03/10/2018 / 5 Highlights from the Human Rights Council Session

5 Highlights from the Human Rights Council Session

Human Rights, 03/10/2018

From 10 to 28 September, we at the Right Livelihood Award Foundation took part in its first Human Rights Council session, after it received ECOSOC consultative status in July.

David, Fabiana and Alessandra from the Geneva Team attending the Human Rights Council meeting.

David, Fabiana and Alessandra from the Geneva Team attending the Human Rights Council meeting.

The session was marked by the participation of newly appointed High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, who addressed the Council for the first time. In her opening remarks on 10 September, she highlighted that “the most effective solutions were grounded in principle and in openness, in collective agreements and coordinated actions”.  Adding that she would “advocate for the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights that were the inherent entitlements of all people.”

The Council tackled both thematic and country situations, including issues related to enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention, the right to development, access to water and sanitation, amongst others.

“During the past three weeks, a number of issues that are of high importance were addressed by the Council members and civil society alike. The Right Livelihood Award Foundation has had the possibility to raise awareness to the threats and prosecution of Laureates, to liaise with partner civil society organisations and to call for government’s accountability to respect basic principles of human rights where our Laureates are threatened and where sustainability of civil society is at stake” said Fabiana Leibl, protection and advocacy manager. 

Partnering with Helen Mack to speak up about violations in Guatemala

Speaking on behalf of Fundación Myrna Mack and Helen Mack Chang, we delivered an oral statement on the occasion of the presentation of the report by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, Mr Fabian Salvioli.

Fundación Myrna Mack’s statement pointed out that “despite having signed the Peace Agreement over 20 years ago, after 36 years of internal conflict, crimes of the past continue to affect the families of the victims and society as a whole in Guatemala. The judicial processes involving military personnel accused of grave human rights violations have become spaces to validate their actions and to disqualify the search for justice. Human rights workers are constantly attacked, stigmatized and assaulted.”

Joining Fundación Myrna Mack, we expressed our concerns about the recent developments taking place in the country with regards to the International Commission against Impunity (CICIG), who together with the Public Prosecutor’s Office, has brought to light numerous cases of human rights violations and corruption.

In response to the statement, the Special Rapporteur also expressed its concerns about the government’s clear intentions to hinder the work developed by the CICIG and lead by 2018 Laureates Ivan Velasquez and Thelma Aldana.

Read Helen’s article (in Spanish)

Raising awareness about the politically motivated charges against Mozn Hassan

Together with Nazra for Feminist Studies, we delivered another oral statement highlighting the situation of human rights defenders in Egypt and focusing on the ongoing prosecution of activists and the politically motivated criminal prosecution against Mozn Hasan. we called on Egypt to drop the charges against Mozn and urged the Council to call on Egypt to comply with its international obligations and stop prosecuting human rights defenders.

During the session, Egypt reply to the statement by attesting civil society in the country was fully functional, and that “it rejected the content of fallacious statements aimed at camouflaging the reality. More than 50 thousand organisations, NGOs and 120 international organisations operate within Egypt in step with our international legislation governing their work, this includes financial matters. No country allows a flow of people and money without control.”

Despite being part of all major human rights Treaties, however, the position of the Egyptian government fails to reflects the reality of closing civic space in the country, where a number of human rights defenders and especially women human rights defenders are being harassed and prosecuted for standing up for people’s rights.

Co-sponsoring side event on the situation of human rights in Nicaragua

During the session, Red International para los Derechos Humanos (RIDH) invited us to co-sponsor a side event concerning the situation of human rights in Nicaragua.  The panel discussion was led by Nicaraguan human rights defenders and a relative of one of the hundreds of political prisoners currently illegally detained. They provided an updated overview of the human rights violations and the current crisis and suggested initiatives that could be taken by the international community to address the crisis.

At the same time, Bianca Jagger, 2004 Nicaraguan Laureate, spoke about the situation of human rights in the country and the need to address the violations against peaceful demonstrators at an event hosted by the Americas Society/Council of Americas, in New York.

Watch Bianca Jagger’s intervention

The Geneva Peace Talks

Our 2008 Laureate Monika Hauser was invited to speak at the prestigious Geneva Peace Talks at the Palais des Nations, which took place on 21 September, to celebrate the International Peace Day.

She shared her story together with 9 other speakers who make extraordinary contributions to peace. Monika talked about her experiences and Medica Mondiale’s work with women affected by sexual violence in conflict. During her inspiring intervention, she stressed that:

“Why is there no political will to ensure that women can live a life free of violence? The answers are connected to our world order, where the wealth and power of the few are based on the exploitation and discrimination of the many. And until we have gender justice there will be neither development nor peace.”

Laureates at the Human Rights Council Session

Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)/ Asian Legal Resource Centre, Juan Garcés, Syria Civil Defence (White Helmets) were also in Geneva attending the 39th session.

AHRC delivered a number of oral statements and organized side events about the situation of human rights in Bangladesh, arbitrary detentions and impunity in Asian countries, in general.

In the dialogue with the Council, members of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic “warned about the catastrophic humanitarian impact that an all-out offensive to recapture Idlib would generate, and stressed that the respect for human rights and accountability must remain key priorities”.  The White Helmets attended the session and had meetings with different UN mandates, including the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria.

Finally, Joan Garcés spoke at a side event on the 30th anniversary of 1988 massacre in Iran.