Global update from Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights highlights risks for HRDs

On 12 September 2022, the UN Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights, Nada Al- Nashif, addressed the UN Human Rights Council’s 51st session, with a brief synopsis of some of the most pressing human rights concerns around the world.

In her statement, she mentioned some of the challenges faced by human rights defenders in a few selected contexts.

Below are some examples of those risks faced by HRDs in the countries she chose to highlight. For the full statement, click here.

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“The most recent violent clashes in Tripoli, Libya have resulted in civilian casualties and the destruction of civilian infrastructure, and I reiterate calls on all parties to protect civilians, refrain from further violence, and to comply with international human rights and international humanitarian law. Alleged abductions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, including of women human rights defenders, and violence against women continue to undermine the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. I also call upon the authorities to immediately release anyone who is arbitrarily detained.

“In the context of the conflict of northern Mozambique, I urge the Government to investigate and hold to account perpetrators of human rights violations, and of threats and intimidation against human rights defenders, ensuring the findings are made public. I trust that the fruitful collaboration between my Office and the Government that has grown over the last years will help support progress in these areas. 

“I note with optimism the new Colombian Government’s strategy to seek “total peace”, including its commitment to fully implement the 2016 peace agreement with the FARC-EP and the recommendations of the Truth Commission’s final report. My Office is ready to support these efforts and urges the new Government to take decisive measures to protect the population and human rights defenders from rising levels of violence by non-state armed groups and criminal organisations.

“My Office continues to record attacks against human rights defenders in Honduras, ranging from threats to harassment to killings. Out of a total of 120 victims, two thirds are environmental defenders, many of them indigenous or afro Honduran. I call on the State to strengthen the National Protection System for Human Rights Defenders, including by providing it with the necessary financial resources.

“In the polarising environment ahead of the next elections [in Bangladesh], it will be vital for the Government to ensure freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and for security forces to refrain from using excessive force against protests.  Human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists and victims’ families should not face reprisals or sanctions for their advocacy work.

“I am alarmed by the targeting of human rights defenders in the occupied Palestinian territory, including the apparently arbitrary closure orders of seven Palestinian human rights and humanitarian organizations in Ramallah on 18 August and threats of arrest for doing their work. OHCHR remains concerned that Israel has not renewed the visas for OHCHR international staff in our Palestine office, further restricting human rights engagement in the occupied Palestinian territory.

“I deplore the recent executions of at least eight people for drug-related offences in Singapore. My Office reiterates its call to the Government to immediately impose a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, especially for non-violent drug crimes.  In line with international standards, I also urge an end to pressure against journalists, legal professionals, and human rights defenders who peacefully advocate against the death penalty and/or represent persons on death row.

“In Vietnam, the government’s growing restrictions on civic space and fundamental freedoms, as well as the sentencing of people on charges related to their human rights work and efforts to promote a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment are worrisome. I urge the government to ensure diverse and robust participation for civil society, including human rights defenders, and to release those who have been arbitrarily detained or imprisoned for such activities.

“In Tajikistan, particularly in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast, concerns persist about the harassment of human rights defenders and journalists and recent prosecution requests for 25 year or life term prison sentences in some cases, disregarding due process. I urge investigations into human rights violations or abuses and guarantees to ensure fair trials, in line with international human rights standards.  The detention and deportation of Afghan refugees and asylum seekers including families with children, are troubling in violation of the principle of non-refoulement.”

Extract from statement by UN Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights, Nada Al- Nashif, 12 September 2022.

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