The passage of a human rights defender resolution by the Third Committee of the GA by consensus, with 85 co-sponsors, is another important step in ongoing work to strengthen the promotion and protection of those who defend rights.
Responding to the High Commissioner’s global update on human rights at the 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council, ISHR echoed the recognition by the UN Secretary General in his ‘Call to Action‘ that human rights defenders are essential to peace, security, and sustainable and inclusive development.
Addressing the Council, ISHR Director Phil Lynch said that, as reflected in the High Commissioner’s update, deliberate policy in many States violates human rights and undermines peace, security and development.
‘The arbitrary detention of women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, systematic intimidation and reprisals against defenders in Egypt, repressive legislation targeting civil society in Russia and Turkey, and excessive and lethal force by police and vigilante groups against protestors in India, were just a few examples cited by the High Commissioner. In all such cases, the Council should push for independent investigation and accountability,’ Lynch said.
In its statement, ISHR said that, both at home and abroad, the Chinese government is systematically targeting and silencing defenders and their families. With a possible visit to the country being negotiated by the High Commissioner, Lynch said: ‘It is imperative that any visit to the country be conditioned on unfettered access, guarantees against reprisals, accompaniment by relevant Special Procedure mandate holders, and a report and dialogue with the Human Rights Council. Meanwhile, it is imperative that the High Commissioner and the Secretary General meet with victims, families and their advocates and speak out more strongly and consistently. This would increase the political cost of China’s repressive policies, and show solidarity with defenders and targeted communities.’
Through its statement ISHR also expressed deep and ongoing concern about the human rights crisis in Venezuela. ‘As a member of the Human Rights Council and in accordance with its MoU with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Venezuela must cooperate fully and in good faith with Council mechanisms, including by accepting and confirming Special Procedures visits,’ Lynch said.
Finally, ISHR welcomed progress in relation to national human rights defender laws in Mali and Mongolia. At the UN level, ISHR urged the Secretary General and High Commissioner to develop a comprehensive policy making defenders’ participation and protection a paramount priority for all UN agencies.
Watch the statement here:
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During the interactive dialogue with the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights on the SG’s Reprisals Report, some States raised specific cases of reprisals, whilst others drew attention to the use of COVID-19 as a guise under which reprisals were committed and also raised the additional risks to human rights defenders online as a result of the pandemic.