Human rights council chamber

DefendDefenders’ oral statements at HRC54

Oral statements delivered during the 54th session of the UN Human Rights Council (11 September-13 October 2023)

Mr. President, Mr. High Commissioner, 

We thank you for your update. We salute the work of the Designated Expert and encourage him to continue advising the High Commissioner and documenting violations in line with his mandate. When the conditions are met, his mandate will allow him to resume his engagement with Sudanese authorities. 

As we speak, however, the conflict shows no sign of abating. Sudan’s human rights and humanitarian situation is dire. Egregious violations continue to be committed, including sexual violence against women and girls. In West Dar­fur, the violence has taken on an increasingly interethnic dimension that is reminiscent of the cri­mes com­mitted twenty years ago. 

As 120 NGOs, including DefendDefenders, highlighted in a recent letter, “impunity is at the heart of the cur­rent crisis and addressing it should be a priority.” This is why we called on the Council to establish, without further delay, an independent mechanism with a mandate to investigate human rights violations and abuses in Sudan, collect and preserve evidence, and identify those responsible. 

Such a mechanism should be provided with all the resources necessary to enable it to carry out its mandate, in particular in the areas of fact-finding, legal analysis, translation and interpretation, and evidence-collection and preservation. It should integrate a gender pers­pective and a survivor-centred approach throughout its work. 

The international community has failed the Sudanese people for too long. There is no more time to lose. 

Thank you.

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Mr. President, Mr. High Commissioner, 

We thank you for your update. Once again, we highlight the importance of the work of your Office on civic space. While we would welcome a substantial enhancement of the capacity of your Office to work on eco­nomic, social and cultural rights, we stress that this should come with an enhancement of both OHCHR country presences and OHCHR’s civic space-related work. 

As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) celebrates its 75th anniversary, the UN Declaration on human rights defenders (HRDs) its 25th, and your Office its 30th, we highlight the value of these instruments and your Office for HRDs across Africa. DefendDefenders will dedicate its next report to the impact of the UDHR and HRD Declaration on HRDs in Africa. 

Mr. President, 

We are concerned about unconstitutional chan­ges of government in Africa. In just a month, coups have affected Niger and Gabon. These follow coups in West Africa. While we condemn military coups, which are never an adequate answer to people’s frustrations and anger, we stress that civic space, including people’s freedom to associate, demonstrate, and express criticism of incum­bent governments, is key to building better, fairer societies in which governments are ac­coun­table and can chan­ge peacefully. 

Last, we reiterate our concerns over Kenya. We condemn actions of security agencies during the Saba Saba nationwide demonstrations as well as demonstrations against the high cost of living. We call upon the Kenyan government to uphold its constitutional and international obligations to protect the right to protest, and upon all those who seek to exercise fundamental freedoms to do so lawfully and peacefully. 

Thank you. 

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(Statement delivered in French)

Mr. President, Mr. Special Rapporteur, 

We thank you for your report, which shows the persistence of violations of both civil and political rights and eco­nomic, social and cultural rights. As you point out, political and diplomatic changes have not translated into human rights reforms. Arbitrariness, intimidation, fear, violence, and poverty continue to characterise dai­ly life for most Burundians, including human rights defenders, journalists, and other indepen­dent voices. Impunity for violations committed since 2015 remains widespread. 

We share your assessment of the work of the national human rights institution, the CNIDH, which lacks independence and whose A-status accreditation should be reviewed by GANHRI. 

We urge Burundi to release journalist Floriane Irangabiye, who should never have been arrested in the first place. 

Mr. President, 

In a letter released in August 2023, dozens of NGOs urged the Council to extend the Special Rapporteur’s man­date. Additionally, they called on the Council to ensure that the Special Rapporteur is able to fulfil all of his monitoring, documentation, and advice functions as per resolution 48/16. This means ad­ditional resources for the mandate. 

The letter also raises concern over Burundi’s lack of meaningful cooperation with international and African human rights bodies and mechanisms, which is all the more worrying as Burundi is a candidate for a new three-year membership term in the Council, after a first term (2016-2018) during which the Government failed to uphold basic membership standards. 

As serious violations persist in the country, perpetrators continue to enjoy impunity, and the government refuses to take human rights concerns seriously, the Council should not relax its scru­tiny. 

Thank you.

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