Advocacy priorities at the 51st Session of UN Human Rights Council

The 51st regular session of the Human Rights Council will run from 12 September to 7 October, and will provide an opportunity to advance civic space and the protection of civil society, as well as address serious country situations.

There are a number of opportunities for the advancement of civic space and the protection of civil society at the upcoming 51st Human Rights Council session session. On country situations, the Council must take stronger action to address the worsening human rights situation in Afghanistan, particularly for women and girls. The Council must renew its mechanisms on Burundi, Ethiopia and Venezuela, while ensuring continued Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)'s monitoring of the human rights situation in the Philippines and Sri Lanka. Thematically, the Council can reaffirm the importance of respecting human rights while countering terrorism.


Country Priorities

Afghanistan

Following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, a human rights and humanitarian crisis has ensued. The establishment of a Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan was a first important step to address the situation, and now States must strengthen its focus on accountability for violations, including by establishing a Commission of Inquiry to complement the Special Rapporteur’s work.

Civic space in Afghanistan is rated "Repressed" by the CIVICUS Monitor.

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The Philippines

Since 2016, when Duterte came to power, CIVICUS has documented systematic intimidation, attacks and vilification of civil society and activists, an increased crackdown on press freedoms, and the emerging prevalence of a pervasive culture of impunity. With domestic accountability processes unfit for purpose, the Council must extend monitoring by the High Commissioner on the situation to ensure that scrutiny remains on the country and that impunity does not prevail.

Civic space in The Philippines is rated "Repressed" by the CIVICUS Monitor.

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Burundi

The human rights situation in Burundi has not improved since the mandate of the Special Rapporteur was established at the Council’s 48th session, and impunity remains widespread. It is vital that the Council maintains scrutiny on Burundi, relying on benchmarks identified by the earlier Commission of Inquiry to assess its progress, so the Council must extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. See a joint NGO letter here.

Civic space in Burundi is rated "Closed"' by the CIVICUS Monitor.

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Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has long been on the Council’s agenda to promote transitional justice towards accountability and reconciliation in the country. In June 2022, Sri Lanka was placed on CIVICUS’ watchlist due to its severe and rapid decline in civic freedoms, including violent force against peaceful protesters and attacks against civil society organisations. The Council must extend Office of OHCHR's mandate on reporting and accountability in Sri Lanka in a resolution which also addresses the current crisis.

Civic space in Sri Lanka is rated "Obstructed" by the CIVICUS Monitor.

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Venezuela

The wave of human rights violations in the country continues unabated.  Human rights defenders continue to be persecuted, detained, and killed. Such violations – especially against freedom of assembly, association and expression – further undermine the already fragile economic and social situation. The Council must renew the mandate of the Fact-Finding mission on Venezuela, and engage constructively with its recommendations.

Civic space in Venezuela is rated "Repressed" by the CIVICUS Monitor.

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Ethiopia

Since the outbreak of the armed conflict in the Tigray region, the human rights situation in the country remains grave and alarming. The state of emergency endorsed by Parliament has led to a new wave of targeted and arbitrary arrests against the ethnic Tigrayans. The Council must renew the mandate of the Commission of Experts and engage constructively with its recommendations.

Civic space in Ethiopia is rated "Repressed" by the CIVICUS Monitor.


Thematic Priorities

Arbitrary detention

Arbitrary detention remains a tactic used by governments worldwide to silence dissent and curtail civil society action.  The detention of peaceful protesters, human rights defenders and journalists persistently remains one of the most common violations of civic space. We call on States to engage in the Interactive Dialogue with the Working Group, in particular by raising cases of specific human rights defenders being held in arbitrary detention.

Terrorism and human rights

Measures to guarantee national security and stability should always fully comply with international human rights standards and they should never jeopardise core human rights. Civil society is witnessing an increasing misuse of counter-terrorism and national security laws and tactics which severely affects civil society and especially minority groups. A resolution on terrorism and human rights will be presented at this session, and we call on States to ensure that it addresses threats fundamental freedoms and and legal, regulatory and policy restrictions on civil society’s ability to operate.

 The human rights violations committed by Russian forces during the ongoing unlawful aggression against Ukraine have been enabled in part by escalating serious repression within the country, and the situation and its impact merit the urgent establishment of a Special Rapporteur on Russia. Sustained attacks against civic space in India have rendered the Council overdue on taking action, and we urge States to do so at this session. 


Side- Events

CIVICUS and our partner, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights will hold a side event on the escalating civil and political rights violations in Zimbabwe on 26 September at 17:00 GMT +2.