Session is marked by debates on killings of journalists, the crises in Bahrain and Honduras, abuse against immigrants and violations committed by private companies
The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) began today (June 18) its 20th session
at the Palace of Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. The meeting, which ends on July 6, will be marked by debates on crimes committed against journalists, the abuse of immigrants in detention, as well as specific issues related to countries such as Bahrain and Honduras. (See here
the program of work).
Another important aspect of this session is that NGOs can now, for the first time, participate remotely in the meetings of the HRC. This new development was introduced following the review of this UN council in 2011, when a task force was set up to devise ways to encourage the remote participation of actors relevant to the debates taking place in the meetings. The NGOs Conectas, from Brazil; CELS (Center for Legal and Social Studies), from Argentina; and Corporación Humanas, from Chile, contributed actively to this process (read more here
After being approved at the 19th session of the HRC, the remote participation of NGOs will be put into practice for the first time during the 20th session. Pre-recorded videos will be shown, presenting the contributions of organizations that work on the ground in the specific areas being discussed at the meeting in Geneva. For this session, remote participation of civil society will be permitted in the interactive dialogues with special rapporteurs on their reports and thematic panels. The implementation of new communication tools is an attempt to increase the participation of social or human rights organizations from the Global South in the HRC.
The UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, will present his annual thematic report to the Human Rights Council on June 19. The report addresses the killing of journalists in the exercise of their profession. Heyns proposes measures to improve accountability for these crimes and recommends steps that may be taken to protect journalists at risk. The situation of journalists around the world has been the focus of attention by various UN specialists. Conectas has been closely following the situation of journalists in Brazil. In 2012, the country ranked second on the list of the most dangerous countries for the press, according to the International News Safety Institute (INSI), an organization linked to the International Federation of Journalists.
Read previous articles on the topic:
Ever since the coup in 2009, the human rights situation in Honduras has deteriorated alarmingly. The 12th session of the HRC approved resolution A/HRC/RES/12/14
, which called for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner to visit the country. In 2010, the High Commissioner visited Honduras and issued urgent recommendations to the State. Since then, however, the council has not addressed the matter of human rights in the country. Conectas and its partner NGOs Cels and Humanas, in conjunction with Honduran organizations, have sent a letter (read it here
. Only in Portuguese) to member countries of the Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC) and to the UN High Commissioner calling for these countries to play a more prominent role in the 20th session, so the HRC can turn its attention once again to Honduras. Moreover, Conectas and partner organizations will hold a side event on June 22 to raise awareness and denounce, to the delegations in Geneva and to civil society, the serious violations occurring in Honduras. (see the flyer
for the debate).
Since February 2011, the human rights situation in Bahrain has severely deteriorated. The peaceful protests for democratic reform in the country have been violently suppressed, leading to a widespread and systematic proliferation of human rights violations. Despite the creation of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) in June 2011 and its confirmation of serious human rights violations, including torture and extrajudicial killings, the government has intensified its use of repressive and unlawful measures against peaceful protestors, human rights defenders and democracy activists.
Conectas and partner organizations from the region sent a letter to the delegations in Geneva urging them to voice their concern over the situation in Bahrain by signing on to a joint cross-regional statement at the 20th Session of the HRC. The letter says the statement should call on the government of Bahrain to put a stop to the repression, to implement fully and without delay the BICI’s recommendations and to genuinely cooperate with the UN independent human rights mechanisms. The statement should also insist that the government of Bahrain accept and implement the recommendations made during its Universal Periodic Review. (Read the letter here
Human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises
In its 17th session in 2011, in Resolution 17/4, the Human Rights Council decided to create a Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, formed by five independent experts. On June 21, the Working Group will present its first report, in which it outlines the main characteristics of the mandate it was given by the council. The report expressly states that the Working Group will not receive individual complaints of human rights violations by companies. Organizations will express their dissatisfaction, since the individual complaints mechanism is an essential tool for the protection of human rights, and they will urge the Working Group to interpret its mandate in such as way as to receive these complaints.
The special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Francois Crépeau will present his thematic report on June 21. The report will specifically address the practice of detaining migrants in an irregular situation. During the interactive dialogue with the rapporteur, Conectas and Cels will present their contributions on this practice that violates human rights in many Latin American countries.