For the 46th Session of the Human Rights Council, GICJ delivered a total of 14 statements in various general debates and interactive dialogues. These statements addressed country-specific human rights situations and violations, in addition to advancing the dialogue on various thematic human rights issues. 

Contents

HIGH-LEVEL SEGMENT 

Democracy under threat: How to build back better and achieve the 16th Sustainable Development Goals 

Delivered by Ms. Zina Jalal on 24 February 2021

Madam President, distinguished members of the Council 

As we know too well, many challenges currently interfere with efforts to foster democracy. These challenges show us that democracy, whilst precious, is extremely vulnerable. In fact, it is not solely new and flourishing democracies that have been compromised by these challenges, but also the Long-standing democratic systems. 

The 16th Sustainable Development Goal is dedicated to peace, justice, and strong institutions. In reality, is far from reaching its targets. Widespread conflict, corruption, limited access to justice, weak institutions, among many other barriers, act as major obstacles in many countries. These weaknesses can cause far-reaching problems, from serious human rights violations to the erosion of the rule of law. 

Moreover, the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated many crises and has served as a further threat to global peace and security.  Many governments have also engaged in abuses of power, having failed to disseminate COVID-19 data to the public and have interfered with their people’s right to information. Others have used these circumstances, mid pandemic, to accelerate their authoritarian agenda and restrict democratic space. 

As was also evidenced recently in Myanmar there have been serious attempts to overthrow governments. In other regions of Africa and the Middle- East, where the COVID 19 pandemic has reduced the level of international scrutiny, there still exists consistent human rights abuses, and war crimes. 

In my country, Iraq, the current situation is extremely concerning. Corruption, impunity, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and torture are commonplace. In particular, recent demonstrations have marked an increase in gross human rights violations. Since October 2019, hundreds of thousands of citizens, of all sects, have been spilling onto streets to call for an end to the sectarian system and government corruption. They have been met with violence, which resulted to thousands killed and injured, while over 700 disappeared. These acts go unpunished, and these instances of impunity with the militias influence are grave threats to peace and democracy. 

Madam President, 

There are many challenges that it is difficult to mention, but we call on the Human Right Council to accelerate progress towards peace and justice in order to strengthen democracy and sustainable development. 
 
Thank you.

AGENDA ITEM 2 – ANNUAL REPORT OF THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND REPORTS OF THE OFFICE OF THE HIGH COMMISSIONER AND THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

 

Interactive Dialogue on the oral update by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea  

Human Rights Situation in Eritrea 

Delivered by Ms. Clélia Jeandin of GICJ on 26 February 2021

Thank you, Madam President,  

It is regrettable that the human rights situation in Eritrea has not significantly improved and basic institutional systems are still not in place.  

We are greatly concerned with arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, torture, sexual violence, and the restriction of freedom of expression and association among other grave human rights violations. These violations further regress any potential for peace. As in the Special Rapporteur’s latest report numerous serious human rights violations are committed through and by international operations, for example, trafficking of women and girls.  

In light of this situation, EAFORD and Geneva International Centre for Justice strongly urge the international community to protect human rights in Eritrea by building durable solidarity within and across states. As well, necessary measures in accordance with international law must be taken towards ending direct or indirect funding of specific groups who threaten the lives of innocent civilians.  

Madam President,  

We also express deep concern with the situation of explosive mines especially considering the high risk that threatens schools and children in Eritrea. Additionally, there is a great need to address humanitarian and climate disasters that exacerbates the plight of many, especially children who suffer waterborne diseases, malnutrition and other deficiencies.  

Finally, we would like to ask the Special Rapporteur; going beyond legislation what steps need to be taken to involve women in the decision-making processes particularly in regards to ending gender-based violence against women and girls and especially those in detention.  

Thank you.

General Debate  

Palestinian Prisoners denied their Human Rights 

Delivered by Mr. Mutua K. Kobia of GICJ on 26 February 2021 

Thank you, Madam President, 

EAFORD and Geneva International Centre for Justice thanks the High Commissioner for her reports and oral update; and would like to draw attention to the High Commissioner’s report on OPT and in particular on “Accountability for unlawful use of force and other violations of international human rights law”. In this regard, we emphasize Palestinian prisoners, especially those placed in solitary confinement and the many who are subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment. We also bring to attention the misuse and abuse of ‘administrative detention’. This measure is considered extreme under international law but is being authorized by the Israeli Ministry of Defence and is frequently exploited to detain thousands of Palestinians for lengthy periods of time for their political opinions and engaging in non-violent political activity. 

Furthermore, on top of repeated arbitrary arrests and extended detentions we have witnessed Palestinian prisoners being punished for going on “hunger strike”. We recall that under international human rights norms, hunger strike is a civil and political right. 

Finally, we remind the Council that: “Article 12 of the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms holds that states must take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of everyone against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights.” 

Thank you.

AGENDA ITEM 3 – PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF ALL HUMAN RIGHTS, CIVIL, POLITICAL, ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS, INCLUDING THE RIGHT TO DEVELOPMENT

 

General Debate  

A Call on Governments to Protect Human Rights Defenders

Delivered by Ms. Alexandra Grigorescu of GICJ on 5 March 2021 

Thank you, President, 

International protection of human rights defenders, who are being constantly threatened and attacked, is a widely needed step. 

We are concerned about the dire reality of Latin America, which is the most affected region by threats and killings against human rights defenders. Prevalent impunity makes such pattern of violence very likely to continue. Those particularly vulnerable to attack are human rights defenders working on issues like indigenous peoples, environment or the impacts of business activities. They suffer all kinds of intimidations while governments remain indifferent. 

In certain countries human rights defenders are viewed as “enemies of progress”. Public opinion often turns against them and little to nothing is done to protect them from attacks by private actors. 

In this regard, we condemn the brutal repression unleashed over protestors in Iraq by both security forces and militias. The October 2019 demonstrations, where thousands of Iraqis spoke up against corruption, sectarianism, and human rights violations, were met by a ruthless response from the government. This reaction left hundreds dead and thousands wounded, on top of arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances. 

EAFORD and Geneva International Centre for Justice urge governments to ensure that human rights defenders can continue with their activities in a safe environment by establishing administrative and judicial mechanisms which can effectively protect them from threats and attacks. 

Thank you, President.

AGENDA ITEM 4 – HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATIONS THAT REQUIRE THE COUNCIL'S ATTENTION

 

General Debate 

Militia Groups Continue Attacking Demonstrators and Human Rights Defenders in Iraq

Delivered by Ms. Hannah Mulhern of GICJ on 12 March 2021 

Thank you, President 

We take this opportunity to highlight the deplorable human rights violations still occurring in Iraq. 

As this Council is aware, demonstrations have been ongoing in Iraq since the beginning of the October uprising in 2019. Whilst the intensity of these protests have varied over the past 17 months, the violations have continued nonetheless and the number of deaths and injuries are rising every day.   

Despite repeated calls by Iraqi citizens, civil society organisations and UN Bodies, security forces and militia groups continue to use live ammunition against demonstrators and human rights defenders, with at least 10 people killed since the beginning of this Session. This is to be added to the figure of over 700 other protestors and human rights defenders killed since 2019. 

Victims are also being kidnapped, forcibly disappeared, electrocuted, their revolutionist tattoos removed with acid, assassinated, and on some occasions, their bodies dismembered. These are stories that must be communicated in order to demonstrate the very real and tragic impact on the lives of many Iraqi’s. These human rights violations also occur outside the context of protests, where human rights defenders are targeted for their online presence, journalism and advocacy. 

Impunity for these acts must be tackled and accountability must follow. If we are to continue on this path of willful inaction, there will be unimaginable damage to the people of Iraq, their livelihoods, their ability to access to education and work, and their infrastructure. 

Thank You.

General Debate 

Human Rights Situation in Iraq 

Delivered by Mr. Naji Haraj 

Thank you,  

Through this brief statement, I would like to remind the international community, through the Human Rights Council, about the widespread crimes and violations that are being committed on a daily basis against the Iraqi people. These violations have continued since the US invasion in 2003, and have intensified with the control of terrorist groups such as ISIS and militias. 

The United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances has indicated that there are up to one million forcibly disappeared persons in Iraq, and we confirm that most of them disappeared under the authority of the militias, including more than 16,000 in 2015. 

Today, Iraqi prisons are crowded with arbitrary detainees for no basis other than their sectarian affiliation or their political stance. The prisoners are being tortured and are faced with degrading treatment. 

Since October 2019, millions of young Iraqis have voiced their concerns against these practices, and have sought to that the sectarian quota system to be replaced by a civil democratic system. Since then, more than 800 protesters have been killed and tens of thousands injured. 

Iraq is among the worst countries in the systematic targeting of human rights defenders and journalists, and even the rights of women are being eroded.  

For this reason, we reiterate our call for the establishment of an international investigation committee for Iraq, in order to investigate all these atrocities and hold those responsible accountable. 

Thank you. 

AGENDA ITEM 6 – UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW

 

Adoption of reports by the Universal Periodic Review Working Group of - Bulgaria A/HRC/46/13, A/HRC/46/13/Add.1.  

Universal Periodic Review Outcomes for Bulgaria 

Delivered by Ms. Nora Futtner of GICJ on 17 March 2021

 

Thank you, President. 

We want to thank Bulgaria for its participation in the Universal Periodic Review and its commitment to addressing human rights concerns. In this regard, we would like to draw attention to the ongoing discrimination and prejudice against Roma people that exists in Bulgarian society, which was emphasized by many countries in their recommendations. This has become especially apparent in the face of the human rights violations inflicted on the Roma population in Bulgaria during COVID-19. 

In March of 2020, the government locked down seven Roma neighborhoods, physically barring residents from leaving with fences and military personnel. Roma neighborhoods in Bulgaria often do not have their own pharmacies or supermarkets, so the forced isolation meant that many were unable to access fundamental necessities. 

We note that Bulgaria made a voluntary pledge to the Human Rights Council to strengthen ethnic and religious tolerance. Bulgaria should stand by this pledge by supporting Roma communities, instead of taking discriminatory actions against them. 

Additionally, we are very concerned about the issue of domestic violence in Bulgaria, which was raised by dozens of states during the UPR process. We welcome Bulgaria’s recent efforts on combatting this issue and adopting measures in-line with the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur on violence against women and the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe. 

However, despite these measures, domestic violence remains a life-threatening issue for Bulgarian women. In the first three months of the pandemic, it was reported that eight women were killed by their partners. It is concerning that the true scope of the issue is unknown as Bulgaria currently has one of the lowest reporting rates of violence against women in the European Union. 

EAFORD and Geneva International Centre for Justice call on the Council to urge Bulgaria to stay vigilant about this issue and ensure that all existing protection and support mechanisms for women are effectively implemented. Bulgaria should also immediately take steps to ratify the Convention on Preventing and Combatting Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence. 

Thank you.

Adoption of reports by the Universal Periodic Review Working Group of - Libya A/HRC/46/17, A/HRC/46/17/Add.1.   

Universal Periodic Review Outcomes for Libya 

Delivered by Ms. Claudia González of GICJ on 15 March 2021

Thank you, President, 

We welcome the report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of Libya and while looking forward to its adoption, we express our concern over the persisting human rights violations and serious breaches of international law that have caused hundreds of civilian casualties. 

We believe independent judicial mechanisms need to be established to investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators of these serious crimes committed in the country since the intervention of NATO in 2011. 

Libya’s justice system has thousands of detainees continuing to be held in prolonged arbitrary detention without charges. This, coupled with the lack of independent mechanisms to lodge complaints for alleged torture in detention centers, is of extreme concern. As recommended in the Outcome Report, we encourage Libyan authorities to take legislative and vigorous practical measures to eradicate torture and ill-treatment, and set in place early detection mechanisms. 

Additionally, the situation of migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons is particularly worrying, as they continue to be subject to arbitrary detention, torture, abduction for ransom, extortion, forced labor and sexual violence by smugglers, traffickers, armed groups and State officials. As this was a subject of several recommendations, we urge Libyan authorities to take action to halt these violations and to immediately ratify the Convention on the Status of Refugees. 

Further, it is regrettable that Libya has not taken any step towards the ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and we urge the new authorities in Libya to ratify this statute and other relevant human rights instruments. 

International Lawyers and Geneva International Centre for Justice emphasize the important role of transitional justice and reiterate our call for the establishment of effective judicial and reparation mechanisms to deliver justice to all victims and hold perpetrators accountable. Impunity for the serious violations committed against the Libyan people since 2011 must be ended. 

Thank you.

AGENDA ITEM 7 – HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN PALESTINE AND OTHER OCCUPIED ARAB TERRITORIES

 

General Debate  

Justice and Accountability for Palestinian People 

Delivered by Ms. Laura Calderón Pachón of GICJ on 21 March 2021

 

 

Thank you, President, 

We welcome the High Commissioner’s reports on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and we share her concern with regards to the expansion of the Israeli activity’s settlements and their violations of the rights of Palestinian people, as well as the absence of accountability for all the violations in the OPT. 

Palestinian people are under grave human rights violations including violations to the right of life, physical integrity, discrimination, gender-based violence against women and girls, freedom of movement, arbitrary detentions, tortures and ill treatments. EAFORD and the Geneva International Centre for Justice urge the Council to do all in its mandate to stop all these violations and protect the rights of the Palestinian people. 

Further, the invalid decision of Israel to impose law, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan amounts to a war crime that can possibly involve individual criminal responsibility of those involved. Additionally, international bodies have confirmed the illegality of Israeli settlements in the OPT and the occupied Syrian Golan assuring it lacks international legal effect and demanded Israel to rescind forthwith its decision. 

We are looking forward to the investigation by the International Criminal Court over war crimes committed. We urge all States cooperation as justice and accountability must be ensured and the Palestinian people’s rights must be restored. 

Thank you, President.

General Debate   

The Palestinian People need concrete support to achieve their right of self-determination   

Delivered by Ms. Irene Sacchetti of GICJ on 21 March 2021

Thank you, President, 

It has been more than a century of Palestinian oppression by a brutal occupation with tremendous systematic human rights and humanitarian law abuses. However, all our efforts to raise awareness of these violations are void if no genuine actions are taken to enable the Palestinian people to achieve their right of self-determination and be free from this long occupation. 

Despite numerous UN resolutions, Israel, the occupying power, continues to carry out massive, serious and widespread violations of international law at an alarming rate. are deeply concerned over the ongoing large-scale house demolitions in the West Bank operated by the Israeli military, an unlawful means to forcibly uproot Palestinians from their territories. We believe that the international community needs to pressure Israel to stop all these practices which diminish Palestinians’ inalienable rights. Further, Israel’s blockade of Gaza is intensifying the sanitary and economic crisis, hindering access to healthcare and essential resources to nearly two million people during the present COVID-19 pandemic.  

International-Lawyers.Org and Geneva International Centre for Justice believe that Israel’s ongoing actions amount to the crime of genocide and we request the Council to initiate an investigation into this serious human rights violation. Such an investigation will assist the International Criminal Court that is now investigating individuals for crimes committed against Palestinians. 

Thank you.

AGENDA ITEM 9 – RACISM, RACIAL DISCRIMINATION, XENOPHOBIA AND RELATED FORMS OF INTOLERANCE, FOLLOW-UP AND IMPLEMENTATION OF THE DURBAN DECLARATION AND PROGRAMME OF ACTION

 

General Debate  

Implementation of the Durban Declaration 

Delivered by Mr. Mutua K. Kobia of GICJ on 19 March 2021

 

Thank you Madam president, 

We remain deeply concerned with the continuous rise of racist extremist movements and groups that have been encouraged and perpetuated by hate speech, often committed by people in positions of power including politicians. 

At the same time, we are disappointed by the lack of political will to eliminate such a toxic environment that only breeds further hatred and spreads the scourge of racism and racial discrimination. This is especially worrying considering that solutions do exist yet there is no urgency, courage, or strong efforts being made to implement effective solutions. We also take note that racism is embedded in various systems and structures, which escalates its spread across various platforms and creates negative stereotypes as is seen with Islamophobia. 

EAFORD and Geneva International Centre for Justice reminds this Council that the DDPA itself recognizes new manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance that effect vulnerable groups. At the same time the DDPA promotes the incorporation of special measures to protect these groups from discrimination. 

In conclusion, we strongly urge all states to fully implement the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and put in place strategies and policies to fight against the evils of racism. Lastly, in commemoration of the 20th Anniversary of the DDPA we urge all states to publish the Programme of Activities for the International Decade and effectively disseminate publications in UN official languages. 

Thank you

 

General Debate   

Islamophobia and Increase of Anti-Muslim Hatred 

Delivered by Ms. Joy El Hajaly of GICJ on 19 March 2021

Thank you, President, 

We are deeply concerned over the rise of anti-Muslim hatred and the discrimination of Muslim citizens in several European countries. 

The Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Ahmed Shaheed, mentions in his report the misunderstandings surrounding the issue of Islamophobia which has caused the discrimination of Muslims and the rise of racism and xenophobia.  

Since the horrific attacks of 9/11 in the United States of America, the anti-Muslim discourse has increased in the U.S and across European countries, with the media and far-right politicians playing a prevalent role in shaping discourse around anti-Muslim hatred, further contributing to misunderstandings and misrepresentation of Islam. Due to the emergence of Islamophobia, there has been an increase in racism and discrimination towards Arabs, who are often associated directly with the religion of Islam. 

The hate crime campaigns cannot be tolerated. In this regard, Ma'onah Association and Geneva International Centre for Justice strongly urge the Council and the international community to increase awareness of the issue of anti-Muslim hatred. We stand with the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur and emphasize that education is part of the solution to clarify misunderstandings. 

We further call on the European Union to cooperate and find solutions to approach this increasing issue. Muslims suffer disproportionately from the consequences of terrorist attacks and Arabs are also discriminated against. Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred must come to an end. 

Thank you, President.

 

Presentation of report of Inter-Governmental Working Group on Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, High Commissioner Oral Update on Systemic Racism (res.43/1) 

Impacts of Racism on Basic Human Rights

Delivered by Mr. Alejandro Fernández of GICJ on 19 March 2021

Thank you, President, 

We welcome the report submitted by the Working Group and support its findings to redouble efforts at the national and international level to eliminate racism and other forms of intolerance. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the persistence of racial inequality across all levels of society. Unequitable access to healthcare services led to disproportionate rates of morbidity and mortality; inadequate housing made compliance with lockdown policies all the more challenging; unstable employment made it impossible to work from home; and derelict detention facilities offered fertile ground for the virus to wreak havoc. 

Racism enhances the impacts of other man-made challenges such as poverty and climate change. These in turn have harmful impacts on the health of minorities and their access to health care. 

As we begin the second half of the International Decade for People of African Descent, governments must go beyond words and take action. To fight racism is to fight for social justice. Universal healthcare, affordable housing, decent labour conditions, comprehensive social security and access to digital technologies should be our weapons. The Durban Declaration and Programme of Action expressly recognized that socioeconomic inequality is both a cause and a consequence of racism. 

International Lawyers and Geneva International Centre for Justice urge States to increase public awareness about the commitments agreed upon in the Durban Declaration and to strengthen their efforts to realize the economic, social and cultural rights of marginalized communities around the globe. 

Thank you, President 

 

AGENDA ITEM 10 – INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE WITH INDEPENDENT EXPERT ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN MALI

 

General Debate  

The fight against impunity and the escalating security situation in Mali must come to an end 

Delivered by Ms. Natalia Brusco of GICJ on 28 March 2021

Thank you, President, 

We welcome the report of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Mali and share his concerns that the sociopolitical crisis is prolonging the fight against impunity and escalating the security situation. 

With the increase in attacks by violent extremist groups coupled with a rise in intracommunal and intercommunal attacks on villages, Mali remains in a state of instability. The Independent Expert noted that particular provisions of Malian law in relation to justice should be repealed, and we stand by this call as we believe appropriate legislation is an essential first step in order to begin building a stronger foundation where accountability and justice can be achieved. 

International-Lawyers.org and Geneva International Centre for Justice urge the United Nations, other relevant actors, and the international community to act urgently to achieve stability in Mali as cooperation and solidarity are necessary to achieve justice. Also, we note that although there are delays in implementing the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali due to the August 2020 coup d’état, the pandemic, and disagreements amongst the administration, the government must continue nonetheless in order to fight against impunity. 

Lastly, we express our concern about foreign troops in Mali and urge the Council to remind Mali that it is jointly responsible for human rights abuses by foreign armed forces on its territory. Mali must meet its human rights obligations by upholding international law to ensure justice and accountability.  

Thank you.

GICJ Newsletter

Register a violation with GICJ