NEWS RELEASES – On this Tuesday 6th of June begins the 35th Human Rights Council (HRC). Apart from continuing from where it stopped during the 34th HRC, the Council also focuses on other crucial human rights issues. As the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, stated at the opening ceremony of the 34th session of the HRC in Geneva: “Without a commitment to fundamental human rights, to the dignity and worth of the human person and to the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, our world will become chaos, misery and warfare”.
At its closure, the 34th HRC focused on conflict zones and situations where freedom of speech is not allowed. The war in Yemen was one of the main topics treated because a lot of NGOs, specialists and UN Rapporteurs tried to raise awareness on this critical situation. They asked to stop attacks on civilians and to ensure humanitarian access. Given the number of conferences that have taken place in the last session regarding the situation in Sri Lanka and Myanmar, the latter have also been part of a big concern. Concretely, a resolution (A/HRC/34/L.1) asked that “the Government of Sri Lanka to implement fully the measures identified by the Council in its resolution 30/1” as the CIPADH recalls in this article.
Today, Geneva welcomes the delegations of the 47 countries which form the intergovernmental body of the United Nations Human Rights Council, The Eleventh Cycle (2017), presided by Joaquín Alexander MAZA MARTELLI (El Salvador). Always aiming at strengthening and promoting human rights around the world, the Council started its working agenda today under the eye of the world. In fact, the situation of Human Rights in the world is particularly concerning as many newspapers and NGOs have stated these last weeks, including the CIPADH itself. For example, the conflict in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has reached an extreme violence and Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein has called “to take immediate steps to halt widespread human rights violations” otherwise, he will ask “the Human Rights Council and the international community to monitor the security situation in the DRC”. He also stressed the situation in Venezuela which requires an urgent intervention because Human Rights are strongly violated. Since February, he tried to raise awareness about Egypt as he “expressed grave concern over the closure of hundreds of civil society organizations in Egypt and the prosecutions of numerous human rights defenders for their legitimate work since November 2014”. Five days ago, he expressed his concern regarding the repressive NGO law damages Human rights in Egypt.
The work of the 35th HRC has just started. Nevertheless, a lot has been covered and discussed already and the importance of such a crucial event for human rights cannot be underestimated. However, the role of human rights has been put into question several times in the UN panorama. How can human rights be fully integrated in the multifaceted and enormous institution that the UN represents today? How can the Human Rights Council tackle the rise of populism and xenophobia as well as the new policies against human rights? These are important questions that should be addressed not to forget that improvement and progress come from constructive criticism and reflection. Hopefully, the 35th HRC will cope with these questions in an attempt to restore faith in human rights and their role in this world.
Sonia Rodríguez – Project Coordinator at CIPADH