Response to the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights global update

42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
-General Debate on the oral update by the High Commissioner

CIVICUS thanks the High Commissioner for your oral update, and especially the attention given to the risks faced by those exercising their rights to participation and freedom of peaceful assembly. As a movement dedicated to advancing the rights essential to civic space, CIVICUS is inspired to see people joining forces to publicly call for essential political reforms. However, across the world, from Cambodia to Kashmir to Sudan, we are witnessing states engage in tactics which discourage, undermine and punish such participation.

In Hong Kong, protests against what is seen as creeping control of China, saw hundreds of thousands take to the streets. They were met with indiscriminate violent attacks by the police and arbitrary arrest. Pro-democracy activists Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow have since been charged.

Papuan students and activists have been arbitrarily detained and charged for protesting. Protests in the Papuan region have been subjected to an internet shutdown and deployment of police and military personnel. Journalists face intimidation and harassment for reporting on the blackout while human rights lawyer Veronica Koman is being charged for speaking out against these violations.

In Zimbabwe, the government has banned public rallies in opposition to its handling of the country’s economic crisis. Worryingly, lawyers and doctors have been threatened for assisting protesters.

As your update highlighted, human rights gains are ones that empower vulnerable and discriminated communities. We are therefore deeply alarmed at the rise in xenophobic attacks and ongoing gender-based violence in South Africa and call on authorities to hold those responsible to account.

For those brave enough to speak out against oppression, there is much at stake. We remind states that every positive human rights change emanates from people coming together to demand their rights and to hold accountable those who seek to diminish them. Societies, and states, in which people can participate without fear or favour are those which progress.

We ask the High Commissioner: what role do you envisage for members of the council not only to protect and encourage those who wish to participate in decisions about their own futures, but to halt crackdowns on participation and freedom of peaceful assembly before such crackdowns spiral into wider human rights violations


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