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Human Rights Council resists attempts to stifle debate and makes modest progress on rights

(Geneva) – The Human Rights Council has resisted attempts to stifle debate and prevent human rights progress, with the adoption of critically important resolutions on issues including the protection of civil society space and the prevention of violence and discrimination against LGBT persons, a coalition of leading non-governmental organisations said today.

In a joint statement delivered by ISHR to the closing meeting of the Council’s 27th session, the group of 13 NGOs welcomed these landmark resolutions, while also deploring procedural manoeuvres aimed at stifling constructive dialogue and blocking effective NGO participation at the Council.

‘Council members are mandated to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights”, not to shield themselves from criticism and block constructive dialogue.
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Those who truly want to see the Council fulfill its function must vigorously and proactively safeguard civil society participation and vibrant debate at the UN,’ said Ben Leather, Advocacy Manager at ISHR.
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The statement acknowledged the reaffirmation of the universality of human rights in the resolution on sexual orientation and gender identity, as laying the foundation upon which longer-term, sustained attention to this critical issue can be built.

In relation to the Council’s country engagement, which was overshadowed by failure by States to heed calls from human rights defenders to ensure accountability for both past and ongoing human rights violations in Egypt and Bahrain, the NGOs welcomed the commitment to greater involvement in the Central African Republic, the condemnation of violations in Sudan, and the addressing of priorities in Yemen and the DRC. However, concrete mechanisms to ensure international accountability where none exist at the national level were identified once again as weak, such as in the Council’s failure to heed the Commission of Inquiry’s calls for Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court.

‘Sadly, during the session, there were once again alarming reports of reprisals and acts of intimidation against human rights defenders attending the session, or otherwise seeking to engage with UN human rights mechanisms’ Mr Leather said.
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The statement deplored the criminalisation of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives for participating in the UPR and the travel ban on Russian activists hoping to attend the UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.

‘This highlights the urgent need for a system-wide institutional response to reprisals, which ensures that those who come to the UN to tell their story and strengthen global action for human rights, can return home to continue to defend human rights free from insecurity or fear.’ Mr Leather said.

Download the joint NGO statement here.

The following organisations joined the statement:

  • Amnesty International
  • Allied Rainbow Communities (ARC) International
  • ARTICLE 19
  • Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum Asia)
  • Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
  • Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
  • Conectas Direitos Humanos
  • International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  • International Service for Human Rights
  • East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defender Project
  • Human Rights House Foundation
  • International Lesbian and Gay Association