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

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15 March 2021

The Human Rights Council this morning concluded its general debate on human rights situations that require the Council's attention.

Some speakers said civil space was shrinking across the world as human rights defenders, protestors and journalists were facing ever-more hostile environments. Some speakers emphasised that the promotion and protection of human rights must comply with the principles of State sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and non-interference in internal affairs of States. Certain rights were regrettably given more importance by some discourses, rejecting national particularities of each country. The right to development was universal and must be addressed within a global context through a non-politicized process, avoiding the practice of naming and shaming. In order to ensure this process was constructive, concerned States must be able to define the parameters of their cooperation with the Human Rights Council. Some speakers said Western States were hypocritical: they gave themselves the right to evaluate others yet concealed their own violations, such as their treatment of refugees, Islamophobia, racism of non-white people and police violence against protestors.

Speakers expressed concerns about human rights violations taking place in the context of counter-terrorism activities, including those targeting Muslims and other minorities. Others were concerned about discrimination against Christian minority communities in some countries. The Council should create a mandate of Special Rapporteur on climate change. The climate and global health crises were intertwined and required a comprehensive, human rights-based approach. Questioning the Council's objectivity, some speakers underscored the poor human rights record of countries that had been recently elected to the Council; it must review its membership criteria. Speakers drew attention to the situation of people who had been forcibly sent to detention camps, and the increasing number and intensity of attacks against human rights defenders. Other speakers expressed deep concern that the global roll-out of the vaccine had the potential to leave many of the world's poorest and most marginalised people behind. 'Vaccine nationalism' threatened herd immunity. Wealthy States arranging bilateral deals with pharmaceutical companies and stockpiling more doses than they needed undermined the COVAX initiative.

Speakers said that the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons were under assault in many countries. They highlighted in particular recent legal campaigns to criminalise same-sex conduct and restrict the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals. The rise of hateful rhetoric against the community had been seen. Describing the various kinds of harassment and intimidation faced by religious minorities, speakers criticized blasphemy laws. Speakers expressed concern over unfair debt payments and multinational companies that hid their revenues to avoid taxes, as factors that had led to the plundering of the African continent. Unilateral coercive measures affected the ability of entire national populations to enjoy their human rights in targeted countries as speakers also noted that blockades and embargoes caused humanitarian crises. Multiple speakers were concerned about several examples of arbitrary arrest of human rights defenders and lawyers across the world. Some speakers expressed concerns that too little attention was being given by the Council to the needs and rights of youth.

Speakers also discussed human rights violations taking placing in, or involving the following countries: Myanmar, Yemen, Belarus, Russian Federation, Ukraine, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Guatemala, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Austria, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Italy, Spain, Algeria, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Bahrain, Gulf Cooperation Council Member States, Cuba, China, Croatia, Qatar, Chile, Chad, Benin, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lebanon, Cameroon, Ghana, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Honduras, Brazil, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Poland, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Afghanistan, United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Togo, Eritrea, Sudan, Pakistan, Cambodia, India, Sudan, Croatia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Baltic countries and European Union countries.

Georgia, Viet Nam and Turkey discussed the human rights situations in their own country. A number of countries praised the situation of human rights in China.

Speaking were Ireland, Georgia, Viet Nam, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Dominican Republic, Turkmenistan, Zambia, Lesotho, Ghana, Norway, Vanuatu, Cambodia, Colombia, Madagascar, Timor-Leste, Switzerland, South Africa, Egypt, Jordan and Turkey.

The following civil society organizations also took the floor: World Evangelical Alliance; Human Rights House Foundation; Amnesty International; Soka Gakkai International; Franciscans International; Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights; Society for Threatened Peoples; Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain Inc.; Ingenieurs du Monde; Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience; Christian Solidarity Worldwide; China NGO Network for International Exchanges; Fundacion para la Mejora de la Vida, la Cultura y la Sociedad; Chinese Association for International Understanding; United Villages; Charitable Institute for Protecting Social Victims; Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund; Baha'i International Community; Association Internationale pour l'égalité des femmes; International Federation of Journalists; Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies; Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd; Alsalam Foundation; International Humanist and Ethical Union; Solidarité Suisse-Guinée; Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l'homme; Baptist World Alliance; Mouvement International d'Apostolate des Milieux Sociaux Independants; International Federation for Human Rights Leagues; World Organisation Against Torture; East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project; International Lesbian and Gay Association; Conectas Direitos Humanos; Edmund Rice International Limited; European Centre for Law and, les Justice et les droits de l'homme; Human Rights Watch; Article 19 - International Centre Against Censorship; International Commission of Jurists; Caritas Internationalis (International Confederation of Catholic Charities); Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development; Al Baraem Association for Charitable Work; United Nations Watch; Peace Brigade International; Presse Embleme Campagne; China Society for Human Rights Studies; British Humanist Association; Community Human Rights and Advocacy Centre; Institut International pour les Droits et le Développement; Conselho Indigenista Missionário; Global Institute for Water, Environment and Health; Africa Culture Internationale; Pasumai Thaayagam Foundation; Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism; Commission africaine des promoteurs de la santé et des droits de l'homme; Réseau Unité pour le Développement de Mauritanie; Rahbord Peimayesh Research and Educational Services Cooperative; Women's Human Rights International Association; Geo Expertise Association; and International-Lawyers.Org.

The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Organization for Poverty Alleviation and Development; World Muslim Congress; Association d'Entraide Médicale Guinée; International Federation for the Protection of the Rights of Ethnic, Religious, Linguistic and Other Minorities; Centre for China and Globalization Limited; United Nations Association of China; Right Livelihood Award Foundation; Asociacion; International Council Supporting Fair Trial and Human Rights; Jameh Ehyagaran Teb Sonnati Va Salamat Iranian; Organization for Defending Victims of Violence; VIVAT International; Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture; Il Cenacolo; CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation; Next Century Foundation; African Green Foundation International; International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists; Stichting CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality; Tamil Uzhagam; Elizka Relief Foundation; International Fellowship of Reconciliation; International Buddhist Relief Organisation; International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; Réseau International des Droits Humains; iuventum e.V.; Mother of Hope Cameroon Common Initiative Group; Integrated Youth Empowerment - Common Initiative Group; Sikh Human Rights Group; Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee; "Coup de Pousse" Chaîne de l'Espoir Nord-Sud; Association Thendral; Association Bharathi Centre Culturel Franco-Tamoul; Tourner La Page; Comité International pour le Respect et l'Application de la Charte Africaine des Droits de l'Homme et des Peuples; Le Pont; Action of Human Movement; Jeunesse Etudiante Tamoule; Jubilee Campaign; World Barua Organization; Prahar; Centre for Organisation Research and Education; Centre for Gender Justice and Women Empowerment; Japan Society for History Textbook; U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea; International Career Support Association; Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty; Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy; Human Rights Now; and Iraqi Development Organization.

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 forty-sixth regular session can be found here.

The Council will meet at 3 p.m. this afternoon to hear right of reply relating to statements delivered during the general debate on human rights situations that require the Council's attention, followed by an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on minority issues and the consideration and adoption of Universal Periodic Review outcomes.