UN Human Rights Council concludes 50th Session:
The United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC) concluded its 50th session on 8 July 2022, with human rights organizations from across the globe expressing “great concern” in the session’s closing statement about the HRC’s continued silence and inaction on the deteriorating human rights situation in Egypt. Freedom of expression and peaceful assembly is under widespread and systematic attack under the helm of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi; as typified by the prolonged arbitrary imprisonment of prominent pro-democracy activist and blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah, who has been on hunger strike for over 110 days and is likely to die in prison without international action and pressure
While failing to take any action on Egypt, the Human Rights Council adopted resolutions pertaining to critical human rights situations, including in Libya, Syria, and Sudan. The HRC also adopted resolutions to renew the mandates of the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of assembly and association and the UN Independent Expert on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Only days after protesters in Libya stormed the parliament and other government buildings, the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on Libya (FFM) presented its latest report at the 50th session of the HRC, which details gross human rights violations committed by armed groups and government forces throughout the country, including allegations of crimes against humanity and war crimes. Despite the gravities of these findings, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution drafted by Libya that discontinues investigations after a “final, non-extendable period of nine months.”
NGOs, including CIHRS have called on states to ensure that UN monitoring and investigation mechanisms are maintained so long as violations continue to be perpetrated with impunity in Libya. The HRC’s decision not to renew the FFM beyond a nine-month period sends a dangerous message to armed groups regarding the international community’s utter lack of political will to ensure serious and sustainable accountability for human rights violations committed in Libya, which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
CIHRS and partners had called for an extension of the FFM mandate in an oral intervention before the HRC, or the creation of an alternative mechanism that would sufficiently respond to the long-standing and urgent need to protect victims and end impunity in Libya beyond March 2023.
To raise awareness about the importance of the FFM, CIHRS organized an online side event titled “Libya: A Critical Time for Accountability: The Role of the UN Fact-Finding Mission in Supporting the Rule of Law and Sustainable Peace,” on 24 June, on the sidelines of the 50th HRC session. The event was co-sponsored by Switzerland, Germany, and the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), in cooperation with a group of local and international organizations. Speakers elaborated on the urgency of renewing the FFM on Libya and sustained efforts to ensure accountability, especially in the context of the upcoming elections and ongoing political transition.
Meanwhile in Syria, the authoritarian government under President Bashar al-Assad continues to obscure its past and ongoing crimes through the use of human rights rhetoric alongside superficial policies or measures that do nothing to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people. Speaking before the HRC on 30 June, CIHRS called on UN member states to urge the Syrian government to end its practice of torture, end violations in places of detention, and abolish provisions for immunity that give impunity to perpetrators and deny justice to victims. CIHRS also called for an international humanitarian mechanism to coordinate efforts to discover the fate of the countless missing and forcibly disappeared people in Syria, and for those detainees who remain alive, to secure their release and initiate proceedings for justice and redress.
The rise in the deportation and forcible return of Syrian asylum seekers and refugees by host countries was condemned in a joint oral statement on 29 June. CIHRS and partners called for a halt to the deportation or forcible return of Syrians, especially given the evidence that returnees have been subjected to torture, detention, enforced disappearance, and sexual and gender-based violence.
On Palestine, the new UN Commission of Inquiry on the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel presented its first report, which found that Israel’s protracted occupation and discrimination against Palestinians is the underlying catalyst for the dire and deteriorating conditions. The report highlighted the ongoing lack of accountability for Israel’s human rights violations, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. CIHRS and partners submitted a joint written intervention to the HRC on the rise in violence against Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line alongside endemic institutional impunity for human rights violations and crimes committed by the Israeli state and its settlers.
The Algerian government’s intensifying assault upon its international rights commitments -especially in regards to women’s rights and the rights to peaceful assembly, free association, and free belief - was the overarching theme of discussion in the online side event “Algeria: An Alarming Regression for Human Rights: Assessment and Recommendations ahead of Algeria’s UPR,”, which was held on 5 July in parallel to the 50th session of the HRC. Participants in the side event concluded that national legislation allowing for the violation of fundamental rights must be amended and- before that- the Algerian constitution itself must be amended. Rights can only be protected through the constitution by removing vague, abstract terminology from the relevant constitutional articles.
The side event on Algeria and its recommendations represent a reiteration of concerns and demands expressed in reports submitted by CIHRS and a number of human rights organizations to the United Nations last March, in preparation for the Universal Periodic Review of Algeria’s human rights file before the Council, which is scheduled for next November.
In an oral intervention before the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression on 24 July, CIHRS reviewed several cases of violations committed in Egypt and Algeria with regard to the right to free expression. In a joint letter, CIHRS also joined the civil society call on UN member states to continue monitoring and debate on the critical human rights situation in Sudan. In response to the letter, the Human Rights Council issued a resolution ensuring continued scrutiny of the situation in Sudan before the HRC.
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