CIVICUS welcomes the High Commissioner’s comprehensive update this morning. We share his myriad concerns and laud his continued support for the creation of an enabling environment for civil society at both the Council and nationally.

Mr. President, six out of seven people live in countries where civil society groups and HRDs face substantial challenges in exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression. Under the guise of safeguarding state sovereignty, combating terrorism and the preservation of morals, governments in both the Global North and South are adopting regressive legislation and engaging in illicit surveillance, deadly forms of harassment and threats to silence voices of dissent.

We remain particularly alarmed by recent developments in the following countries:

  • Judicial persecution and harassment of human rights defenders in Bahrain, including yesterday’s arrest of prominent defender Nabeel Rajab and the prevention of 6 HRDs from attending the 32nd Council session.
  • The crackdown on labor union activists in South Korea, including today’s decision by the public prosecutors office to seek 8 years imprisonment for the President of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions for exercising his right to protest.
  • The continued use of the Anti-terrorism Proclamation to arrest and detain independent media practitioners, peaceful protesters as well as leaders of the political opposition in Ethiopia.

It of great concern that these restrictions on civil society are being replicated within the Council. In this context we are extremely concerned by last month’s decision of the ECOSOC NGO Committee to deny the ‘Committee to Protect Journalists’ consultative status, representing an arbitrary denial of the right to freedom of association. Unfortunately, this decision further compounds and entrenches a growing culture of partisanship and politicization within the NGO Committee.  We fully endorse the Secretary General’s recent remarks that “Freedom is under threat, including at the last place this should happen: at the United Nations.”

Mr President, CIVICUS calls on all members and observers of the Council on the occasion of its 10th anniversary to take effective measures to create and maintain a safe and enabling environment for civil society, including by releasing of all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in Bahrain, South Korea and Ethiopia for exercising their legitimate rights. 

Thank you, Mr. President

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