Third Committee Condemns Continuing Human Rights Atrocities Worldwide, Underscoring Ongoing Violations in Ukraine, Other Conflict Zones
General Assembly President Highlights Interlocking Global Challenges Needing Immediate, Sustainable Solutions
Growing disparity between international standards and reality on the ground is generating mistrust between peoples and communities, experts told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today, as delegates expressed grave concern over the human rights situations in Ukraine, China, Afghanistan, Belarus, Myanmar, Ethiopia, Iran, Syria and Yemen.
Addressing the Committee, General Assembly President Csaba Kőrösi (Hungary) warned against interlocking challenges facing the world, including armed conflict, illegal annexations, the undeniable devastation of the environment, climate change, rising xenophobia and increasing inequalities.
Such crises require immediate answers and sustainable solutions, he continued, highlighting the Committee’s work, which ranges from issues such as violence against women to trafficking in persons; from the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples to those of migrant workers; from the moratorium on the death penalty to freedom of religion or belief. And, most importantly, from problems to solutions, he emphasized, noting: “I am here to build bridges.”
Ilze Brands Kehris, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)) said her Office has strengthened the capacity of women´s organizations on sexual violence, access to justice and human-rights-based investigation of gender-based killings. Advocating for victim-centred transitional justice processes, she detailed OHCHR’s support to Colombia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Peru, South Sudan and Syria. The Office has also provided training to strengthen the administration of justice and rule of law in Burundi and Mali, she said, emphasizing its advocacy for the abolition of the death penalty.
In the ensuing interactive dialogue, Ukraine’s delegate condemned Moscow’s ongoing aggression, war crimes and crimes against humanity, which have not been seen since the Second World War. Innocent civilians and critical civilian infrastructure remain the key targets of Moscow’s “terror machine”, she asserted.
Echoing her concerns, Latvia’s delegate pointed to Moscow’s outrageous human rights violations, ranging from forced deportations to acts of sexual violence and torture. Georgia’s delegate decried Moscow’s ongoing illegal occupation of the Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions, which has been impacting the life of the population through illegal militarization and human rights violations.
Meanwhile, the representative of the Russian Federation rejected the aggressive information campaigns of Western States, as well as their use of human rights as a political and economic lever. Along similar lines, the delegate of Belarus criticized the one-sided view of the world presented in Ms. Kehris’ report, which fails to stress the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on human rights.
Venezuela’s delegate voiced concern over proliferation of mechanisms that pretend to conduct impartial assessments of the human rights situation in specific States, noting that in certain cases, OHCHR has overstepped its mandate.
In the afternoon, Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, noted that on every continent, people are being targeted for helping those in need, bringing food, medicine and water to those who are freezing in forests or dehydrating in deserts. She reported on the situation in Libya, where people were attacked and tortured for trying to help others, prevented by the Government from visiting detained migrants, abused at detention centres and threatened by human trafficking gangs.
She further detailed how human rights defenders risk being prosecuted, even jailed, and urged States to put a stop to jailing, smearing, deporting, kidnapping and physically attacking those who are helping migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers. States ought to commend, not vilify and target human rights defenders, she asserted. People who are helping refugees from Ukraine are rightly lauded for their great work, while those assisting refugees from other places are attacked, she observed, opposing double standards.
Also briefing the Committee today were Ms. Photini Pazartzis, Chair of the Human Rights Committee, and Mr. Mohamed Abdel-Moneim, Chair of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 14 October, to continue its consideration of human rights.
CSABA KŐRÖSI, President of the General Assembly, warned about interlocking challenges that the world faces, including armed conflict, illegal annexations, the undeniable devastation of the environment, climate change, rising xenophobia and increasing inequalities. These crises require immediate answers and sustainable solutions, he asserted, adding that business as usual is not an option. Everyone must be part of the solution, including women, who are still often stripped of their human rights. Today, up to 10 million girls are newly at risk of child marriage, while efforts are being reported to keep girls out of school in some regions. However, many women and girls refuse to be defined as victims only; they are agents of change, he stressed.
Noting that no country has a perfect track record, he underscored the Third Committee’s role in ensuring that the rights of all people are respected, regardless of gender, race, belief or political affiliation, ethnicity, language, sexual orientation and gender identity, or migration status. The Third Committee’s work will range from issues such as violence against women to trafficking in persons; from the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples to those of migrant workers; from the moratorium on the death penalty to freedom of religion or belief; and, most importantly, from problems to solutions, he emphasized, adding that solutions do not emerge organically. “I am here to build bridges,” he said.
ILZE BRANDS KEHRIS, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), presented the Annual Report of OHCHR on its activities between 1 January and 30 June. As of that date, OHCHR had 103 human rights field presences worldwide, she said, adding that it has advised Governments and relevant stakeholders on integrating human rights into national legal reforms and economic and social policies after the COVID‑19 pandemic. The Office advocated for universal social protection, including access to COVID‑19 vaccines, and for universal health coverage, while underlining the importance of debt management and relief, and creating necessary fiscal space to maintain essential services for people.
Together with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Environment Management Group and other partners, OHCHR has advanced the human right to a clean environment, she said, stressing its advocacy for integrating the right to development into climate action, biodiversity action and South-South Cooperation. The Office has also pursued its support to human rights components in United Nations peace operations and special political missions, seeking to strengthen the consideration of human rights in Security Council resolutions and support implementation of human rights mandates, she said. As of 30 June, OHCHR had 22 ongoing Peacebuilding Fund-supported projects across all regions, she said. Turning to the protection of women’s rights, she stressed efforts to strengthen women´s organizations and key stakeholders on sexual and gender-based violence, strategic litigation on sexual and reproductive rights, access to justice and human-rights based investigation of gender-based killings. She also stressed monitoring missions and advice to promote the rights of migrants, persons with disabilities, older persons, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons, and indigenous persons, in other areas.
On accountability, she noted OHCHR’s support to States and other stakeholders in designing and implementing inclusive, context-specific and victim-centred transitional justice processes, including in Colombia, Ethiopia, El Salvador, Guatemala, The Gambia, Kenya, Lebanon, Madagascar, Mexico, Peru, the Republic of Korea, South Sudan and Syria. Further, the Office provided training to strengthen the administration of justice and rule of law in Burundi, Mali, the Republic of Korea and Mexico, she said, emphasizing its advocacy for the abolition of the death penalty. She also noted the documented challenges facing defenders and journalists worldwide, OHCHR’s support to human rights defenders and its monitoring and advocacy in electoral processes in several countries.
The Office has also supported Member States in establishing and strengthening national mechanisms for reporting and follow-up, including through a tracking database. Under its 2023 call for applications, the United Nations voluntary trust fund on contemporary forms of slavery and the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture awarded, respectively, annual grants for 43 projects to assist 13,012 victims in 33 Member States and for 184 projects to assist 46,600 victims in 92 Member States.
During the ensuing interactive dialogue, some delegates pointed to critical human rights situations in specific areas, with interested countries responding that human rights issues should not be politicized or used to interfere in other State’s decisions and sovereignty.
The delegate of Venezuela rejected double standards in the field of human rights, expressing concern at the “proliferation of mechanisms and procedures that pretend to conduct impartial assessments of the human rights situation in specific States”, which often lack the due consent and participation of the concerned State. Further, affirming that in certain instances some OHCHR assessments have gone beyond its mandate, he asked Ms. Kehris about her office’s assessment of the negative impact of unilateral approaches, including those resulting from the illegal application of unilateral coercive measures, particularly on the human rights of the most vulnerable.
The representative of Latvia expressed concern about the deteriorating human rights situation in many countries, including Belarus, Russian Federation, Ukraine and Myanmar. In particular, he drew attention to the “outrageous human rights violations and killings of the Ukrainian people, as a result of Russia’s war of aggression”. This includes abhorrent acts of Russian Federation troops in Ukraine, ranging from forced deportations to acts of sexual violence and torture. Citing the human rights centre “Viasna” data on 1,352 political prisoners in Belarus and Memorial Human Rights Centre data showing that there are 447 political prisoners in the Russian Federation, he spotlighted the case of imprisoned activist Vladimir Kara-Murza. He asked what more the Organization should do to address the “appalling human rights situation in Russia” as well as improve the monitoring of human rights violations in Ukraine.
The representative of the European Union, speaking in its capacity as observer, highlighted the human rights situation of Uygur and persons belonging to other minorities in Xinjiang, China. Some serious human rights violations there may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity, he said. He stressed that human rights are under attack in many parts of the world, from Afghanistan to Myanmar and Ethiopia to the occupied territory of Ukraine. He asked for an assessment of transitional justice processes and an indication of where new ones should be launched.
The representative of the United States expressed grave concern about the human rights situations in China, Afghanistan, Belarus, Burma, Ethiopia, Iran, Syria and Yemen. “The United States strongly condemns the ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity that the People's Republic of China has perpetrated in Xinjiang and other abuses elsewhere,” she said, calling on that country to cease committing atrocities and allow independent experts unhindered access. She also noted the Russian Federation’s “horrific atrocities and abuses in Ukraine”, including filtration operations, reported disappearances, tortures and family separations.
The representative of Cameroon said that the promotion and protection of economic, social, and cultural rights, and the right to development, are critical for the enjoyment of all human rights. She asked what measures could be implemented by the OHCHR to reinforce the right to development. Calling of equitable geographical representation a priority, including in the OHCHR, she asked about measures taken to ensure that staff from developing countries are represented in high professional and director levels.
The representative of Myanmar, pointing to the deteriorating human rights situation in his country, urged the international community to take all steps within its power to support the people of Myanmar and isolate the military, including financially. To prevent further military atrocities and restore democracy, human rights and rule of law in Myanmar, he asked what actions she would ask Member States and regional countries to take and what consequences Rohingyas may face in their return, if democracy and the rule of law are not restored in the country.
The representative of Belarus said that the report presents a one-sided view of the world, namely that one group of countries can do no wrong, without stressing the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on human rights. Stating that his country does not support increased funding for the functioning of the treaty bodies, he said it would be more effective to distribute already existing resources.
The representative of Georgia said the illegal occupation of her country’s Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions by the Russian Federation continues, impacting the life of the population through illegal militarization and various human rights violations. Noting the recent decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on issuing arrest warrants for individuals bearing criminal responsibility for war crimes committed during the Russian Federation’s military aggression in 2008, she said that the OHCHR and other international human rights monitoring mechanisms are continuously prevented by the Russian Federation from entering the occupied territories of Georgia. She asked about “other viable ways” of addressing the human rights violations in these regions.
The representative of Ukraine said her country considers it crucial to continue a strong and independent human rights presence there. She noted that ongoing aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine, accompanied by massive human rights abuses, war crimes and crimes against humanity, has been unseen since the Second World War, adding that it has impacted numerous countries by exacerbating hunger, poverty and nuclear threats. Emphasizing that residential buildings, bus stops, critical civilian infrastructure, innocent civilians remain the “key targets of Russia’s terror machine”, she called on States to take all measures to prevent further heinous atrocities.
The representative of the Russian Federation stressed that human rights today are used as a political and economic lever. Western countries, specifically the United States, deliberately bring the human rights situation in countries to the point of exaggeration. Referring to mendacious and aggressive information campaigns, he said that Western States have started a campaign to smear his country. He rejected the European Union accusations against China as absurd and said that the OHCHR report facilitated the spread of these lies.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that human rights should not be used for political purposes, rejecting selectivity and double standards in this regard. Also rejecting attempts to politicize human rights issues, he said that accusations regarding the situation in Xinjiang are regrettable, expressing support for China in defending its security and integrity.
The representative of China rejected “lectures of human rights” from other States, turning a blind eye to their own human rights violations. Adding that human rights are used as a pretext to interfere in other countries’ affairs, he pointed to hypocrisy and double standards of other nations. He invited the United States to account for its human rights violations.
The representative of Syria said that some Member States try to politicize human rights. Rejecting accusations by the European Union about violations in Xinjiang, he defended the right to protect its sovereignty and integrity of China. Also, he said his country has the right to fight occupation within its borders.
Also speaking in the dialogue were the representatives of Switzerland, Poland, Portugal, Luxembourg, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Norway, France, Slovenia, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Brazil, Qatar, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Japan, Nicaragua, Chile, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Cuba, Libya, Morocco, Albania, Egypt, Algeria, Cambodia, Costa Rica and Yemen.
Ms. Kehris, responding, said her Office works to promote all rights and outlined links between agencies and initiatives to support human rights. She said the “Supporting UNHCR Resources on the Ground with Experts on mission” initiative was a good example, as was the increased contact her Office has with the Security Council. Stressing the importance of the new social contract anchored in human rights, she said it will maximize synergy between the Call for Action and the Secretary-General’s Our Common Agenda report, bolstering frameworks for sustainable development and also identifying gaps in the field. She noted that her Office, which accounts for 4 per cent of total United Nations funding, needs both financial and political support from countries worldwide to integrate human rights across pillars. Addressing equitable geographical representation, she said strategic measures such as the Young Professionals Programme and a diversity and inclusion strategy have been put in place to correct this issue.
Addressing several thematic issues raised, she said that transitional justice is lengthy and complex, but underscored the need to focus on accountability and the rights of victims to truth, justice, reparation and the guarantee of non-recurrence. Colombia and the Gambia are good examples of transitional justice mechanisms in action, she added, also detailing her Office’s work on universal coercive measures advocating for humanitarian exemptions to sanctions. She said UNHCR has assisted 52 United Nations country projects, which highlight clear links to human rights development. Adding that work surrounding LGBTI people is a priority for her Office, she said 40 Member States have made Universal Periodic Review (UPR) commitments to tackle discrimination against LGBTI people. Turning to international cooperation, she said her Office continues to monitor human rights violations through a vigorous methodology, but it can take time to gather all information in an ongoing conflict. For her Office to function, she stressed the need for unimpeded access to countries with ongoing conflicts. Finally, she said that UNHCR continues to monitor the situation in the Russian Federation, as well as Myanmar and the Rohingya refugees area, and pledged to continue dialogue with China.
Presentation of Report
PHOTINI PAZARTZIS, Chair of the Human Rights Committee, presenting the Committee’s annual report (document A/77/40), said that despite challenges posed by the COVID‑19 pandemic, the Committee has continued its work, both virtually and in person, engaging with all country-specific stakeholders concerned, including United Nations entities, national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations. During the reporting period, the Committee held constructive dialogues with 15 States parties and adopted 13 lists of issues relating to initial or periodic reports. Recalling that the Committee has already moved towards an eight-year predictable review cycle to improve regularity in reporting obligations by States parties, she said having 40 States that have already submitted reports was encouraging, indicating their commitment to the work of the Human Rights Committee.
The Chairs of the 10 treaty bodies agreed on a landmark unified position to establish a predictable schedule of reviews over an eight-year cycle, she said. The harmonization of working methods and digital tools will benefit States and stakeholders alike, she added, stressing the need to equip the Secretariat and experts with a “digital uplift”, as well as increase resources to match the workload. Pointing to an increasing number of cases brought before the Committee, she said that its backlog is also increasing. Highlighting the challenges faced by a staff shortage in the Petitions Section, she asked that staff resources be increased to address its backlog and maintain the credibility of the Committee as a forum providing timely remedies to victims of human rights violations.
Questions and Answers
When the floor opened for questions and comments, the representative of the United States welcomed the Committee’s simplified procedures and asked Ms. Pazartzis about additional measures that can be taken to assist with the backlog in communications.
Along similar lines, the representative of Mexico pointed to the ongoing dialogue with the Committee, which has had a positive impact on enhancing his country’s institutional capacities to protect human rights. He proceeded to inquire about progress made in the dialogue between the Committee and regional bodies in dealing with cross-cutting forms of discrimination and marginalization that continue to impact vulnerable groups.
The representative of Greece supported the Committee’s digital uplift through digital technologies and platforms to assist treaty bodies in the fulfilment of their mandate. She asked about the potential of digital tools to increase familiarization of all stakeholders with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the work of its monitoring bodies.
The representative of Algeria welcomed efforts made by the Committee in strengthening the relationship with other treaty bodies and regional human rights mechanisms. Noting the impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic on the Committee’s activities, he asked Ms. Pazartzis how the Committee plans to make up for delays caused by the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the representative of the Russian Federation pointed to bureaucratic delays and disruptions on the Committee’s part. Files received are incomplete, information is lost, documents arrive too late and frequently without translation, he emphasized. Moreover, Moscow has been consistently opposing attempts to politicize the work of United Nations human rights bodies, he recalled, condemning the use of human rights issues to interfere in the domestic affairs of sovereign States.
Also speaking were representatives of Romania, Chile, Liechtenstein, the United Kingdom and India. The representative of the European Union spoke in its capacity as observer. An observer for the Sovereign Order of Malta also made a statement.
Responding to delegates, Ms. Photini Pazartzis highlighted the Committee’s decision to have focal points and continue coordination among treaty bodies. It will take collective efforts, she stressed, adding that the digital uplift will help rectify issues such as receiving delayed responses and the lack of communication. Moreover, the digital uplift will allow for the work that is now being done manually to go through a streamlined process. Underscoring the importance of cross-referencing with other committees and avoiding repetition, she recalled that the Committee reminded States of their obligations even in times of crisis, such as during the COVID‑19 pandemic.
Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
MOHAMED ABDEL-MONEIM, Chair of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, said that his Committee follows the Human Rights Committee’s work closely and that the former gives great ideas to the latter. He said he would not repeat the points that Ms. Pazartzis made on the Chairs’ meeting. He emphasized that the Chairs’ meeting aimed to relieve the burden on States as much as possible without reducing the quality of the reporting itself. He added that, although there are delays in filing, the States that are part of the Covenant send his Committee high quality work and are contributing to important dialogue.
In the ensuing interactive dialogue, the representative of Algeria lamented that his country was hit by inflation just as it saw a glimmer of hope in recovering from the COVID‑19 pandemic. He asked how the Committee guarantees people’s economic, social and cultural rights and how to make up for lost progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.
The representative of Portugal echoed this sentiment, adding that rising global prices have shown the world how relevant the principles of the Vienna Declaration are. She declared that humans are not free unless they are able to enjoy their human rights, which they cannot do when they are impoverished, hungry or homeless.
The representative of the Russian Federation said he regretted that the Chair’s report was published with too little time to read it in advance, opting not to comment on its substance. He said his delegation opposes unilateral coercive measures against countries, as they violate fundamental human rights and freedoms. He expressed concern about lobbying in favour of merging the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights with the Human Rights Committee.
The representative of China said that her country has submitted its report and will actively participate in its review next year. She added that China will adhere to its own path of human rights development, expressing concern about developing and vulnerable countries.
The youth delegate of Luxembourg expressed concern about lobbying from large multinational corporations, which can hamper progress on human rights. Young people are concerned about greenwashing, she said, adding that companies give incomplete information about climate change. She asked what Member States can do to fight whitewashing and ensure that young people have a voice in further negotiations.
The representative of El Salvador welcomed technological tools allowing delegations that are limited financially to more broadly participate. Lauding the Committee’s decision to standardize a calendar of meetings, she asked the Chair to continue his work on harmonization.
In response, Mr. Moneim said that he refers to growing inflation as the new pandemic, although COVID‑19 is still here. Challenges to the fulfilment of economic, social and human rights are greater than ever, he added, stressing that nations should come together to remove hindrances to these rights. Responding to the Russian Federation, he said that his Committee cooperates with the Human Rights Committee, but that the two bodies will not merge. Further, he said he only wants to simplify by eliminating duplication among treaty bodies. Turning to Luxembourg’s question on companies and human rights, he said he would bring it to the attention of the Committee. Finally, noting that the production of digital tools is one of the lessons of the pandemic, he said they enlarge accessibility to the work of treaty bodies and facilitate active contribution to meetings. He stressed, however, that in-person interaction produces the most efficient results.
Also speaking were representatives of Romania, Morocco, Cameroon and Syria. The representative of the European Union also spoke, in its capacity as observer.
Human Rights Defenders
MARY LAWLOR, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, pointed to her latest report, “Refusing to Turn Away”, which details information gathered worldwide from credible sources on human rights defenders. On every continent, people are being attacked and targeted for helping those in need, bringing food, medicine and water to people who are freezing in forests or dehydrating in deserts. She recalled that people in Libya were attacked and tortured for trying to help others, prevented by the Government from visiting detained migrants, abused at detention centres and threatened by human trafficking gangs. In June, Pastor Lorenzo Ortiz, a Baptist pastor and human rights defender assisting migrants on the Mexico-United States border, was kidnapped and held for several days by members of a local cartel who threatened to kill him and his family. Ms. Lawlor’s report details how human rights defenders risk being prosecuted, even jailed, for giving this help. She called on States to put a stop to jailing, smearing, deporting, kidnapping and physically attacking those who are helping migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers. Some of these defenders are lawyers providing legal advice to asylum-seekers; some are doctors and nurses who provide medical help; others are those who provide soup to hungry people they see at the bottom of their garden. Many take great personal risks and are accused of being people smugglers, foreign agents, traffickers and terrorists, she said, adding that Government authorities, violent extremists and organized criminal gangs attack them.
States ought to commend, not vilify and target human rights defenders, she asserted, opposing double standards. People who are helping refugees from Ukraine are rightly lauded for their great work, while those assisting refugees from other places are attacked. Moreover, migrants who help other migrants face increased risks, as they jeopardize their own legal status in a country and are particularly vulnerable to attack, she underlined, noting that they need to be a special focus of protection. She welcomed that in some States, courts are throwing out cases brought by the authorities, pointing to defenders acquitted in France, Germany, Poland and the United States. In Italy this year, a case was dismissed against human rights defenders who helped migrants because the judge decided “the crime was non-existent”. However, people acting in solidarity should not have to rely on courts to protect them, she asserted, raising concern about States’ intentions to abide by the international instruments they have ratified.
In the ensuing interactive dialogue, several delegates asked how to better support and protect human rights defenders — including those who support migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers — since they are often subject to attacks and violence, including by authorities. The representative of the Dominican Republic stressed that violence committed against young human rights defenders has a negative impact on the protection of young people. She reiterated the appeal for the inclusion of their cases in future reports and acknowledged the work of the mechanism and United Nations bodies to protect them and their physical space, while ensuring accountability in case of violations.
The representative of the United States said his country is appalled by the Rapporteurs’ findings of Governments misusing national security laws to clamp down on human rights defenders working on issues related to migration. In particular, he spotlighted the attacks on women human rights defenders and issues of online threats, which often materialize in offences offline, reports of death threats, tortures and sexual assaults. The representative of the European Union, speaking in its capacity as observer, said that States have a responsibility to protect human rights defenders working with migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers, preventing reprisals and guaranteeing accountability. As some defenders are forced to work in secret for fear of attacks, she asked how States can support their work, which often goes unrecognized and unprotected.
The representative of Australia, concerned by the shrinking of civil society space, asked how States can best support human rights defenders in responding to cross-border refugee and migrant flows caused by conflicts in Europe and Africa. Noting attacks on human rights defenders by authorities privately and publicly, she cited the cases of protesters in Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini, asking for independent investigations into such deaths.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates, focusing on persons accused of criminal offences, said that authorities in her country ensure them the right to due legal processes, which includes the right to fair trial, legal representation and right to appeal. Her Government is committed to engaging with the High Commissioner’s Office and other human rights entities to ensure they have accurate, credible and up-to-date information.
The representative of Côte d’Ivoire said that “the activities of human rights defenders aiming to protect migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees offering livelihoods and rescuing lives at sea are a way of patching over the insufficient or absent implementation of institutional mechanisms that could protect these groups”. Turning to whistle-blower mechanisms, he asked how they can be effective when human rights defenders’ rights are violated, sometimes by States.
The representative of the Russian Federation asked how the Special Rapporteur drew conclusions on the lawfulness of human rights defenders’ work and violations of their rights in instances when there are court rulings to be handed down. Statements by non-governmental organizations are not enough, he said, adding that human rights defenders cannot be above the law. He asked what the experts mean when they call on States to privately promote the work of defenders working in secret in other countries.
The representative of Morocco, stating that his country supports policies of non-return, asked how States could deal with countries that implement push-back policies and how the International Covenant on Migrant Workers can be used in this regard.
Ms. LAWLOR, responding, said that sometimes it is the authorities who target human rights defenders, adding that attacks must be investigated and prosecuted by State and non-State actors. Responding to the Russian Federation, she stressed that her work is based on multiple “well-documented sources”, not just non-governmental organizations but also academic bodies, which analyse situations and draw conclusions. Emphasizing that “there’s no partiality of any kind”, she agreed that people breaking the law must be punished, but laws must be fair. Pointing to cases of two human rights defenders who have finished their 12-year prison sentences but haven’t been released yet, she urged the country of concern to release them. She commended Côte d’Ivoire for enacting a law to protect human rights defenders and implementing it. Stressing that human rights defenders deserve protection, she noted their contributions to the recognition of the denied rights of others.
Also speaking in the dialogue were the representatives of Hungary, Viet Nam, Saudi Arabia, Netherlands, Mexico, Poland, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Ireland, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Liechtenstein, Czech Republic, France, Indonesia, Germany, Costa Rica, Norway, Georgia, Slovenia, Brazil, China and Myanmar.