(Geneva) Today, September 30, 2016, a group of leading international and regional NGOs have delivered its end of session statement commenting on the key outcomes of the 33rd session of the UN Human Rights Council. The statement was delivered by Salma Amer, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), on behalf of International Service for Human Rights, African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies, ARC International, Article 19, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Asian Legal Resource Centre, CIVICUS, DefendDefenders (EHAHRDP), Human Rights House Foundation, Human Rights Watch, International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), and Reporters Without Borders)
As we conclude the last session of this 10th anniversary year, we civil society organisations from around the globe note that some of the Council’s shortcomings remain unaddressed. Rather than enhancing membership, another region will present a closed slate in the elections. This presents the General Assembly with an impossible choice: it is forced to elect States that clearly fail to uphold the highest human rights standards, some of which have even pledged to not cooperate with some of the Council’s mechanisms.
The Council also failed this year to create a system to consistently respond to situations which require its attention, such as the crackdown and reprisals against human rights defenders and civil society in Azerbaijan, Bahrain, China, Ethiopia, Russia and Venezuela, among others.
Turning to the output of this session.
The resolution on Yemen falls short of civil society demands for a full-fledged international Commission of Inquiry, as the grave situation on the ground requires. However, it mandates continued monitoring and public reporting by OHCHR investigators, and closer scrutiny by the Council. Should the violations continue, the Council must convene before the next session, and consider how to strengthen international accountability for crimes in Yemen.
On Burundi, we welcome the creation of a Commission of Inquiry and call on members of the Council to consider suspending Burundi’s membership rights should the government fail to fully cooperate with the Commission or if the situation on the ground does not improve. In this regard, we deeply regret that the State concerned was in a position to call a vote on this resolution, given the serious human rights violations in the country.
We also welcome the resolution on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and the Council’s strong call for releasing detained journalists and strengthening their overall protection. We welcome the joint statement on Cambodia early in the session, but continue to call for stronger action to reverse the trend of closing democratic space for the political opposition, journalists and human rights defenders in the country.
We welcome the appointment of new mandate holders and recall the obligation of all states, particularly Council members, to cooperate fully with them.
In closing, we civil society organisations again deplore that human rights defenders were prevented from travelling to the 33rd session, including from Bahrain and one from India who remains in detention. Some of those able to come and testify were subjected to threats, smears and intimidation. We call on you and your Bureau to remain vigilant as attention lowers after the session, to ensure all those cooperating with the Council are safe.