Today, Monday, February 25, marks the beginning of the twenty-second session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), taking place at its headquarters in Geneva. The session’s events will continue until March 22, 2013.
Non-governmental organizations play a critical role in bringing the human rights situation in different countries to light and in confronting governments based on their violations of these rights. As such, the HRC provides such organizations with the opportunity to review rights conditions through a system of written and oral interventions. The Cairo institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) is one of the organizations that take advantage of this opportunity to discuss a broad range of rights issues affecting the countries of the Arab world. Due to its consultative status at the United Nations, CIHRS is able to provide observations and testimonies about the situation of rights in the Arab region through its interventions and reports to the HRC.
In preparation for this session of the HRC, CIHRS drafted six written interventions to be presented to the HRC. Among the issues dealt with in these written interventions is the situation of human rights defenders in the Gulf states, including the harassment and surveillance to which they are subjected by the security apparatuses in these countries as punishment for their cooperation with the United Nations. The interventions also address the situation of human rights in Libya as well as the principle challenges faced by the region in terms of legislation regulating the right to freedom of assembly.
Egypt is a main focus of the written interventions for this session, as CIHRS, in cooperation with other international and Egyptian NGOs, submitted an intervention focusing on female human rights defenders in Egypt and how they have been the targets of various forms of violations and attacks which aim to discriminate against women and to force them out of the public domain. In another intervention, CIHRS discussed the events which occurred at the Ittihadeyya Presidential Palace on 5-6 December 2012 and resulted in 11 deaths and hundreds of injuries. In a separate intervention, CIHRS evaluated the state of human rights in Egypt, warning that the deterioration of the human rights crisis in the country is cause for serious concern.
As for the oral interventions, CIHRS is scheduled to participate in a number of meetings HRC at which it will deliver such interventions to address the rights situations in Egypt, Syria, Libya, and the occupied Palestinian territories. CIHRS will also focus in its oral interventions on the state of human rights defenders in the Arab region, particularly in light of the policies of retribution which have been undertaken by a number of Arab governments against those who cooperate with the mechanisms of the United Nations.
During this session, CIHRS will also organize a series of meetings and side events, which will be attended by state delegations and representatives of regional and international non-governmental organizations. On 6 March, CIHRS will hold a side event on the situation of human rights defenders in the Arab region which will feature the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders. On 8 March, CIHRS, in collaboration with other regional and international organizations, will discuss the situation of human rights in Libya. On 11 March, CIHRS will hold an event to discuss the state of human rights in Egypt, specifically highlighting the recurring attacks on the right to peaceful protest and assembly, the right to association, and the right to freedom of expression and opinion.
Notably, this session will include a number of prominent events, including the review of the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, who will present his report on the matter, and the review of the report of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief on practices related to this freedom. This session will also include a review of the report of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, including the human rights developments in the country.
The Human Rights Council is the main body of the United Nations concerned with human rights issues. The HRC holds three regular sessions per year to discuss human rights issues in various countries around the world, and it is made up of 47 member countries, which are elected from their regions for limited terms. The first session of the HRC was convened on June 19, 2006.
The written interventions submitted by the CIHRS to the UN Human Rights Council:
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