Human Rights Council Concludes General Debate on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention

The Human Rights Council this afternoon concluded its general debate held under its agenda item four on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention.

The general debate on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention started in previous meetings and summaries can be found here and here.

In the general debate, some speakers addressed the autonomy of the media and journalists, saying that in certain countries, independent media were being shut down and threatened into silence. In some areas and regions, scores of civil society and media representatives continued to be disappeared and arbitrarily detained. There had been arrests of journalists and State agencies were used to intimidate media representatives. It was appalling that international crimes committed by high-ranking State officials had gone without accountability. Systematic enforced disappearances and impunity for those involved were issues of concern for some speakers, and States were called on to take effective steps for the recovery of disappeared persons. There needed to be a clear message that wealthy and powerful States were not beyond scrutiny.

The situation of women was also a key concern for many speakers. Women human rights defenders and those defying patriarchal norms were deemed immoral in certain countries, and subject to arrest and imprisonment. Speakers urged all States to call for an end to the violent repression of women and to ensure justice and accountability for all those who had been subjected to violence for standing up for equality. Some speakers also called for countries to remove all barriers to abortion, and in accessing contraception for women.

Attacks on minority and religious groups continued to be a key issue of concern for many speakers, with calls reiterated for the Council to address the situation. States were encouraged to create favourable conditions to end the suffering of these groups. The right to freedom of religion and belief was curtailed in certain countries, with religious leaders regularly targeted with harassment and torture. A number of speakers called on States to release all those detained because of their religion.

Some speakers said that indigenous leaders were being murdered in certain countries, and decisive action needed to be taken to stop this violence. There were also serious concerns regarding the violation of cultural rights, due to situations of forced cultural assimilation.

The situation of internally displaced persons was also raised as an issue of concern, with some speakers stating that the development of greenhouse gases contributed to massive internal displacement and food insecurity. Governments were urged to strengthen their collaboration with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and with mandates, including on internally displaced persons.

The issue of child safety was raised, with speakers stating that it was paramount that child protection services were improved, to ensure that the best interests of the child were the primary consideration. There were increasing cases of violence in schools in certain countries, which was extremely concerning. Governments should dedicate greater financial resources to the reduction of school violence cases, and comply with recommendations issued by the Committee on the Rights of the Child regarding school violence.

Some speakers highlighted the negative impacts caused by unilateral coercive measures, particularly the adverse effect these sanctions had on the health sector.

Freedom of expression, association and opposition must be ensured by Governments, which should allow civil society to operate freely. Lawyers and other human rights defenders should not be subjected to arbitrary arrest, torture and silencing, as this systematically undermined the rule of law. The Council should insist that all those charged on offences related to peaceful expression of opinion and assembly be freed, and that unfair laws be repealed and fair trials with legal representation be ensured. Increases in surveillance and harassment in various parts of the world were of grave concern to several speakers, who urged the Council to strengthen resolutions on that topic, and to appoint Special Rapporteurs to oversee their implementation.

Racism and racial discrimination were too often used as a pretext to incite conflict, some speakers said, and the Council needed to protect the rights of minorities to a greater extent in order to prevent ethnic cleansing and gross discrimination. Capacity-building among youth was essential for achieving a balanced future.

Selectivity and double standards were at their worst in cases of national occupation. The rule of law enjoyed a culture of impunity, several speakers said, and the High Commissioner should make greater efforts to ensure that this culture came to an end, and that human rights and law enjoyed greater respect. Questioning of democratic institutions and disruptions to democratic normality were an issue that the international community should be aware of to a greater extent, and to which it should pay greater attention.

An enforced disappearance continued until the fate and whereabouts of the individual concerned was established, a speaker said, urging the Council to hold an international investigation on the matter. The international community should call for accountability with respect to long-standing emblematic events that had been met with persistent impunity, thus tackling long-standing cultures of impunity that existed. The Council should make sure that the voices of victims could be heard.

The Secretary-General was urged by one speaker to initiate an Human Rights Council mechanism to encourage all banks and financial institutions to comply with their international obligations, including their responsibilities under the United Nations Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights and General Comment No. 24 of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, due to their continued de-risking policies that violated human rights, hindered the flow of humanitarian items to sanctioned countries, and infringed the rights of free access to medicine and medical equipment.

Speaking in the general debate were the following non-governmental organizations: Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, Association Ma’onah for Human Rights and Immigration, Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, Tumuku Development and Cultural Union, Tourner La Plage, Union of Northwest Human Rights Organisation, Association Thendral, Association of Women with University Education Social Organization, Khiam Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture, Global Welfare Association, Medical Support Association for Underprivileged Iranian Patients, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, Asociacion, Al Barem Association for Charitable Work, American Association of Jurists, Platform for Youth Integration and Volunteerism, Right Livelihood Award Foundation, World Muslim Congress, International Service for Human Rights, International Union of Socialist Youth, Promotion du Développement Economique et Social, World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Meezaan Centre for Human Rights, International Action for Peace and Sustainable Development, Association Bharathi Centre Culturel Franco-Tamoul, and iuventum e.V..

Also speaking were Association des étudiants tamouls de France, African Green Foundation International, International Buddhist Relief Organisation, Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience, International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, Alliance Defending Freedom, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man, British Humanist Association, Jameh Ehyagaran Teb Sonnati Va Salamat Iranian, International Support For Human Rights, Institute for NGO Research, Africa Culture Internationale, Women’s Human Rights International Association, International Muslim Women’s Union, Villages Unis, Rahbord Peimayesh Research & Educational Services Cooperative, Elizka Relief Foundation, Maloca InternationaleIl Cenacolo, European Centre for Law and Justice, Comité International pour le Respect et l’Application de la Charte Africaine des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples, PRAHAR, The Institute for Protection of Women’s Rights, Solidarité Suisse-GuinéeAssociation D’Entraide Médicale Guinée,Zero Pauvre AfriqueSynergie Feminine Pour La Paix Et Le Developpement Durable, International Yazidis Foundation for the Prevention of Genocide, Community Human Rights and Advocacy Centre, Al-Hakim Foundation, Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee, Association pour l’Intégration et le Développement Durable au Burundi, World Barua Organization, Reprieve, and Commission africaine des promoteurs de la santé et des droits de l’homme.

Speaking in right of reply were India, Türkiye, Belarus, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Russia, Japan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, China, Venezuela, Lithuania, Iran, Sierra Leone, Cuba, Iraq, Ethiopia, Benin, Pakistan, and Republic of Korea.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here. All meeting summaries can be found here. Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s fifty-first regular session can be found here.

The Council will next meet at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 28 September, when it will hear an address by Sahil Babayev, Minister of Labour and Social Protection of the Population of Azerbaijan, after which it will hold its annual panel discussion on the rights of indigenous peoples, followed by an interactive dialogue with the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Source: UN Human Rights Council

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