly condemn these abuses and recognize the reality of apartheid in the OPT, as many states are doing. They should also call on the High Commissioner to continue to update the database of businesses involved in Israeli settlements, in accordance with the mandate given by the Council.