UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet during a press conference at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, September 4, 2019. © 2019 Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP

High Commissioner,

Your landmark report on the human rights impacts of Covid-19 highlights the indivisibility of rights, and reminds states of the need to address global inequalities in basic rights; reform healthcare systems; ensure equitable access to vaccines; lift unnecessary restrictions on civic space; curb authoritarian overreach; and address the impact on marginalized groups.

At the same time, it is clear that the rights impacts of the pandemic are far from over. It is vital that the Human Rights Council adopt at this session a further Presidential Statement or decision to ensure continued reporting, and to monitor and evaluate states’ compliance with their international human rights obligations. Otherwise, we will see what the Secretary-General has called a “pandemic of human rights abuse” continue.

We share your assessment, High Commissioner, that the ​conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region ​is  “spiralling out of control with ​an appalling impact on civilians.” Human Rights Watch has documented laws-of-war violations and serious human rights abuses in Tigray. These include summary killings, looting, and the apparent indiscriminate shelling of urban areas in  Tigray by Ethiopian federal forces ​that ​killed and injured scores of civilians and damaged civilian structures.

Increasing numbers of states are supporting the call for unhindered humanitarian access and independent international inquiries in Tigray. The situation cries out for regular briefings in accordance with the Council’s prevention mandate, and for more formal Council action as needed.

China continues to make a mockery of its obligations as a member of this Council. Democracy and the rule of law are being dismantled in Hong Kong, peaceful activists find themselves behind bars for crimes that did not even exist a year ago, and Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities are subject to systematic persecution and abuse in Xinjiang. While China drags on access negotiations endlessly, people continue to suffer. High Commissioner, with or without access, there is ample evidence of China’s sweeping rights violations. We encourage you to document these and report your findings to this Council as soon as possible so that it can take appropriate action. We support the call by the UK this session for a resolution.

Finally, it is past time for the Council to take action on the extensive rights crackdowns in Egypt and Russia. We will address these under item 4.