Three weeks to take urgent action: the Human Rights Council gathers in Geneva

Press release

On Monday June 18th, the Human Rights Council gathers for its 20th session. The 47 members of the Council have three weeks to tackle both the urgent human rights crises around the world, and to address situations in countries facing chronic human rights violations. FIDH calls on the Council to take strong action on the situations in Belarus and Côte d’Ivoire, and to stop tacitly condoning human rights violations in Bahrain and Afghanistan by adding these countries to its agenda.


Over the past year, the Council has demonstrated its ability to address urgent situations and human rights crises in different countries around the world. It should not tarnish its reputation by applying a double-standard in the case of Bahrain, stated FIDH President Souhayr Belhassen. The Council cannot remain silent in the face of such blatant repression. It has to take action now. FIDH calls on the Council to send a clear and firm message to the authorities in Bahrain, by adopting a resolution condemning the ongoing human rights violations and insisting that the recommendations issued by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry over 6 months ago must be fully implemented.


One of the key moments of this session will be the presentation of the High Commissioner’s report on the situation of human rights in Belarus on June 27. In this report she documents what she calls “a pattern of serious violations of human rights since [the presidential election of] 19 December 2010,” including grave infringements of freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly and right to a fair trial. The chronic nature of these violations and the recent deterioration of the situation call for a stronger reaction from the Human Rights Council. The Council should give a voice to local civil society, now silenced by a repressive regime by establishing a mandate for a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, who will be able to monitor the situation, report back to the Council, and engage with local organizations on a day-to-day basis, stated Ms. Belhassen.


Since 2005, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has presented an annual report in March to the Council on the human rights situation in Afghanistan. However, the OHCHR’s reports of intensifying violence and impunity seem to go unnoticed by the Council, as there has been only one Council resolution on Afghanistan in the past 7 years. This practice of ignoring the worsening human rights situation in Afghanistan must stop. Particularly in light of NATO’s upcoming withdrawal from Afghanistan, the international community, through the Human Rights Council, must clearly show that they are not abandoning the Afghan people.

The OHCHR’s last report on Afghanistan (presented in March of this year) indicates an increase in violent attacks against civilians, more and more children being recruited as suicide bombers and weapons smugglers, and widespread violence against women. This worsening human rights situation is a clear sign for the need of stronger action and support on the part of the Council. "We expect the Council to take the OHCHR’s reports seriously," declared Ms. Belhassen. "The Council must place an interactive dialogue on the OHCHR’s next report on its formal agenda, and publicly commit to taking the appropriate steps necessary to respond to any continued human rights violations."

Côte d’Ivoire

FIDH furthermore calls on the Council to renew the mandate of the Independent Expert on Côte d’Ivoire, thus supporting the justice processes underway in Côte d’Ivoire. The Independent Expert should be mandated with not only ensuring that a transitional process is implemented, but to ensure that such a process is inclusive and transparent. Supporters of both Alassane Ouattara and Laurent Gbagbo must be held accountable for any violations of human rights they have committed. The Independent Expert has a role to play in Côte d’Ivoire. There are still considerable challenges to the establishment of a fair, independent and unbiased justice system. The Independent Expert should assist the authorities in facing these challenges, and monitor the application of justice to ensure that perpetrators of human rights violations on all sides are held accountable, stated the President of FIDH.

Throughout the upcoming session, FIDH will also call on Council members to take action on the following urgent issues:

  • Extrajudicial executions in Colombia in the context of the war on drugs. Following the presentation of the report by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, FIDH and Colombian NGOs will launch a report titled “Colombia: The war is measured in litres of blood.” A panel discussion with the Special Rapporteur and representatives of Colombian civil society will take place on June 21. (2-4pm, Room XXVI)
  • The US targeted killing program and its human rights implications. The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism will gather with experts from American civil society in a Side Event organized by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on June 21. (10am – 12pm, Room XXV)
  • The situation of the Bahai community in Iran. FIDH Vice-President and Iranian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LDDHI) President Karim Lahidji will participate in a screening and debate on the situation of the Bahai in Iran, organized by the Bahai International Community, with the screening of Reza Allamehzadeh’s documentary film “Iranian Taboo,” on July 3. (2-4pm, room TBC)
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