Libya: Civil society letter to the UN high commissioner and human rights council president requesting to supplement UPR submissions due to Covid-19 pandemic

In Arab Countries, International Advocacy Program by CIHRS

On 18 May 2020, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) joined the letter below urging the UN High Commissioner and the Human Rights Council President to re-open the stakeholder report submissions for the upcoming 36th session of the Universal Periodic Review, now tentatively scheduled for November 2020 and postponed from May because of the Covid-19 epidemic. As this will be the first UPR Review session in the wake of COVID-19, it is crucial to allow for supplemental submissions with recent updates regarding human rights during COVID-19, providing a more accurate assessment of the human rights situation in the countries that will be reviewed.

H.E. Michelle Bachelet
High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais Wilson
United Nations
Geneva, Switzerland
(via email:

Ambassador Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger
President of the Human Rights Council
Palais des Nations
United Nations
Geneva, Switzerland
(via email:

Your Excellencies,

The undersigned civil society organizations request an opportunity to provide supplements to submissions made to the 36th session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group, tentatively scheduled for November 2 to 13, 2020.  In order for civil society contributions to meaningfully support the work of the Human Rights Council, we also request that the supplemental submissions be summarized and published by the UPR Secretariat and shared as an addendum to the summary of stakeholders’ information.

On March 20, 2020, the Bureau of the Human Rights Council decided to postpone the 36th session of the Working Group, which was scheduled to take place May 4 to 15, 2020. The decision was made because “of the spread of COVID-19 and the emergency measures that have been taken by affected countries worldwide, including the host country, Switzerland.”

As you are well aware, the COVID-19 pandemic is having a catastrophic impact on millions of people around the world, especially the most vulnerable in our societies, who are suffering the worst of and will undoubtedly be the last to recover from this global health and economic crisis. Too many will not even survive the pandemic. We strongly believe, and we have no doubt you agree, that the international human rights system should continue to vigorously monitor, document, and report on the human rights implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly on marginalized populations. It should also encourage Governments and other stake-holders to take all necessary measures to protect everyone’s human rights without discrimination or distinction of any kind – an imperative in times of global crisis.

The upcoming UPR Working Group session will have profound significance as the first session to examine Member States’ human rights records in the wake of COVID-19. It is critical that this November session ensures that government responses to the current pandemic, including recovery and relief measures, protect basic human rights and are compatible with international human rights commitments and obligations. The objectives of identifying effective state practices and highlighting gaps in human rights protections that result from COVID-19 are key to strengthening compliance with international standards, and articulating the necessary conditions for transformative and lasting change.

Civil society submissions to the 36th session were made in October 2019, more than a year prior to the rescheduled review. Further, given the severe and far-reaching impact of COVID-19 on human rights, some of the information that was provided to the Human Rights Council is insufficient and outdated. Allowing civil society groups to formally supplement their submissions is critical to ensuring a more reliable and accurate assessment of governments’ compliance with their international human rights obligations, especially since the outset of the COVID-19 crisis.

We thank you in advance for providing sufficient notice with regard to your decision, including timelines for submission of supplemental materials, and any scheduling changes for the upcoming review cycles so that we can effectively contribute to this critical process.


  • African Diaspora Directorate
  • Aging People in Prison Human Rights Campaign
  • American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
  • American Friends Service Committee
  • Amnesty International
  • Art and Resistance Through Education (ARTE)
  • Assembly of Pro-Democratic NGOs of Belarus
  • Best Practices Policy Project
  • BLM Memphis
  • Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  • Campaign for Youth Justice
  • Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR)
  • Center for Disability Rights
  • Center for Pan-African Affairs
  • Center for Reproductive Rights
  • The Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice
  • Coalición de Derechos Humanos
  • Columbia Global Freedom of Expression
  • Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute
  • Committee to Protect Journalists
  • Cornell Law School Gender Justice Clinic
  • Creative Educators International Network
  • Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee
  • The DC Human Rights City Alliance
  • First Peoples Worldwide
  • Fourteenth Amendment Group
  • The Franklin Law Group
  • Friends of Angola
  • The GAP Gyrlz and Gyz
  • Global Justice Center
  • Hawai’i Institute for Human Rights
  • The Hill District Consensus Group
  • Human Rights and Gender Justice Clinic
  • Human Rights Campaign
  • Human Rights Educators – USA
  • Human Rights NGO Forum
  • Human Rights Project at the Urban Justice Center
  • Human Rights Watch
  • If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice
  • Institute for the Study of Human Rights, Columbia University
  • Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion
  • International Action Network for Gender Equity & Law
  • International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  • International Women’s Initiative
  • MAS Justice Center
  • Medical Whistleblower Advocacy Network
  • Movement for Black Lives
  • National Council of Churches
  • National Jericho Movement
  • National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty
  • National Lawyers Guild International Committee
  • National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
  • New Afrikan Peoples Organization and Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
  • NGO Committee on the Status of Women, NY (NGOCSW/NY)
  • NGO Ecohome
  • Partners for Dignity and Rights
  • PlataformaInternacionalContra la Impunidad
  • Pittsburgh Human Rights City Alliance
  • Pittsburgh University Human Rights Working Group
  • Pittsburghers for Public Transit
  • Positive Women’s Network
  • Prevention Access Campaign
  • Protection International Mesoamérica
  • Rescue Alternatives Liberia (RAL)
  • Rights and Democracy Institute (RDI)
  • Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc.
  • San Jose State University Human Rights Institute
  • Santa Clara University International Human Rights Clinic
  • Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center
  • Sexual Rights Initiative
  • Soroptimist International
  • South Texas Human Rights Center
  • The Talking Drum Incorporated
  • Tranawave Jamaica
  • Trap Panther Party
  • Unitarian Universalists for a Just Economic Community (UUJEC)
  • United Nations Association of the USA
  • University and College Consortium for Human Rights Education (UCCHRE)
  • University of Miami School of Law Human Rights Clinic
  • University of Oklahoma College of Law International Human Rights Clinic
  • University Professionals of Illinois Union, NEIU Chapter
  • US Human Rights Network (USHRN)
  • Women Enabled International
  • Women Lead Network
  • Woodhull Freedom Foundation

Mr. Eric Tistounet, Head of the Human Rights Council Branch
Mr. Gianni Magazzeni, Head of UPR Branch, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Photo: Libyan security and military agencies implement curfew / Ghat – Libya

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