The 55th session of the UN Human Rights Council, from 26 February – 5 April 2024, will consider issues including the protection of human rights defenders, freedom of religion or belief, protection and promotion of human rights while countering terrorism, the right to food and adequate housing, among others. It will also present an opportunity to address grave human rights situations in States including Sudan, Nicaragua, Venezuela, China, Syria, South Sudan, Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Myanmar, Eritrea, occupied Palestinian territory/Israel, among many others. Here’s an overview of some of the key issues on the agenda.
The Human Rights Council has adopted a resolution establishing an independent Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) with a mandate to investigate abuses committed in the context of the war in Sudan and identify their perpetrators.
Put forward by the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany and Norway, the resolution was vehemently denounced by Sudan’s representatives before it was accepted with 19 votes in favour, 16 against and 12 abstentions.
‘Hopes in justice are revived today for thousands of Sudanese women and victims of conflict-related sexual violence in Sudan,’ a Sudanese woman human rights defender who requested to remain unnamed told ISHR. ‘We are hopeful that the creation of this Fact-Finding Mission will initiate a process of transitional justice that will support the efforts for peaceful solutions in Sudan,’ the activist emphasised.
Since April 2023, Sudan has been plunged into a devastating war. Last September, UN High Commissioner For Human Rights Volker Türk called the international community to take action to end ‘months of futile suffering, death, loss and destruction’ in the country. UN figures put the number of displaced persons in the millions and rights groups have warned of war crimes, including ‘deliberate and indiscriminate attacks’ against civilians.
However, the numerous reports of atrocities did not convince all Council members, with some States lobbying hard to block its establishment in recent days. Following requests from Somalia and China, there was no consensus and the resolution still had to go through a vote.
On 3 October, ISHR delivered a joint statement on behalf of Sudanese, regional and international organisations in support of this mechanism, stressing the need to urgently investigate human rights violations and collect evidence on abuses, gender-based violence and crimes, and alleged war crimes.
ISHR calls on all Council Member States to support the future members of the Fact-Finding Mission on Sudan in the implementation of their mandate, so that perpetrators of serious and numerous human rights violations and atrocities in the country face justice.
For many rights holders, victims and human rights defenders, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) provides a vital lever increasing pressure for change at the national level, while for others it provides the last resort or only opportunity to expose violations, seek accountability, and garner support for their essential work towards a fair, equal and sustainable world. We need the HRC to be credible, effective and accessible to everyone. This is only possible if States ensure that remote and hybrid participation of civil society is maintained; that international law is upheld universally; promptly and adequately respond to HRDs’ demands for accountability; lead and support HRC action in line with objective human rights criteria; and ensure that HRC members live up to their responsibilities, including full cooperation with the HRC and its mechanisms.
ISHR joins 25 other NGOs in calling for the UN Human Rights Office's return to Venezuela and the release of political detainees, including Rocío San Miguel, amidst rising repression.