CIVICUS response to Human Rights Commissioner´s opening remarks at 33rd Session of Human Rights Council

We fully endorse the High Commissioner´s caution against populist demagogues in Europe and the United States, who fuel hatred and bigotry against minority groups, refugees and entire religious communities. We applaud his continued attention to the precipitous backsliding on basic public freedoms undermining important human rights gains and democratic consolidation in many regions of the world.

We equally deplore the lack of access given to his Office and Special Procedures to many countries in an attempt to block or evade human rights scrutiny.

Specifically, CIVCUS reiterates the High Commissioner’s deep concern about the grave and escalating violations of human rights in Ethiopia in the context of peaceful protests. We urge the Council to rapidly dispatch an international, independent and transparent investigation into the use of excessive and lethal force against protesters, which has resulted in hundreds of extra-judicial killings and thousands of arrests.

Likewise, we share his concern about the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Yemen. There have been more frequent and severe attacks on journalists and human rights defenders, including unlawful killings and enforced disappearances, as well as unwarranted restrictions on freedom of expression and other fundamental freedoms.  In the absence of a comprehensive national accountability process, which should have the consent of all concerned parties, and given the challenges faced by the national commission of inquiry, we call on the Council to reach a consensus in support of an international, independent investigation.

High Commissioner, the situation in Bahrain for civil society and human rights defenders continues to rapidly deteriorate. Not only are domestic avenues for political and public participation severely truncated by the government’s systematic repression of dissent, but the government has also escalated its campaign to prevent national human rights activists from engaging with the Human Rights Council and it various mechanisms. With civil society severely constrained at home and largely prevented from accessing the Council, it is incumbent on the international community to ensure a concerted and unequivocal response at this 33rd Session.

Mr President, CIVICUS calls on all members and observers of the Council at this 10th anniversary to take effective measures to create and maintain a safe and enabling environment for civil society, including the release of all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in Bahrain and Ethiopia for exercising their legitimate and fundamental rights.